Sunday, December 30, 2012

When Id Screams

I talk a lot here about honestly . . . living on the ground floor of reality. But even I know, despite my idealism, that society would almost cease to function within the framework of total honesty.  But I do think it is healthy that we are at least aware of the masquerade.  In my prior evangelical days, when we subscribed to the notion of achieving "godliness" we became more and more disconnected to our own reality.

Freudian psychiatry is of course no longer in vogue, however, Sigmund did do a great job in describing the organization of the psyche.  His notion of the Id, ego and superego can work as a decent model.

So, within this model, the really honest self would probably be the Id. Layer upon layer above that are the controls (inhibitions) that allow us to suppress the four year old within us, so that we can create social interactions as adults.

I find it interesting when the Id breaks through, often in the most unsuspecting time or place.  While I've seen this happen many times in others and myself, I will use one example that I can clearly remember as a great example.

Years ago I was a deacon in a large church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The senior pastor of that church had illusions of grandeur where he envisioned our church becoming a mega church, with his bigger-than-life personality at the helm.  So, he paid some consultants to come in and figure out how to wring out a few more drops of money from each member.  They concluded that our meager church of about 500 members could cough up about a million dollars . . . with the right program (of psychological manipulation).  I've grown to loathe such "faith promise" programs which use a lot of emotional and guilt manipulation.

Anyway, we leaders were assigned to go out in pairs to meet with each family. We would pretend to call it a prayer time, when it was really and tricky manipulation time ("Oh God please help this family to really trust you like they never have before by stepping out and pledging what only You know that You will provide.")

So, we arrived at one of the key families house for our "prayer meeting."  The mom, I will call her Sandra, was a wonderful woman, Sunday school teacher and involved in several women's groups. She was referred to as "a most godly woman."

I was still young (28) and quite naive  I remember being shocked to the point of being speechless when we started praying with the woman and her quiet husband and her Id came tearing out to the surface.  She began to scream at us, and, as we use to say down south, "Cursing us out" (pronounced "cussing us out").

I remember her standing up and shaking her finger at us, "You sons of bitches, I dare you come in my F-  - -ing house and trying to steal the shoes off my babies so you can build your motherf---ing church. That will happen over my motherf---ing dead body you assholes and you can tell that motherf---ing pastor that he can eat my shit before I give him and another damn penny."

She was very, very mad.  I think she was very embarrassed when her anger subsided. She never made eye contact with me again over the subsequent few years. I'm glad that I was the junior member of that prayer duo as I watched the senior deacon try to squirm our way out of their house.

I have been totally stressed out over the past few weeks.  I mentioned in my last post that I've had a "near death experience" with my medical practice as we almost went bankrupt.  Unfortunately I have a big heart and began seeing too many poor people so our bills surpassed our income. Words can't express the stress I have felt.

Now the good news, I had a big boost of money come in today, which will allow us to make payroll once more.  But in my prolonged level of stress, sleep deprivation, the most childish part of me came rushing to the surface. I deeply regret it now. I didn't like my Christmas present my wife gave me. I know, four year old material.

My wife has traditionally given me a pack of underwear almost every Christmas since we were married 31 years ago.  For a stretch of about five years I asked each year for an ice axe. She would always tell me that was a totally impractical and silly request because we were living in Minnesota and there were no mountains. But I had dreams of climbing one.  One year, I think out of frustration, she got me a red one.  It, until this day, is the greatest Christmas gift I've ever had.  This past summer I used it to summit a challenging. glacier-clan Mount Baker.

I grew to loathe the underwear gift but had never said anything about it.  While I know this is not true, it communicated to me each Christmas that my value to her was nothing more.  I turned worked very hard and got her big gifts each year.  That was my family tradition when I was growing up.

I grew up in a family where Christmas was totally impractical. We bought beyond our means and bought each other impractical gifts, that we knew the person would love.  Maybe a trip to the beach, or a guitar, or a motorcycle, or a car.  My wife grew up in a family where gifts had to fit well within a small budget and of the most practical type, pajamas, gloves, toaster (if the old one was broken). So, I will need about five pairs of underwear each year, so, it goes to reason, why not make that my Christmas present?

I feel horrible about venting about it . . . and quite childish.  Now she feels totally devalued by me that I would say such a hurtful thing as "please don't get me underwear each year for Christmas."

But this got me thinking about the child within me.  I know he resides there, the same child that I knew, and which made up the whole of me, during my preschool years.  I want the biggest piece of the cake, the one in the corner with the icing on two sides.  I want to be appreciated more than I am . . . always.

Maybe the superego is the Holy Spirit.  Maybe. Or just maybe it is learned self-policing personality that keeps us all from becoming assholes . . . thus friendless.  But I often see people giving full expression of their Ids but they do it in such a camouflaged way that it can make themselves look like saints.  Say the pastor in Ann Arbor. If you looked at the child within  him, that child was screaming, "I want to be king of the hill, and of the biggest hill in town."  But he was crafty enough to rephrase it as "God wants us to move out and trust Him for mighty things.  Who is on God's side . . . and who is not?"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Philippians 4:5-7 for the Person with Anxiety

Philippians 4:5-7

New International Version (NIV)
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This verse has been quoted to me a thousand times in my life. It was a major reason that I felt so inferior was the fact that not appearing anxious was natural for many of my friends, but for me it was an all-consuming matter to not fear.  Over time you have this deep, subconscious feeling that either you are junk, because you can't reach that level of peace, or that God is mighty unfair.

But, I sincerely believe that we all don't start from the same place.  I have no problem under-eating (although I wish I did at times) but for the anorexic, it is a constant nightmare.  We are not the same.  I don't have to fight those demons.  But I do have to fight the anxiety demons.

Lately, once more I was thrust into the center of an extremely anxious situation.  I won't go into details here as that is not the focus of my posting. But I will summarize by saying for about three weeks I was teetering on the edge of financial failure as a business owner despite working extremely hard for the past few months (and the reason I don't have a moment to write here anymore, expect for days like to day, Christmas day and I'm not working).  

Oddly it had to do more with computers than anything. In September I switched to a new billing company for my medical practice. They use a different software than our practice had been using. To make a long story short, because of the new software, Medicare and virtually all of our private insurances simply stopped paying us.  Bills were pouring in and I ran completely out of money. The bank refused to lend me a dime even though the insurance companies owed my business almost $100,000 (most of which I will never see).  So that's it in a nutshell.  I am only out of the woods by the fact that I am due to get a check tomorrow for $6,000 for which I can pay my employees but I can't pay myself for this month and who knows what will happen next week.

Okay, with that said, I want to talk about the anxiety part of it.  As I am getting older, I want more than ever to find that peace.  I don't want to lie on my deathbed knowing that my life was filled with anxiety and sleepless nights.

I have come a long ways.  I mean, even starting this business in the face of extreme odds (and those odds against me are the reasons the banks won't loan me money) and that took a lot of courage.  But I want to find a way that when I'm face with those traumas of life, being told I have cancer, being told I'm being sued and etc. that I can find a way to pray and to believe God.

But this brings me back to the spirit of this blog.  There are many of us who have spent a good portion of our lives in the evangelical world where fake miracles were the fabric of our everyday lives.  We got burnt.  On this side, it would be very easy to believe that God never solves our problems.  That the worse outcome, the one we fear in the middle of the night, is the one that is inevitable.  But I will be back with some more thoughts on this topic.  But somehow this passage has to be true despite the nagging reality that it doesn't appear to be.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Few Thoughts For a Strange Place

I was confident that I wouldn't even attempt to write anything about the horrible shooting on Friday.  Of course we are sick of it. Sick of it in the same way we saw the planes hitting the Twin Towers, over and over and over . . . for what seemed like weeks. I've tried to avoid the sadness, because, as a father and now grandfather, it is too grievous to consider.

I've heard that it is a challenge to faith when these things occur. I will qualify that by only two bands on the spectrum.

