Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The "war" on Christmas


Each year there seems to be a "Christian movement" to declare that there is a war on christmas. The implication is that atheists are fighting to remove the the "Christ" from Christmas.  

I don't get it. 

To my knowledge there is no law that prevents of any christian from proclaiming "Merry Christmas." So where is the war? Where are we as christians being attacked? Is it because a few retailers decided to try and remain neutral and not be offensive to atheists? Ok.......I hardly call that a war. My military background assures me that this is no war. This is retailers modifying their policies with the changing times. So what? 

If Christians are so concerned about Jesus being the primary focus of Christmas then perhaps they should start with their own methods of celebrating Christmas. Like participating in the rampant consumerism that has become "the reason for the season." If Jesus is supposed to be the focus of Christmas, maybe Christians should do the things that Jesus did. Like feed the poor?  


Seriously?? Is this happening, anywhere??
Each year in America, christians spend billions of dollars support the pagan practice of consumerism. Some will argue that consumerism is not a pagan practice and perhaps that's true. But its definitely not a christian practice.  

Christmas didn't even start off as a christian celebration. It has pagan roots and christians adopted the holiday years later. So, Christmas has gone from a pagan holiday, to a christian holiday, back to a pagan holiday that christians participate in. 

If Christians really want to keep "Christ" in Christmas they are free to say "Merry Christmas or Jesus is the reason for the season" to anyone. They are free to put up all the nativity scenes in their home that they want. They can light advent candles and read their kids the story of Jesus' birth. 

But if they really want to make Jesus the focus on Christmas, then they should stop participating in consumerism and participate in feeding homeless people.

 

Like Jesus would do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A christians "right" to judge others


The concept of “judging” seems to be one of the biggest topics of dissension among Christians today. On one hand, we see things that are bad and wrong. Someone says to us “Be careful, don’t judge them.” But we look at the situation and say “I don’t know, I kind of think I should be judging this.” Then we have other situations where someone just seems like they are elevating themselves above others. So when do we judge, and when do we not judge? 

Mathew 7:1- “"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

This verse begins talking about judging. Then it turns to wood; planks and specks (I am assuming specks of sawdust) Then it concludes by talking about dogs, pigs, and pearls. Makes perfect sense, right?

What exactly did Jesus mean when He said for us to “not judge?” The word judge, in the original Greek is the word Krino. In the Greek language, there are 3 different ways that the Krino is used.

In Titus 3:12 we have one example of how Krino was used. As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided (krino) to winter there.” This use of the word krino is to decide, to distinguish, to discern. It just means “to make a decision” about something. So let’s take this back to Matthew 7. Is Jesus telling us to not make decisions? Is He saying “Whatever you do, don’t make decisions, because then decisions will be made about you? I think you would agree with me that Jesus is not using that form of the word krino.

In John 18:31 Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge (krino) him by your own law." So the second type of use for the word krino is to judge something, as in a courtroom. So, is Jesus saying “Don’t have courts? Because if you do, someone will have courts about you?” Is He saying we should do away with our courts and not worry about laws? No, He isn’t.

The third use for the word Krino, we find in 1 Corinthians 4:5. “Therefore judge (krino) nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”     It’s the second sentence of the verse that gives us the real meaning behind the use of the word. “He (God) will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.” So, the third use of the word Krino is described as something that “God” does. It also says that it “exposes” the motives of the heart. So, this is saying that if we are going to judge someone the way God does, then we have to be able to know the motives of that person’s heart. If we don’t truly know the motives of that person’s heart, then we can’t possibly judge them correctly. That is for God to do. And God alone.

Jesus uses Krino in John Chapter 7:24. Jesus uses this third form of krino and he says “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." What Jesus is saying is stop using the third type of Krino, and use the first type of Krino.

Back to Matthew 7. What Jesus is talking about when He says “Don’t judge others” is about how we critique others. How we evaluate others. He is telling us that we are not to attempt to judge someone’s inner most motives, because we don’t truly know their heart. How can we, as humans, possibly know what a person is really thinking? And how many times do we judge someone and find out that we were wrong? We were wrong because although a person may have done a particular act, that “act” was just a simple action. That “act” doesn’t always “define” who that person is. We don’t always know the context of why someone does something. We don’t understand what led them to that conclusion. When Jesus is saying to not judge people, He is warning us to not to try and do God’s job. What He is saying in John 7:24, is for us to make right judgments. But that’s for us. We can judge in the sense that we can “decide” if something is right for us to do, but we are to be careful about trying to judge somebody’s motives. Again, that is God’s job according to the second sentence of John 7:24.



