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.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gay Marriage

Its been all over Facebook the red equals sign picture for pro gay marriage and bible verse proof texting for the the opposition. I find myself annoyed with this debate and wish they would pass the law allowing it already.

We have a church state separation in this country or are supposed to on paper. It doesn't matter if you can pull all the right chapter and verse from the bible to show that it is wrong. Our government is supposed to represent the people and gay couples need legal validity to their relationships for adoption and insurance reasons to name a couple. Not to mention recognition that their relationships are as meaningful and legitmate as hetero marriages.

Since there is freedom of religion and if your church is opposed to gay marriage then don't perform the wedding ceremonies.  It won't matter anyway as the gay community knows which churches are against them in the faith communtiy anyway. They wouldn't even show up for a service let alone come in expecting to have a wedding at your church. Even the Catholic church who I respect very much, I know they will never cave on this issue and I respect that fact.  I would be opposed if the government stepped in and made all churches have to perform the weddings.

At the end of the day all that is holding this up are some repressed old white guys in congress that need to retire. It's interesting how the same tactics to back slavery and segregation are employed against gay marriage.  Furthermore,  while the news frenzy over this issue was going on Obama signed another pro Monsanto bill. This company has as much power as the Fed over our food supply.  Very scary stuff.

Finally, I think most folks who are so adimately against it don't have any gay friends. That is what it took for me to change my opinion on the issue. If the polar opposite positions are controlling the debate then each side is going to have to compromise. Civil Unions might have to be the first step until the culture catches up and the younger crowd who backs it get old enough to take power.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

College Basketball Scripted?

I used to really love college basketball,  so much so I watched it all the time regardless who is playing. One thing I noticed was the unfair calls by the refs and how games were usually even in the first half and then the second half was a boatrace.

After the NBA ref Donaghy was busted for controlling games to cover the spread for Vegas,  I started to wonder if the college refs made biased calls for ratings sake. Was I seeing a pattern that was making me bored with the game? If Activia buys a commercial block for the second half of a conference game that should be decided 10 min in to the first half then there is pressure from the network hosting the game to make the game more interesting....

Time to punch out before I dig a deeper hole.

A Year Later

One cool thing about the church calendar is you have events that help you remember the past. Last year at this time, I attended all of the Holy Week Services by myself except for the Easter Vigil and the Sunday service.
Fast forward a year and my youngest son is an acolyte and my wife attended the Maundy Thursday service with me. My two older kids had homework or other commitments but will we will attend together as a family the Good Friday service. Last year it was unknown if our daughter would attend our church with us or if our middle son would agree to being baptized so he could participate in holy communion.
When I was in the moment a year ago, I was stressed about these things and shouldn't have been. Things fell into place and we have assimilated into our new church in ways I never thought possible. I have no regrets and am humbled by the acceptance and love I have received by fellow parishioners over the last year. Sure there were times I questioned if I was in the right place but it is difficult to find your center. Especially after leaving a church that just wasn't a good fit for you and one where you grew up and knew most of the rank and file.
As Holy Week starts, I celebrate when my family becomes united in a church for the first time. Now they all can experience the liturgy and tradition as I did a year ago that helped me feel sure I made the right decision for a church home.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One of my Favorite Christian Blogs

I frequent 3 Christian blogs, internetmonk.com,  The Wartburg Watch and Rachel Held Evans blog. Today Rachel's post hit home for me. She talks about doubt in the same way I have experienced it and articulated it much better than I ever could.
She is an author of two books both of which I read. Evolving in Monkeytown I read during my agnostic phase and it helped me greatly. She covered many of issues I had with the church and got the point across that our faith has to grow and change as we do.
I gave this book to my daughter and she said it helped her too which is totally awesome. It was great for me to find these blogs online to make me realize I'm not alone even if I am here in Kansas.
Thanks to all who step out and blog to help us lurkers who are too shy to come up with a pithy comment for each post. It is hard to step in and comment since most of the stuff I want to say has already been said by previous commenters. I guess I will comment here in anonymity to up my game.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Christianese aka Evangelebonics

During my tenure at my old church there was a certain vernacular people spoke in I never adopted. Using Christian terms sprinkled in to every conversation or saying God even directs a purchase for new sheets for your bed room. If I wrote this a year ago I would have better examples but more distance is a good thing in this case as memories are starting to fade.
All groups have rituals that the members participate in to show their allegance to the group. This Christianese along with homeschooling,  voting along Tea Party lines and many other works to fit in illustrate my point. There comes a point in time for some that the level of belief or works needed to fit in are too much to try to fit in any longer. It is too painful to pretend  and wear the mask any longer.
Any group with that has many tests for conformity are unhealthy in my  opinion. Also, their core teachings probably don't hold up to outside scrutiny either. If you are too busy trying to fit in there is no time to second guess what you believe and why.
I have to laugh when I discuss the Catholic Church with my Evangelical family and friends. They claim that they have a works based salvation plan but they can't see they do as well. It is like they are brainwashed and can't see the problems with their side of the street.
We as humans find it so easy to point the fingers at the shortcomings of the opposition without seeing our own. It is painful to acknowledge that I can be totally wrong about something or be self centered. If we can look introspectively at ourselves and own our shortcomings then personal growth can occur. This would totally take the wind out of the sails of fundamentalism and pietism. Instead of faking it and pretending to keep the rules, people actually worked on inner transformation then being a Christian might start to carry some weight again.

Tv Preachers

When I still had cable I would watch hours of tv preachers and couldn't get enough. Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Peter Popoff, Paula White, Binny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Mike Murdock, Jamal Bryant, Taketa Williams and many other charlatans too keep the list short. These people push a theology that God is Santa Claus and you get all you want by simply sending them money. Except for Osteen who just ripped off Tony Robbins and blended it with the illusion of his message still being a Christian church.

All of these hucksters live extravagant lifestyles based on the ignorance of their viewers. The businessman in me sees how they rent out a conference room at the Holiday Inn Express and truck in a busload of people from xyz senior center. The only thing else you need manpower wise is a piano player and a hefty assistant to catch the people you "heal". You get the offering from that day and you get lots of mileage from one filming being run over and over again on late night tv. I am sure that there are telemarketing companies who take the phone calls and po box services to process all the cash and build the sucker list aka mailing list for your ministry.

These preachers are heretics and low hanging fruit for many to dismiss Christianity.  Actually, most Evangelical churches take cues from these folks and try to be relevant and entertaining while promising results from buying into their self centered theology. Sola scriptura mixed with marketing techniques makes the bible nothing more than a Don Lapre get rich quick scheme except it actually works.

Many want to just pull up to xyz church and be told what to think. The problem is the people who staff these churches are human and make mistakes. I think the burden is on us as individuals to figure out what the truth is and not rely on so called church leaders. Some can fit in and not question things but I am not blessed with the sheep gene. I guess if stupid people want to send these jerks their money then they are free to do so. It would be much cheaper to go to your local library and get some books on church history.  People in red states reading and thinking for themselves is a pipe dream at this point.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Father Kapaun Interests Me

Father Emil Kapaun is a hero from my protestant point of view based on his military service. He had the back of the soldiers in his care during the Korean War and was a great inspiration. To acheive sainthood, there has to be proof that intercessory prayers to him from modern times worked to get him over the hump to sainthood as far as I can figure out.

As I study and look at all of the saints of the church, I can get knowledge and inspiration from them. I just can't get my head around praying to them for intercession. I think it has to do from my fundamentalist past where prayer was cheapened and abused. I currently look up to many dead guys writings for inspiration is that a form of prayer?

Maybe my form of prayer is looking to heros of the past for inspiration and the ability to abide. Life is hard and these guys had it much worse than I ever have had it. I think the trials saints and characters in the bible went through are meant to humble us.