On one end are the atheists.  The tragedy is a treat to them because it screams of meaning (although a sad meaning) in a vacuum where there can be none. In the atheists' universe, there is no difference between shooting 20 innocent first graders with an assault rifle and curing cancer. They are two meaningless points in space without reference points. But no atheist can really live this way. They feel the pain and sense the grief that it is real . . . and it is evil.

In the other band, near the other end or the spectrum are the evangelicals who are backed into a corner where they believe that the only way their God can be big enough, is that he plans every movement of every atom . . . with no randomness.  In His destiny, these Christians try to resolve an irreconcilable beliefs that their God loves everyone (at least the good people) with an endless love, but at the same time, plotted the most disgusting cruelty against them. Somehow they live with that in the same way the atheists try to live with their perplexing ideas of meaning without a cause for meaning.

Second, unrelated point. I took my wife and son to Handel's Messiah, performed by the professionals of Seattle's Symphony and Chorus. It was totally incredible. For the first time, I followed every word of the three and half hour performance from the program.  This is what praise music suppose to be. A totally God-centered rendering of the whole Gospel.

More later.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope

I taught Sunday School today . . . the first time in many years.  This class, is a high school class.  They are doing a series on media and because I have a movie club (as a ministry of my church) I was asked to teach a couple of classes.

During this series, I think the kids have mostly been watching movies and discussing them. I wanted to spend half the class talking, philosophically, about discernment.  The point I made is that all media have the goal of entertainment. Some of the particular pieces also ask questions and a few of them, give answers.  Entertainment and asking questions are amoral, or, maybe an actual good thing in itself. That of course is that you are not consumed with being entertained or your questions aren't genuine.  But the answers giving in a particular media source (meaning one film or one music video) maybe be good, or bad.  Bad answers are simply those that are incorrect.

I was impressed with the kids that they got this right.  They knew that entertainment is mostly good as is asking questions.  Some kids don't.  That wasn't what I was taught at their age.  I was taught that entertainment was worldly and some questions, such as "how do I know God exist" were forbidden.

So, I have a glimmer of hope that maybe my evangelical experience was not the norm.  I am also happy to say that I was invited to help with this class.  In my previous church, a media class was my idea. I was canned after just four weeks, once the pastor got the idea I was watching TV shows with the kids.  Sad.  He missed my entire point.

I'm continuing to read Portofino.  I was thinking last night that if my kids were to read the book, that they would see my wife and me as exactly the same as the mom and dad in the book (at least during their growing up years).  If they did, that would be an exaggeration on their part. But it is true one of my biggest faults is a temper.  I've never hit my wife or kids (or dog) in anger, but I've been known to scream if my attempts to fix my plumbing fails.  I also an anxious at times. Just like the character in the book, I worry about making trains and planes and etc.

In the same token, Denise reminds me of the mom, but again, the character in the book is more extreme and I even doubt that the real Edith Schaeffer was that pious. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Portofino . . . the Mirror

I'm in the middle of my second reading of Portofino. I almost never read a book twice, but, something drew me back.  I've told people that I put this novel in my personal top 10, if not the top 5.  It is up there with The Way of All Flesh, and oddly for the same reason. I will get to that in a minute.

In case you don't know this book, and its popularity is modest at best, it is by Frank Schaeffer, son of my personal hero Francis. The book is the pretense of a novel with the unpretentiousness of a autobiography. Sure, the particulars are probably an invention of Frank's mind, but the context is without question from the real-life experiences of the man.

Part of the fun of the book for me is the fact that I, at least at one time, knew personally the unpretentious characters of the book. Not closely, but at arm's length.  I observed the family enough to know when he is talking about fictional character x, he is really talking about his sister Susan and character Y, is his sister Deborah. I spent several nights in the same room as his mother and all he says about the fictional mother rings true of the real woman.

I really think the book is a must read for all evangelicals who one day have this strange feeling deep in their soul that something isn't right. It is like a torch lite taking them out of the cave to the sunlight. At first it is like that proverbial chill up the spine while alone in a deserted old mansion, but no one is present in the room. You just can't describe the feeling.

While both books (including Butler's) are certainly not instructional manuals or even have a deliberate purpose to add clarity, they certainly do and seem to do it inadvertently.

Portofino (along with the other two books of the Becker trilogy) unpeels the layers of evangelicalism, one by one, and it is a bit brash like fingernails on the caulk board.  Not only do you get this Deja vu feeling, but the absurdity of the subculture at the center is like the Emperor's striptease in reverse.  Okay, enough tangential metaphors for one paragraph.

I think the book is key first step in moving from the 30th floor of the masquerade back towards the reality.  Maybe it is just distinguishing the 30th floor from the ground floor. I can see an evangelical reading it, and then one night the light bulb goes on. "It is just pretend after all."

But, to quote from the real angry dad, "He is There and He is not Silent," but I will add, He resides in reality . . . or He doesn't reside at all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Aging . . . The Meaning of Life . . . Solomon's Solution

If there was one threat to my happiness, it would be the aging process.  This is a topic that I don't think is spoken about in Christian circles.  After-all, there are profound pressures within most Christian circles to pretend to not care about the temporal vs the eternal in another dualistic twist.

If you are younger than . . . say . . . 35, then aging may not even be on your radar.  Part of that is the time perception of our brains, which I will get to in a minute.  Old age, or even death for that matter, seems so other-worldly to the youth that it isn't even a second thought.  Maybe the closest that some of the deeper thinking youth would get to this idea, is their legacy.  This takes many forms.  For some it is simply wanting to be somebody or leave a mark in history. In the PR surrounding the movie Lincoln (by the way is a great movie) biographers were saying that even as a young (twenty something) man, Abraham had a strong sense of history, that he wanted to leave his fingerprints on the course of America.  But that's about the only glimpse of their mortality that young people get, unless they have a friend die or have a close call themselves . . . then the thoughts of mortality are short-lived.

I'm not sure at what age that this haunting mortality first walked into my life.  I think it may be when I turned 40.  I do remember some important milestones that added to that feeling.  I remember when a high school friend, my same age, died.  Of course a major event was when my father passed away.  I remember as a little kid thinking that I could not survive (emotionally, if not physically) the passing of either of my parents.  I barely did. I thought a lot about mortality from that point forward.

Then, what seemed trivial events that left a lasting impact.  I remember a nurse, by the name of Ruth, saying, "You aren't getting any younger and you need to settled down," when I was trying to decide if I should switch jobs.  I remember a very talkative barber telling me in Houghton, Michigan, "You know, it's getting thin up here but I will do what I can with what you have."  Until that moment I never noticed that my hair was thinning.

It is bizarre but prior to that, I had this sense that I was immune to aging. That somehow getting old was an act of the will and I wouldn't allow it to come into my life.

My thoughts about this aging is not just cosmetic, although my dwindling appearance hurts too. It is more complicated.  For me, it is about the way I feel.  In the last 10 years I developed an autoimmune disease (Sjogren's Syndrome) which causes a nuisance pain in my tendons, muscles and extremely dry eyes.  While these physical ailments aren't so bad in themselves (compared to the chronic suffering so many other's have), they do give me fear of failing health that could come in the future. I don't like that and it makes me feel older.  But the thing that trumps all of these is the speeding up of time.

I said I would get to this and now I have.  It is a scientific fact that our perception of time changes as we age.  Ironically, I first heard Billy Graham say this many years ago, when it didn't mean that much to me.  But it is true.

The first decade of my like seemed like it went on forever.  I remember each Christmas seemed like such a long, long wait.  But slowly the pace of life started to speed up.  Now it is near the speed of light.  Christmases come and go like the rising and setting of the sun. But connected to this rapid change are losses.

Aging is a process of loosing. You not only loose your hair, but you loose the people you love. You loose your kids, one by one, to graduation from high school, then moving away. Our loss of our five children came like it was being fired out of a machine gun.  Yes, of course I am happy that they alive and healthy, even though they now live far from me.  For those of you who have lost children to death, you certainly have my permission to (and my blessing to) despise me at this moment . . . that I would dare complain when my kids are healthy on this earth. But it is still painful when you loose them geographically.

