Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sports Bar Night

My wife and I decided to go to the local bowling alley sports bar to hang out tonight. When we pulled up the parking lot was packed and thought the bar might be full. We walked in and found a table that overlooked the bowling alley.

As we conversed and I looked out of the corner of my eye, the alley was full of white upper middle class kids. Then I started recognizing the parents wandering around from my evangelical days. It was a bowling night for the 17k a year private high school in town. It truly is amazing how much richer exploiting fear can make you. Use the fear of " liberals and minorities" to exploit upper middle class evangelicals to spend college tuition on high school. Ugh..

If I ever bought into a belief system that cost me 17k a year when public school is free then shoot me. I guess the gop farm team is deep and wide.
I

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3rd Use of the Law in Mosdesty

On my facebook feed comes another link to blog by an evangelical friend. This time it is by a mom who is putting a warning out to all the girls on her sons facebook friends list. I guess her boys can't handle their female friends wearing bathing suits or in tshirts with no bras. The funny thing in all this is the mom has a pic of her boys in bathing suits on her blog posts. So once again in the modesty culture we get the message that boys are uncontrollable beasts and all responsibility lies on the girls.

This type of set up will keep the cycle of porn addicition alive and well in evangelical circles. Which is essential to the survival of the movement and wil make for great embarrassing testimonies in the future. Sure there are girls that dress in revealing clothes to get attention, how does our species keep on? Instead of blocking the girls explain to your sons that they will have to understand that some women use this as a way to get attention from men. As men of course it is eye candy, but at the end of the day the woman you need to choose as a partner needs to have more substance than looks.

So by blocking these girls, you are making immodest dress a forbidden fruit. You are also putting the blame on women for men who are perverts and treat women like a piece of meat. The biggest problem with evangelical culture is the way they handle sex. They make a big deal out of modesty and sexual orientation but never realize how these lofty ideals effect real people.

Maybe the girl you decide to block you befriend and mentor her so she sees more value in herself. Oh that's right, it is much easier to use  law as a prescription for clean living. The law is there to convict us of sinful behavior and beating up people with that never works. It makes great atheists and nones out of those that realize they can follow rules without believing in your fake God.

Keep bragging that you are taking a stand but realize none of us outside of your small group are impressed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Good Orthodoxy?

Is good orthodoxy possible, or is it a moving target? Throughout history, Christianity seems to over correct against heresy by going too fundamentalist or minimalist. Each side makes good points but holds onto one idea and takes it too far.

The Puritans were one the prominent forms of Christianity in America from colonial days to the 1800's. People got wise to this law based Christianity and realized they could follow the rules outside of the confines of religion and the Deist movement was born. It was a belief that God created the world and then took his hands off of everything and let the world run on its own steam.

To regain the reigns of orthodoxy in America, the fundamentals were published in the early 1900's to pave the way for modern day Evangelicalism. Now that Evangelicals have become fat and culturally irrelevant, the New Atheists have entered the marketplace as a reaction against this tired form of Christianity.

How does one find good Orthodoxy? I think those of us that have to think for ourselves as being called as theologians. We have to be willing to read all perspectives of Christianity and understand why each sub denomination evolved. We have to learn history, anthropology, sociology, biology, psychology and other ologies to really take in how elaborate the creation we live in is.

This is scary territory, when we read outside the acceptable confines of our current position, we enter a wilderness away from our comfort zone. We can't go back to where we once were since we are totally changed and now different. Is the diversity we see in nature something we need to respect and understand in religion too?

We are the sum of our experiences and each theologian out there comes to conclusions based on that fact. So when we read a person we disagree do we ask how they got go where they are now?  Do we look at ourselves and see why we reject the postions of those we disagree with? Is it pride or closed mindedness or just the facts don't add up?

I have no concrete answers here but realize that we are all on a journey. Do we allow ourselves the freedom to question and grow or do we stagnate and accept certain beliefs to fit in?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

No Closure

My Uncle passed away last summer and I went with my son and my parents to Chicago for a memorial service. I would like to say the service happened and my uncle's ashes were intered at the family plot but that would be too simple of an ending.

Uncle Jay always dated large boisterous and controlling women who had money. He wanted to spen his paycheck on his boat and to drink every night at his favorite bar. He even knocked up the neighbor lady and when the kid came out looking like him the cuckolded husband sucked a tailpipe in the garage. Many years later he had the garage rebuilt and finally parked his car in there after shacking up with her many years before  the funny thing is the old garage seemed fine to me, so he must have been a little superstitious.

After this long term gal passed away my uncle met a new broad at the local watering hole named Pattie. She looked like Ellen Griswold's mom in Christmas Vacation and was 100% less charming. She moved Uncle Jay to her winter home in Florida and he mooched off her until his death.

My uncle died broke and Pattie needed some cash for the cremation and wanted to dump his ashes in Lake Michigan. We drove 10 hours up there thinking there would be a service and boat to take the ashes out to deep enough water to dispurse them. We met this broad at a restaurant and she said Uncle Jay's ashes were lost and might not be there until the day after we were to leave.  We also were going too meet her at the local haunt to remember my uncle later that night.

We leave the restaurant and sight see for the day and meet up at the revered haunt for dinner. When we arrive it is clear Pattie left our earlier meeting and went straight to the bar and started piunding vodka tonics. When we finally all got seated for dinner she dominated the conversation and was especially rude to my mother and I. I snapped back with some witty jabs but lost interest and just let her blabber. I left that gathering with a huge headache.

We left the next day and the ashes finally arrived. My uncle's final resting place ended up being a stream in a forest preserve because nobody wanted to splurge for a boat. Kind of ironic how all those years my uncle had a boat and couldn't get one last ride on one.  When we are selfish, use people and leave no legacy we truly do die alone.

Ecumenical Gathering

In an effort to force myself to get out of the house I attend an ecumeical gathering from time to time. This is always interesting as a new person usually visits for the first time and you have to see where they stand on theological and social issues. Tonight a new guy showed up and right away I smelled the stink of the type from my past.
I played nice and tried to avoid him but for some reason I look like a nice guy to talk to. He sat down next to me and asked where I went to church. Once I told him elca Lutheran of course the smug apology for my current church affiliation and then the gay issue had to come up. After that blew over he was asking for the name of an arthritis drug and I offered up activia as the name. When he didn't get the joke I said you know I was joking it is shit yogurt. Right then he quit talking to me I learned a new tactic, curse in front mr clean the pious pca schmuck. It works better than Raid on a cockroach.

I really try to be nice but the constant slamming of my denomination is getting old. I am going to fight back creatively and make my accuser feel uncomfortable in a relative way. One way to do that is use a curse word. To quote judge Smails from Caddyshack " I didn't want to it do but felt I owed it to him." No longer am I going to get mad and fume anymore, I am going to have a little fun and give back. Our locale is to friendly toward the narrow mindedness of discounting an entire denomination because they dare include all of us in humanity equally.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

#1 History

Since historical inquiry was one area that lead me to realize  evangelicalism was no longer for me, I will discuss just history in this article. Instead of recounting my sordid history in Christianity and bore all that read it, I will address the need for historical perspective in our lives.

I read books and watched documentaries about history in my free time and saw how people were uninformed throughout history. This allowed the populace to be manipulated by the governmental power structures that were in control at the time. In the church setting I grew up in and went back into as an adult, historical perspective was a glaring omission. All studies were focused on the bible only, with little or no perspective on how this revered book came to be. It was like the Bible was handed down from heaven and was perfect in every way, that is until you read some Bart Ehrman and see that isn't so.

In my experience, fences are put up in evangelical circles to keep outside perspectives and information out. For the rank and file, this is no longer a problem since they are content where they are. For those of us that expand our worldview and interact with those outside the fold, this shallow pool becomes a prison. Through the lens of history, American Evangelicalism is a young movement with no roots and is not any different from current culture.

When this corner of American culture becomes no longer the place for you the road map out is difficult. Most of the people you know are fellow Evangelicals and don't understand why you are unhappy there. The loudest voices that are contra to your position are the New Atheists, but after a while they become as dogmatic as your old position.

When you start to look at the history of the church and see that there is so much more there between Paul and Martin Luther. Studying the church fathers, the Carmelite Mystics and Aquinas mixing Platonic philosophy with Christian thought were a wake up call that I was ignorant of history once again.

Studying church history has given me understanding of the church I grew up in and how it was a mixture of Calvinism and the Wesleyan pietistic movements. The result of this kind of upbringing causes either a strict adherent or a serious doubter/none. It made me realize I was rejecting a form of Christianity that I had outgrown and I needed to give a more historical version a chance before I punched my "none" card.

I made a list of what had to be gone from Christianity before I could believe again. At the top of the list was biblical inerrancy and end times eschatology that needed to be gone for good too. From there I had be in a place where culture wars were no longer an issue since they never get resolved and merely polarize a voting block. Inane modern day praise music gone too, I never sang at church in my past because the songs were meaningless and trite. No more unspoken rules or fences around intellectual inquiries either.