So when I can get a day away from work I might make a day trip to Pilsen, Ks and tour the church there. Fr. Kapaun was real and is another inspiration to me on my journey.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Cost of Fear

I went out to run errands with my wife today and ended up at Target.  Not just any Target, but the one we bought the pregnancy test when we suspected she was pregnant with our first child. This was before we were married and I was in college and she had just graduated high school.
I was afraid of my mother, she was a bully and used fear to control me. She also didn't want me to grow up and leave home either. As we pulled up in the parking lot today I told my wife I remebered us going there to buy the pregnancy test 19 years ago. She remembered it too and mentioned when we told her mom that she was pregnant her mom, she told her why didnt you guys just tell us you wanted to get married?
That is the 60 million dollar question, why didn't I just speak up? It was because of fear and it caused me to be irresponsible to force an issue. Instead of being a man and approaching my parents at the age of 18 to get married, I let fear hold me back. Instead, I acted out sexually and got my now wife pregnant out of wedlock.
I wouldn't change anything now as my daughter is one of my most favorite people in the world. I just wanted to share this as a cautionary tale. My wife and I knew at the time our love was the real deal and it pained us to be apart every night. All I had to do was stand up to my mother but it was an insurmountable task at the time.
Never let the fear of others constrain you or the descisions you make. In the end you are only responsible for you and how you impact those around you. Also, make sure you are not the one people in your life are afraid of and walking on eggshells around. I never want my legacy to be a one whose limitations held others back and up to this point I know I have been guilty of that.  Going forward, I am going to do better and this memory helped remind me to do so.

Worship with the Saints

Part of leaving black and white legalistic Fundamentalist Evangelicalism behind is taking in a more mystical view of things. One key thing in my new Lutheran church is the procession and entrance rite at the beginning of the service. As the cross proceeds in it is beleived that not only Christ is present but all of the Saints and heavenly hosts as well join us for worship. This can be tough tobwork out at first but it really explains why all of the Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals have ornate painting on the ceilings.

There is something about high church liurgy that helps me feel connected to the past and all of the people who have lived their lives and have passed on. I remember visiting the old Episcopal church in my town and the Book of Common prayer fell open to the right spot throughout the service. Think about how many times that book had been used throught the years to get that way. It was like that book was a welcoming member showing me the ropes to that church. 

That is the beauty of connecting with the past, there are many who have wrestled with the same questions we have today. In American Evangelicalism it seems they want to erase the past or have the leaders take from past theologians and not give them credit.

If I think about eternal life after I die and it is a similar experience to when I was here on earth then here is how it goes: I walk through the doors of the most awesome pub I have ever seen. As I take it all in I realize that I have arrived late at a party. The strange thing is I no longer feel awkward and everybody is familiar that I see. It is like all of my family members that have passed before me are there, even the ones I have never met. Since we share common ancestry I already know them and they apologize for all of the negative traits of theirs I inherited.

There are also other people at the party, all of the great theologians, comedians and philosophers that have inspired me. I get to hang with Tillich, Bultmann,  Aquinas, St. Paul, Jerome, Bonhoeffer, Luther and Lewis from the theological camp. After that I get to hang with Carlin, Hicks, Kinison, Pryor, O'Neal, and Giraldo from my comedian fan boy days. Then I get to hang with Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzche, Augustine, Russell, Socrates and Plato from the philosophical side.

As I talk to family, friends and the great tinkers throughout history I hope to learn that everything that matters is connected somehow. It has to probably be In way I can't understand right now in the human experience but it will be painfully simple on the other side.

Maybe this time on earth is just a way for us as eternal beings to see existence as finite and empty. Those of us who want or expect more focus a ray of light for those of us who feel alone. That is why for me the pursuit of things that matter means so much to me. I just can't accept that this earthly existence is all there is. The universe is so infinite and as a human I can't even venture off this planet. That is why I know there is more out there and this experience right now that is life isnso constraining.

Just participating in liturgy for a year has kicked my thinking into this gear and has given me appreciation for all that is seen and unseen.

Rock Concert as Closure

I raised my middle finger to my fundamentalist past and took my son and his best friend to a rock concert. As a kid I never went to a concert for any bands that I liked. It carried over to my adulthood until recently as my best friends have taken me to an Eagles and Primus concert.

Three Days Grace and Shinedown aren't my favorite bands but I know their songs well from the radio. It was surreal to watch live music you already know and like so well. Now I'm gonna have to see if I can take in some of the ones I missed from my youth. Gonna shoot for Van Halen and maybe Morrissey.

I did enjoy Shinedown especially and thought they put on a great show. Singing along to I hate everything about you with 3 Days was awesome too. POD surprised me with a cover of "Bullet in the Blue Sky" by U2. I liked the surprise of hearing an obsure cover of I song I haven't heard for years.

I love to people watch and concert going kicks this hobby into overdrive. In the line on the way in there was a lesbian in a camo jacket with a teardrop tatoo below her left eye. You just don't see these types outside of walmart very often. There was a couple sitting in front of us and the gal was chugging down mixed drinks. They left before Shinedown came out since she was in a good place for him to get some. Any more drinks in her and she would be puking and probably have to be carried out of the arena. There is a fine threshold of getting a girl drunk I guess and this guy was an expert of when to cash his chips in.

The most common sighting was the 30 something shaved bald white guy. This species had a goatee, leather jacket, and black t-shirt with a hack dick joke on it. I guess I was at a heavy metal concert but the look was tired in my opinion.

Back to my premise in the first paragraph,  by taking my son to this concert I think I have helped him. As a parent we should want better for our children and try to filter out the bs from our childhood that has limited us. By going to this concert my son won't have to feel like the music he likes is bad or of the devil.  My hope is this will prevent him from having the anger and need to rebel that I have/had.

It may have just been a concert for him and his friend but it was a huge step in my recovery from fundamentalism.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quitting Christians

Over at internetmonk.com Jeff Dunn wrote an article entitled "Quitting Christians" yesterday.  The jest of the article is that he struggles with depression and friends and clergy alike at his evangelical church can't be there for him. He has however, found a friend that is a non-believer that has been there for him. I feel for Jeff since this rings true for me as well.
I have tried during my tenure as an evangelical to strike up authentic friendships and discuss doubts and the like. I too hit a brick wall there for the most part among the members. There are a couple of pastors I have been authentic friends with over the years and still am to this day.
Most people in evangelical circles buy into a theology that is supposed to transform them and not have to struggle with sin anymore. I fault many of the authors, leaders and pastors for this mentality.  Everyone that steps up to the plate as a leader in evangelical circles has a story about how they have left behind sinful behavior and they are perfect now. I am overstating here probably, but it is the end result that comes across. If I am not growing financially and checking off other success markers I better pretend that I am.
This means that when someone in the group admits to struggles, it threatens the utopia of those that the person shares with. Evangelicals don't want their perfect bubble popped. Once you send your kids to the right schools, go to the right small group, attend chutch whenever the doors are open and attend fund raiser for your favorite parachurch organization that kept you indoctrinated through your college years; For all of these works you have to see results.
People in a bubble lie to themselves about the world outside it and don't want to know a friendly face they see every week isn't with the program. They say they are forgiven just by praying the sinners prayer but boy they seem to be working hard to stay in grace. They will slam your inquiry into sacramental Christianity as leaving for a works based model but they can't see they are in one currently.
If Christ called us to abide in him then our lives will take work for us to grow. Many evangelicals want to pray the sinners prayer and believe the right things for salvation. For some of us it is just impossible to do so. We see the world differently, doubt, get depressed and want a community to share that with. I think the evangelical salvation plan is oversimplified and it shows in the intellect of their followers and leaders.
Now that I am currently away from these circles,  I am much happier. I think those of us that struggle to fit in there need to leave. Life is too short to waste our time in these churches. Once you leave that church for a liberal mainline, Catholic,  Orthodox or none status don't look back. Most definitely don't worry about what the people back there think either as they don't care about your struggles anyway. You are doing them a favor by leaving so you dont blow up their spot.
Jeff I agree with you I quit trying for authentic friendships with Christians in the Evangelical realm too. You might see the cloud of depression lift once that part of your life is in the rearview mirror.