But the hardest part is that this time perception continues to speed up as we age.  So, the first half of our life lasted 1000% more time than the last half will.

I said once, a long time ago, that the most fearful thing I could imagine was standing in line at the guillotine (the "humane" killing machine) during the reign of terror in revolutionary France.  But we are in that line.  We are not sure when or how our turn will come.  Our best hope is that it will come late, and painless. But it could be as awful as that machine with the angled blade.

So, what is my point in all of this talk?  If I tried to have this conversation in a group of Christians, I would be seriously scorned.  They would pretend that their disdain was motivated by my extreme un-spiritual perspective, but I believe the real motivation would be from their own inward terror and the layers of self-deception that they practice just so they don't have to think about it.

Yes, in case you are wondering, I do believe in an eternity.  I think, in some mysterious way that I don't start to understand, God will heal this planet and bring us back to live forever. But it won't be as semi-transparent mist floating around on clouds. It will be in the world like Tolkien's Middle Earth, were adventures abound on every turn.  But that's the subject of a different post.

So, this now brings me to Solomon's solution and the way I try to find happiness in the flow of my personal mortal history.

Modern Christianity tries to teach us that a spiritual person would never think about death or how short life is because their minds are on the heavens all the time. To me that is an escape. I was actually taught by the man who led me to Christ, that I would never see death.  He was about 100% confident that we would be raptured to glory in around 1980 . . . or maybe 1998.

Another Christian feeble attempt is to find your "Purpose."  This is from the same mindset as the "Purpose Driven Life" movement in Evangelicalism.  I was taught (after I wasn't raptured in 1980 or 1998) that the way you find meaning is that you invest yourself in eternal things.  This was seen as winning souls.

I remember going around the country speaking about my upcoming missionary assignment to the Middle East, that I really though that God was going to use me to turn Mecca into a Christian city.  But these types of grandiose ideas are part of the Christian-narcissistic thinking that is such a part of some Christian circles.

In Solomon's view, and he was the most accomplished man in history, that it was all worthless.  That leading a huge ministry is vanity like every thing else.  He concluded that the real secret to this life was to enjoy it.  Savor the taste of chocolate, the company of friends, the sounds of good music, the view of the mountains, the smell of the sea, the dance of colors on the artist's canvas . . . to savor these all the days of our lives, for this savoring is the real preparation for eternity.  In the process of savoring what God has made, is the purist form of worship.  To savor properly, without arrogance or self-indulgence, is the most pure form of evangelism.

If only I could. I don't want to pretend that I'm not getting older or that I won't soon find myself on my death bed, but I want to savor every square inch of this life I can, and in a deep faith, trust that this was just the prelude. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Broken Walls

I apologize for how I write here.  I come back days later and read something I've written and I'm horrified by the typos, some so bad that you loose the meaning of what I'm trying to say.

So, back to my topic. I was thinking of the dangers of walls.  If you could recreate the medieval Marrakesh, which I had been talking about, then the fortress mentality might work.  As I said, I would be a bit envious of it. I wouldn't have to think, or to struggle but simply accept the obvious (which may or may not be true).  It would be a simple, child-like, view of the world.  Now I'm sure that in the new earth to come, it will be that way as our perfect reason will always lead us safe and sound to truth every time . . . and the truth to us would be obvious.  But the great danger of this fortification mentality in this present world view is that your microcosm might be wrong, and indeed a good chance it is wrong, so you would be condemned to error because you live in a world that is is entirely wrong.  Precisely, I think that's what I think the children of medieval Marrakesh because I, of course, don't believe that the Islamic narrative is true.

So, the walls pose a real danger.  You are taken captive by your culture and your life experiences (who you met to persuade you to believe a certain way.)  Now, if they are right, then it is great. Go ahead and build the walls around truth.  But if they are wrong, you are sealing untruth inside like sealing bacteria inside the canning jar along with the pork. It is the great gamble. It is also a great error that we teach inside the walls that our answers are the only logical ones. That the people on the outside are dumb and that is the only reason they don't believe like we do inside the walls.

If you maintain the porous wall, like many Christians, including the Amish must do in this electronic age, then you reap the worst situation. It is where you imagine or teach your children not to go out, yet the outside world is being bombarded inside, and then you will almost always end up rejecting the "truth" inside the walls because you know that they were deceiving you.  Sooner are later those who are exposed to the outside narratives finally realize that those people aren't simply dumb or immoral.  When (those inside the wall) figure out that they have been deceived, they either quickly grasp an outside truth in rebellion or reach a point of total confusion as if there are no answers.  I can think of several evangelical kids who quickly converted to Buddhism  or at least a comfortable American version of Buddhism, without a second thought as soon as they learned that they had been deceived by their evangelical culture.

So it is my opinion that your best route is to tear down the walls and encounter the outside world in a full frontal exposure of the mind and emotions.  Yes, this is dangerous too . . . very dangerous.  But no less dangerous than trying to maintain the porous walls, or taking a gamble that the non-porous holds real truth.  It is the red pill  Vs blue pill dilemma.  I'm a red pill person.  Yes, it is true that like my old evangelical friends proclaimed, if you allow exposure to the outside world (they just say "the world" speaking dualistically) that one of the "isms" of the world will grab them.  That is a real danger especially if they exchange one walled in world for another.

But the greatest danger is a form of nihilism or hopelessness of knowing.  Once deceived  they feel that they can never trust any truth again.  They end up in a kind of hopeless nihilism (just mentioned) or a illogical, somewhat existential, giddiness.  In that later sense (I honestly think most Americans under 30 are at this place) is that true-truth isn't knowable and that isn't a problem. I can still love, hate, enjoy, and live as if something does matter.  But like cashing in the evangelical walled world of intellectual dishonesty they also exchange the evangelical world of pretend  moral purity to a world of pretend meaning.

So, what is the solution?  I may be from a different generation, but I have not given up hope.  While the bridge of reason doesn't reach all the way across the abyss, it is not without merit.  It does point us towards the other side.  With every possible approach to finding meaning, there is a step at the end. As I've said before, we all start in the bottom of a crater of absurdity and there is no easy way out.  Each way, including pure empiricistic atheism or the blah of not caring, all have their difficulties.

I am a Christian and I don't water that down.  I'm not a conformist to the American version of Evangelicalism of this age.  I do allow myself to read and study with vigor all the world views because   I want to know truth at all cost.  This process has strengthened my faith, but it has to be all or none.  You can't just flirt with other world views or you will be enthralled by their deceptions the same way that you were with Christianity's.

I must go. I do want to come back and talk about Craig Thompson again.  I just finished his Carnet de Voyage.  I enjoy his work so much for several reasons including his great candor and talent.  I will talk about that next time but he does represent the majority of those people who left Christianity for that uncertain world of baseless hope.

Once again I am late and will have to come back to proof read.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life on Mars

I've always thought that we would find life on Mars.  I expect that even fossils will be found, and to shake up everyone's (young earth creationists' and pure materialistic evolutionists') paradigm, the fossils will be similar to those on earth.  So, in the next few weeks you will be hearing about confirmation of life on Mars. I expect that both philosophical slants (above) will use this to prove their possitions

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Belief Outside the Walls

Do you ever have these really meaningful thoughts and your brain struggles to translate those into English words and syntax? I'm talking about more than writer's block, at least I think.

I want to continue this thought about the walls of intellectual protection.  In my evangelical days, we believed, and heavily promoted, the concept that we must protect our families and ourselves from "philosophies of this world."  I mentioned how may of our friends got rid of their TVs, home schooled their kids, send them to Bible college and etc.  They didn't allow books of the devil (anything but the Bible and the "Left Behind" series) into their house and etc.

I don't have hard data on this particular attitude, but in general, we know that over 80% of kids raised in Christian homes . . . leave Christianity.  I have the feeling that those raised in these strict walled-in worlds, are no different . . . or maybe worse.

