Thursday, December 30, 2010

Homosexuality: Testing Christ's commandments

Even the Department of
Transportation recognizes it!
Matthew 22:34-40

"34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I attend school in Laramie, Wyoming. We hold records for bars per capita, highest sustained wind speeds, and (allegedly) gay persecution. Laramie has become infamous as the location for the torturing and killing of Matthew Shepard in 1998. Whenever residents of other states inquire as to where I attend school, the mention of Laramie is oftentimes met with the simple phrase, "Oh, isn't that where they tied that gay kid to a fence?" How's that for a reputation?

"God hates fags." Welcome, my friends, to the opinion of far too many American church congregants. The example set by Westboro Baptist Church is decried by many within the Christian faith. Unfortunately, a large majority of the same mouths who utter disdain upon WBC also openly mock and ridicule homosexual society. In what way is this honestly any different? Does it take a picket sign emblazoned with a repulsive symbolic moniker like "fags" to truly articulate the general hatred within the modern Evangelistic community?

I would like to clarify that I do not hold the American Church in general as being intolerant of homosexuality. There are, however, daily reminders of the all too venomous judgments in my own everyday encounters. When the only social justice issues that exist (according to conservative Evangelical America) are abortion and anti-capitalism, something is wrong.

A homosexual makes one different choice than I do. What separates me from a gay person? ONE SINGLE DECISION. I believe homosexual practice is not the way that God intended for human relationship. That being said, do I treat a gay man as an animal!?! NO! I believe it is wrong, yes. But so is lust! And so is selfishness! AND I AM GUILTY OF BOTH OF THOSE!

I am no different than a homosexual. I am a human being. They are human beings. Jesus says to love your neighbors as yourself. We are to love all with the same sacrificial love that Christ showed us when he gave up his own glory to die for us!

I am calling out the American Church, right here and right now. It is time to show the love of Christ to ALL peoples, be they gay, straight, transexual, alcoholic, poor, destitute, angry, mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, old, young, male, female, black, white, Native American, or of any other defining characteristic! Love all without distinction! In making the lives of all of our friends, enemies, and future acquaintances better, we slowly make the world better!

Please, show the love of Christ to all!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A user's guide to Kindle

"Now with 30% more
nuclear fallout!"
I finally joined the ranks of many a hipster with the acquisition of a new Kindle 3G for Christmas. It seemed to me for the longest time to be more of a gimmick than a true substitution for books. The comparison in my mind was akin to taking a Nerf gun hunting... It looks like a gun, it fires projectiles like a gun, but it will not stop an angry moose like a gun. But hey, I can be wrong once in awhile, right?

Turns out the Kindle is ridiculously awesome. It is a new experience, to be sure, but I believe that my many hours of tinkering today have rewarded me with some knowledge that I would like to impart to each of you who may be newly Kindled this Christmas.

1. Classics! Almost all of the classics (pre-copyright law enforcement) are free! The ones that aren't are actually even better in the long run because most are indexed away into HUGE pools of book collections that cost $1. Complete Mark Twain? $1. Unabridged Oscar Wilde? $1. Anthology of H.G. Wells? (umm...) $2.50, but come on! That is a lot of literature!

2. Newly released books! Brand new books are usually between $5-$10 cheaper for Kindle than their still-warm ink counterparts. Used books from Amazon tend to be cheaper still, but shiny new releases tend to not be sold as used for quite a while after their initial printing. See the brand new NY Times bestseller you'll dig? Do yourself a favor and Kindle Store that literary goodness!

3. UNLIMITED 3G! You pay $40 extra from the outset... and you become the proud new owner of UNLIMITED INTERNET! One time payment, net anywhere. The browser may not be breathtaking, but at least it functions for eternity!

4. Return to the First Grade! Almost any book can be read aloud by the machine. Nothing is more exciting than Martin Luther's theological Papal letters as read by the smooth, sexy monotone voice that inhabits most modern text-to-speech programs that come standard on Apple computers. Laziness is encouraged!

