Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's just a phase

   When I was in High School, I dated on and off but one thing never changed - I always got dumped.

   Yup, right around Valentines Day I knew it was coming - when spring rolled around it was time to say, "see ya later."  It got so routine I made up a song.  It was called "Valentines Day You Give Me The Creeps (you remind me my girlfriend is gone in six weeks).  Its a favorite.  Not really - it just reminds me of how fickle dating can be.

   In fact, the whole dating thing has a very interesting cycle.  I think it goes something like this:

Stage 1:  Somewhere around Middle School you either wake up to attraction.  It is very awkward and more group-driven than genuine.

Stage 2: In High School commitment never matches emotion; one year later you hate the girl you loved.

Stage 3:  In College you begin a transition of just having fun to looking for a mate.  It gets weird.

Stage 4:  Young Adult - you are newly married, totally in love and all kinds of plans.

Stage 5:  Love tested: Maturity, circumstance, selfishness, expectations and reality make you re-think everything.  Sadly, some walk away from commitment because it didn't match their expectations.

    What if faith and doubt are similar in their stages?

Stage 1:  As a child, when your parents tell you about God, you believe whatever they say.

Stage 2: Ardent believer:  my little girl will go to sleep at night with her hand over her heart saying, "I love God so much."  It is great, but I realize that she is only 5 and I would love to see that kind of devotion at 45 . . . but we'll see . . .

Stage 3: Teen years: questions start to get bigger than mom and dad . . . the kind of questions that only you are able to solve.

Stage 4:  As a young adult you build on your decision you made in the teen years.  You either build ideas around your faith or your skepticism.

Stage 5:  As an adult it is very unlikely that you will ever change your mind about what you believe (or don't believe).  There is a sense that you are done, mature or 'finished' thinking through things like faith.  You either divorce or you deepen your faith.

   It is sad that people come to this.  The truth is that we are never done learning and discovery is less of a linear cycle as it is a spiral that we continue on through our lives.  What if a person's divorce from God is a phase related to their stage of development?  You can read more by checking out Erikson's developmental stages or Marcia's or Fowlers, but it is an interesting question to think about:

"What if my doubt is a phase I am going through and faith is waiting on the other side?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hey people . . . I know this blog is about no arguments, but . . . *whispering* - Sam Harris is wrong.

Yes, the Sam Harris that says that following God brings the world's evils.  

Now, it is true that hypocrites and fakers ruin people's lives and cause evil havoc on this earth in the name of Jesus (see for a nauseating account of what priests did to young children in Philadelphia) if you aren't sure.  But those are not Christians . . . they are pretenders.  

But when you look up the deeds of people who take their faith seriously, it is refreshing to find people that are capable of changing the world.  This is a story of that kind of integrity . . . prompted by a talk from Andy Stanley.

Essentially, the story is about how between the 2nd - 4th century there were a series of plagues that had invaded ancient Europe.  These plagues had eliminated up to a third of the population of Europe - the normal citizens had learned long ago to just leave town.  In fact the most noted physician of Europe at that time, Galen, had left Rome for several years until it all blew over.  So how did people try to treat the infected?  "Victims were thrown out into the streets where the dead and the dying lay in piles." (Stark, 300)  Bishop Dionysius, writing in a letter at this time said that they "treated the unburied corpses as dirt." 

So what did the Christians in these cultures do?  Remember, this is a time in which Christians were not acceptable - they were irreligious weirdos (because they didn't worship the gods of the mainstream).  Did they skip town like everyone else?  No.  This marginal sect of Jesus-followers took care of the sick.  Dionysius notes that "in nursing and curing others transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead."  (Stark, 301)

In fact, it is likely that by taking care of the ill, Christianity grew during this time.  These early Christians nursed non-Christians back to health and these appreciative 'patients' became Christian and supplanted the previous population (Stark, 302; McNeill,108)  

This kind of others-centered altruism was typical of early Christians.  In the latter parts of the 4th century, pagan emperor Julian hated Christians, whom he called "impious Galileans."  Julian was involved in a campaign to get pagan priests back in popular demand. In a letter to one of these pagan priests, he compared pagans to what Christians do: "I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence . . . the impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well."