In the beginning of my last post, I speculated on how being a child in medieval Marrakesh would have been so simple, as far as coming to belief, and sometimes I do envy that.  Their world was literally walled in and isolated.  Everyone they knew were Muslims.

It reminds me of 1981 when I was working in the desert of Abu Dhabi.  We were visiting remote villages in the desert of Oman.  The people there, many had never been outside their villages, assumed that we were just really stupid because we were adults and only spoke a few Arabic words . . . and we weren't Muslims.  They had never met anyone like us because their entire world was sand, date palms  goats, Arabic and Islam.  They naturally assumed that there was no world outside.

But there is a problem with the walled-in effect here in America and among evangelicals. The biggest problem, which the medieval Marrakeshites didn't have to contend with, is the "leakage" of culture.  It is like being in a lake in a canoe made of pop-sickle sticks and duct tape.  In our culture, even the Amish can't avoid our culture.

So here is where the great harm comes in.  When you try to isolate your kids from the primary culture, but you can't, then they get just enough to poison themselves.  This is where it is hard to express but I will try.

So when you tell your kids that the earth is 6,000 years old and all the scientist who say otherwise are really so stupid that they would create an entire theory on one pig tooth, but then they start to see enough of the outside world to see that isn't really true, then they pitch the entire Christian paradigm as lies.  The leaky walls are shattered when they meet that really intelligent, and very nice professor who has far, far, far more evidence of an old earth than what Ken Ham had been saying.  Why should they believe anything they were told?

So, if we can't have that pure walled-in world, they I think it is much better if we bath ourselves and our families in information.  The walls have to be decimated because if they are porous  the tend to only work as a filter, keeping in the lies but letting the truth escape.

I will try to finish this next time. I'm running out of time again and my thoughts are not clear.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Walls of Marrakesh -- A Metaphor on Belief

Two weeks ago I was sitting on the roof of our Riad (palace) in the old city of Marrakesh, Morocco.  It was dusk and the prayer call went out.  I counted five mosques within earshot.  Of course when you have five loud calls going off, using different words, at the same time, it is really hard to tell if it was five, six or . . . ten.

In the background I could hear the bustling down in the narrow labyrinth of medieval streets, streets that never sleep, or pause for prayer.  These streets have not changed, but only became more crowded since their founding a millennium ago.

I sipped my shay aswad (black tea) and thought. I put myself in the place of children who had grown up here, more than a hundred years ago. Before the days that Marrakesh was discovered and her nomadic  remote, desert world was pierced by two iron rails and the people started to come.  Then the tarmac and the fair skinned people rode in on the breezes from Europe.

But imagine that ancient world, where those pink adobe walls were the boundaries of your world and the world of your parents, your grand parents and your great grand parents.  Five times a day the call would go out and in those generations (before secularization) you did stop in your tracks, unroll your prayer rug and face east to Mecca.  In that world, the faith of the children would be a given.  It would be automatic to believe in the Islamic narrative, as there was no competing ideas in the souk.

Some days I envy that world because faith is easy, as easy as drinking a cup of water.  The little minds didn't have to contemplate the mysteries of a 14 billion light-year wide universe with the bizarre quantum playground.  They didn't have to consider pantheism, atheism . . . or Christianity. There was no discussion.

But it comes back to that concept of the blue pill verses the red pill.  There is bliss in the blue, not knowing, not caring to know but to pretend that what you believe is the whole of reality.  But I've been cursed with an appetite for the red.  I want to know.  I ache for truth, even truth that is unpalatable.

So, I was thinking about this idea of belief.  I know I've said this before, but I've heard so many times that it is like a mantra within evangelicalism, "I've never doubted God for a second!"  People say this with pride and fellow Christians look on them in envy (as I sometimes do).

From that same notion comes the concept of building the walls, like Marrakesh.  These are cultural walls not of adobe.  They are in the mind set of; put you kids in Christian schools, don't let them play with non-Christians, don't let them watch TV (signals coming in from outside the walls) and then you will keep your children safe from evil.

I know someone who practiced the culture walls with their seven children.  Now, several are hooked on Oxycontin, a couple on alcohol, at least one is wife abusing (physically), a couple practice adultery, and the girl . . . now with her own porn site.  What went wrong with the walls?  The parents believe that they should have made the walls higher and tougher and this would never have happened.

In our early married years, we were wall builders. But why my kids were still quite young, I went through my great disillusionment with evangelicalism and I began to tear down walls.  Eventually our kids were of the world, reading all they could get their hands on and deeply engrossed in our own (non evangelical) culture.

The aforementioned family use to criticize me harshly for the way I was raising my kids.  But I look at my kids now.  Three (out of five) are working on PhDs.  One happily married and stable with two boys.  A girl doing mission work with inner-city poor and one who is a great kid and a house painter.  Their faith?  Let me say that they are in their healthy exportation stage.  I believe that in the end they will be in a good place and if they still believe in Christianity then (and I think they will) it will be a faith that they own not inherited.

I want to talk more about this but now I'm out of time. But I will re-visit this at least once.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reflections on an Election Part II

I am already regretting walking into the shallow waters of this topic, primarily because I'm not any kind of political historian nor claim to be.  I am someone who is naturally interested in culture and in finding the ultimate truth through humble means (not meaning that I'm humble but that I am open to the idea that I am wrong some of the time if not all).

So here is the point I was trying to make.  Pure Christianity is simple and bare. I think of Micah 6:8 where it says, in my paraphrase, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God."  That's it.  But because we are human, around any nugget of orientation grows a huge quagmire of  convoluted culture.  The humble part of Micah says that you are open to being wrong on which parts of your culture are good, which are bad and which are simply amoral.

So, my argument is that the American version of evangelicalism has this complex culture and at this point in history part of that culture is being a Republican.  I want to try and cut between the bone and marrow and try to point out why the results of this past election are seen by the evangelicals as the part of the Apocalypse . . . or at least another sign that America is in decline.

I am not sure about this, and at this point it would be nice to have an expert in political science or history chime in, but the political shape of the present evangelical seemed to be formed starting in the early eighties if not the seventies.

I will have to say that my idol Francis Schaeffer has something to do with it (and his son Frank thinks that his dad was the cornerstone to this political movement).  But at the same time, I think that Francis is turning over in his grave when he sees what this has become.

Francis was the first to bring attention to the face that abortion was one great travesties of the de-christianization of the west.  Through his movies and public appearances (not to mention his writings) he pushed for the Christians to stand up and to resist (as salt preserving fish) these immoral directions of our nation as a whole.

You would have to read Frank's book "Crazy for God" to see the historical account how this anti-abortion along with concerns about euthanasia was adopted by the Republican party. But they saw an opportunity to connect with, what was at that time and as Jerry Falwell described it, the Silent Majority.  So the Republican party sided with the pro-life movement of the Christian right.

Now, there is no harm in what I've described.  I will also state at this juncture that I'm not anti-Republican.  I could vote Republican if the right candidate was nominated. But what happened next is what I find discouraging.

As the Republican party became the bulwark of the religious right, there was a cross-pollination between the two.  The Republican ideals of freedom of market forces, strong defense and etc. became evangelical ideals.  But they will argue until the cows come home that these ideals are Biblical and that's why they believe them ( remember Jesus taught social and economic communism more than any other political view).

Moving along, after a couple of decades into this, two major things have happened. For one, what Francis Schaeffer saw the process of de-Christianization of the West is now past-tense.  The West has been dechristianized.  It is finished. Not to say that Christians don't have an influence or a voice. But take America for example. For one, it was never a so-called "Christian country."  It had a strong Christian culture influence in the past. But that is now passed.  So this changes our stance on issues.  The silent majority is more likely to be those who are the totally unchurched fighting for same-sex marriage and the legalization of pop and the evangelicals, like it or not, are the loud minority.  The American culture as a whole has just a memory of a Christian culture (still celebrating Christmas and Easter).  So the ideas that Schaeffer promoted, the purification of the country or acting as salt, is no longer relevant.  I've heard close personal friends of Schaeffer say this same thing.