At the time I made the list in the paragraph above I thought that is what being a Christian was based on my past. Thanks to friends and visiting all kinds of different denominations, I realized I could find a church home somewhere. I have joined an ELCA Lutheran church and have found a new home. Questions are encouraged in our discussion groups and my pastor continually presents a historical perspective there and in his homilies.

For me I had ruled out Christianity as an option because the one I knew was wrong. As fun as it would be to bash certain groups, or hold those in my past accountable the responsibility was on myself. With getting married so young anf juggling family and career I never had the time to look at my own history and see why I was where I was. Once I turned inward and looked at myself it inspired change and growth.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Paradigm Shift

You hear about it occasionally,  an Evangelical becomes Catholic or even an Atheist. To make the change from the Evangelical position a paradigm shift must take place. Christian Smith, a Notre Dame professor and sociologist, covers this in the appendix of his book entitled "How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps". In my experience, I could only do about 85 of these steps which made me a good Lutheran.
 John Loftus also addresses this issue in a different manner with his "outsider test of faith". He is a former pastor whose book " Why I Became an Atheist" explains that we need to look at the faith we hold from an outsiders perspective and evaluate if it is true or not. This was also helpful to strip away what was programmed into me not by my choice and look and see if there was anything left. We all inherit faith traditions, political views and other cultural traits by the environment we are born into.
A paradigm shift is what happens when see problems with our current theological position and begin to find answers in a different theology for example. I know as I went to pastors and leaders I knew in my evangelical realm, I was not satisfied with the answers there and I had to read church history, theology, philosophy and anthropology to start to make progress. In this first article, I will highlight some key things that popped the Evangelical bubble I was living in and what caused the cognitive dissonance in the first place. Then I will do an article further explain each point with more information and where I got it from.
1. History and Evolution. Being an avid reader of history I noticed that the Evangelical tradition I was in had no historical roots prior to when The Fundamentals were published around 1915. My evangelical experience pretty much followed everything out of those volumes and church history between Paul and Martin Luther was ignored. Knowing the theory of evolution allows you too see everything around us builds and develops over time. When you start to back convert the political and evangelical culture in light of history you begin to see it is a modern invention married to our consumerist culture.
2. Politics. It felt like everybody around me was a 100% card carrying Republican. I didn't have to listen to any of the right-wing political talk shows because it was parroted all around me even walking though the courtyard in between services. Being constantly surrounded by this rhetoric is tiring and only lead me to further isolation. Dissenting opinions were discouraged and actually you were talked down to for not buying in to their conservative way of thinking.
3. Culture Wars. Homosexuality is a big one here for me. My wife and I met a gay couple whose son wanted to be friends with our son. At first, they were afraid to approach us because of the church we attended. This did not sit well with us and made us understand how conservative Christianity has not been very welcoming to the GLBT community. I have come to find that those who are the most judgmental of homosexuals don't know any. Meeting a long term committed couple and getting to know them made us realize they were awesome people and we are lucky to have them as friends.  Actually, volunteering at an independent film festival and being exposed to documentaries that addressed the GLBT and other cultural issues that helped sink this part of my evangelical piety as well.
4. New Calvinism. As I became more theologically aware, I realized there was a neo-Calvinist trend sweeping over conservative evangelicalism. To me it feels like doctrine, control of the flock and the bible become idols.  At least now I could identify what I disagreed with in my former branch of evangelicalism and quit feeling like I was the only one who didn't get it. Knowledge is power and enabled my family to move to a more historical faith tradition.
5. Anthropology.  I started reading Anthropology after reading "Breaking the Spell" by Daniel Dennett. When you start to evaluate belief systems without the fear of hell and look at it from a geographical perspective, things change. I see most denominations in Christianity as need for us to still have tribes to belong to. I then realized I needed to go find a new tribe to belong to indulge this need in my human nature.
These 5 topics were key to causing the paradigm shift in my journey and everybody's is unique. It is a big jump that most people don't make it and are filling the growing rank of "nones" in our midst. My experience with church up to 2 years ago left me wanting to quit as well. My quest for answers allowed me to see jumping to another evangelical church wasn't the answer and it was time to try something totally different.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reaction

Recently, the ELCA the denomination my church belongs to, elected a gay bishop in the California area. Al Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is no longer a church and the only thing in their initials they hold to is the A for America in the denominational name. This is a typical response from the conservative leadership of American Evangelicalism that identifies more with the pharisees than Christ's teachings in my opinion.

If the playing field is level, then I can point the finger at the Al Mohlers of the world and make blanket statements about their denomination without knowing all of the facts. All churches in America are losing members at a level that makes one wonder if the church will be an afterthought in future. The only Christian denomination that has maintained their membership numbers is the Catholic church and that is due to immigration from Mexico and South America. Most Southern Baptist church plants don't even have the name "Baptist" in their name and they try to have a hip and cool name. Al sees the troubling trends in his own denomination and is trying as a defense mechanism to point out the faults in the more "liberal" denominations as he sees it.

Coming from a church tradition that is very similar to the Southern Baptists, I know many great followers of Christ in the conservative realm. Never would I call the churches they attend invalid just because I disagree with some theological points they make. It is sad when religious leaders buy into the liberal vs conservative paradigm in politics that has trickled down to churches. I would like these conservative leaders to concede that there are followers of Christ in the more liberal congregations as well.

So back to the ELCA voting in the first gay bishop, the main point of my article. The ELCA is a huge church body made up of conservative, moderate and liberal congregations. The locale that voted this bishop in agreed he would best represent their local synod. What works in one part of America may not work in another part and Mohler wants to paint the whole denomination as being on board with a certain agenda. From what I have seen is the ELCA is a big tent that allows for differing opinions on issues of the day. Most of the mainline denominations have tried to include the GLBT community in a polar opposite way of more conservative denominations.

So where do members of the GLBT community who want to remain Christians show up to worship? Clearly, they aren't welcome in the conservative realm of Christianity and some can't "Pray the Gay Away."  The believers that proof text the letters of St. Paul and Leviticus overlook quite a bit of the Mosaic law to make their faith fit for them. How can they sit in the pew with people who tell them their lifestyle is sinful when the person pointing the finger is a glutton, materialistic or self righteous. It seems like judgement falls on them when the jerk calling them a sinner gets a free pass.

I guess it boils down to that the conservative leaders view any denomination that is not on board with them as a different religion altogether. Even though Baptists and Lutheran worship the same God, there is wide gap in biblical interpretation and church practices. I have no problem with the Bishop who was elected in California and neither did the congregatios that elected him in. A denomination that makes sure there is a place for everyone is one I am proud to be a member of.




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

A tradition in my family on Memorial Day weekend is to visit the graves of our family and pay our tributes. My Grandmother would get up at 6 am and cut iris and peony flowers from her garden and we would go to 2 local cemeteries and pay our respects.
Fast forward a decade and I am able to that in my locale for my wife's family unfortunately. This year we went together and visited her family graves in our city. During our drive time I remembered some of the sadness and disunity that followed the death of one of her family members. I told her she and our children deserved better than that and I would never do the same thing to our family.

Then I got to thinking, is it easier to sneer at the baggage of our in-laws and overlook the problems in our own family. Once I looked hard at my side I realized that my family has issues too. Sure I tried to filter out the bs I grew up with, and I have been successful in some areas, but still have to work on things.
Being the father of a family is tough and even more so if you want to be the best you can to your wife and kids. Not only do you have to be a historian of your wife's family, but you have to be critical of your own. Then you have to blend what was good from both sides to allow your children to have a launching pad to achieve heights you and your spouse couldn't.

I love the impact the imperfect people in my wife's family made on her. I hope she can see through the craziness of my family and see how it impacted me in a positive way as well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Goodbye to Gene Stephenson

I have been a baseball fan my entire life and have enjoyed the fact we have had a winner in my own backyard in Wichita. WSU baseball is a powerhouse and has fallen off competitively since 2008. I cancelled my season tickets after the 2009 season when there was a noticeable drop off in the quality of the program. After this introspection,  I can add that I am a fair weather fan to my list of many faults.

Gene built the baseball program from the ground up and won on a level that is amazing when you look at his record overall including this season. Gene comes from the old school where you get respect for building something and get a free pass in some ways. He should have seen the writing on the wall with all of the aircraft companies kicking long-term employees to the curb and declining season ticket sales. Gene is the last of a generation that doesn't understand that you can't rest in prior success, last year is the past and it is "what have you done for me lately?" in modern business culture.

Gene is the man as far as building a premier NCAA baseball program out of nothing. Unfortunately, he blame shifted at the end of his career. One example was that the indoor practice facility was built because there was a recruiting barrier and once it was built there were no results to rally the fanbase. The faith of the contributors to the program fell off and probably drove the winds of change. The average fan doesn't realize how they were constrained to recruit a certain number of Kansas residents and even then I don't think there were any full ride scholarships. On top of that, the MLB draft plucked recruits and successful players out of the program and the game changed from the glory days of the 80's and 90's.