This and other efforts by the Christians created a "miniature welfare state in the empire which for the most part lacked social services."  (Johnson, 75)   Even 'pagan' emperors note what Harris can't - genuine followers of Jesus, though far from perfect, are good and can be a force for good in the world.

Johnson, Paul. 1976.  A History of Christianity. New York: Atheneum.
McNeill, William G. 1978. Revivals, Awakenings and Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stark, Rodney. 2000. Religious Effects: In Praise of 'Idealistic Humbug.'" Review of Religious Research. Washington: University of Washington

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Men are Pigs" . . . or "If we really lived out faith"

I spent this last week having such deep and gut-wrenching conversations with people who are going through such horrible things in their lives.  Most of the problems were brought on by men who abuse alcohol or drugs and then abuse the people they claim to love.  Some lock themselves in their rooms, turn on the TV and turn off the world.  The rest of the family has dinner while one chair is empty.  

I am on a rotation of people who meet with those who are going through rough times and need someone to talk to.  This was my week.  The week to hear of self-centered and emotionally immature people who wreak havoc on the lives of the people that love them.  

Part of me wants to just smack them and get them somehow to wake up and see what great treasure awaits them if they realized that people love them and are willing to help them out of their own malaise.  But they turn to drugs or alcohol or other addictions that help soothe and medicate the pain they feel.  One person is scared about the growing anger they feel within.  Another is worried about the results of years of alienation.  Like I said, most of them were women who have been through terrible storms in life because of men who never grew up.  Men who chose to sulk, pout, hit, punch, verbally abuse or otherwise intimidate the people in their lives.  

It makes me want to hurt those people . . . to scream and holler . . . to threaten them to get a grip on life and stop hurting others.  But doesn't that just continue the cycle of intimidation and violence?  God, how do you do it?  How do you suffer through another day of these people hurting the innocent?

It is funny, my blog post from the other day on Facebook read, "Christians mess up everything" and an old cynical friend from high school reacted with a reply: "I agree."  Perhaps that was a touch of Catholic school speaking, but it is a day like this that I couldn't disagree with him more.  If people actually lived out the Christian faith this world would be different.  Christianity doesn't mess up the world - actors who play Christianity do.

Imagine a world where people never lied.  Never cheated - at school or on loved ones.  Imagine a place where no one stole from a store or from someone's marriage.  Imagine a world where no one was made a sexual object.  Everyone honored their parents and loved the hard-to-love.  Imagine a world where people put others' interests first.  

Christianity is a great idea . . . if we ever chose to live it.  

We hear so much about how religion divides and fractures people, but imagine a world where true faith was enacted.  It is possible.  Really.

Monday, March 21, 2011

#1 "The Proof Please?"

     In 2005, Oregon State Physics graduate Bobby Henderson got tired of attempts by Intelligent Design advocates to get Creation taught in schools.  So he started his own very popular religion - the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM for short).  FSM, also known as pastafarianism, became a quick hit on the internet and FSM disciples across America began to gather to parody the Christian faith.  It's kind of funny.  They have slogans like "He boiled for your sins" or "WWTFSMD?"  or this interpretation of Michelangelo's "Creation of Man:" 