Things haven't always been this way.  Franklin Graham remarked during his interview (mentioned in the last post) that his father, who turned 94 yesterday, has been a life-long democrat. Now, in the 50s and 60s, it was more common to be a democrat as a deeply convicted Christian, because of the democrat's emphasis on social and economic justice (see LBJ).  Evangelicals now believe in a imaginary narrative that the Republicans have always been "Christian" since Lincoln.

But if this were a theocracy and a Christian was elected Christian King, then he or she could mandate the banning of abortion.  But it is a democracy.  So the majority view should lead and us with a minority view cannot dictate our moral views on the majority.  This does not weaken what I do think is a Biblical concept of the value of human life and I'm not talking about moral relativism. But we lost the culture wars and now cannot be the deciders on those issues.  We can speak against them in the same way that Bonhoeffer did against the Nazis.

But I have really digressed now.

Here is my main point.  The vast majority of evangelicals now believe that the Republicans are God's party and the Democrats are the part of Satan.  But the bad part, evangelicals have adopted other Republican philosophies as part of their faith, or Christian culture including America having a strong defense and continue to dominate world, free-markets and less government . . . to name a few. Now, I can't say that these are bad ideals (meaning ideals not ideas).  I don't agree with them but I can respect those who do.

So, to not adopt all the Republican platform and to be a Christian seems contradictory in the evangelical culture.  So for us who are not Republicans, like my friend Carl, you have to swim against the current to keep a humble and open mind about issues.

Romney lost the election because the majority of Americans are 1. war weary and don't like the Republican saber rattling,  2. don't trust unregulated market forces, because the very rich will stack the deck, as they did in the great economic downturn 4 years ago, 3. aren't against same-sex marriage, 4. do see a role for the government in serving social and economic justice.

But I want to add one last point of why the evangelicals did adopt Romney as their personal choice and this is where I will find myself most vulnerable.  It is my humble opinion that evangelicals are always concerned more about appearance than reality.  They would never admit this.  I would never admit it when I was an evangelical.  So, while historically evangelicals have seen Mormons as a cult and despised them . . . in another way, they are deeply envious of the Mormons.  The Mormons are much better at the charade than even the evangelicals. They have their perfect little (actually big) families of tie-wearing, clean cut boys and girls who are the epitome of "goodness."  I'm sure it is a farce. Every perfect little family I've ever met . . . I ended up finding some real dragons in their closet.  It is human nature. But evangelicalism is all about pretending and the Mormons are real professionals at it.

So now the Evangelicals are dining with the devil  . . . or in bed with their arch enemies. Parts of me want to break out in laughter. I'm sure that it would make some great satire if it weren't so complicated.

So, what is the conclusion to all of this political rambling?  It is taking Christianity as its simple essence . . . seeing justice and kindness and walking humbling with God. Then, as a human, enjoying the freedom to have different political views based on your personality, your personal philosophy and experiences but never declaring your complex narrative as the "Christian way" and certainly not the Republicans as the "Christian party." So, I'm optimistic.  Obama is a decent man and not the usher of the end-times as my Facebook friends are proclaiming.

I will be silent now.  I do want to move on and talk about something I know much more about. It is the faith of the doubters. So I will do a series about that next.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reflections on an Election

I know that in this post-election environment that the papers, TV shows, blogs and neighborhood barbershops are a buzz with what went right and what went wrong.  I didn't even want to walk into those waters but there is some type of microcosm playing out here that has lessons written within.

I joined Facebook a couple of years ago to see photos of my grandson.  I don't make a lot of use of it.  In the very beginning I was amazed how it could conjurer up so many lost friends like some type of seance of the living.  That's its gift. You make a connection to one friend and then the web is spun from that friend to other old friends on and on trice removed.

So, my Facebook "family" is made up of many friends from my evangelical days . . . and many friends that I never knew in Christian context as well as my real family.  Of course these friends can't see each other's posts unless the two of them are also friends.

But I watched how this played out over the last few weeks as a simply observer.  I am often surprised (and I shouldn't be) how my old Christian friends are still in the same place I was a couple of decades ago . . . still fighting the culture wars and seeing that the Republican party is by default . . . God's party.

So I will make a clarification before I jump into this.  As Leonard Cohen said, "I'm neither left or right . . . I just want to be home tonight."  Politically speaking, and if you are very honest about it, you could support virtually any position from a "Christian perspective."  I remember a high school philosophy teacher Mr. Murphy (yes, oddly they had a philosophy course in high school in Appalachia) who use to badger the students because they were deep in the Bible belt (the county school still had a mandatory Bible class) and he was a self-proclaimed atheists.  He almost lost his job when he stated that the political system which was most aligned with the teachings of Jesus was communism.  Think about it, he said this in 1973 . . .  right in the middle of the Cold War . . . so you can why he was "canned."

But factually, he was right.  Now, of course we are not talking about the Soviet-style communism where you were spied upon and imprisoned for thinking differently than the way allowed. But the point was true on an economic justice side of things

Right now in American, evangelicalism has embraced a narrative that is woven right into the fabric of the Republican platform.  I, being the cynic that I am, have a sense that this was planned this way.  Years ago in a smokey room in Washington, so I presume, some Carl Rove-types suggested that the evangelicals were leaning in their direction, but to really capture them, they need to either add evangelical agenda to their own . . . or . . . convince the evangelicals that the Republican platform is what God wants.

So I watched as my old evangelical friends assumed that all good Christians would vote for Romney.  I stay out of most of these discussions.  A dear old Air Force Christian friend did comment that he was going to vote for Obama.  Carl (my friend not Rove) is a breath of fresh air among my old evangelical friends for two reasons. Paramount is the fact that he lived in Germany, on the local economy, for about a decade.  He also went through a very humbling experience a few years ago as a Christian.

But then I watched as his Christian friends attacked him.  I don't know any of them as my circle and this circle of Carl's only touches at one point . . . and that is with Carl.  But I had to come to his defense. I simply said that Carl was someone that seemed to create a Christianity that is "Jesus + 0."  I added that Carl, I think due to his living abroad, has been able to separate the the Christ wheat from the "American-Evangelical-Republican" chaff.  I think his friends quickly despised me in the same way that most of my Christian friends do.

I was also struck with an interview with Franklin Graham on election eve.  He made the statement (and please forgive my paraphrase) that we are at a serious crossroads. That if Obama is elected then all of America is going to be in despair and God will allow America to fail.  He hinted at an apocalyptic end in the near future.

The interviewer, to play devil's advocate, said, "You listed Mormonism as a cult on your web page. So you are willing to vote for a Mormon now?"

I was expecting Franklin to be at least pragmatic and say something like this, "Well, we do believe that Mormonism is a cult. But, because Governor Romney supports our agenda, such as banning same-sex marriage, fighting the Muslims throughout the world (the new Crusade) and banning abortion we are willing to support him despite of his religious beliefs."

But what Franklin said, and this was profound, "Oh, I didn't know that Mormonism was listed as a cult on my web page.  You know, I have people writing much of the material on that page.  As soon as I discovered that it was there . . . I immediately deleted it."

So what does this mean?  Do the evangelicals now accept Mormonism as just another facet of Biblical Christianity?  That is a titanic shift in thinking! But I think they are willing to make that compromise for the sake of the evangelical culture.

This is getting long and I must end. But I haven't gotten to my main point yet, so I will be back for a part II.  In this day  of not only tolerance but relativism, my words could easily (even though so far they have been tangential at best) twisted to  make me a Mormon hater.  I won't go there.  I have many dear friends who are Mormons. I go to Mormon doctor.  I respect all people. Some of my best friends are Muslims. Yet, I can love them, respect them, but still hold to the fundamentals of original Christianity and reject their doctrines as false.