Alone in a Crowd

I have always been the type that feel alone in a crowd. I would rather have one best friend than 100 casual acquaintances.  This might have been my biggest problem with never fitting in at evangelical churches. Friendships there for the most part are fake and shallow. There is a fear of being too honest because the theology might not be working as a change agent in your life.

I would observe from a distance each Sunday at my old church the interactions in courtyard between services. Lots of chatting but nothing important being discussed, kind of a waste of time for me. The few times I would steer conversations over to something real or interesting to me I got blank stares or ignored.

Even though I was at a church with over 1000 people in the building I might as well have stayed home. It is wierd to see so many people enjoy their time there each week and I just don't get it.

It is almost like you have to be part used car salesman or a corporate climber type to fit in at these churches. After a week of work at the office the last place I want to go to is where more politics were involved.

Toward the end of my time there they did a doubting Thomas class for me and several others. It was the first time I had ever met and discussed real issues in a group while I was there. I tried out all of the atheist arguments I had read on the 2 apologists who lead the group. I knew this was for a limited time and took advantage of the situation to give them some things to think about.  Long term this class would never happen since they hoped their theology would win me over to a fellow koolaid drinker.

Why I tolerated so many annoying people and situations in my life I will never know. I am glad now that I have dealt with them now and have moved on. I hope one of these days I can find a crowd where I am not alone, but I won't hold my breath in the meantime.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The you'll do marriage.

I have seen it time and again over the years a successful guy outlives his wife in my old church and marries the first single woman that he knows. I like to call it the "you'll do" marriage of conveience. 

The last shovel full of dirt is barely on the coffin and his long term secretary or nurse is his wife. I totally understand moving on after a loved one passes, but these relationships spring up out of convenience and with little regard to families on both sides.

It it the need for folded clothes or regular sex that causes this phenomenon?  Or is the evangelical churches inability to assimilate singles into their culture?

As I was driving home from work today I saw one of these couples going for a walk and felt sad. I realize the husband has grieved the loss of his wife and probably has moved on. However,  if I think about it from my perspective I feel the loss of his first wife's life being cut short. How many years did the first wife thanklessly raise the kids without a walk in the evening? Sure she was there to raise her kids to adulthood but what a gyp that she didn't get to fully enjoy the empty nest.

My wife and I have given each other the permission to move of if this unfortunate scenario ever materializes for either one of us. This is easier said than done once you factor in preexisting family drama and other variables. 

We must live in the moment and make sure all of our loved ones realize how much we love them. If we get to a point where we have to let somebody new in it can't be totally based on convenience and emotion. I think there has to be a business side to love as unromantic as that is.

The Lonliness of Management

I have had a difficult 2013 and to be honest probably my entire tenure as a manager which spans back to 1999. I care too much for the people I hire instead of seeing them as a number.

My company tends to hire rockstars on paper that will leave eventually for a better job.  I hire people that the job is a step up for and tend to get dragged through the mud along the way.

After all of these years I hear the same excuses over and over again as to why the job is too tough or is too invasive in their life. Or I have long term employees that get proud and think they are too valuable to submit to company policies.
When I am in a selfish mode I feel like I am being shit on by everybody in employ on a constant basis. Once again I cant compartmentalize and realize these people are on a journey and they can move on in a split second  based on a descision they make.

The bitch of being in middle management is; you have heaped on you the success of your job based on how others perform. You also feel like you can never leave work and all problems fall on your shoulders. 

When this becomes a problem is when enough people fall short at work you start to wonder if your marriage is strong. I have put so much effort into certaib employees that have let me down that I start to think my marriage is at risk.

I know my wife is there for me and it doesn't matter what I go through that she is there for me. I guess I am seeing why companies treat us like numbers and don't care about us. It costs more than just a financial transaction that is our paycheck.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

5 Broken Cameras has me thinking

I have been subject to the Israel vs Palestinian fight via the media as long as I can remember.  I watched the documentary  5 Broken Cameras recently and I had an idea as to what a less apparent problem in the conflict might be.

The Palestinians are still in touch with their land and not on the materialistic treadmill of us westerners. The land taken from the Palestinians was done to allow for more apartments to be built to expand Israeli settlements. The olive trees the Palestinians used to feed their families were burned probably so they would rely on walmart type stores for food.

The way to get people to be materialistic is to disconnect them from the land and make them dependent on big business. The Palestinians are stalwarts in this way and the JudeoChristian vs Islam debate is used as means to terrorize a population. Now the businesses that have invested in Israel have the backing of America to kill people until they start to suck off the tit of capitalism.

The system western democracy operates on is a fraud at best. We fight these wars on terrorism to uproot indigenous people so we can resettle the land with new franchise opportunities.  I think we won't leave Afghanistan until their is a Starbucks and Baby Gap in Kabul.

I need to learn how to be a sociopathic fraud as that seems to be the way to greatness in America.

Response to the Vandals

After cooling off literally attending my sons soccer game, I loaded the family up and went to Menards for the new mailbox. This time instead of buying the wood post I bought the hollow steel one. Just to make it that much harder to run over, I used a whole 50lb bag of concrete to anchor it in the ground and another bag to fill up the center of the post.

If someone were to run over it again the post would cause more damage to their car and probably disable it. Frankly, the old mailbox and post were worn out and needed to be replaced, the timing just sucked. In the world of mailbox baseball they hit a home hun as the post and box flew 20 ft away after they hit it. I am sure these kids are still laughing their asses off about it.

If this doesn't work I am going to build an above ground version of the furher bunker out of cinder blocks and rebar. I think our lot sticks out as people turn around on our street and exit making our mailbox a great target for would be vandals. At least they didn't mess up something more expensive as all of the materials to replace were abou 130 bucks.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Monday on a Friday

After a long week of trying to catch up I thought I would sneak out a little early to come home and enjoy some family time. I decided to check out my bank account as it seemed money had been missing lately and I didnt think anything about until this week. When I looked there were over 400 bucks in charges to xbox online since October done byy youngest son. I was an idiot and renewed his memebership on the xbox with my debit card instead of buying him the points card like I had been.

Coming upstairs to cool off I opened a letter from my car insurance company and they said they were upping the premium 100 dollars this month. So I get pissed and storm off to work to finish up processing orderers for Monday. This usually takes 30 min and guess what the printer runs out of paper and jams 3 times stretching this out to about 2 hours.

I finally get home and wife is scared of me and upset and i decide to talk to my son and share with him that he is my servant for 60 hours of work to pay off what he bought without my permission.  I go downstairs to look over resumes for work and my wife comes downstairs with more bad news. She heard someone hit something in our front yard and when she went outside to investigate some kids had ran over our mailbox and launched it 20 ft over to my neighbors yard.

Between home and fighting a losing battle at work all you can do is cuss. It just becomes funny because you are so spent and have no more emotion to expend. What a shitty day.

Hiring Headaches

Why does it seem the person who bests down your door when hiring loses their desire to actually work when hired? I had two candidates I wanted to hire and was leaning towards the other one when another position came open. I deciced to five this guy a shot since he has had a stable job history up to 2 years ago.

In the the first 2 weeks of employment he he has complained about the travel associated with the job and has called in sick already for a bs reason. I guess all of the brown nosing tonget the job ran him out of gas to perform his daily tasks.

If things don't get back on track soon he will be shown the door. I guess in the future these types I will ignore and tune out as background noise. Ypu would like to think the people who show intiative in the hiring process would make good employees. Not so in my experience hiring blue collar workers.