     Of course the premise for this comes from  the thought that Christianity is just like any other human-concocted idea . . . you have your Jesus from 2000 years ago and I have my FSM and both have the same amount of evidence.  Where's the proof?
     Now of course when we talk about 'proof' - we need to really put our finger on what it is we mean.  No credible historian would doubt the actual existence of a Jesus from Nazareth.  What is in doubt is whether what He said and did is faithfully preserved for us in a collection of highly biased sacred works we call the Gospels.  So what is it that we are 'proving?'
     Maybe it is the claim to have risen from the dead.  
     Isn't it interesting that the Romans or the religious Jews of Jesus' time who had the power to find His body and expose this whole thing as a sham never did?  Throw the body in a wheelbarrow, run it through Jerusalem and the whole thing is over.  Equally interesting that somewhere around the middle of the first century, story lines explode with the idea of people raising from the dead . . . physically.  According to Wright, this idea was nonexistent for centuries leading up to 50AD.  Suddenly it explodes in popular literature - as if a switch was turned on.  That and a hundred other "hmmm . . .  that's interesting" kind of thoughts we could spend time on.
     But it is actually this idea of 'proof' that is more interesting to deconstruct.  
     So what qualifies as evidence?  Is it enough to see it?  What if one person sees Jesus - is that enough?  Probably not.  For one person to see the proof would only produce a very enthusiastic convert.  Can you imagine?  Everyone else would be like, "so what'd He look like? Can I see too?"  Pretty soon you would have people questioning what it is that he really saw.  In time it would be dismissed.
     So maybe you have ten people witness the evidence of God - directly seeing Him.  Would that be enough?  Well, you would have to have at least five scientists.  The real miracle would be 5 scientists agreeing to the test!  But since scientific law doesn't allow for the supernatural, wouldn't the explanation of what they saw just be some naturalistic mumbo-jumbo?  "My cerebral cortex was highly excited by the positive emission of radiation from an external source" or something like that.  Don't think for a moment that 'proof' is what anyone wants.  It is a sucker's bet.  I mean, the religious Jews just wanted to talk with Jesus and get his story.  

     Yeah right, and half a day later He is hanging on a tree.

     The argument about 'proof' is a continuing illusion that collapses upon itself and I think that is why God is not in the business of obliging us.  I like that God doesn't give us what we want. I am glad that God is above it - that the 'proof' is subjective . . . an inside joke for the downtrodden and those that have no other place to turn.  For the junkie that has no pride to stumble over who has nothing else to lose.   For the kid that has no friends and just wants someone to talk to.  For the single mom that learned that she is getting laid off and that her ex is getting married in the same day.  These kinds of people aren't waiting for proof to discover that a relationship with God is real . . . they just need help . . . and they are ready to put their faith in something that seems ridiculous because they have nowhere else to turn.
     And once they step inside, they receive the proof that they never looked for and could never establish outside of themselves.  
     That is faith - the unproved proof.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#2 What you should doubt about your doubt:Belief in God has only messed things up in the world.

Why would you want to be a Christian? 

Christians are racist Republican homophobes who care more about their churches, Bibles and teaching creation in schools than they do about the things that really matter in the world.  In fact, it seems that everything Christianity touches wreaks of havoc . . . those big-haired preachers are all liars and hypocrites, Hitler rose to power using scripture, the church put us in the dark ages, teenage girls were burned at the stake for being 'witches' and of course the crusades . . . Christianity leaves a trail of disaster!

Alright, come on now . . . I hope we are all savvy enough to know how things can be manipulated.  Yes, these things are all true about people that claimed to be Christian and did horrible things.  But consider these facts just from six countries and only from the 20th century:

* 61 million Soviet citizens were killed under the atheistic communist regime of the USSR.
* Over 9 million people were murdered by the atheists under Joseph Stalin.  
* Pol Pots regime in Cambodia was atheistic and slaughtered almost 2 million people underneath him.  
* Some people estimate that almost 76 million have been killed because of their political and religious beliefs by Chinese rulers.
* The 20 year Ethiopian atheistic regime claimed the lives of almost 1.5 million innocent citizens.
* North Korea, an atheistic state, has killed over 3 million of its citizens.

Wouldn't we conclude from this alone that all atheists are murderous and treacherous little beasts?  Of course we conclude that communism is intellectually bankrupt, right?  In fact, we should probably come to the conclusion that atheism doesn't exist because the people who practice it are so morally reprehensible.  If atheism was really credible, there wouldn't be so many evil atheists.

Now of course these stats don't change the depth and inspiration of the Communist Manifesto.   The idea still has wonderful merit (everyone sharing with each other - property redefined as belonging to those who are in need).  It just tends to not work very well with humans.  In principle, it is a beautiful thought.  But I am not going to condemn Marx and Engels because a guy named Brezhnev used the Communist structure to murder innocent people.  