I didn't vote for Romney but it had nothing to do with his Mormonism.  It had more to do with his racism against Arabs, saber rattling in a world that has war-fatigue and supporting economic injustices.  But Obama wasn't an easy choice either and I ended up voting for a libertarian for the first time in my life. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lying for Jesus . . . Just Confuses Me

Another topic I've talked about ad nauseam is this tradition of causal lying within the Church.  It is hard for me to get  my head around.  Not that I'm above lying, but this marriage between serving the Creator, who must be the God of truth . . . or no god at all . . . and feeling no guilt about "white lies" puzzles me.

I recently heard a missionary speaker. I won't go into details. He is a man of great respect and I respect him as well. He is an excellent speaker. But during this message, he told a blatant (but quite trivial) lie.  He knew I was in the audience and I'm sure he knew that I  knew he was lying.  But it really made his story a little better.  Now here is my point. This type of lying is causal as if it doesn't matter . . . when I think it does.

Indeed I bounced this off my wife.  She feels I'm just being a little judgmental because it was so trivial. She also try to excuse it by saying he may have accidentally gotten his facts wrong.  Nope. Couldn't be an accident . . . unless he has a form of dementia.  My wife also sees this as a type of arrogance in me, or hypocrisy.  No one knows your own lies as well as your spouse or your family.

I knew a girl in college who's father was a big Baptist minister.  He had a huge regional TV ministry.  She became very disillusioned with Christianity because of the trivial lying he did.  He would, on the spot, make up conversations he had had with his kids that had never happened, just to illustrate a point.  But to her, and rightly so, if he lied about things like that, maybe he is lying about  this whole Jesus is the messiah thing.

Now, I am a liar too, so I don't mean to should pious.  I've been know to exaggerate things, especially when I get emotional (saying that the trail I was walking was 4 inches wide on top of the cliff rather than 8 inches wide).  But I'm speaking philosophically here. It is a sad state of affairs when you can collect so many more brownie points within Evangelicalism by lying.  When I was a Navigator, we all lied and we lied frequently.  We lied about how many hours we spent in Bible study. We lied about our motives constantly. But if we didn't lie, we would be seen as spiritually inferior.  There is something to this.  A real cancer within the Church.

Speaking of which, I think TV evangelists are some of the worst liars in the world.  They are drowning in lies.  So this time last week I was in the Muslim world.  I also had access to limited satellite TV.  I noticed the listing of the channels.  It was BBC, VOA, local and a long, long list of Muslim evangelist and US-liar TV evangelists like Daystar people. Oh, yeah, a lot of pay for Arab porn (seriously, "Hot Arab Babes"  or "Hot Chicks of Iran"). You know. Those who set on these bizarre and hideous platforms of gold plated, poorly done Baroque or French Provincial styles and giant hairdos.  This is the face of Christianity to the majority of the un-Christianized world. And we wonder what they aren't taking us seriously?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finding Refuge Amongst the Artisans

I was thinking yesterday as I was watching the artists work in some of the villages in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains of how an important role they play in every society.  It is not just our enjoyment of their crafts, but they are not only the dreamers, the thinkers but the questioners.

I'm not an artist . . . but I admire them.  Of course the easiest medium for asking the hard questions are the writers of poetry, novels and lyrics. But the painters ask the hard questions visually.  They are the heroes of the society.  I just heard (tangentially as I was reading the Hobbit between my many trips to the bathroom . . . the artisan's food did me in) on Algazeera about a poet in some country being arrested for what he said.  I didn't know where because they didn't run the story again.

The only problems is that the artisans rarely find the answers.  Many have died by their own hands in hopelessness.  But at least they feel, they observe and they ask and that is so important.

It is too bad that much of Christian thinking has been to replace true-truth, and the search of with questions as your shepherds, to dogma as a substitute for truth, a dogma that is poured on your in a passive way, without searching.  When Christians talk about truth, they are usually meaning dogma.

We need to revitalize the questions and the honest search for truth, but with the hope of answers and not ending in hopelessness as many artists have.  But I do enjoy being with them, sitting at their feet and letting them disturb my peace . . . in a good way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Infinity . . . and Beyond . . . more Metaphysical Troubles for the Atheists Part II

Okay, I'm back from the souk with some spices, fossils, ear rings and a swarma sandwich in our stomachs.

So, here is what I was starting to say. This new way of looking at the universe states that beyond our "visible" or potentially "knowable" 13 billion light-year diameter universe is an infinity of space and time, or who knows, anti-space and anti-time. But when you put this into a mathematical equation, then you end with meta physical chaos.

As you know (or at least I've said--but I certainly wasn't the first person to say it) mathematics is the language of nature. Another way of saying it is that mathematics is the language of what is.  Now, in my pro-Christian camp of thinking, this is one of the supporting truths. Because you can know the universe through math alone. Einstein knew atomic energy was real through his brain and a caulk board, using mathematics.  He didn't discover nuclear energy through experimental physics.

So when you, as the article suggested, reduce this concept to the mathematical you have a total negation of all we know.  It is simply true that when you divide any number by infinity, you end up with zero.

First we will talk about one simple concept and that is of knowledge. If we know everything there is to know about the visible universe (and we know less than 1% now) then this universe is still a fraction of the whole. So we know 100% of this fraction. But when you express that fraction as X/infinity (can't use the symbol for infinity as the bog doesn't have it) the answer approaches 0 to the point that it is 0 or the same as 0.

So, when it comes to our knowledge of all that is, then our knowledge is 0. But then the mathematical equation does more.  When you apply it to metaphysics, you end up at the same place. If we are 1 (or 1,000 or even 1,000,000 as it doesn't matter) when you place it above infinity as a fraction of what is . . . we become the non existent.  You can apply this in the area of morals or any area and you always end up with 0.

So, in summary, if the universe is infinite, then we, for all practical purposes, don't exist nor ever will.
 We are less than an anomaly  I was going to say a brief blip in time but if the infinite universe has infinite past and future (if time exist there) then once again, our existence is reduced to zero. Even if the universe has existed for 14 billion years, that is still 0 time (1,000,000,000 years/infinite time = 0). Sure you can say "approaches 0" but really it does mean 0.

Even with the finite universe of 14 billion light years, we already ran into the problem of total insignificance of our being. You can not have a spontaneous big bag, a spontaneous evolution of the elemental and then the geological and then the biological and have meaning. Another equation that makes no sense. It is at this juncture the atheists use their faith that is no less a shot in the dark than the evangelical's faith.  They live their lives as if something mattered and it does not. Knowledge doesn't matter, the advancement of humanity doesn't matter. The universe couldn't care less if human's went extinct today. The universe doesn't give a damn if all life forms went extinct today. It doesn't give a damn if all matter collapsed and vanished overnight. But still the atheists lives as if they have meaning.

I will stop here. But that was my thought of the day. :>)

Infinity . . . and Beyond . . . more Metaphysical Troubles for the Atheists Part I

In case you don't know me, I must first give you my somewhat unique perspective when it comes to Christian apologetics.  For several decades I followed the lead of memorizing apologetic exercises and sound bites.  The purposed of such "programed" apologetic is to provide comfort for the one giving the apologetic.  It gives them the sense that their (Christian) view point is clearly head and shoulders above that of other world views . . . speaking intellectually . . .  thus only a fool wouldn't believe that Christianity is true.

But when I decided to approach things from a deeply honest place, I quickly learned that wasn't true. For my Muslim friends, my Mormon friends and pantheistic friends (not so much with the later) all have this same conviction.

So, speaking honestly, and as I've said before, none of the answers are easy.  There is an incredible paradox.  We are personal creatures (we feel that we are persons and not just a carbon based machine) yet the universe has not declared itself without question.  I can argue, as a Christian, that God has revealed Himself in time, space and history . . . but that was in history.  I haven't seen God directly.  All my evangelical friends say they do, but I now know that it is wishful thinking and self-delusion.

As a deeply thinking person, I hate the notion that no world view bridges the gap of the absurd that with each view there has to be an extension of reason through a type of faith. I want to walk the entire way through reason. As a Christian I can explain why we all must face this gap in reasoning and is because of the Fall, our intellects don't function to their full capacity, thus none of us can really know the truth through reason alone.  But, otherwise, reason is very, very good and God-given in my view.