I didn't want his tenure as a coach to end like this, but knowing human nature I knew it was inevitable. Gene should have taken a biology course where evolution was introduced and he maybe would have seen that those who adapt survive in the long run. The landscape of college baseball was changing in front of him and he failed to adapt. The powers that be figured that the money they were paying him would motivate him to factor this in. When he didn't for whatever reason that is his problem.

I think it sucks that it had to end this way and more of this rests on Gene for not seeing the trends in collegiate sports and the business world. Once the fiscal year you were successful in is over you have to plan to maintain for the next year. 5 years since the last super regional was generous by business standards to expect a repeat. We wanted a better showing at the regional this year but it was clear the players were no longer on board with the coaching staff.

Gene is a hero to my alma mater Wichita State University and I hope there is reconciliation between the 2 sides so there can be proper respect paid to his contribution to the university.






Friday, May 31, 2013

Autonomy is the Antidote to Fundamentalism

I read it some where on line that people in cults can't handle autonomy. They make an idol of their church experience and leadership there within. It would also explain the cultural differences between the mainline and evangelical churches too.
 
In the evangelical world you are in a bubble and surrounded by like minded people. Your world is small and if you start to wander out of your fellow adherents comfort zone they correct you. It is a defense mechanism that is necessary to the survival of the group. If you seek knowledge past the approved authors list then you will become a liberal or worse yet an atheist.
They use the social network as an incentive to stay in the fold and remain comfortable. I have always been a different kind of thinker and a bit of a loner. When I realized leaving meant walking away from people I could barely stomach to be around, I thought it was a no brainer. For some this would ruin their world and their entire social network would crumble.
I guess you just have to have enough and walk away. Sure it sucks at first, but the long term benefits outweigh the short term heart ache. I wouldn't change anything I have done during this process and realize what I done is unique in my area.
Why go to a church where most days of the week have an activity planned for you? I think it keeps you from making a difference in your daily life and also keeps you from taking in new perspectives. The church that offers everything socially is trapping you in a way. Sure they may have good preaching or whatever but they know you're not going anywhere. 
You might indulge the other evangelical or pca church on your side of town but you'll be back eventually. Unless you go to another denomination that is a paradigm shift to join. To truly leave fundamentalism behind and still have faith is no easy task. Heap on top of that you are going over to the liberal side since there is only black and white engrained in your head.
Autonomy has to be what you are willing to accept with this change.  You will find out who your true friends are and then wonder if they only want to reconvert you so you come back. Many people fill the pews as these authoritarian churches and are unhappy there. It takes a rare person to get up and walk out and never come back. Most people can't handle the responsibility and want to be lead or they shrug off things they know are wrong.
On huffingtonpost.com today a psychologist said that in the future that fundamentalist religious beliefs will be a treatable mental disorder. After my experience she is right but all it takes is education. I don't think the pharmaceutical companies can put education in a pull as of yet.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Changed Voter Registration

One more step In moving forward in my life was to change my voter registration.  I have been registerred as Republican for the last 20 years and decided to switch to Democrat.  I had kept the Republican status to vote Bareback out of the primary in Kansas and it didn't  work.

Most of the time I throw my vote away and choose the Libertarian candidate. The more I thought about it more of a statement is made to vote Democrat and register that way. I have no grand delusion that the Democrats are any better than Republicans since they are puppets controlled by the same corporate interests.

It is just my way of telling the domonionist Kansas gop to fuck off the best way I know how. 

Bible Study Differences

My wife and I were at the gym the other day and we ran into an elder from our old church. He came by and struck up a conversation and of course asked us where we were going to church. My wife spoke up before I could say "Cut the crap you already know!" Once it was revealed the new church we are attending we had to hear about watching out for "liberalism". His final parting advice was to make sure we were in a good bible study.

It seems like my wife is always there when I interact with the leadership at the old church. It steals my thunder in a way, but I am glad she jumped in to keep things civil. Hopefully,  they will se we are content where we are and out of sight out of mind kicks in. If anything I got a real life taste of what living under elde board rule at a 9 marks church might be like. More confirmation that I made the right descision to flee funamental evangelicalism.

Back to my original topic, bible study means totally different things based on what type of church you attend.  In my old church a bible study meant parsing through the bible chapter and verse with no historical perspective. In the Lutheran church I attend the studies there are more academic and take in the historical perspective. I never thought in a million years group discussions like this took place in the confines of the church.

So to the elder who cornered us in the gym I guess I am in a good bible study and its one you wouldn't like. With historical perspective,  I was able to see the subtle change of an EFCA church to a SBC church and walk away. So I guess going in circles in bible studies that go nowhere keep the sheep dumb, happy and filling the pews every week.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brutality of Humanity

As I study more history, I realize the body count of people killed is tremendous. It doesn't matter who was driving the genocide and usually it was caused by differences that seem ridiculous today. It would be great if I could blame the God of the old testament for everything or the Atheism of Stalin for everything. That is the current vibe in our culture to hone in on one situation and disregard the bible for it or write off what the Atheists have to say. The battle accounts in the bible are in line with history and show a consistency that is in humanity even to this day. The Atheists point out the silliness of religion and show how hope for a humanity that factors out where religion has gone wrong in the past. However, when a psychopath like Stalin takes the ideology and runs with it he becomes a civic god and kills millions of people, the making of religion as the problem is over the top.

If humanity is to take a step forward everybody has to care about everyone else. This would cause us to drop religious, national and racial loyalties for a start. These forms of group cohesion that helped build civilization are holding us back. This would also require us to do away with centralized power and allowing a few people from privilege to call all of the shots. The utopia of the left seems just out of grasp in this world at this time. Will our civilization evolve and progress in this direction? With access to more information on the internet I have hope that we will progress but not in my lifetime. Heck, I will probably be considered a curmudgeon once I get old enough to need dick pills.

This is one of the many layers in my onion of doubt. Jerks get in power and it always leads to the death of millions of innocent people. Good things come from these aggressor groups and if it weren't for them we wouldn't have this or that technological advancement. Progress is blind to all of the innocent people it mows over and most people don't understand how bloody it was to get here. If a God is in control is he just a puppet master that hopes each genocidal scenario grows our culture? Or does he really have to blow through millions of people to find a few interesting ones?

When I think of my life as insignificant as somebody that was massacred in xyz battle it humbles me. I am glad I have the ability to feel tired of my job, when I could have to be tortured to death if the right people banged in the past and my genetic code came forward then. No pun intended. So the question comes up now that I have identified that extreme right Christianity and the polar opposite in the Atheist spectrum as being extreme. How do we move forward as a collective humanity? Why is it I gain more insights from academia or pagan authors than from American Christian leaders? Is God showing me truth can be found outside of Christianity when it goes wrong? Do I have to do what Aquinas and other church fathers did and filter out the noise to find good Orthodoxy?

Doubt

Doubt is a bitch. I have been jealous over the years of people who can believe a certain theology and be 100% sure and sold on it. I have often told people that I am jealous of their faith and thought more knowledge would help me settle on an ideology/theology and settle down. I know I will remain in the Christian camp but where do I land?  I am not willing to go back to the doctrine only black and white evangelicalism of the last 30 years of my life. Actually, I am an atheist with regards to that flavor of Christianity. There is a pull I had to the Catholic church, but I cannot reconcile in my head several key doctrines of theirs, so no go there. I am content with my current church affiliation in the ELCA, I feel this church is mindful of the "Catholic" church as a whole and there is room for me there.

When one starts to ponder for example, Native American religions or any indigenous culture's faith practices, I realize the stain of Augustine and Aquinas on Christianity. The pagan religions are connected with nature in a way I like, but I realize that inhibits the progress of civilization. As far as the previously mentioned saints, maybe it was the desire to spell everything out with regards to living the for the village idiot that drove it. There is something fake and disheartening about a faith practice that has all of the questions answered. If you can't trust your parishioners to investigate different schools of thought and find the truth themselves then your theology is fear based. Fear-based theology leads to cults, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, legalism or the jettisoning of faith altogether.

The key tenets of any religion are pushing us to realize we have a circle of influence and we will be held accountable for how we treat others. Many people just pay lip service and are cultural adherents to their faith. This disheartens us who actually internalize and try to live the basic tenants of our faith. In the Christian world, the one I know, there are so many flavors how do you even know you have it right? Every theology in the world has good in it but there are schmucks who take it and bend it to fit their agendas.

If we can't depend on others to tell us what to think then what do we do? I think it depends on our initiative as a person, some people will settle for being told what to think by leaders. Maybe I fit a weird demographic in this culture and want to think for myself. I guess in my adherence to Christianity I have to let my old Evangelical side die and let go of the fear of intellectual growth. Keeping us stupid and afraid of the world was how they kept us in the fold.