 . . . and neither should we judge the Christian faith because of the ignorant and evil acts of some who called themselves Christian.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Doing it HIS way

So there is this kid who is aimless and unsure of what he wants to do with his life.  Son of a politician, he was kidnapped at 16 and carried away for 6 years to a strange Druid-kind-of guy who called himself Milchu.  It was weird.

They forced him into slavery and these turn of events can either push you closer to or further from God.  In Pat's case, he started praying . . . a lot.

Six years later while trying to sleep, he heard a voice that said, "your ship is ready" and fled his 'master.'  Over 200 miles away he found a ship that sailed back home to England.  He was grateful for the voice and so he started to study the Bible and get serious about doing something for God with his life.  So  what do you think God does?   Pat starts feeling like his calling in life is to go back to the place he was kidnapped and do good.

So he trains for 15 years and is sent across the sea.  Once he arrives, he shows up at Milchu's place and pays for his freedom.  Can you imagine?  

From that point on, he throws out the rule book on how to approach the locals.  The Catholic rule book at the time was to live outside the settlement and teach them all the stuff of the church (what to wear, how to talk etc).  Instead, Pat lives IN town, learns THEIR language and starts talking about God.  This would get him in trouble over and over with the church.

At first Milchu and his people weren't too impressed.  So Pat decides to get a little dramatic.  The Druid community has this huge festival once a year called Beltane in which a fire is lit and it is supposed to be the largest fire around.  So Pat gets in his mind to build a bigger one on the opposing hill.  It is enormous.  It totally eclipses the King's fire.  

Pat started getting his name out there.

Well, Pat spent the rest of his life loving these people that took him captive.  The church got mad at the ways he would do it (the church always does that).  But you and I would come to know him as St. Patrick.  No you know the rest of the story!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#3: But you didn't answer the question!

Okay . . . so some of you felt like I answered the question about why God waits to punish evil btut never answered the question as to why it is there to begin with.

Good point.

I thought that perhaps most have already heard the whole "God created us having free will" or God wanted our love so much that he gave us the freedom to not show it." Essentially God wanted people who would want to choose Him.  The only way to chose that love is to have a choice between God and 'not-God' or what we might call evil.

That seems to be the most popular answer in this kind of category - but it doesn't answer the question either.  Does that mean that God set up evil in the universe for us to choose between it and Him?  It reminds me of the Far Side Cartoon where God is standing over a cookie sheet in an apron with a huge globe about to go into the oven.  Around Him are cans of "light skinned" and "dark skinned" as if they are ingredients.  He is shaking a can labeled "jerks" and the caption in his thoughts is " . . . just to make it more interesting . . ."  Makes me laugh.

      So what do we make of it all?  How can we believe in a God who either introduces evil into the world (knowing that it would bring about universal suffering) or a God that is powerless against its introduction (in which case He is a bit weak).
     I think the answer comes from how we view the question.  Do we view it from the perspective that God acts within a certain set of acceptable behaviors and attitudes?  If we view it from this perspective we have every right to put God on trial and find Him wanting.  From this perspective we set up certain parameters that a being like God should be confined to.  When the reality wanders outside those boundaries, then we can either do one of two things: revise our understanding (toss out our pre-conceived ideas) or toss out God.  From this perspective, it is easy to see that we have tossed out God.
     The problem, of course, is that we are judging God by human standards of what is the right way and the wrong way for a God to act.  We immediately rush to judgment saying that there is no way that a perfect God would let evil into the world if He was perfect.  Are we experts in this area?  Is it possible that our sense of right and wrong is (appropriately) finite? 
     What if the idea of God allows for a deity that acts in ways that are completely wild and beyond our sense of what a God should and should not do?  Why couldn't God have allowed a will that deviated from His own to take form and tempt us so that we could have the power of choosing God over our own wills?  Why does it necessarily follow that a God who allows evil for the purpose of giving us free will is not a perfect God?  It is one thing to say that you don't want to follow a God that allows suffering in the world.  That is our right.  It is another to say that such a God couldn't exist.  That is our arrogance.
     Perhaps a healthy amount of doubt is good all around.  It is good to doubt preachers, teachers and (ahem) blog writers and disagree with what they have to say.  It is equally good to have doubts about God.  But . . . perhaps the best doubt is the one that we don't often indulge in - our perspective.  Perhaps we are the ones who have a limited and narrow view of God that we need to walk away from.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#4: The presence of evil: How can there be a God when there is evil?