Now, I still haven't gotten to my point but am still in the introduction, but I will add one more tangential point and that is, the faith of the doubter and skeptic is far more powerful than that of the non-thinker.  For example, the "strong Christian man," which I referred to at the beginning of my previous post, use to say how he has never doubted God for a second. In my view, to brainwash yourself that the apologetic of Christianity is a slam dunk, takes little or no faith to believe it.  But for us, who push the thinking to its very limit, then must face this gap that is not filled in by imaginative thinking . . . that takes a very sturdy faith.  Skeptics should be proud of their faith in the face of honest thinking (meaning in a good sense).

Now to my point.  I'm writing from the roof of a riad overlooking the ancient city of Marrakesh, Morocco. As I am typing the prayer call is literally going out from about six or seven nearby mosques.    So, I'm on a much needed vacation. I have a business (medical practice) that requires my energy 12 hours per day and six or seven days per week.  That's why I don't write much here nor read as much as I would like.

But on this trip I picked up three magazines, Scientific American, Astronomy and one about physics. I've now read these journals cover to cover and now get to focus on The Hobbit.  Somewhere in my reading (and I can't remember which one) I read an article that cosmologists are now considering the universe to be infinite. This is a switch as previously, it was considered finite ( well-demarcated space of abut 13 billion light-years across ).  Outside the universe, in the old model, there was nothing.  No space, no time, no energy and no matter. So it was like the Thurman Show (the movie), but on a mega scale.

But when you consider the universe as being infinite, it creates some huge metaphysical and philosophical problems, which starts (as everything does) as a mathematical problem.

My wife says it is time to go to the souk (market). So I will finish this tonight with a part II. I didn't have time to proof read either so reader beware.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Fake Reality

Okay, I know that I've revisited this theme over and over again. But once more, I've had this issue become overwhelm me in the past few weeks.

Based on comments and private e-mails, I often come across here when I write, like I'm throwing spears at what we used to call "hypocrites."  But that is like looking at the trees while I'm tying to talk about the forest. Failures of individual Christians are the symptoms when I'm interested in the disease. There is something much bigger here than just a person being a hypocrite. Even the thinking of someone being a hypocrite seems to be out of touch with the seriousness of the matter. More than just a choice by a bad person, but a whole mind set of being a disconnect between living magically in Christianland and the reality of being human.

There is something inherently wrong with a chunk, let me say one brand, of American Christianity that takes the "faithful" to a place where they are so out of touch with reality that is like psychosis-lite. I will describe the things that brought this to mind.

The first thing was in a couple of events in my real life.  I want to take caution in what I say in a public forum like this. But I got a glimpse into the private lives of a couple of local Christians, previously used as examples of godliness, where the private life were nothing like you would expect.

I will speak tangentially a bit, but one man is considered the saint of saints in my recent evangelical world.  Over and over I heard how he was the example that all Christian men should be.  He is the one who told me many times that he doubted my faith because I didn't agree with him that the earth was 6,000 years old.  It was his statements that led me to leave my last church.  But I got an unexpected, and disturbing, glimpse into his private life this week. I wasn't looking for dirt. But the news came to me in an unexpected way from within his family.  In his private world he thinks and lives in a way that I couldn't even imagine, and I'm not that good of a guy. But once again it makes me believe that all the saints, which I was told about over the years, . . . well, that they are all frauds.  I know I was a fraud when people used to be amazed by  my "godliness."

The next thing that brought me face to face to this reality was more impersonal . . . namely a couple of reality TV show

I am a fan of murder mystery TV shows that you see on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery. Mostly because I am intrigued by human behavior, especially of the psychopath or sociopath, whom has no sense of guilt.  I think it amazes me so much because I feel plagued by guilt, even when I do things right.

So the first one was, I think Dateline.  In that episode, it told the story of Sarah Jones. She was a gal in her late 20s.  She was the homecoming queen in high school and came from a devout evangelical family. She became a high school teacher herself.

The first event in this course of things was she got a job as a Bengal's cheerleader.  In that role she wore a skimpy halter top and shorts that were so short and showed about as much as her butt as a thong.  She wore this in front of tens of thousands of people each week. She was also in that cheerleader culture. They partied and took a lot of seductive photos. She made friends with a co-cheerleader who too was a strong evangelical.

Now here is the first disconnect.  When she was asked about her cheer-leading job she said something to the effect that she never considered it to be sexual at all.  Her strong Christian mom thought the same.  Really? I guess Hooters is only about the food, that's why some men prefer to have their Bible studies there.

So, the next major disconnect was the fact that rumors started to spread that she (and she was married at the time) was having seductive interactions with some of her male students. They showed an interview where she arguing that those rumors were false.  She smiled a lot and, for all purposes, called on God Himself as a character witness.  She said that she was a strong Christian and never had any inappropriate relationships with her male students and that God would defend her because He (implying they) stood for truth.

Then a boy's cell phone was found and it was full of X rated texts from her . . . I guess you would call it "sexting."

Then they interviewed her again. At first she denied it, but when proven that they were from her, she finally admitted it, but some how put a good face on it.  She swore that she had never had physical contact with the 17 year old boy.  Once again she said that God was on her side and would defend her character . . . you know, God and her are friends.

I know you see this coming, but then the boy admitted that he was having sex with the teacher (in the old days we called this adultery).  Well, when it got out, she left her husband and ran off with this boy. But here is the greatest disconnect, she still sees herself as in the right, in God's will and that God is her biggest defender. But what about all the lies she told, not to mention the seducing of a minor and adultery?  Do you see what I mean? She was comfortable with her sin in a strange way. I'm saying this is not just an exception but a symptom of something deeply philosophical in the way that our Christian society has created the disconnect to reality.

Last, and much more grave, was the example last night on 48 Hours Mystery, titled "The Preacher and the Porn Star."  It is a story about a man who was quite gifted (he is such an over-the-top extrovert I sense at least some ADHD).  He went to Bible college and became a very successful youth pastor, traveling the country, speaking at youth rallies.  His biggest gift was his performance arts, especially mime.

While still being this youth preacher guy, he, without much shame, said he liked to party hard, especially in Vegas (sexy women, drugs, alcohol . . . but God was okay with all of that).  He had come into a fair amount of money from his preaching and starting a couple of businesses.

To make a long story short, he met a gal in Vegas, whom he called a "dancer" but she earn most of her money from her own porn site.  He also seemed to think that God was okay with that.

He moved in with this gal (God was okay with that too).  After he took her home to meet his parents, they were a little shocked when two nephews told his parents that they knew the woman from her porn site (don't have to guess much to figure out how they knew).

Well, this pron start living with the dynamic preacher started to tell her friends that  he was physically abusing her. God seemed to be okay with that too.  Well, to cut to the chase, the woman was found beaten to death.  It was horrible.  There wasn't one square inch of  her body that didn't have cuts or bruising.

The man was interviewed and what I sensed was a total lack of guilt or remorse.  He was arrested.  He claimed that during a drug and "rough sex" session, she beat her self up.  The strange things were how they proved that he was still doing business on the phone, even after he knew she was dying.  After he had called 911.  It was bizarre.

Then the case was botched and he got off scott free. He has no remorse.  He immediately went back tour as a Christian-preacher-entertainer.  His first gig . . . a Christian policeman's conference.  But there is something very wrong with this picture.

I know I've talked about this here a hundred times. But it has to do with connection to reality.  Contemporary  Evangelicalism seems to have found a restful home up on the 60th floor (with reality being the ground).  It is this disconnect that breeds this attitude of keeping the face of Christianity while no consciousness of your own failures.