I guess the same bs tactics to charm women and brag to their friends are based on the same type of deception that is used in a job search. Lesson learned.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Interesting Discussion Group

I try to make the discussion group at my church every Thursday.  It has helped me get to know people and also grow in appreciation of my pastor who leads it. Right now we are watching a video series on church history hosted by Professor Philip Cary. The last few weeks have been about the early philosophical roots of Christianity,  which I find very interesting.
It seems though the lay members would disagree with me on that and find it boring. I actually wish I found it boring too, since it makes faith so much more easy. I think too much and take in the culture so I have questions that are beyond the scope of just turning to the Bible.
The early church took into account Platonic philosophy and meshed it with Christianity. They also took into account pagan thinkers like Plotinus and used his thoughts and showed where the trinitarian theology meets with it.
I like the idea of a church that takes on without fear competing religions of the day and shows where they went off the rails. That is something woefully missing in the church as a whole today and even more so in the protestant sphere.
Most Protestants rely too heavily on Sola Scriptura because they are already in the fold. They cant see how engaging the culture and being one step ahead of the competition might help. I guess the fact I am a theological mutt showed up again today.
Sometimes knowledge sucks and the more you have alienates you from people. Oh well time to get over myself and go to bed

Sales Reps are my Co-workers

I run a trucking/warehousing operation where my nearest boss is 800 miles away. So over the years reps from different vendors have called on me to get business. In that time I have made friends with the ones I patronize the most and have found friendship there. 

They like to take me to lunch since I don't talk business at all and I love free food. Actually 2 of best rep friends are Lutheran and listened as I thought my way out of the old church. I like to learn about their lives and we share with each other evenly. The cynic in me says the hope of a sale is what gives me the feeling of friendship. But I know these folks like me and look forward to when I show up on their call list.

It has been a perfect outlet for me to try conversations that matter with people. I have always felt like something was lacking in friendships I had. This scenario has let me test the waters with many different personality types and help figure out how to better connect with people.

We all have opportunities fall in our lap where we can reach out to people in our circle and make a difference.  Sometimes just listening is all you have to do, just so somebody doesn't feel alone.

Taking in a play with my daughter.

My daughter had to go watch a play for her theatre appreciation class where she goes to college. Her mother and boyfriend were busy so I was glad to go since its hard to get one on one time with her these days.

The play was " Jake's Women" by Neil Simon and I loved it. The actor and actresses did a great job and the WSU theatre department should be very proud of their efforts. I think I will look into going to more theatre shows since movies fail to interest me. The was a 3 hour play and it moved quickly and I was drawn into the plot like I haven't been in a long time.

More than that I enjoyed the discussion before and after the play with my daughter. She is seeing things in a such a more mature way than her mother and I did at the same age. She is driven to be successful in class work, job and relationships.

We became parents at the age of 19 and I don't remember a time without my daughter in my life.  She grew up with us and she tagged along with me to work, the junkyard and other errands. My wife also made sure she got to go to concerts for her favorite bands and went to several midnight Harry Potter premiers.

My daughter mentioned to me today that her coworkers told her that her parents raised her right. I am flattered but not amazed that she turned out so well. I am glad to see all the years of being there for her and helping her realize dreams has helped her grow into the amazing young woman she is today.

Our only concrete legacy we leave on earth is the with the people we love and effect. My wife and I tried our hardest to filter out the bad stuff from our childhood from our childrens experience. It is awesome to see all 3 of my kids doing better than we did at the same age. Without being to proud I think we have changed the course of our family for generations because we wanted better. At the end of the daybits all good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I should have bought a butterball.

I have a friend whose dad owns quite a few acres east of town. We got to talking and decided to go turkey hunting on his land. Based on previous visits we knew the turkeys were usually in a certain spot at sunrise.

The night before I go online and buy my hunting license and turkey permit. Then I get up the next morning at 5am to pick my friend up and head out to the spot. We pull into an area by a pond almost a quarter mile off the road. As soon as we get out of the truck I hear loud barking. I grabbed my shotgun and started to load it in case they were pit bulls.

The dome light revealed they were 3 adult Weimaraners. As soon as turned around to greet them we had 3 new friends to hunt with us that day. Which is of course the last thing you want when turkey hunting. We thought maybe they would move on so we could go to our spot and no luck.

As the sun came up I noticed several turkey carcasses all over the field and we ended up taking our guns for a walk in the woods that morning. We encountered the farmer who leases the land asked him who the dogs belonged to and I think he said " They're yours now". Upon further discussion nobodybin the area owned dogs like that and they were probably studs used in a puppy mill that had outlived their usefulness.

So we load the 3 guys up and bring them home to my house. My friend ends up keeping one and I find a home for one and keep one too. Sawyer has been a great pet over the last 5 years but has added to the grocery bill. Anytime bread is left out he devours it and of course anything else on the counter as well. It also cost me 400 bucks to get him neutered and up to date on his shots.

That is why I always joke when I tell the story I should have bought a damn Butterball turkey from the store. But really though he has been a great friend andy whole family loves him. Sometimes your lets choose you.

Friends Visit My Church

A good couple friend of ours came to visit our Lutheran church Sunday. This is the second family from our old church that has checked our new church out in the last year.

I will start by saying I have no interest in them joining our church even though it would be nice. I am glad they came and kicked the tires on a high church service on their journey to find a new church home. It takes a rare evangelical family to jump ship over to Lutheran. Around here most folks jump to the Orthodox or Catholic church if they want a high church experience.

Also, the culture in a mainline church is totally different than an evangelical church. Most folks would see it as giving up a lot since there is a significant amount less of planned activities. Just too much to take in for most people I am afraid.

Finally, the days of thinking I am in the only true or correct church are over. If friends or family want to come and check out our church that is cool. However,  there will be no pressure from me to stay long term. Sure I miss these friends but they need to find a place that works for their entire family and that is different for everyone.

There have been several families we know that have left the old place for a couple acceptable non denominational or pca Presbyterian churches in our area. Most people that casually knew us that we run into from our old church think we attend one of these places. it is fun to see their reaction when say no we at a Lutheran church. I think it is cool a couple of our friends at least stepped out of their comfort zone and visited us at our new church.

I am just happy some people have decided to move to a healthier place and if my wife and I can be of any help that is awesome.

Our new church has none of the country club trappings of our old place. I am pretty sure it baffles some as to why we would waste our time going there. It is the first church I have ever attended where I participate in the service and feel at peace. There is no pressure to volunteer or put in an appearance at certain events to be accepted.

Netflix Documentary Hang Over

I am in a down mood today and I think irlts because I have watched several documentaries the past few nights on Netflix.  I watched 5 Broken Cameras, Cleanflix, Hell House, Selling God and Whats the Matter with Kansas. Oh yeah and one with Noam Chomsky.
Needless to say all of these heavy topics about what is going on in our country and via our foreign policy can be troubling. Ignorance is bliss and once you start digging you find information and ideas that make you think.
The problem is I care and find it difficult to separate myself from the larger issues I can't change. Instead I should focus on making a difference in my sphere of influence and not buy into fear or hopelessness.
I love these documentaries as they allow me to see the world from a different perspective than I do in Kansas. I can travel and meet people through these docmentaries I would otherwise never meet.
One senitment I have is best told by the song 'merica by The Descendants. Check it out on YouTube great tune. I guess I will now find a crappy comedy with lots of dick jokes to turn that frown upside down. (Cue Bill Hicks dick joke island bit)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Pious Have the Most Secrets

I watched Cleanflix a documentary about movies being cleaned up to meet moral edicts put out be the Mormon church in Utah. The guy who runs a chain of stores that rented and sold the cleaned up movies and uses the media for free advertising has a secret. He is a pervert and he eventually gets busted during the filming of the documentary for paying underage girls for sex.

This is one example of many self righteous outspoken individuals that don't walk the walk. I think if you are faking it, you have to have a dark outlet to blow off steam. In the uber religious realm it tends to be sexual misconduct. It also can be gambling drug use or any other illicit activity.

Most people can look down on other people for their wrong doing but can't see their own. It is common in America as well, we loved to see the Taliban get it after 9/11. What if a civilian victim from Kabul had the power to launch an equally deadly attack on civilians in America.  It would be fair since they have no more influence over the government they live under than we do over here. I think Chomsky has it right when he says "The way to stop terrorism is to stop participating in it."