A friend of mine posted from a news source today about how the Catholic church had not only an awareness of abuse that was going on in its own ranks but seemed to shuffle its priests around in an effort to conceal it from the public.  The report highlights the activities of a priest that was hard to read at times in its depiction of (what I believe) is pure evil.  

You know, there are a thousand different things I could write in this space to illustrate the level of evil that exists in the world - right now warplanes are firing rockets on its own citizens because a single dictator is out of touch with reality . . . 

But it is the ordinary evil that is the most terrifying to me.

When I say 'ordinary evil,' I mean the priest that leads the eight year old altar boy into a back room while they wait for the child's parents to pick him up from church.  I think of the visit I paid to a fraternity in my days at PSU watching a frat boy put his hands up someone's dress while she was heavily drunk.  Evil is not so much on the scale of the Nazi regime . . . evil is evident in the emotional torture an abusive husband puts his wife through.  This evil is present in the life of a teenage girl who I sat across from at the diner telling me that her father calls her a pig and a whore.  Evil is getting young 16-18 year old girls addicted to crack so that they perform sexual acts for profit on street corners, on DVDs and magazines.  You will pass those victims today at the mini-mart magazine stand . . . some of you will see them on your computer screen tonight.  

So we don't have to sift through headlines to see that we swim in evil everyday.  Evil takes what it wants.  Evil uses people as props.  Evil obeys its own appetite.  Evil has no concern for the other person or the greater good.  Evil is everywhere.

So if evil is everywhere . . . where is God?  How does He let that happen?  How CAN he let that happen?

For those of you who think, you must have wrestled with this question at some point - "how can there be a God in heaven if there is so much evil on earth?"  Isn't the presence of evil evidence that either:

1. God is powerless against evil (in which case the God designation is questionable).
2. God is indifferent (in which case WHO WANTS TO FOLLOW THIS DEITY?)

Both are unacceptable answers to the question . . . that is why I think there is a third way - no silver bullet of faith, but at least a step in the direction of getting an answer.

First, the only encouraging thing to me in the whole mess is that we agree that evil is evil.  If you really think about it, the sense of justice we have is a candle of hope.  If we are just animals with a larger brain case, when would the idea of 'right' have entered the picture?  Right should just be that which leads to survival - regardless of how it affects others.  We should be okay with animalistic instincts like eating our young or incest . . . how animals conduct affairs should be okay with us if there is nothing outside of our instinct.  

But somehow, there is an idea of right and wrong that very few of us reflect consistently. Where did that come from?

And this has nothing to do with social contracts, Rousseau was wrong.  We don't create good and bad to benefit ourselves.  Like C.S. Lewis said - right and wrong are not the keys on the piano that we play for our benefit - it is the music on the sheet that tells which keys to be played.  Where did this music come from?

We grieve the disgusting acts of evil people precisely because we have a sense of what the right should be.  It is more than shaking our heads and agreeing it is wrong - it makes us sick to think of people that abuse power over the innocent.  That passion is more than instinct, it is hope of something greater inside of us.

So what?!  I'm so glad that at least we can grieve injustice - why can't God?  Or at least if God can see that there is evil in the world, then why does it still exist?  Which one of us wouldn't instantly vaporize the priest who abuses children?  Or what if that girl on the pages was your little girl and some creep was baiting her with addiction so he could make money off her body - which one of you wouldn't consider inflicting serious harm . . . or worse?

So why wouldn't you?