In the end doubt is a motivating factor for me. I question things on a deeper level than most, so hence the higher level of doubt. Doubt has propelled me to a much better place and I have never been more content with my life in many ways. Maybe doubt keeps us in check and from becoming to polarized on any one position or theology.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fair Weather Friends

On a recent trip to a zoological park I was able to pay a buck to feed the parrots in an exhibit.  It was fun and the birds were interested in you as long as you had the cup of nectar they wanted.
Throughout my life, there have been fair weather friends that only care as long as knowing me benefits them. Or I was given a free pass for being perceived as a fellow rank and file believer. Some thought that my job status had business contacts they needed to further their own pursuits. Some used my mechanical knowledge to lower their expenses and when I needed someone to talk to they couldn't care less.
This fun exercise of feeding birds was a reminder that our interactions with others that are fulfilling are short lived to say the least. The 99% of the rest of our lives we have to be ok with solitude in a lot of ways. How we spend this time is crucial and dare I say I tend to waste it.
I guess I need to work on not expecting more from interactions and friendships I have with others. I should relish my alone time better and continue to invest in my intellectual growth. As I look back nobody has wronged me just my expectations were off.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jesus is a Variable

Through all of my faith related struggles, I feel like Jesus comes across as a mathematical variable in Christian circles. If I do x then Jesus will do that. Sometimes I feel as if there are as many versions of Christianity as there are adherents. You can drag and drop the Jesus variable to make conservative or liberal theology make sense for you.
Feuerbach said humans make their Gods in their own image. Maybe that is the problem here, if we make things fit in our parameters then the problems start. We humans make mistakes and the stakes are huge if we are in control of big groups of people.
Jesus really is variable or an excuse people make to excuse behavior that is unbecoming. This is a fake Jesus but when you encounter 1000 fake versions of Jesus for every real one, you can see why people are confused.
Christians as a whole can't agree who Jesus is and what he said. Some Christians think other Christians are going to hell since their interpretation of theology is different. This is sad or is it just our need to have separate groups so we can look down on others. Maybe one failure of humanity is that we will never get along as one group.
That is why I cannot judge what others believe or look down at them think they are hell bound. I may disagree and bash certain belief systems but if I were to meet any of those adherents face to face I would be nice and respectful. I am just a boring middle aged white guy with a limited worldview. Who am I to think the billions of non-Christians around the world are going to hell.
I think God is bigger than human tribalism and the masses need to think their way is the only way. We need to be vulnerable and allow ourselves a limited view on things in some areas to be comfortable and stable.

The Moving Target that is the Gospel

The new in term in evangelical circles is the "gospel". The lack of it being proclaimed is reason for finger pointing of conservative believers toward more progressive believers.
My understanding of the gospel is that we are forgiven by the death of Christ on the cross. Also, there is nothing we can do to merit salvation and the hardest thing to do is to accept the fact that we are forgiven. I love the the law gospel distinction that Luther found in Paul's writings and agree with them.
The gospel message is a moving target that is elusive unfortunately. In my old tradition they say the gospel is the center of their mission but somehow after the fact you are living the law again. Join that small group, vote the right way and submit to the elder board. Where is the freedom in Christ there?
You have more liberal circles that I enjoy listening to more since the conservatives lost me. They end up making God someone they can manipulate to their own ends. That way no change is needed or dying to ones self.
I guess the same is true in conservative circles as usually they are controlling personality types that make God a set of perfect rules to follow.  Since I am burnt out with this mindset I can trash it easier.
So if I internalize the gospel message as I understand it then I have to forgive those who burned me in the past. I think once we realize we are forgiven, we can forgive others. After that maybe even we can see the faults with our own thinking and respect the positions others hold.
Maybe the gospel is giving up our sectarianism and seeing us all as one.  The fact that Catholics and Baptists can disagree and not kill each other shows we are moving slowly as a race in the right direction. So none of us will have the satisfaction of seeing the progress we want in our lifetimes. I guess that is why history is an important study to give us the courage not to be short sighted and make progress despite our mental limitations.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Comedy and Evolution

There seems to be a lack of comedy and Evolution being allowed for discussion in fundamentalist circles. The rank and file don't like Carlin or Kinison and don't even know who Hicks is. Evolution is frowned upon as an excuse to rule out the existence of God.
From my experience the fear of evolution and the dislike for comedy is a protection mechanism. If one of the flock starts to understand the basic theory of evolution they might start to question how the current belief system they hold came to be. I know it was enlightening when I figured out my old church was going off DL Moodys fundamentals of the faith dating back to the late 1800's.
Comedy teaches you to analyze situations and find the funny in it. If you can do that you can point out hypocrisy and not take things too seriously. In most cases if there is subject you can't joke about then you need to dig deep and figure out what the sore spot is.
Fundamentalist churches want people who can't think for themselves and avoidance of these 2 topics keep people in the fold. They want you to think the pastors are the only ones smart enough to interpret scripture and can do the thinking in these matters.
I guess knowledge is power and the more you have the less appealing black and white belief systems are. Giving up fear based systems with all the answers is scary and living with ambiguity is scary at first. Giving yourself the freedom to explore and grow in a new direction is so freeing.
My suggestion to anyone leaving fundamentalism or conservative evangelicalism is to take in lots of comedy and study basic evolutionary theory. This will help you confirm why this system ran out of gas for you and give you motivation to move on.

Arminians Suck Too

Now that I mustered up the courage to share my blog with some friends one critique is that I bash Calvinism too much. I have been affected in my life by Arminanism gone wrong so time for me to trash this theology too.
My mom grew up in a small town in Missouri and my Grandma attended a very pietistic Methodist church. Even yo this day my mom still worries about what people think and as a kid I think they sought out the evangelical church because the legalism there felt more like home to her. So Wesleyan pietism gets a big thumbs down from me.
During my youth group days at every conference and rally they would have the guilt trip night where you came forward and rededicated your life. Or worse yet you had to go out and evangelize because you could help somebody make a decision for Christ. So the altar calls, tent revivals and acting a certain way to attract others to the faith gets a big "gassface" from me. To quote the rap group 3rd Bass.
Really, all badly practiced Christianity have the same markers that piss me off now that I think about it. So maybe I am too rough on Calvinism but Arminians are no picnic either. Even now that I am home in a Lutheran church, I know you can have problems with pietism there as well. My fandom of comedy allows for me to pick a subject and focus on it and pick it apart for a laugh.
All of this doctrine based Christian theology is for the birds when mysticism is stripped out. That is one huge thing I like about Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I think my biggest problem with protestant Christianity as a whole is the disconnect from nature. As I have studied pagan and tribal religions there is a connect with nature that I think is b missing from the church as a whole.
From all my studies if you limit yourself to only post Luther theology, then you aren't seeing the faith in full color. I have watched documentaries and read books about the mystics from the pre-reformation church and found people who practiced a faith that I can identify with. One example is Hildegard Von Bingen,  she was connected with nature and learned the medicinal use of plants.  This one facet of a very interesting saint of the church and showed to me how disconnected from nature a city dweller like me is.
Not sure what my point is any longer and I will wrap this post up.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Church Discipline

This a phrase that is gaining traction in neo reformed circles and my old church. During my youth group days it was speak the truth in love. These new proponents of it present this as a way to keep people in line with threats of excommunication. I find it funny that the 9 marks assholes are repackaging sonlife youth group curriculum for church bodies instead of youth groups.

Most average church goers don't notice any of the subtle changes this full church management package will make once fully implemented.  The God of fear and shame will take over and everybody involved will enjoy keeping fellow church members in line. The leaders know they hold your entire social life hostage and you have to take whatever changes they make. Unless you no longer care and leaving is the only way to maintain your sanity.

I understand churches have to address issues with members that fall into sinful behavior.  However, this system stinks of losing your individuality and subjecting yourself to spiritual abuse.

Most folks will acquiesce and not notice the police state that has taken over their church. There will be people who stay because they are too chicken shit to leave and there will be some who flee the situation. The healthy folks always leave these situations and people with guilt stay.

The sadists will run the elder board and the masochists will conform to it. This system kills individuality and makes atheism an attractive alternative. In my opinion, church discipline is a veiled way of control.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reasonable Calvinism?

I just liked The Christian Left on facebook recently and have enjoyed their perspective. Today, they reposted a blog from Frank Schaffer about how Calvinism and the right wing Republicans have combined and really no longer follow Christ. This trend in American Evangelicalism took over my old church and is a faith killer.

The neo-reformed evangelicals that are paired up with the Gospel Coalition or 9 Marks is authoritarian and stinks of everything that Calvinism can evolve to be in a negative light. One comment on the article was from a Presbyterian pastor from the mainline who was pleading the case for his denomination. He was trying in his short post to explain that Calvinist theology can be lived out without going to the extreme that it is now.