My best piece of advice for each of you is to try an eReader of some sort, whether it be an app on your laptop, a Kindle, a Nook, or some other piece of generic digital finery. I believe this is the future of books, and, though there is a slight period of adjustment, reading remains what it always has, albeit with a lot more buttons.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a Most Glorious Festivus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing stories with our lives: "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller

9.5/10 on my rating scale!
Take that to mean whatever you want
One of my favorite books is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. The book is not disgustingly long (I'm talking about you Atlas Shrugged), nor is it short enough to be considered light reading. My favorite kinds of books, such as the works of the Beat Poets, tell stories without the facade of Perfectionism. People are real! Rawness explodes out of every angst-filled exposition! The guy doesn't get the girl, and emotion is laid bare for the reader to cling to in sympathy. Somehow we relate to these people who live the common experience and aren't afraid to admit it. Don Miller is also such a writer, in that he is unafraid to admit that he is a broken person. This factor alone helps me to truly appreciate his writing.

The main issue covered in A Million Miles is story. The introductory premise of remembering life is somewhat frightening in its relevance to everyday life. How much life do we remember? Not even 50% of 50%! When we die and we are sitting on that Andy Griffith-esque stoop with God, what will we have to talk about?

Life is like a movie. When we watch a movie about the utterly mundane, it is a terrible flick. Is that not, however, what most lives have become? Here's a great movie pitch for you...

"A man wants a really nice house, so he takes out a mortgage and buys a really nice house."

Is that not an awful movie premise? And yet that is the story that so many of us live! The want to live in a comfortable bubble in suburbia is now the "American Dream!" Don Miller invites us instead to live better stories. "A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it" is the driving line behind the entire book, and an invitation is given throughout to become a character that truly wants something from life. This invitation grabs us by our collars and asks the question "Why are you here?"

What do you want? I know I would personally love to live a better story. To have something worth remembering in old age, that is something that no amount of money can replace. When we bury a man, we either bury a man, or we bury a "good man." How do we remember these differently? I think it is in the story that a person lives. Your life is a blank page! Now go and write a profound and beautiful story through all you do!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why negativity sucks...

Unicorns+Rainbows=Happy Post!
As I have continued in writing (both in blog form and my college research), I have noticed something that I find to be quite startling... I am a very negative person.

Sure, religion has its problems. Politics have their problems. Even individual people are riddled with issues! I have done my fair share of analyzing these affairs, yet there seems to be a general overarching theme of "don't do/do do" in each blog post. There is more to life than the negative, however!

Churches strive day after day to take care of the poor, the destitute, and those who encounter misfortune in their daily lives. Some politicians try to forward causes they believe will make the world a better place, even at the cost of their own jobs. And people!! People do good! People give all they have for their friends. Many live to bring joy to all they know, neighbors and enemies alike!

Is the world perfect? Ha! But instead of viewing the imperfections, I encourage each of you today to look at what you have to be thankful for. Honor those who genuinely care for others, even if they may not do so according to every single belief you hold. I apologize for my own negativity on here. Keep me in check, and I'll do my best to balance my peeves with my rejoicings!

Love to you all,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disparaging Jerks: On purpose or accident?

Probably a jerk in all reality
Are the negative views expressed toward hypercritical judgment from both outside and within Christianity justified? Certainly, one will tell me to take the plank out of my own eye before I attempt to do anything with "Christianity's" speck, yet I feel that there is a larger issue that must be voiced.

As discussed in my last entry, I struggle quite often to allow my mind and my heartfelt spiritual beliefs mingle. This dangerous mindset seems rampant within the faith as an entirety, so much so that I unfortunately witness the good intentions of others become verbal thorns that lean toward an awfully judgmental mentality.

I choose, however, not to judge these people.

You heard right. I will not judge others for judging me, my Church family, my physical family, my friends, my enemies, homosexuals, coke addicts, the financially poor, the mean, the cruel, or even Adolf Hitler's tap-dancing zombie in the name of "God." I have no right to judge others, just as others lack the right to judge me. But the battle against the actual judgmental mindset is only half of the war. An enormous issue within Christianity today is not so much BEING judgmental, but also SOUNDING judgmental, even with good intentions.

Many of today's Christians live by only their basest beliefs in the Christian faith. They know only the "milk" and not the "meat" of their own belief system. To say something is "of the Devil" may sound offensive, but know that (most of the time) many who utter this phrase are not trying to inform you of just how damn-ned (read that as two syllables, makes the experience all the better) to Hell your soul is. Instead, many people are striving to show their care for others. Unfortunately, they have been so ingrained with the "fire and brimstone" mentality of modern Christianity that they have no other way to vocalize what they disagree with. What this is, my friends, is not hateful speech. It is instead pure ignorance.