As people who count ourselves enlightened, the best thing to do is to let justice take place . . . in time. 

Even we as humans know that justice is a process . . . that it takes time and that wrong is eventually made right.  And I think the assumption is that because we don't see justice happen that God is asleep at the gavel.  In the same way that a court case may drag on for years, we grow impatient with the idea that we have to trust in a God who sees all things and is in the business of setting things right.  Why doesn't He do something NOW?

And this is where it gets really challenging and some of you are going to walk away . . .

If we live under a God of grace, not only is the timetable going to be insufferably wrong before the guilty get their due, but the guilty are going to be shown grace.  Grace is not something we can be cavalier about.  Grace - favor given to those who don't deserve it - is available to all of God's children . . . even the pedophile.

To be honest, it makes me sick.  I want the pedophile to pay.

That is why I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God - no one could make this stuff up.  Grace is scandalous.  It is in some ways sickening (except when it is applied to me).  And in matters of justice it can make God seem like He is indifferent . . . but God leads with His grace and that is why evil still has its day.

For now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

#5: Thing you should doubt about your doubt: Can you hear it?

There is the story of the kid who sat in the front row at church and listened to the preacher . . . intently.

As the preacher went on and on, it actually grew disturbing to the preacher to see this child stare so intently and hang on every word.  It is ironic, because the message from the pulpit on this particular Sunday was "God is still speaking."

Well, the preacher finished his sermon . . . and by church standards it was alright.  The preacher walked to the back of the church to greet his people as they walked out the door and into their week.  He actually overlooked the little kid who stood there patiently waiting his turn.  When the foyer trickled down to about 4-5 people left, the preacher was able to see the little boy waiting so patiently.  So he leaned down and tossled the hair of the boy with the unnerving attention span.

"And I saw you in the front row listening so attentively . . . what is your name?" he said in a slightly annoying sing-songy way that adults speak down to kids.

The boy gave his name but then moved on to more important matters . . .

"You said that God still speaks to us today . . . and I just wanted to say that I heard him today."

The other adults sighed with adoration at his little statement and smiled approvingly.  One adult stepped forward with feigned interest and said, "and what did he say?"

The adults in this small group waited for a cute answer from this nice young boy.

The boy looked up and composed himself.

and then, very deliberately . . . almost in a whisper he told them:

"He said . . . 'remember me.'"

There is something spooky about what the kid says that is almost like the old "Twilight Zone" episodes.  Perhaps he is the one who really gets it and the adults are the ones pretending.

The reason I share this story is that many people make their way into adulthood and slowly let go of faith because they have never heard God speak to them.  I can't blame them - how can you have any trust or belief in something that never presents itself to you?

But then again, most people who I have discussed this with are quick to admit that they never spent any serious time trying to listen for God either.  I mean, really - is it possible that we don't have any contact with the divine because we have never opened up the channel to hear the divine?  

I know the atheists and agnostics have almost checked out at this point . . . but this is a good question - when you read the Gospel accounts, you find a Jesus from Nazareth who time after time asks people about their faith before He does any kind of act - miraculous or otherwise.  There is a pre-condition to experiencing anything 'divine' and it seems to be having the faith.  In other words, in order to hear it, you have to have faith that there is something there to hear.  We cannot make judgments on the veracity of faith from the outside looking in . . . it is when you step inside of it that it all finally 'makes sense.'

So perhaps your doubt is like the kid looking at his walkie talkie and saying it doesn't work when actually it is not open to the right channel.  And if we are really skeptics - that would mean that we question EVERYTHING - including my assumption that God isn't real because I can't hear God.

Perhaps it is because you have never really spent time listening.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

#6: Hasn’t Science Already Disproved Faith?

The argument goes like this . . . “we KNOW how the world began, and it has nothing to do with a god and six days from the Bible.”  We need to get rid of archaic and pre-scientific ideas that have no basis in fact.

Well, yes and no.