I begin to wonder sometimes if being a Christian matters at all in the grand scheme of things. To proclaim to saved and show no fruits of intaking the basics of Christ's teaching is the lionshare of pop Christianity these days. Sure we are all human and make mistakes but mindlessly devoting yourself to the American Jesus dogma doesn't change anything about you either. Actually,  it makes you a more boring of a person.

The more interesting person is the one who admits their faults among friends and doesn't hide anything. The things we hide grow and become larger problems for everyone around us. Would you rather hear about a guys boring walk with the Lord or would you want to hear about how somebody doubts their faith and beats a poor tree in their back yard with a baseball bat to relieve their angst.

I would think the more honest story about doubt would draw a crowd every time. If your're more interested in hearing about somebody's boring walk with the Lord heavily sprinkled with Christianese, then I know not to ask you out for a beer ever.

But really folks, when the visible church leaders and other pious folks live less by the ideals of Christ than Noam Chomsky there is a huge problem. American Christianiy has been mobilized as a voter block to be controlled by corporations that want certain candidates elected to further their agenda. They check all of the boxes of your supposed values and continue to screw us out of good jobs and healthy food.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stuff I Learned in Fundamentalism

It would be fair to give some props to my past as I did learn valuable things there. I learned the bible and memorized enough to earn the Timothy award in Awana. This might be the only positive thing I learned as I look back. That is not totally true as I made friendships with pastors at my old church, since they were the most normal people there. I am speaking of a select few since a couple there that came through the door there were complete asshats. I have mentioned two of said asshats in my previous  posts.

I learned to pretend I like people I can't stand. When you are constantly surrounded by people that you disagree with on almost all issues of the day, it allows you to look hard to find the good in others. Might I say, I cannot dig in 100% on any issue and really can look at both sides of any issue and see why people buy in. This constant cognitive dissonance has kept me from polarizing in my beliefs.

Whatever authors and theologians they condemned I was encouraged to read. Whatever had the number of my old churches belief system I devoured to find sanity in my thinking.

I learned what I didn't want in a new church and was surprised I could still be a Christian after subtracting all the stuff I couldn't agree with. Dropping ineranncy, premillinial dispensationalism, religous right politics and inane praise songs to name a few. I can't tell you how nice it was to be away from the culture wars during the last election.

I learned it was ok to walk away from a social group you have deep roots in. Sure it sucks but the world keeps turning and you make new friends. We met with a group of people from my new church at a bar and had a great time. Not even remotely possible outside of a one on one meeting at the old place.

I learned how to be invisible.  I was able to blend in with the woodwork at the old place and most people thought I was a dumb gearhead. It also let me observe from a distance like a naturalist the petty country club atmosphere of most of the congrgegate there. I always wondered how they could hear the same message I did every week and let it roll off like it was no big deal.

I learned I had to unlearn what I learned there. This maybe is the most valuble thing I gained from my experience there. I was able to analyze how beliefs I held were narrow minded and fear based. The anger that motivated to I leave allowed me to let the bad stuff go.

I guess I wouldn't trade my experience in Fundamentalism as it has made me the person I am today. Just trying to make lemonade here....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anger at Memes

As I sit up at night and ponder my existence, the one thing holding me back are memes delivered to me during my fundamentalist days. Fear of knowledge leading to hell or understanding science might better explain things than proof texting from the bible.

When you are subject to years of a fear based religious system you feel guilty whenever you find peace outside the belief system. You represent a threat to those still in the system and are to be pitied.

I have read and understood the shallow history of American Fundamentalism and know it is a lie but it still fucks with me. The inner struggle we go through to let go of brainwashing is painful and really gains us nothing on paper. I now have integrity and am making a change that will benefit my family for generations to come. Being the change agent has got to be a tough role since it has been hell in a way for me.

Authoritarian belief systems are brilliant in that they are near impossible to extracate yourself out of. Even with full knowledge of the truth the roots still are in your brain and have you second guess yourself. 

So all of the memes of fundamentalism still challenge my thinking and try to take away from my happiness over a year after walking away. I guess I just let it ride and laugh my way through it and continue to blog about it.

The Masses Truly are Asses

From my time in a red state and Evangelicalism I have heard more than my fair share of regurgitated faux news rhetoric. These people think that Beck, Hannity, Orielly and Limbaugh actually represent the best interests of the people.

In my locale Boeing has been a great employer for many years. I find it interesting as as soon as nafta gets signed into law they cut jobs until they leave here for good. But all of the idiots around here keep voting republican.

This shift started when I was a kid during the summer of mercy. Religious leaders polarized over the abortion issue and used it to control a large block of church going voters. Now that they have mobilized large blocks of voters they start to shift the focus to government being the enemy. Of course it can be when ruled by totalitarian regime, but we elect representatives from amongst us. That has closed as well now that the representatives that win elections are backed by corporate interests. So the we are basically electing corporate representatives because the propoganda of faux news is telling us to do so.

I would say most people I encounter don't see this manipulation going on right in front of us. The powers that be are dumbing down education and pushing a pop culture that keeps the masses ignorant. Since most of Americans are ignorant of history they can't see that Glenn Beck is pulling from the McCarthy era red scare to get ratings. Nor do they realize that the media on both sides are involved in propoganda to brainwash us.

So stay in your anti government perspective and wait and see how they take everything away from us and make us mere serfs once again. This time though there is no new frontier to settle to get away from this. Guns don't do shit for you when you can't afford the ammo.

I hope America figures this out before its too late. I am not hilding my breath though since they are using tactics to disarm science and ways to debunk propoganda.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Melancholy and Doubt

As someone who looks at life with a glass is half empty attitude I constantly waver on the edge of depression. I always see where everything falls short or the powers that be are trying to screw us over.

Translate this to the spiritual realm and I am sure you can see how it easy for me to doubt the existence of God. Even more difficult for me is the supernatural stuff that is predicted for the end times. It is tough enough to believe in the incarnation and resurrection; let alone all of the fundamentalist end times scenarios.

I can see God coming to live among us and using a method that resonates with us to redeem mankind. It is really a simple plan that all of the various denominations of Christianity make very difficult. There is a different triune God being worshipped depending on what church you show up at.

If I attend church every week and participate in the liturgy and communion I am good. When I attend a funeral at my old church and am confronted with all the crazy afterlife claims they make, I start to doubt again. They have to make those claims because their has to be a silver lining for chaining yourself to such legalism.

It is hard to sort out healthy belief from fundamentalist garbage since it is so close in some ways. Even though I have read church history pre and post reformation exhaustively, I still wonder if it all is a waste of time.

Maybe doubt and uncertainty is a guard against arrogance and intellectual laziness. If you have doubts investigate and read more about them. You will see it leads you to more questions and how you will never master any subject 100 percent.

Moment of Clarity

I listen to the Joe Rogan podcast fairly regularly. One common topic is the use of psychedelic substances and their benefits. Most reports I hear them discuss can be acheived by reading then enjoying a few bourbon and cokes afterward.  I remember one guy sharing that went and did an ayahuasca trip with a tribe in Brazil. The key thing he got was that we would all be judged at the end of our lives for the negative impact we have on others.

Fast forward a couple of months when I was sick with a fever and watching Ted talks. I remembered when my wife went to the dentist and came home and told me she needed a 1500 dollar procedure done. I remebered back that she was scared to tell me and I felt like the biggest asshole in the world. I called her into the room and asked for her forgiveness tearfully. I told her I never wanted fear to be an emotion she associated with me ever.

Even though I never tripped balls
In Brazil with an enlightened shaman, I still gained enlightenment secondhand thanks to a podcast. I have learned to try not to have my loved ones fear me in any way. Who knew this was possible and I never would have had this break through if I were still an evangelical.