If I had the time, I would read more Calvin and the history behind that leg of the reformation. Having lived the negative side of it and see it creep in slowly at my old church, I guess I have a blind spot for it. I would also admit when I went church shopping I avoided Presbyterian churches for their Calvinistic theological background.

Maybe I would fit in ok at a PCUSA church and didn't give them a fair chance. Maybe this pastor has a point and his churches theology has been high jacked by modern day Puritans. Actually, all Christians should care about this since these folks are becoming the new face of Christianity. 

I have always said if the conservative evangelical way is the only version of Christianity,  then I will pass. It has been nice to find progressive thinkers in the Christian community and hopefully our numbers will grow once more people like me start to have enough. I don't want the religious right and dominionist Republicans running things anymore. I can only hope that day will come but I am not going to hold my breath.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finding the Mainline

My parents left the mainline for a self-proclaiming bible believing evangelical church when I was 7. The next 11 years of my life were challenging and I tried to fit in there and never could. I always thought something was wrong with me and even tried as an adult to fit in there again.

In evangelicalism it is difficult to be a deep thinker and flourish there. I always asked too many question and the one size fits all theology didn't work for me. Also, volunteering for an independent film festival and taking in documentaries that shattered my sheltered worldview. This caused me to finally have enough of that church and the despair finally had me wanting to become a "none". I was so disillusioned, that agnosticism seemed more reasonable than continuing the charade any longer.

We were invited by our neighbors to attend  their sons wedding at the Catholic parish they attend. I loved the liturgy of the mass and realized my old church no longer worked for me and it was time to move on. Now that I am more familiar with the "high" church service, I have come to love the Hymns, Eucharist and passing of the peace. Also, learning the church calendar has helped make the year more meaningful.

From there we attended Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist and non denominational churches to find a new home. We ended up finding a new church home in the ELCA Lutheran denomination and are very happy there.

If I hadn't attended the wedding mass, I wouldn't have considered reaching out and trying different more traditional denominations. I think there are many like me who fall through the cracks of Evangelicalism and become "nones".

There is an oasis in the post-evangelicalism desert where reasonable people are and questions are allowed. Also, you can have a church experience where people of both political views can coexist civilly and there are no hard feelings after a discussion is over. You can join a church  that still sings hymns and uses hymnals instead of power point projectors.

After being in my new church for over a year I have enjoyed the frequent brunches and laid back atmosphere. I have found a church home where we are welcome to think for ourselves. I guess they trust that we will find the truth even if we chase an intellectual lead in a different direction.

The mainline needs an advocate since they are countercultural in today's society.  Their immunity to the marketing techniques of big business can be a relief to wary traveler that wants to escape the rat race on the weekend. If you are as tired as I was was of the Evangelical circus give the mianline a try.

betafaith.org

A good friend of mine is starting a new website betafaith.org and has asked me to write for the site occasionally. The intention of the site is to point people to churches that model the Christ of the new testament not the Fox news meets John Calvin version.  Or in a less cynical tone it will be a site to promote mainline churches and help point people toward them instead of becoming "nones".

The mainline churches need an advocate since American culture has slid to the stupid and seeker friendly churches are drawing folks en masse. There has to be people who slip through the cracks of these churches that don't realize this option exists. Hopefully some people who have outgorwn intellectually the evangelical experience give the mainline a try before checking the "none" status.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Am I a Liberal?

I have been accused of being one and most of the leaders at my old church use the term every time I see them. Everybody is so far right of center in Kansas and anyone who actually understands both sides of an issue is a Liberal here.
I refuse to let the right wing civic religion that has merged with evangelicalism dictate my beliefs. So maybe I don't check the right boxes on key issues the right loves to speak out about, but it doesn't make me a liberal. When you start to compare how we are treated by our employers with countries in Europe its laughable. We are having benefits our parents had taken away right in front of us.
These conservative folks are worried about biblical marriage while our government signs into law legislation to protect frankenfood manufacturers from future litigation. Our food supply is a dumping ground for various chemical wastes and this is hot button issue for these folks. All the fake news channels and talk radio has brainwashed these evangelical types and makes them predictably boring.
The arguments from the left have their problems too. But after living a lifetime of being eyes deep in the religious right cess pool, I enjoy their arguments.  I am sure I will tire of them eventually and critique them as well. Giving yourself the freedom to explore new points of view is scary territory from where I come from.
To answer my initial question I don't think I am a liberal. Maybe I am to some around here in Kansas but I guess I will wear the honorary badge assigned to me with honor in the meantime.

Car Repair from Hell

I had to do some serious engine work on our 1999 expedition.  Blown out spark plug on the passenger side and every gasket leaking except for the oil pan gasket.  I took a week off work and spent 13 hours taking it apart and thought foolishly that I was half way done. The project has gotten only worse after that.
I got the driver side head cleaned up and put back on and started working on the passenger side head. One of the exhaust manifold studs broke off flush so I decided to drill it out. First road block I drilled too far into the water  jacket ruining the head. So I went to the junkyard and bought another one. Once I got it home I decided to replace the spark plug threads in the back 2 cylinders so I wouldn't have any more plug blowouts. When I went to install the first insert it got stuck half way down and I couldn't get it out. So I said to hell with this and took a break for a few days.
I ran an errand Saturday for parts for another one of my cars and when I pulled in the garage I ran over one of the timing chain guides. My son was playing garage band with a friend and accidentally knocked it on the floor, oh well another 20 bucks out the window.
Today I finally got the nerve to get a drill bit to break out the jammed insert. The right size bit was 15 bucks and I picked one up on the way to work this morning. At lunch I came home to drill it out and the drill bit broke right after I tried it. So another trip to switch it out.
After work I succeeded and got the timeserts installed and need to finish cleaning the new head up and make sure there aren't any bent valves. I may actually get this car back together after all..

Friday, May 10, 2013

Visit to Megachurch

Last Sunday afternoon my wife and I went to the new hip megachurch for a baby dedication service for some friends. Since we have been away from evangelicalism for a while and never been to this particular church before it was quite overwhelming going back.
Pulling into the parking lot was like going to a theme park, I recommend they put up signs on the light posts so you can remember where you parked. Walking into the narthex area there were sliding doors like you find at walmart. Then looking around there is a coffee bar, book store and other stuff that I didn't care to investigate any further.
Walking into the nave or auditorium at this place was weird and not even church like. There were padded chairs, cup holders,  2 camera men on booms, 3 giant screens and a stage with a plexiglassed in drum set. The place was absolutely packed with young families and over 40 babies were dedicated at this service.
Once the service started the childrens pastor got up and droned on about families and the bible. Once he was done the middle school pastor got up and talked to us and was on the theological level of a 3rd grader. I guess they called him off the bench to talk since he was the pastor over children closest to infant. More inane drivel commenced until they called all of the parents and children up for the dedication. One of the key themes from both pastors was making every second count with your children which is humanly impossible. It is the guilt to get you on the hook and keep coming back for more simpleton captain obvious advice.
They showed a slide show of family pics of each baby and family to lousy music and then did a prayer to dedicate the children. I didn't pray along and watched the cameramen panning around during the prayer. The whole thing seemed trite and inane.
Once the service was over we talked with our friends and left. I will take my 200 attender mainline church any day over this American consumerist simpleton establishment. It is a reflection of our culture at large and frankly it scares me.

My Old Church is Repeating History

One of my biggest beefs with my old church was they never acknowledged the spiritual abuse that went on there in my youth group days. Sure they confronted the youth pastor when most of the male students with balls dropped out but they just agreed with him and said we were sinners. So the situation was swept under the rug and nothing changed except for the old youth pastor moving on eventually.
Fast forward 20+ years and the same potentially abusive scenario is emerging in the church as a whole. First it started with a switch to elder board rule, then they paid for a person from the congregation to go to seminary and who came back a new Calvinist. Now that he is installed as pastor, he is hiring either youth who were under him or buddies from seminary into 3 pastoral jobs already in less than a 2 years.
Most recently there has been a push to get people to sign up to be covenant members. This is so you can sign an agreement subjecting yourself to church discipline and their control. The sermons the last two weeks have referred to the congregation as sheep and the elder board as the shepherds.
In my youth group days they used a curriculum called Sonlife I think. I went to a seminar about the program and saw how they stratified the youth group and had an elite group called the "ministry team". To get on the ministry team you had to kiss the youth pastors ass and tell on the other members of the group when they were sinning. This allowed him to guilt trip us during the prayer times and give an illusion of control. I was stubborn and tested the the theory and got in the out group that was encouraged to leave in this system. This was nothing about following Christ it was about control.
Today I fear,  the elder board is the new ministry team or the brown shirts during the early days of the third reich. I see the exact same system being played out again as an adult that was done in my youth group days. I saw the signs early and they troubled me so much I jettisoned my faith for a year and left that church about 2 years ago.
I see now I was reacting to the past repeating itself again and went into a protection mode. I am glad now we left that church and worry for those left behind. Most of the people won't mind and enjoy the absolute certainty these authoritarian systems being. But there will be people like me that are there currently that will have bad experiences like I did and I feel sorry for them. I have tried to tell one of the pastors I am friends with if anybody falls through the cracks there gibe them my number but I doubt that will ever happen.
This church by not seeing and dealing with the past is potentially rolling out the same problem again on a larger scale. I was never anybody there to speak up and prevent or make change. Leaving was the only option for my family and it was the right one. Yuck is all I can say to wrap things up.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Baseball used to matter

When I was a kid baseball was everything. Even into my adult years, I loved the sport as well. It seems that my love of the sport has died in the last few years for various reasons.