I started a quest about 15 years ago. I made a pledge to myself that would try to seek the ground floor with all my being, but it is hard. Society, especially Christian society bears against that quest with all of its might.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals . . . Part V . . . The Genie God

Some of the comments on earlier posts got me thinking about this perspective.  While I'm thinking about the idea of people making comments I wanted to say I do read them all, although I don't always comment on the comments. But I do appreciate them. I don't comment because I can't think of anything intelligent to say.  I also don't have near the time I wish I did.  I'm on a hamster wheel right now trying to keep a medical practice from going bankrupt because it is virtually impossible these days to get insurance companies to pay you what they owe you. So I'm working a good 60 hours a week right now and come home and collapse in bed. But I digress.

So, this is a little different than my last post where I talk about the silly "miracles" attributed to their god.  This is about manipulating god to fulfill your every whim.

When I find myself listening to Christian radio by mistake, and drawing from my past memories where I was an intense evangelical myself, the reasoning goes like the following.  God, the creator of the universe loves me deeply. So, he is happy to fulfill my every need and desire and not just the big things. So, the evangelical god, not only cures my mother of cancer, he is constantly doing the little things, getting the stain our of my shirt, helping to find a Starbucks while on a road trip, helping me to get a refund on my taxes, causing the tree to fall (during the intense wind storm) on the car three cars back rather than me, killing a child and their father . . . but sparing my righteous butt.  The paradoxical list could go on and on.

But is this kind of god the way he is because he loves us so much?  I beg to differ.

Okay, I love my children intensely.  If they called me on the phone and asked me things like, "Dad, can you come over and get the stain out of my shirt?  Dad, do you know someone at the event center who can get me free tickets to a concert?  Dad, can you play interference and help me get a parking spot near the door of the mall?  Hey, Dad, can find a Starbucks for me?  Dad, can you make sure my tomato plants produce good maaters?"

I would look at my kids, and I do love them dearly, and think, "What's wrong with you!?  Isn't this pandering and manipulative behavior?  I smell a bit of narcissism here . . . you know, my needs and desires rest at the center of the universe."  I really do sense of lot of narcissistic behavior around this kind of me-centric god.

So this kind of god either fits in your pocket or in the Aladdin's lamp that you carry in your knapsack.

A really big God, you know, the one who could breath and create a big bang with all of it's complexities can deeply love me, because He is personal and has created us in His personal image. He can, rarely, step outside of the beautiful laws of nature, which He has created, but He can't fit in my pocket like IPhone's Siri.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals Part IV . . . The Magician

If you are old enough you might remember the series (three I think) movies where George Burns played God.  In the first one, to prove that he was God, he appeared in a court room and did a card trick . . . okay then he disappeared.  But to the evangelicals, God's miracles is in the lines of him being a magician . . . or maybe an illusionist.

The problem begins (keeping with the theme of this blog) with the notion that this physical world is unimportant. Therefore for anything to have meaning, it has to be connected to the far more important spiritual realm (so goes their thinking). Therefore, nothing has value unless it is a "miracle."  So then everything becomes a miracle, meaning a super-natural (above the laws of nature) miracle.

Rather than seeing the Red Sea part (a real super-natural miracle) it is, "I ran into Joan at the market . . . obviously a miracle and a God-thing."  This discounts the odds of seeing Joan in a town of 3,000 people at a market where 180 of them are there at any one time.

But it saturates the evangelical thinking.  All illnesses are either caused by the direct hand of God ("God disciplining me") or the devil (see the previous post).  Any resolution of an illness isn't through the natural (God-given in my opinion) forces of our biochemistry of healing but had to be the direct hand of God.

God directs me to a verse in the Bible, rather than the Newtonian laws of forces applied when opening a book.

So these miracles are woven with tissue paper.  But they have no other choice. If they believe that this physical world is crap, rather than an incredibly beautiful place with God-designed complexities and forces, then you have to believe that all things are miracles.  At that juncture you loose all contact with reality.

But, I do believe that God does work outside of nature, but it is rare. My God does things like create universes and the complexities of all that is. I'm very okay with God working within the nature He has created because I love it the way He made it. As Einstein said, either everything is a miracle or nothing is.  I'm in the camp that everything is.  The big bang and on. No, the universe makes no sense, something that big created by a personal being. But the absence of such makes less sense.

So, it is at this point the Evangelicals tell me my God is small the most. It is when they suggest that God did something, like just missing getting hit when you accidentally ran the red light. Then I say, I think it was just being lucky where the timing was just right.  Most the time when you run a red light you survive. But the 10% odds of getting hit are terrible. So, the odds were in your favor.  Then they smirk and say ". . . your God is so small."

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals Part III - The Myopic God

Apparently their God needs glasses but has misplaced them.  He is blinded to the games that we all play.

While we manipulated people to our own gain, we can have refined techniques that fool people into thinking that we are nice people with nice motives.  We are even good at fooling ourselves. We look in the mirror and think, now that's a swell person.  Yet, most of our behavior is targeted in trying to find some sense that we have value.  Most us are willing to go to great means, manipulating and hurting other people, in order to accomplish that goal.

Now, with that said, I also think, deep down, that we really believe that we are fooling God too.  The Evangelical God seems quite naive.  After all, watch a  little bit of Evangelovision ( "Christian TV").  The thinly veiled self adoration doesn't even fool a six year old. But they must think they are fooling God.

In my life, the most Evangelical people I've ever known, (what some would call "godly") was also the greatest masters of deception.

The reason I think they think they are fooling God is because these people, in their heart of hearts, really do believe in God.  They also imagine Him as a God who has a potential of wrath.  Yet they totally disregard His sense of justice and play these games with impunity.  The school master is asleep in the back . . .  in their minds.

I see a God who sees me like no one else, including myself.  If we thought that Freud took it to an unbearable level, God knows us much deeper. There is no deceiving Him.  So when I manipulate my wife (make her feel guilty) God knows it.  He knows my true motives.  He knows what's on my heart before I do.

But observe the Evangelicals.  Their God has lost His glasses and finite in His ability to know us, to see us and understand us. We therefore can be the celestial tricksters.   

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals Part II

Now imagine that if your God (god) sat on Mount Olympus and threw lightening bolts now and then, He would be seriously threatened by rivals . . . such as Satan, another immortal of the underworld (Hades).

So, your people would need to live in constant fear of this devil of the underworld.  You have to be careful where you go, because the devil could be there and obsess you or at least oppress you.  You would have to be very careful what music you listened to or allowed your children to listen to because the other god from Hades could trick your God and sneak in and destroy your family.  If someone brought in Ouija Board and your kids touched it, the god of Hades could enter into their soul and your good God wouldn't even notice it, nor could He stop it.

If any event happened, your car broke down, your shoe laces came untied, it would have to be either your God or the other god in Hades as they are in this constant battle . . . some days one wins, some days the other.

Your world would have to be defined by great boundaries . . . made of bricks of "dos" and "don'ts" to protect yourself from this powerful devil.  As one great Evangelical preacher said, "God and Satan are like two pit-bulls in my back yard that are always fighting.  The one that wins, is the one that I feed the most."  They are almost equals . . . the Titans against Zeus.

This good God of yours is also quite finicky. You have to be very careful what you say and do.  If you  don't walk into His temple every Sunday or if you get mad and say "shit" he is deeply offended because it threaten's . . .  well, His self esteem.

Now, my God is so big that it is totally beyond the mental capacity of mortals.  I can't even fathom the 14 billion light year distance across our universe and He has to much bigger than that.  Satan is a mere mortal and is of total insignificance to my God, although he has been of significance to this mortal world through the fall, but "obsesses us" only if we allow on a psychological level.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals Part I

I have been told more than once, by evangelicals, that my problem is that "Mike . . . your God is too small!"  That is usually after someone described how they had been looking to buy a Mustang and they happen to see one at the car lot, proving that God wanted them to buy it.  Or maybe grandma's pneumonia got better and I suggested it was because of the azithromycin and they said that had nothing to do with it . . . it was the direct hand of God in a real, miracle.

So, I've spent some time thinking about this, and I want to start putting my thoughts down.  As it turns out, I'm quite convinced that the problem is the opposite.  Evangelicals still live under the Greco-Roman concept of God, who is slightly larger than a Marvel character.  I will try to prove my point in this series of posts.