When one can listen to a podcast where people are being real with dick jokes, the church will continue to be irrelevant.  Especially the ones that use fear to manipulate you to believe.  Fear does get more immediate results but in the end you have isolated yourself. Love is risky because the right thing always is and if you expect certain results you can feel a fool when taken advantage of.

Understanding the impact we make in the world and that we can choose to be an influence for good is huge. I wish I knew about this years ago as I could have done more possibly. Maybe the wrongs I have done and the guilt I feel are the motivation I have now to be a better person.

Finding Where I Fit

My wife has found a community with penpals which is cool for her. I told her today that it would be awesome if there was something like that where we could meet new friends locally. I would like to find somewhere I fit in and I dont think church is the complete answer. Now that we are at a mainline church, it isnt possible to make it your one stop social sphere. Which I think is totally awesome too, but now I get to figure out the next move.

I have tried socializing in parachurch organizations but I am too honery and liberal to fit in there. Car clubs are an idea but that is too narrow an interest field especially since I don't care for sports any longer. For a recovering isolationist,  it is tough to step out of your shell when it seems to be a waste of time.

Maybe I ought to start reading and welding on my old mustang again.  That seems to kill free time and I dont worry about this stuff as much.

My Wife is Awesome

I cannot think of a better woman I could have married. We found one another in high school and fell deeply in love. She had liked me for over 3 years before a friend introduced us and I barely knew she existed. I remember after our first date to see the movie Kuffs she hugged me and wouldn't let go. I knew then I had found the one at 17 I would marry and have a family with.

Neither of our lives were perfect at home and the solace we found in each others arms lead to us getting pregnant and married at the age of 19. So far all of the naysayers have been wrong and we have been together longer than before we knew one another.

Marriage over the past 18.5 years has been great more than it has been challenging. We have grown up together and with each phase we go through it has challenged us to get know each other again.

Most recently I have noticed since we have moved on from our old church my wife has grown too. She has taken ownership for problems and researched things that have improved her life. She was sick all the time after she ate and she researched food allergies and made dietary changes that helped greatly. She has also started realizing a life long passion for writing too. She is writing short stories and 20+ penpals all over the world.

Now that I have dealt with issues that were bogging me down our relationship has gotten so much better. We made it through another phase of change and I still have my best friend. When I look around and see so many people around us getting divorced,  I feel lucky. Life and marriage is tough, there is no such thing as happily ever after where you can go on autopilot.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Evangelical Authors vs the Saints

I thought of something while chatting at lunch with my dad today. What if I were to go back to the old church and sit in on a Sunday School class. Usually the people in there quote the pop evangelical authors like they are the ultimate authority from God.

To get these koolaid drinkers goat, I would refer to Catholic and Orthodox saints only for sage advice. If someone had the balls to challenge me I could ask him if his wife slept on her stomach anymore after he read "Real Marriage" by Driscoll. Or I could ax him what his opinion of Haggard was before the news came out that he was using meth and banging a male prostitute.

If  I were to look towards anybody in church history it would have to be the saints and monastics. They never gained anything financially from their efforts and more depth is found from one sentence as compared to an entire Piper book. Sure they struggled with sin and doubt, and the strange thing is they admitted it. Evangelical theology has to show results so these new assholes pretend everything is perfect and end up having a wide stance in an airport bathroom.

To idolize intellectual gatekeepers that want your money first is shallow and so American. I empathize with Bill Hicks when he screams during one of his bits,"I don't get America."

Porn and Evangelicalism

They have a ministry to attack the porn problem in America. If you can admit in front of people you have the problem, then you are on the way to local church leadership.
I remember looking at porno mags at my friend down the streets house as a kid. Of course when the internet came out I tried to think of every fetish out there and see if there wasnt a site for it. The only one I couldnt find was one with real butch lesbians getting it on.
I think these porn addictions are a childish way for evangelical men to blow off steam after playing make believe to bullshit theology. They probably dont know how to relate to their wives either to get the frequency of sex that they need either.
Also all you have to do is ask Jesus for forgiveness and you can be forgiven until tomorrow night after you cum in your hand. There are no solutions to the real problems that cause this acting out, only shame to keep you involved in the church. They frankly dont want you to get better because if you do you dont need their shallow theology any more.
They offer guilt for the problem and the solution is to keep messing up so you still need them. I guess American Evangelivalism has met up with corporate America; make shitty products that dont last that keep you coming back for more. If we could be honest and make good products and have churches that really address issues then we might have time to fix what is wrong in the world.

Panic attack 20 years later

When I was in the youth group I would make friends with different people. It would be cool and fun to hang out on trips until the guilt started to work on them. Since I didnt buy in after my sophomore year of high school all of my friends would rededicate their lives and leave me behind.

Fast forward into my adult years and wife being on staff at the same church. I started to panic when she left town for a week to go to a tame conference at xyz megachurch. I just reacted with panic and was a wreck the entire time she was gone and didnt eat the entire time. I had no clue that I was associating my loss of friends during childhood with this trip.

It took many nights staying up late thinking and drinking to draw the association between stuff that happened so long ago. After I figured I it out I shared it with my wife and apolgized to her.

When we carry baggage the people we love the most fear us in some ways. I realized I never want to be remembered by my family as the guy that had to be avoided around certain subjects.

There is something liberating about seeing how your past is hilding you back and you need to let it go. On the other hand you feel like an idiot for not getting a clue sooner. The one hope I have is that my kids dont have the same shit to deal with that I did. For the most part I know that is true. They should be able to step up to the next level I couldnt reach in their adult years. Leaving a leagacy that is positive is the only tangible way we live on in our earthly existence after we die.

The Evangelical Performance Plan

As I move on and come to terms with past I am reminded of how it still is in the old camp. On my Facebook feed is a picture of some of my daughter's former friends holding a sign protesting human trafficking.  Or another post bragging about a summer trip to Haiti, the common theme here is pride and works are what lead you to salvation. There is nothing spectacular in leading a normal life and making a difference expecting nothing for it.

Since the theology is shallow and performance based you are on a treadmill or trying to climb a ladder to holiness. My wife I have talked about how we strategically volunteered whild there to get our names out so our kids were treated better by the leaders there. Since we weren't rich we had to try that much harder to be accepted there.

I caved in when I falsely convinced myself that my old church had changed from when I was a kid. I swore I would never let my daughter go through the same shit I did in the youth group. I befriended the youth pastor and tried to stay involved.  However, the problem ended up being my daughter's mentally ill small group leader. She used the same tactics of guilt and shame that were en vogue during my youth.

Guess what happened my daughter ended up having a falling out with her and came to the new church with us. This was a costly descision for her since she lost all of her friends bin then process.  I still kick myself to this day as I allowed this to happen to my daughter. At least I pulled my family out of ther and my boys won't have to go through any of this.

My daughter de-friended this kook on Facebook and she sent my daughter a guilt trip inducing message. She complained to her about not conforming like the other girls in the small group and how she basically expected something out of her time volunteering. Instead of loving and accepting the girls in her group ubder her charge, she projected her needbon to them. This further pointed out nobody there volunteers for the right reasons. They are slaves to Jesus and furthering his "gospel".

I went to book club with some Lutheran pastors recently and we discussed Forde's book Where God Meets Man. Discussed throughout is a theology of the ladder and how we try to climb up to heaven by works. Forde posits God meets us here on earth through the simple elements of water, wine and bread.  We are in the law all week long and it breaks us down and convicts us of our sin. Coming to a service with holy communion is where Christ becomes present on earth for us and sustains us to go out and survive another week.

This is much simpler and I realized I made everything surrounding belief too difficult.  I was right to reject the heresy being taught there. I also understand why people jettison belief altogether as it is healthier that living in this legalistic paradigm. I still don't know why I still believe and attend church,  I guess you could say it is the Holy Spirit.