The first one was the fact that the Cubs still suck after every other longshot team has won the world series over the last 20 years. Then the second dagger was the steroid abuse in sports that has compromised the game. No longer can a pitcher last 9&2/3 innings with the roided up batters. There are now middle relievers and a pitcher that comes in to face one batter. Now a half inning in the playoffs can take an hour and I am immune to this sport.

What gave me this perspective, was when I had thd mlb classics channel before I got rid of cable. I watched games from when I was a kid and remebered a time before the game whored itself out to advertisers. I also remembered a game that took an hour and a half to play instead of the 2+ hours it takes now.

This sports continued irrelevance has been negated thanks to advertising.  If it weren't for dick pills and shit yogurt no more revenue would come in. Or would the game have stayed the same and still be watchable without the advertisers fucking it up? I guess I will never know. Goodbye baseball enjoy your slow death as a whore to the advertisers.

I am a fool

I thought I could be friends with people at my old church and it was an even playing field. Guess what, I was totally wrong.  I stumbled on a sermon from there last week about the elder board and its responsibilities and highlighted throughout is how the elder board should coordinate all theological thought that the church body takes in.
The creepy thing about all of this is that I see how I am the problem in this equation and am responsible for putting my family on a course for hell for leaving according to them. My whole household gets a pass since they are supposed to submit to me and I am the one who is the problem.
Case in point why I left the cult that is my old church.  Who can live with this pressure? I can't and actually think no church is healthier than the shithole that is the old church.
So I wonder if anybody there is/was my friend outside of my participation in that sick environment. I would say no after I read this sermon and am debating cutting off all ties with that place forever.
Nobody in my adult life understands the isolation and loneliness this puts me at but it is better than living a lie. There is hope that one of these days I find some sort of community but now that winter might finally be over I can go out in the garage and disconnect like I always have.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Shed Purchase From Southern Baptist

Being the chairman of the property committee at church I arranged for the purchase of a new storage shed to replace our recently hail damaged one. Since I was off work today I went up to church to meet with the person delivering the shed.
After backing up his flatbed several times to drop the shed he got out of the truck and asked me if I attended this church. I knew right then I was going to catch some grief from him with his Oklahoma accent coming across really strong. When I responded "Yes" instead of " No shit Sherlock "like I wanted to, he proceeded to ask me if I knew I was saved and did I think we have to work to be saved.
I responded in the Lutheran tradition baptism is the initiation rite to the faith. He then cut me off before I could talk any further and pulled out a track showing the baptist salvation plan I had used over the years during park evangelism. I was courteous and let him finish his presentation. I asked him then what the initiation rite was for his tradition? Was it still the sinners prayer? He said no that wasn't it and all you had to was believe that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected. I give the baptist apologists kudos here for ditching the sinners prayer, maybe eventually they will ditch the age of accountability nonsense too and agree with infant baptism. Although this would steal their full immersion thunder and pull them away from their Anabaptist roots.
Our conversation continued with him going in a Calvinistic direction with lots of reference to sin and hell with many bible verses quoted verbatim. I took another tactic and responded with we can't do anything to earn God's favor and he loves us just as much when we are in grace as when we are out sinning. I also gave him a Lutheran discussion on the law and how it convicts us of our sin and if we ignore it then we lose our free will.
I wrapped my discussion up with him with when we follow Christs teachings, we do leave behind willingly our sinful ways because we see they are foolish. I also mentioned that this scenario spelled out can seem works based but really isn't.  I think at the end he might have thought that we are saved at our "liberal" Lutheran Church and I enjoyed our discussion.
I was a little irked at the time but I think I was able to show him a pre Calvin view of theology that got him to think outside of his Southern Baptist paradigm. I could have been a jerk and cut the conversation short but I am glad I stepped up to the plate and chatted with this guy.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Intention of Blog

When I started this blog I thought I would vent about my past in an unhealthy church and have a lot of material. The interesting thing is, the few things I shared allowed me to blow off steam and I am not mad about the past anymore. So I guess venting via the anonymous blogosphere worked and allowed me some free therapy.

So going forward I am not sure what I will share but hopefully it will help me to continue to vent about situations tjat arise and allow me to handle situagions better. I think I am at point in my life where I am being pulled in a new direction and its scary in a way.

More education is the directive here but what to do is the question. Do I get a Master of Theology or do a Master of History or Anthropology?  I think the study in any of these fields would help me dig deeper and grow intellectually.

I need to take the first step and move in that direction. I think the Theology degree is what i am leaning toward since I feel called to understand more and possibly even consider a ministerial vocation.  I proabably would have done this sooner if my past church experinces didn't suck so bad.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Interfaith Marriage

I was checking out blogs at Patheos and there was an article about interfaith marriage on the Evangelical forum there. In the article it contained a statement that said a mainline and evangelical marriage is considered interfaith.
So I guess if a Methodist marries an non-denominational its viewed the same as people of two separate religions marrying. That makes sense since most folks at my old church think we have gone to hell since we went to a mainline Lutheran church.
The mainline churches in my opinion have remained counter cultural and that is why they are declining. Evangelical churches have tapped into the culture wars and consumerist America to attract new members and play it like they have remained true to biblical teachings in spite of liberalism. Sounds like faux news doesn't it?
If I am to remain protestant or a church attender for that matter the mainline is the only option for me. It is nice to be in a space where multiple opinions on an issue reside and everybody doesn't blindly agree. I guess when education and historical perspective are the main focus most people will walk in American society. Most folks want to be entertained and not forced to think hard about anything.
I guess there are stale mainline churches that can be the polar opposite of the religious right cesspools that are out there. For some reason that scenario isn't as offensive to me since I have had enough of the religious right.
So Evangelicals have another thing to be scared about and obsess over. I guess I shouldn't be shocked.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Russian History

I have been reading The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn. What a downer it has been in the first 200 pages. You really see how terribly people lived under the Communist regime in the former Soviet Union.
The description of the irrational methods of arresting and interrogating people was baffling and the methodology behind will never be know 100% due to evidence being destroyed.  I think about the countless numbers of people whose lives were destroyed and the gruesome and barbaric torture they went through. As an American, it is incomprehensible that humans were treated that way by their government.
I found a documentary on Vice about a family that escaped to to Siberia in 1937 and lived undetected for over 40 years. When they were visited by geologists, they infected the family with pneumonia and killed 3 of them. The mother died earlier of starvation and to make a long story short the only one still living is the 70 year old daughter. 
When I read the previously mentioned book I think what if these people hust escaped. Here I find a real case scenario of a family that did just that. In the eyes of natural selection it would have been better for them to stay put in the city so at least one of the kids had a better chance of carrying on the families genes. On the other hand, by escaping, the family got to spend many years together they would not have been able to if they stayed back west of Siberia.
So was it that some idiots that took over the government in Russia irresponsibly used evolutionary science to engineer utopia? The folks rounded up were impediments to progress and had to be eliminated. That is what I think about as i learn new ideas and take them in. There has to be a time of thinking things through before you make decisions that are a huge mistake or state that you buy into a completely thought out worldview.  If you get too convinced of ideology you will stop at nothing to protect it.
So what would you do? With a Darwinian worldview do you stay put so one of your offspring has the potential to spread your genes?  Or do you take your family and isolate them from the rest of the world and have 30+ years together with no heirs. A person who has faith that there is something beyond this existence on earth takes the flee from civilization option. There has to be a reason for each persons existence, even the nameless ones throughout history that were killed and forgotten by xyz totalitarian regime.
When reading the numbers game of human history I begin to realize how lucky I was born at the time and place I was. I don't think my life is any more important than the millions of people who die from genocide, war, famine and disease. How is someone picked to get murdered  and I dread all I have to on my day off from work. I am a spoiled ungrateful jerk sometimes and history shows me my place.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Positives from a long day

Winter has been here too long in Kansas. Guess what it was 73 degrees most of the day yesterday and we wake up to an ice storm this morning. So the buses are running late of course and it had to be for the school that is farthest away. I get my son to school and head to work  and plan to fix a light fixture at church over my lunch hour.
On the way to fix said light fixture I get a flat tire. I figure no problem since there is a spare on the truck I borrowed from my parents. So I lay down on icy wet ground and drop the spare and rove the flat the problem is the jack wont move truck up high enough to put the spare on. I have to call my mom to bring my floor jack out and in my mind I think problem solved. Once my mom comes with the jack we  figure out the spare is flat too.
We go and buy a used tire up the street for 32 bucks and finally I can return to work 2 hours late and wet all over. On top of that my wife had a bad day and needs me to be there and I want to be selfish and disconnected.  I decide to not go there again and talk with my wife when we are done I remember I never put the jack away and she needs to use the truck in the morning. When I go out to put it away my neighbors son pulls up with some beer and we decide to talk.
We chat about being trapped in dead end jobs we can't stand and the difficulty of relationships. I took the time to tell him his current girlfriend is the real deal and he should make the deal final. He told me he got his tax return and he was contemplating buying a ring. I asked the standard questions about whether or not she was crazy and she passed with flying colors. I told him it was a no brainer and from what I could tell she was a keeper.
So my bad day allowed me to encourage a young man to commit to a great woman who is waiting patiently. I guess when we have delays out of our control we look at time in a different way. Normally we hold to a tight schedule and freak out if everything gets delayed. When you are broke down in a vehicle you just have to wait on others and enjoy the ride. It may even be portal into another dimension where time isn't linear.
As much as I could and did complain about my day it ended great.