Don't get me wrong! While ignorance isn't necessarily a good thing, it is not something to be confused with utter stupidity. Ignorance simply means that a person is aware only of one world-view. A cure for this is not hateful verbal abuse and endless hours of mindless arguing. Instead, kindly encourage those who may appear to be judgmental. Have them read a book, get to know the homeless, or share in the company of a homosexual! Sit them down, explain why you believe what you believe, and hear them out. You both just may learn something!

Luckily not damn-ned to Hell,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heart vs. Mind: A sad but necessary battle

It takes two to tango, but it takes
an anthropomorphic brain and an
anthropomorphic heart to cha-cha.
I am a religious studies major in college. Let me say that in plain English... I (being me) STUDY (put long arduous hours of procrastination into) RELIGION (cults, sacred v. profane, yada yada) FOR (a preposition, relatively unimportant in this clarification) A (an article without an "n" at the end, meaning the next word will start with a consonant) LIVING (future vocation in this case). This naturally gives me somewhat more knowledge in certain fields and areas than the majority of humans. I do not want to confuse this with "know-it-all" syndrome, as I do not "know it all," and I unabashedly admit it. But when it comes to certain things such as Jewish history, the sociology of religion, and the Free movement within modern Christianity, I am certainly fairly well educated.

That being said, the academic Me is kind of a jerk. Sure, knowledge is cool, but with the quick absorption of knowledge comes a slow trickling of wisdom. Knowledge of Hebrew certainly is handy, but it can only get one so far. The same can be said for historical knowledge, cultural knowledge, and hermeneutical know-how. Intellectualism is the hot air that inflates the academic ego. Without the wisdom required to selflessly apply that knowledge, spirituality becomes a "smarter than thou" contest that breeds only an ugly condemnatory spirit. There comes a point where the heart must share some of the burden of faith and spirituality.

On the flip side, however, are many in the American Church today. They live by heart alone. This is awesome, minus the "alone" part. I am personally acquainted with many who believe only what they are spoon-fed and refuse to formulate their own faith outside of small-town Wyoming protestantism. I was born in to this, and I am truly thankful for having been immersed in this culture for so long. But there eventually comes a point where Heart and Mind MUST come together.

So I say to you, be you from Podunk or from Queens, use your heart and mind together. Read, learn, question, formulate, and analyze with your mind. Act, love, put in to action, believe, and thank from your heart. Know why you believe what you believe. Once you know, believe with all of your heart, and use your knowledge not for self-proclamation of your own intelligence, but instead to guide others ever closer to Christ.

Regards from a healthy schizophrenic,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Apathy: The demons know about it, and so can you!

No spooky demon-dogs were
harmed during the writing
of this blog
Think of something you care about. Now think about something other than food (I'm guilty). Any noun will do. Is this cause, this person, this possession, this thing, worth sacrificing for? I mean, would you be able to function as a fully capable person without this (insert noun here) of your devotion? You never really know what you have until it is gone (or so I'm told by musicians, angsty romantics, and environmentally-concious consumers).

It is sad that folks never truly appreciate the blessings in life. We become... familiar with what is given to us. Familiarity breeds contentment. Contentment breeds apathy. And here we are, with no cause or purpose, engulfed in our own apathy.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis paints an otherwise ordinary world with perspective from an extraordinary viewpoint. We read the letters from one of the chief tempters of Hell, Screwtape, to his young and inexperienced tempter of a nephew, Wormwood. As I was reading, there was one piece of advice mentioned multiple times by Screwtape: keep 'em apathetic! An example is Screwtape's response to the event of Wormwood's "patient" repenting of past failures. Screwtape writes,

"It remains to consider how we can retrieve this disaster. The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilizing the seeds which the Enemy (God) plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel."

This frightens me. Not so much because of the themes of cosmic battle for souls or the sadness of humanity... This frightens me because this IS me. Is anybody else ever afflicted in this way? (I'll answer for you... Probably). When an idea, a self-truth, a charity, a willingness to sacrifice for others, enters the head, how often does our love of comfort and personal bubble keep us from making the world a better place? I often criticize the world, the Church, my friends, for the inadequacies that plague them. But what of me? What of US? Real love is shown through the giving, the DOING of something for others. Starting at the bottom, one person at a time, is how movement is initiated. I'll love, you'll love, mankind will love.

Fighting the tyranny that is the somewhat fictionalized Executive Branch of Hell,