When you can't blindly accept what others tell you life gets more complicated.  You have to chase all issues that bother you and read to find the truth on your own. The internet helps you find folks along the way who have dealt with the same issues and are in different places on their journey. This has been great for me so I don't feel so alone and gives me strength to plow forward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Independent Films Pop the Bubble

My wife signed us up to volunteer for a local independent film festival. I agreed to help since it was an event that wasn't church related. Little did I know that films I would watch over the next couple of years volunteering would expand my worldview and allow some culture in you just don't get in the midwest.

I watched movies that pointed out environmental concerns with plastics and the pollution it causes and also watched movies that addressed the racial tensions in the 60's I began to understand that whites were assholes in the south then. I also watched documentaries about General Butt Naked in Liberia and saw how crazy things still are in Africa to this day.

The second year we were in the venue with all of the glbt films. There was one that showed the aids crisis in San Francisco in the 80's and painfully showed the impact of it in a powerful way. The glaring thing was the church did nothing to reach out to these people. It isn't surprising since the church seems to weigh heavier what it deems sexual sins and overlook greed, gluttony and gossip.

The evangelical bubble I had lived in my whole life became apparent as the prison that it was. White middle class America is such a small blip on the radar screen overall and it was my entire world. When you no longer buy into the propoganda that the government is perfect and voting in the status quo is going to change things you are alone on an island here.

I see why the gnostics had built in their belief system not to reveal all of their beliefs or gnosis to the average joe. At that time it would equal death for them because they saw the world differently than the status quo. Today I guess it would just equal blank stares and people shaking their head as you walk off. Just losing your American rose colored glasses and being able to see us as the rest of the world is difficult.

If only I could give a shit about sports again and fake caring about status. I wonder what it is like not to see through smoke screens and just to be content. My wife and I could sit together and watch American Idol and the Bachelor every night. The entire depth of our conversations could be centered around that horse shit. Then I could join a fantasy football league and numb my intellect further. I could show up to social gatherings and have relevant conversations and have the illusion that I had more friends.

Oh well who needs a bunch of friends anyway.

Using YouTube as an apprenticeship

I had always wanted to be able to rebuild an automatic transmission. I tried to do a turbo 400 in high school and failed miserably. Now that I was restoring an old mustang and wanted an aod in it I figured I would try again.

I went to the junkyard and bought a core transmission for 50 bucks and bought a rebuild kit. Then I found a video that had a guy rebuilding the same transmission. I ordered a couple of tools to aid in reassembling the clutch packs and went to work. I air tested everything and it worked.

Since the car is several years out from being a daily driver I rebuilt the transmission in my dads truck just to see if I could check my results quicker. Sure enough it worked.

I guess the average joe needs to learn how to use the internet to solve problems. If more people could harness this resource better they could take control of their lives and achieve goals they have set for themselves.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Brennan Manning beat me to it

King Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun in Ecclesiasties and I hit the wall with a book I started reading. The Ragamuffin Gospel in the first chapter has highlighted my journey by quoting my favorite theologians and making points I would have. My wife has tried for years to give Mannings writings a whirl and it went over my head. I even remember that the pastor at my old church dislikes Manning which should have been encouragement enough to investigate him further. Rich Mullins in the beginning highlights my frustrations with the church perfectly and found solace in Manning's Lutheranesque exegesis of law and gospel.

So many people have struggled like me unbeknownst to me. As I dig, reading books like this help me to see that I am finding truth on my own that much smarter people have found as well.

Oh well I will continue to read through this book and hope to stand on Mannings shoulders to reach new heights.

In the Desert Again

Managing a business is tough. Especially when there aren't enough layers of employees to buffer you during times of adversity. When you run a trucking company during back to back snow storms and lose a key driver and warehouse employee it causes the slack to fall on the other employees. I could back off and let my employees work horrendous amounts of overtime and burn them out but I try to work alongside them the best I can during these times. I don't want them to feel the despair I do during these times. Being a leader sucks sometimes and it is a thankless job. You have to be satisfied knowing you have done the right thing even if your annual review doesn't reflect it.

I have made it a habit recently to complement my key employees and let them know how much I appreciate them. In a week this will all pass but the challenge has helped me focus on what is important. Hopefully I never again say my job is boring. Instead I enjoy the normalcy better and use the time to accomplish projects and invest in personal growth.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why I Don't Read Evangelical Authors

I am going to paint with a broad brush here and come off arrogant. That is the joy of having an uber secret blog nobody reads.

I remember checking the book out from the library I think the title was something like "Why men dont like going to church". Since at the time I was most def in that category. I read the first chapter and it had some good captain obvious points and held my attention. Then the book veered off the road into the ditch in the next chapter as it was just a veiled way to sell a bible study curriculum.  Yuck!

My daughter would read stuff for youth group and I would thumb through those books as well. Good point in first chapter and then stuck in the ditch making the same point over and over again. I could read a chapter of writing by Bonhoeffer and blow my mind with new theological concepts in 20 pages instead of boring myself senseless with 300.

I feel like the conservative Evangelical realm has high fences up theologically. This may prevent you from becoming a red letter or emergent Christian but it also keeps you from getting any depth either. It is too scary for the leaders to allow the flock to read a wide range of opinion. It is because their bullshit doesn't stand up to scrutiny. You can buy books to fill a library to keep you brainwashed and in the reformed theological camp.

If you are in a church setting where they shoot down authors that are not affiliated with the Gospel Coalition then run. All of those schmucks write about as well as Herbert Armstrong and at least you can get his garbage culty writings for free.

A Wake up Call

My son had made a new friend at school. They had talked about getting together to play and his parents were scared to approach us. My sons new friend had 2 dads and they knew which church we went to. They were afraid of us based on our church affiliation and rightly so as I look back. Fortunately,  we shared a friend in common that put us in touch and not only did our son gain a good friend we did as well.

Whenever I go to drop my son off over at their house I usually stay and talk for several hours. These guys actually talk about deep and meaningful things; a rarity around these parts. They were good friends to me during my spiritual struggles over the last couple of years. They understood the loneliness and isolation I was going through because it is similar to struggles they went through figuring out their sexuality I guess.

I am so glad we shared the friend in common to build a bridge to us. This was the first of many enlightening moments that it was time to leave our old church behind. Our children have brought many good friends into our lives in the past and still continue to do so. Now we have a new couple to go out with to dinner as well.

It pays to have an open mind and meet people that are different than you.  It is easy to stay in your comfort zone and cliques. Overall a diverse group of friends from all ages adds perspective and depth to your daily life.

Books from my Skeptical Phase

Here is a list of books/authors from my skeptical phase. I think the new atheists are doing a service in pointing out what is wrong with religion in America. However some have more to do with anthropology and biology. A couple are helpful for those that have gone through spiritual abuse. Some address the silliness that is our government as well.

1.A Letter to a Christian Nation- Sam Harris

2.Breaking the Spell- Daniel Dennett

3.All of the books put together by John Loftus

4. Trusting Doubt-Valarie Tarico

5. Leaving the Fold- Marlene Winnell

6. Godless- Dan Barker

7. Several books by Robert M Price and his bible geek podcast.

8. Religious Literacy-Prothero

9. If there is a God , why are there atheists.- Sproul. I only read the first half since the second half was calvinist theology.

10. The Family and C Street- Jeff Sharlet

11. The Faith Healers- James Randi

12. Jesus Land-Scheeres

13. Why Evolution is true-Coyne

14. Anarchy Evolution-Greg Graffin

15. Religion Explained- Pascal Boyer

16. In Gods we Trust- Atran

17. Salvation for Sale-Straub

18. End of Faith- Harris

19. The Truth About Witchcraft Today-Cunningham.

20. Misquoting Jesus-Bart Ehrman

21. Hegel- Peter Singer

22. Profits over People-Chomsky

Theological Titles I have Read

Here is a quick list of theological titles I have read. Most are either Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican or mainline scholars.  I have no time for evangelical hackery any longer. 23 and on I am still working my way through and I have about 20 more in my queue to read after that. This list doesnt account for any library books I checked out and forgot about reading.