My Patriarchal Lineage

I got some pics of some relatives from my dad's side of the family. The first pic is of my great grandfather who hated mining and fled Pennsylvania for Chicago to get away from that career option. They look like Bonnie and Clyde but maybe share some insight as to why I am such a troublemaker.
The second picture is of my grandparents. My grandfather died of a heart attack and he was a master ford mechanic that worked before they ventilated shops for exhaust gas. This is another tribute to my past as I have my grandfathers mechanical aptitude and my grandmothers open mindedness.
Our lineage and legacy in our family helps determine who we are in some ways. The people who surround us as youngsters influence us greatly and make a difference in our path. The strange thing is I only knew the women in the 2 pics. Somehow even though I never knew these 2 grandfathers I still have some of their traits. I would like to think its a coincidence, but I think we are genetically tied to our ancestors.
Both grandfathers were either auto mechanics and blacksmiths. Now I can fix or troubleshoot most problems that arise in my life. My brother has a strong mechanical aptitude and my parents are hard working people too. I think we underestimate our legacy and the impact we make on future generations, even the ones we don't know.
I so labor in my thinking about leaving a lasting legacy for my family. This exercise alone should tell me that its all good and to live in the moment. I want my lineage to do better than I have and to move forward from where I am. I will quit worrying about the day at hand and just realize that I am another step in the right direction for my family tree.

New Vice.com Show

I have long enjoyed the videos Vice has to offer and was bummed their new show was on HBO. They surprised me and have streamed the first episode on their website.
They visit the Philippines and Afghanistan and show how rough life is there. The segment in Afghanistan really resonated with and troubled me. They addressed the topic of suicide bombers and how they use children to transport the bombs through lying and indoctrinating them.
What is it about religion?  It is an instrument that can be taken by extremists and lead to violent ends. Highlighted in the segment was they recruited uneducated people to be the bombers. How common that is that fundamentalist leaders prey on those who are not educated to recruit to their ranks. It is really sick that children are viewed as mere chattel and I probably would hazard a guess that leaders are using the belief system for a power trip.
It really pisses me off that an outlet that allows us to connect to the universe that is infinite and unknowable ends up being a scam. In the worst case you end up dead or broke. Most of us who leave these groups through educating ourselves still feel dirty and used in a way. Sprinkle in the pathways cut in our brain by these assholes that kick guilt up on occasion then you can see what a mental rape religious abuse is.
These people come along and offer knowledge and community up front. After that, the real negatives start to show up in the form of unspoken rules and other legalistic stuff. Then you are in too deep to walk away and feel trapped. The spiritual side of us is something that should never be used for power or monetary gain. However, since we all crave this intimacy and community; we are vulnerable and there are opportunists to swoop in and sell a bill of goods.
There were 2 kids who were caught attempting to suicide bomb and were pardoned and sent to school to be deprogrammed. Guess what, they were both caught trying to do it again. This show to me the mind fuck that is fundamentalism on any level. It is next to impossible to let it go and move one. These belief systems get in our heads and actually have defense mechanisms against competitive information. It is like ideologies survive in the same way viruses and other creatures.
Education keeps you or pulls you out of fundamentalism but the baggage will always be there. The best thing is I pulled my kid out before they got as burned as I did. I don't think any of these problems will go away overnight, but if enough people like me start to walk away then these bullshit ideologies no matter the religion will die a much deserved death.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Mainline Church is a Threat

Joining a mainline church is a huge leap for your family as you leave the heresy that is Evangelicalism behind.  There is freedom that is scary and you have to find a life outside of the church for the first time. Its like you go to church every Sunday to recharge your batteries to go into the world and make a difference.  The siren song of fundamentalism has everything figured out for you. People care about you for just showing up and they pile on guilt to keep you in line.
My wife and daughter have and are reading a biography about MLK Jr. He is a modern time person who God has chosen to make a difference but used mainline theology to inspire him. Tillich, the Niebuhr brothers and others on staff at Union theological seminary inspired this man to make a difference. 
This seminary is made fun of in conservative circles and written off as heretical. So what is it? Do we live Christ's example? Or do we live on every line of Paul's writing. I think that is the void between churches in America.  Do we buy the Catholic beliefs or does the mix of tent revivalism and Calvinism show us the truth.
Who is more like Christ? MLK or the current Gospel Coalition schmucks? I think the guy who opposed culture and risked his life is more inspiring than a theological system that piggybacked itself on Nazi ideologies.  The new Calvinist movement has no grace and might as well be Islam.

Becoming a Christian fixes everything

I was at my parents house for lunch today and one of our good friends was talking about a sports star. He dismissed this persons life up to the point he became a "Christian". Its like this guy just left his past behind post sinners prayer.

In my experience this is just a smokescreen.  Saying you're a Christian is just proof you're faking it. There should be no works outside of baptism to prove your allegiance to the Christian faith. In my old circle, you have to give up your individuality to prove your conversion. Buy into the group think and you are one of God's chosen.

Are all of the heresies the church fought back in the day the same as today or is this belief system just ridiculous?  Conformity and the status quo bore me and Christianity in America checks every box for me to dismiss this belief system. However the alternatives seem to focus on being self centered and contra to personal growth.  I know people who jump through more hoops to buy in to new age spirituality than to accept Orthodox Christianity. 

The roads in my mind to accept Christianity are deep and for some reason inspire me to be a better person. This is difficult when 99% of all Christian options in America are full of shit. I get why people reject the faith and move on. I should have based on my history and all I can say is the Holy Spirit won't let me go.

Country Music

Country music is a genre I have never had a real appreciation for. Just with the basic knowledge I have I realize that the product offered today is a far cry from the traditional stuff by Willie, Waylon and Junior. The new stuff today is kinda of a mix of 80s rock and Garth Brooks. Actually traditional rock is dead and I think most who were fans of that switched over to country.

I will try to stay away from my intellectual high horse and say that this genre is a reflection of the dumbing down of America. Unfortunately,  all of the fans of real country are suffering from their genre being highjacked and commercialized to make a buck.

I guess I will use an example from my music tastes. Green Day is a punk band that has got significant air time on rock stations with mediocre lyrics. I can tolerate them while in the car but I never would listen to them by my own choice.

For those of us that want current punk with an edge we listen to Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. From his Dead Kennedys days he has stayed the course on questioning the establishment and pointing out the hypocrisy of our modern establishment. Electronic Plantation is great song that calls out the bs of our modern day office jobs and hints to the facts that corporations have us in a closed loop to enslave us. It is like the slave owners of the past were too short sighted. You can own the populace by instilling a need in them for products that don't matter. People will work endless hours to have the right car , house, clothes or you name it.

I am guessing there is a way to find real country these days as there is to find real punk rock. However,  the masses want a comfortable message that enforces the trap they have bought in to. Most people don't want to think or challenge their comfort zone which must be an awesome place to be. There are those of us that see the game that is being played and want other creative people to make music to inspire us to think deeper.