Yes, we have exciting new discoveries abort the birth of our world that give us detailed information about the mechanics of everything we see.  Some scientists claim to know the exact sequence of events up to a fraction of a second after the “Big Bang.”  It is interesting and exciting stuff to read about and makes you marvel at all that we can know.

But lets talk about what it means to ‘know.’  Because what the Bible claims to ‘know’ and  what scientists claim to ‘know’ are worlds apart.

When the scientist says that she knows the temperature of the nascent universe was, say, a million degrees,  she is answering questions that are answered through observation of data or objects.  There is no relationship to the object is needed.  Nothing needs to be ‘revealed.’  This kind of ‘knowing’ is answering “what?”

The Bible is a collection of sometimes bizarre and unexplainable encounters with a God who interferes in history.  The important word here is ‘encounter.’  Scientists record observations – there is nothing personal about it.  Faith records encounters and is concerned with relationship, understanding the meaning behind things.  Faith is all about ‘why?’

When your car breaks down and you open the hood and try to figure out what is wrong, you are employing the methods of a scientist.  You make decisions based on what you see.  When your girlfriend breaks down, you ask her to tell what is wrong – you rely on the method of revelation asking her to tell you ‘why’ she is upset.  Both are important things to know – both are worlds apart.

In fact, someone saying that science has disproved faith is like saying you can use car tools to find out what is wrong with your girlfriend – you can’t.  Ever.  You don’t  answer ‘why’ questions with a ‘what’ method.  The Bible reveals to us a God who cares and deeply loves us – wanting to reveal more of himself to us.  And this fits rather nicely with science as it describes the world around us – but to go so far as to say it answers anything outside a ‘what’ question (like whether there is a God) is simply . . .


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

#7: How Can I Put My Trust in a Religion full of Hypocrites?

   In the last 50 years we have seen a parade of hypocrites across the stage of faith.  It is really disgusting.  Perhaps the pinnacle was in the 80's when Jimmy Swaggart was caught in a scandal and he tearfully repented in a way that just made you want to go throw up.  It just seemed like an enormous act.  A few years later he was caught in another scandal with pornography and when it was discovered his response was that it was none of our business . . . that it was between he and God.

   The problem is that when you get in the preaching business nothing is just between you and God.  When you get on the stage in front of others and ask them to turn their attention to God you are either sincere or you are acting.  Now we can't be the judge of another person, but it seemed like Jimmy Swaggart was all drama and no substance . . . we can only hope that isn't the case anymore.

   Hypocrites are precisely that - actors and actresses.  It was Jesus who coined the phrase "hupo kritas" - actor or "one who wears a mask."  Religious phonies wear a mask to get you and I to follow them or give them money or both.

   But lets be clear with this - everyone has jumped on the hypocrite bandwagon and not all Christians are hypocrites.  I know some people who call Christians hypocrites just because they disagree about something.  A hypocrite is someone who intends to deceive by wearing a mask.  Outwardly they are one thing . . . while inwardly they are something completely different.  So if you have ever disagreed with a Christian or maybe even had your feelings hurt or were in some other way offended by a person of faith that does not mean they are a hypocrite . . . it just means they are human.  You can't blame someone for being human.  Christians are just as messed up as the rest of us - but they are forgiven.

   But then there are the hypocrites that act their phony faith in front of us and send us to the exit row of faith.  We are tired of their drama.  This is a shame because in the same way you wouldn't leave your favorite play just because someone forgets a line, you shouldn't skip out on faith because some people are hypocrites.  That simply gives the hypocrite too much power in your life.

  Imagine turning off this year's superbowl just because you didn't like the way the national anthem was sung.  What would you have missed?  That is an awful lot of power that was exerted over you - it made you miss a great game.  Now imagine walking out on faith because of a Jimmy Swaggart in your life . . . what kind of power do they have in your life?  In the same way that no one person should keep you from enjoying your favorite play or favorite football game, no hypocrite should be an excuse for you to discover the truth about God.

   So stop giving hypocrites all that power.  As an expression of your disgust at hypocrisy . . . give faith a second chance.

   Click on the video "Hypocrite" and share with friends . . .