1. The Rise of Evangelicalism-Noll

2. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind-Noll
3. Is the Reformation over?-Noll
4. And Now I See- Barron
5. Meeting Jesus Again-Borg
6. Why Christianity Must Change or Die-Spong
7.The Victory of Reason-Stark.
8. Where God Meets Man- Forde
9.A Concise History of the Catholic Church-Bokenkotter
10. Translating Theology into the Modern Age-Bultmann
11. How the Catholic Church Built Western civilization-Woods
12. A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas-McInerey
13. Rome Sweet Home- Hahn
14. This Hebrew Lord- Spong
15. Beyond Fundamentalism- Barr
16. Honest to God- John AT Robinson
17. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism- Marsden
18. Scripture and the Authority of God-NT Wright
19. The Bible Made impossible- Smith
20. How to go from Evangelical to Catholic in 95 steps-Smith
21. Catholicism and Fundamentalism-Keating
22. Knowing Darkness-Hart
23. A History of Christian Thought-Tillich
24. Augustine of Hippo- Brown
25. The Quest for the Historical Jesus-Schweitzer.
26. Dark Night of the Soul-St. John of the Cross
27. The Catholic Controversy - DeSales
28. The Imitation of Christ- Thomas Kempis
29. Christianity the first 3000 years -MacCulloch
30. The Reformation-MacCulloch
31. Justification-Braaten

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is Consumerist America a new version of slavery?

I often wonder if the model for America isn't a sneakier version of slavery. We are constantly bombarded with advertising that compels us to buy stuff we dont need. Then the programming on tv dulls the intellect of the population and reinforces advertising campaigns.

When wages stay flat over the past 20 years, benefits are shinking and the price of everthing is going up. There is something that makes you think the large corporations that have taken over have just established a modern day plantation system. The government representatives are bought out by corporate interests on both sides of the aisle.

Just to thin the herd we will make the average diet people can afford toxic and create a need for more healthcare. The system rewards blind obediance and stupidity. The more you are loyal to the civic religion of sports the better you fit in too and it takes more than 10 percent of the income of the most devout.

Any introspection where you hold yourself accountable for your wrong behavior is discounted as well. When we justify all of our wrong doing we reason away any spirituality that puts us at the bottom of the food chain. Once we convince ourselves that we can do nothing wrong we go on autopilot with regards to our desires. Then people say the only realm we expeience is the one we know directly.  They usually say I dont know without factoring in our limited senses on earth let alone the universe. We cant hear everything other animal can or even see the entire color spectrum. What if there is life all around us in the universe but we cant see it in this human meat suit.

I will stop now since it is late and I have run off the rails into crazy talk.

Theological Mutt

In the past year I have interacted with eastern Orthodox, LCMS, ELCA, Catholic and some of my old connections in the non denominational world. I seem to find things I like in every tradition but I am unable to  polarize and buy in 100 % into any of them . I love my new church and even though it is in the ELCA it is not representative of that denomination.  The scary thing is if it ever became more like the denomination I would be hard pressed to stay. Luckily I dont see anything changing soon so no worry is needed at this point. I have had only one person be happy that I was at an ELCA church and it was an Episcopal priest.

When I was struggling so hard spiritually my current church allowed me to walk in and join with open arms. Many of the other traditions mentioned above require months of catachesis and I didnt want to prove myself worthy again. It seems like every different denomination has identified good doctrine and practice and hangs their hat on it. But unfortunately through bloodshed and sectarianism hundreds of years ago most of the rank and file can see beyond and respect what is good in fellow Christian traditions.

What is one to do that cant become tribal and buy into a denomination 100%. I tend to think where I am at is perfect for me since I love high church liturgy,  think baptism is the entrance rite into the faith and believe that if Christ isnt present in the sacrament of holy communion then why bother.

I love the studies and reading I have done in the contemplative life in the western Catholic church. Someone who can live in solitude and look introspective at themselves and deny basic essentials is interesting to me. I also like the reverence that is paid to saints in the church and they are like fellow members we can ask to pray for us. It definitely competes well against the black and white doctrine of the reformed tradition I grew up in.

I have learned a great deal from the LCMS church. The law and gospel distinction has been infinitely helpful in me understanding where my old teadition was out of whack. They also pay tribute to church history in a way that makes this protestant group less so.

The Eastern Orthodox tradition is one I have read the least on but I feel is similar in some ways to the Catholic church. They have a different church calendar but revere saints in their tradition as well. The biggest turn off for me was once I learned their services were 2.5 hours long. If I could find a western rite church that had an hour service then maybe. In my locale when the Episcopal church went batshit most of the local clergy converted to this tradition.

My old church I never engaged in and after I left they realized that I would be an asset to them. They all know the bible cover to cover very well and the clergy there are all nice guys. I just dont line up enough with the laity or the statement of belief to be helpful there.

The Catholic church is a tradition I have always admired. However,  since I am a bit of a rebel I cant see how jumping over the high bar to get in is worth it. I would have to be a better Catholic than everybody there even though I already know more about it than most of them.

So if you are a part of a tradition that works for you be glad. I have found one for now at my current church but could it change? Sure it could? I guess I am in the right place if no other jumps out as the right fit. Maybe when doors close when you entertain other options it is a sign you have found your home.

I might like Greg Boyd more if I were still evangelical

When I left my old church one of the prominent long term members gave me a couple of Greg Boyd's books as a parting gift. He mentioned to me that most of the pastoral staff disliked him and that should have been a clue that I might have enjoyed reading his stuff. The books are still collecting dust and I have yet to read them. Fast forward to today and I read on Rachel Held Evans blog that he is considering moving his church to the Mennonite denomination.

I give him kudos for researching the roots of evangelicalism back and identifying what is wrong with it today. He was also able to find an often looked over post reformation branch of Christianity and find good in it. If evangelicalism has any roots prior to the tent revival era it would be in the anabaptist tradition.

In my studies, I found I have a lot in common with the anabaptists. I am not a fan of partisan politics, I think what is on tv anymore is garbage, I dont want any glory for anything I do and I think war is a waste of money and human life. I also disagree with them on enough issues not to join that tradition but I was pleasantly surprised by them.

I downloaded the channel on Roku for Greg's church and watched the sermon where he introduces the idea to his congregation. I kinda liked his sermon style as it is more like an academic history lesson even though the goggles he has on are evangelical. None of the guys I encounter want to acknowledge the Catholic church and he made it sound like the anabaptists were around from day one after Christ's ascension to heaven.

Even though from a historical persective I thought his fact checking was shoddy at best sometimes and he does correct some mistakes after the sermon. I would have loved this guy when I still was an evangelical. He has really tried to give legitimacy to the movement and connect it to the past.

I just wonder how the Mennonites will accept this guy who is trying to carve out a new niche and be a spokesperson for a group that a concept like that is foreign to.

Post Trip Back Observations

So my wife and I went back to the old church for my family friends funeral. They did a real nice job and his wife picked a hymn to sing where we actually had to use the hymnals for once. One thing I don't like at evangelical funerals that sometimes they turn into a praise service. At least that didnt happen here and they actually remebered the person who passed away.
Really the only thing I noticed was the pastor focused on all of the difficult resurrection passages and presented them like he knew absolutely what was going to happen when Christ comes back. Of course lots of premillinial dispenationalist rhetoric was injected into said speech. These guys also get there entire theological gameplan from Paul's writings taken literally in modern perspective.
Afterward we went out to the courtyard to offer the family our condolences and interacted with lots of people. We talked to several of the pastors at length and several of my parents friends who were there. It was sad in a way to see all of these people and realize we had left them all behind. I guess part of the pain of putting off dealing with a church situation that isnt right for your family is that you make friendships in the meantime.
I didnt want to go back at first but I am glad we did. It was nice too see people we havent seen in over a year and I think it let them know that we have no hard feelings.