Whatever the status quo offers will never do that since ideas are what kills authoritarian organizations. There is an illusion of freedom in this country and accepting what is offered by pop culture isn't going to get you to see outside the matrix.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fairweather Fans

My alma mater has made it to the Final Four this year, which is totally awesome.  However, there are bandwagon fans of the Evangelical stripe that are unwanted and frankly just annoying. I am talking about the Wichita State Shockers. The student section makes the "shocker" sign during the game from the student section. It is done by holding up your first 2 fingers, holding your ring finger down with your thumb and leave your pinky sticking up. In urban speak it is a symbol for fingering a female with two in the front and one in the back. Or as I like to say two in snapper one in the crapper.
I saw 2 posts on Facebook by evangelicals talking about how terrible and offensive this sign is. This is typical of these types they have to find the bad in something and judge it. This get you points in your church group for towing the line and living out your faith. Instead of judging the sign college students us to be silly they should take the hint and try it out in the bedroom. Most of these folks are so repressed that anytime sex comes up they are all over it. Sex is never meant to be a spectator sport, based on one of these broads previous posts her husband would have to remove the stick from her ass to administer the shocker anyway. All I see is a win-win situation.
Once our run is over these jerks will go back to the other state schools and leave us alone. I can't wait for that and good riddance.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Family Members are Muggles

Before I go any further I want to say I don't think any less of the person I describe here. I am glad they are happy with their life but am just pointing out a huge gap in wave length we are on.
My wife and daughter are huge Harry Potter fans and I have watched the movies several times over the years. One thing I remember is how Harry didn't belong in his Uncle's house with his simpleton family members. The term for these unenlightened schmucks was Muggles.
Fast forward to an Easter gathering with family.  My family had attended Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at our church. We were moved by the deep liturgy and hymns to get us to focus on the passion of Christ. We had a talk with a family member about the Easter service they attended at the local xyz megachurch. She described how awesome it was for her and it sounded absolutely commercial and shallow to me.
On one hand I would have loved to tell her how terrible I thought that church was but I remembered the muggle thing. Just let them talk and move on. It wasn't too long ago I didn't care about holy week either and would have visited that place. All I can hope is that this simpleton faith will run out of gas for her and we can actually have an intelligent conversation in the future. Oh well I can dream.

Pro Life Voters Guide

Post the summer of mercy all fundagelical churches in my locale pass pro life voter guides out every election cycle. Some are clever and have people hand them out as you exit the parking lot or some as evidenced in Whats the Matter With Kansas had them out during the sermon.  Nobody here in Kansas seems to realize after 20+ years abortion is legal and if it were outlawed the hook would be gone to polarize the populace to the right.
My wife and I went to vote for our city council representative and school board representatives. When we researched the candidates our current council woman is awesome and gets involved with the poor in the community and gives them a voice. The guy running against her moved into the district within the last year and stunk of a tea bagger. You know white male who was poorly spoken and conveniently the district was redistricted to add more white neighborhoods. Who knew there was gerrymandering at the city council level in the air capital.
Then one of the school board candidates was backed by the pro life voters guide and we both voted against him. Thanks to facebook our fundagelical friends let us know who not to vote for. Who gives a shit what a school board candidate thinks about abortion. Oh yeah, they may allow condoms to be handed out to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
In practice I actually am pro life and think abortion is a sad option. But these pro life assholes are just manipulating people to get big corporations more power. The solutions that will end or drastically reduce abortions are opposed by the rank and file in the pro life community. You just can't win with these assholes and I refuse to vote for their poorly educated puppet candidates.

Having an Affair With my Wife

My job has been hell since the beginning of the year. My wife joined a new gym and started going 4 times a week a month ago. Now she looks stunning so and is confident in a way I have never seen before. So this week I agreed to go with her on a guest pass. I even moved an obligation so I could go with her last night. I should backtrack and say she has tried to get me to go since she joined but now that work is back to normal I decided to go.

Now that I have met her where she is and see that we need something to keep us together as our kids get older its like we are dating again. We are talking and sharing things with each  other we normally wouldn't. We have reached a new level of intimacy in and out of the bedroom that I could only dream of.

I fixed a steak dinner for the kids out of guilt before we left for the gym tonight. Almost a smokescreen as my wife planned for us to eat at the restaurant there after our workout. We had a great time working out and spending time together. Its like our relationship is new again and we have found each other again as we have changed.

I used to work out with a good friend several years ago until he moved away. I just quit going because I hated going by myself. Who knew the solution was in bed next to me every night since then.  Oh well better too late than never.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Talk with a Priest

I emailed the priest that did the wedding mass for my neighbors son. I wanted to thank him for his example and wanted to ask a few questions about the Catholic church. It was at that service that I felt like I could believe in God again. The liturgy filled in and answered every complaint I had about my old churches worship style.
He offered to meet with me even though I asked if there was a layperson who could answer my questions. We talked for over an hour and I don't think he was prepared to meet with someone like me. Being the geek that I am , I quoted scholars mixed with comedy throughout. He came across as tired and when he referred to his parishioners, he sounded like a tired husband. His bride really was the church and I felt sorry for his loneliness.
From the questions I asked and reading I had done I figured out something. The Catholic Church really is a leftover form of the Roman Empire's government. They have beliefs that you must agree with to get through the door. This is of course silly once you notice most practicing Catholics ignore them. I tried to ask him directly about my concerns some faking would be required of me to join the church. He told me that through RCIA I would come to understand and believe the practices the church holds on birth control as true. Then in another breath he mentioned that 90% of Catholics don't buy in either.
There is too high of a fence you have to climb to join the Catholic Church.  I would have to lie and pretend to get in and it wouldn't be much more different than my old church. There is so much tradition and theology I love about the Catholic Church but there is an insurmountable mountain keeping me out. That is what I like about my Elca Lutheran church. I was lost when I showed up there over a year ago. They took me in right away and there were no hoops to jump through to fit in. I could fully participate when I walked in with no pretending about who I am.
I look to Rome with admiration but for the foreseeable future I will remain Lutheran. Which is funny, since I tend to defend Catholicism and understand it better than most cradle Catholics do.

Marriage

The divorce rate is sky high in America and sometimes a passing thought creeps in that my marriage could fail. The fear dissipates when I investigate things further and talk to people who get divorced.
Many people get married as a compromise or an obligation. It seems like the fakery and lack of depth I see in friendships bleeds over to dating and marriage. I remember times of being afraid to share with my wife what I really felt because I thought  it would cause conflict. Now that I am more open, I feel as if out level of intimacy is higher now than ever before. I found out that we were on the same page but suffering in silence independently.
People want to look for an easy answer to make their life better but that is impossible.  Pursue what makes you uncomfortable and break down the walls that isolate you from others. Live in the moment and don't expect anything from time you spend with others. It is amazing how much we isolate ourselves when we are selfish. Dare I say that the more we want something and try for it the more elusive it becomes.
I am thankful for my wife and her willingness to grow with me and get to know me again as we grow and change. It is rare to find someone like that and she encourages me to be a better man. The person we love should bring up the entire range of emotions including love, frustration, hurt, passion, warmth and anger to name a few. If they don't ring every bell of your being then your marriage is doomed to fail.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Need to proofread

I read through some of my posts and realized that I need to proof read them. The downside of being introspective at midnight is poor punctuation and android mistypes. Another thing to pile on my lengthy to do list.

Good Friday Indeed

I went to lunch with one of my friends today and we discussed doubts he has about the resurrection and other supernatural religious claims. He is where I was a year ago and I enjoyed our discussion. It is rare to have a friend you can be that open with and freely discuss heavy topics. Most people get squeamish and then avoid you after the fact.
Getting into a liturgical church that celebrates holy week gives Good Friday a much deeper meaning. The service is somber and the chancel is bare. Even the pastor doesn't greet you as you leave. You really leave the Good Friday service feeling the loneliness Christ felt through the passion narrative and to his death.
I am ok with the resurrection now because I have looked into other religions or no belief at all. It seems to me that if the resurrection of Christ isn't part of the theology then the belief system becomes self centered. Most of these religions make you a god and not submissive to a greater force. I have listened to lots of debates and it boils down to whether or not you have faith. All worldviews require some level of faith to fill in the gaps that there is no proof. Atheistic Darwinian Evolution has many gaps and to buy it 100 percent you have to speculate and hope the science is correct to make a perfect belief system. In academia and scientific circles you have to talk the right way and believe the evidence to fit in. Sounds like science can get baptistry doesn't it.
I do think a lot of evolution is true, and am not a yec. There are just some things we are never going to know 100 percent about our origins or why God became incarnate on earth through Christ. For now the depth I have found in studying church history and Christian theology is amazing.  In many protestant traditions there is a shallowness and even dead ends. If you go back and study the church fathers and see they took on all comers and tried to hold to Orthodoxy while wrestling with the current secular thought of the day.
I guess if all you knowledge of Christianity is based on a fundamentalist model and that crumbles for you then it is easy to dismiss the resurrection claims. When you are taught a black and white version of faith, it is easier to dismiss the mystery. When I doubted I think the resurrection wasn't as much a problem for me, it was why it mattered. If all you gained from Christ's death and resurrection were more rules to follow it was pointless to me.
If your view of the Christian faith is just to follow rules and no inner transformation, then you are wasting your time. Eventually, the fakery will wear you out and you will have to act out embarrassingly to let off steam. That is why all of these Christian leaders end up getting busted for acting out like Swaggart, Haggard,  Schaap, and Bakker. You have to want to die to your old self and see the foolishness of sinful behavior that tempts you. That is the beauty of Holy Week, through worship we begin to understand the passion of out lord.