So what does this mean to Christians? Should we turn a blind eye to the evils of society? No. That’ isn’t what I am saying. What I am saying, is that we need to be very careful about when we judge others. First, do we know why somebody did something? If we don’t know, we should be careful about judging. A single action, does not always define a person. Sometimes, people do things completely out of character for themselves. Do we give them grace, or do we crucify them based on a single action. Second, do we have authority to judge them? Again, if we feel we have authority over someone we have already elevated ourselves above them. I feel that it is ok to judge my wife and my children. Maybe some close family and friends. But that’s about it. And I am very careful about judging them. And I only feel its ok to judge them because there is already a relationship. I know them very well and I have a lot of insight in regards to their character and personhood. I also am open to them judging me. I give them permission to judge me because I want to be accountable to be the person I should be, as a Christian.
 
I have been judged by several christians, because of things I post on facebook. I am told that I am a false teacher and too permissive in my interpretations of the Bible. I have been told that I will go to hell, because I don’t condemn sinners and those who hate God. The problem is that if you think you know me because of a couple of facebook postings, you are really missing the mark. There is so much about my character and person hood that doesn’t come out in facebook. There is so much more to me than being an outspoken christian who owns a gym.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My journey with atheists and thoughts on the modern day church

I found this article in my old stuff. I wrote it about a year ago, but I still feel the same way.


I am writing this piece as an attempt to explain some things in my life and gather support for a cause; the Jesus cause. I spent the last 6 months communicating with atheists on facebook and on forums on the Internet. I wanted to find out how they thought, why they denied the existence of a God, and why they were so hostile towards Christians. After communicating with them and listening to their stories it became very clear that if you were on the fence about a God or Jesus, that most often, it was a Christian that would push someone the wrong way. Believe it or not, most atheists I spoke to were very well versed in The Bible. In fact, I would say that more than half the atheists I spoke with, knew the Bible and it's history better than most people who claim to be a Christian. I realized that for most of them, they didn't have a problem with a mighty God as much as they had a problem with us. I say this because most of them were willing to admit that we don't have the answers to the universe, but they are confident it is not the God of The Bible. After listening to them, most of them would somehow admit that they couldn't believe stories about a God, because the people who said they believed in this God acted very much like they didn't. Of course, they are mostly seeing the churches that protest soldiers funerals and go on gay bashing protests, but what about the rest of us? Is the church body as a whole, on track with the message of Jesus? I guess that is for each person to decide as we see experiences and tell ourselves different stories about those experiences. Nonetheless, here is my take.

We are all children of the empire

Imagine the average youth group, in the average church, on the average Sunday. Imagine you came to visit my church in Bend, Oregon and visiting our youth group and having the Pastor say to you "I just can't get my kids interested in Jesus. Do you have any suggestions?"

How do you respond?

Let's start by breaking this down to what is really going on. To begin with, our church has a youth group. This is a brand new idea in church history. A luxury. Everbody in the church doesn't just meet altogether? All of the baby's adults, men, women, widows, and children aren't in the same room; but have gone to separate rooms? And there are resources for this? People and organizational structures? And a budget? Let's imagine that in this case, our youth pastor is paid a salary as most are. A church with enough resources to pay someone to oversee the students? Once again, this is brand new and almost unheard of in most of the churches in the world, and in church history; a brand new invention. This salary can be paid and this building can be built because people in the congregation have surplus. They have fed themselves and their children, bought clothes, houses, cars; and now after these expenses there is still money available. And this money is given in an act of generosity to our church, which disperses it to various places, among them, the bank account of the Pastor. In many, if not most churches in the world, immediate needs simply don't allow for such luxuries. Too many people are hungry, too many people don't have a roof, too many people are sick. So any surplus is spent immediately on the basic needs that are staring them right in the face. 

But this particular church is blessed; and we should be very clear about this. It IS a blessing.It is good. It is fortunate that this particular church doesn't have those issues. This church has enough resources to hire a Pastor, who had the resources to get training to gather these students in the student room to teach them about the way of Jesus. Many Christians around the world would simply stand in awe of THAT kind of blessing. And the students in this church, these are good kids. They are from families who just want to see their kids become good Christians. Imagine just how much is available to them. They have more at their fingertips than any generation in the history of the world. More information, more entertainment, more ideas, more ways to kill time, more options. Many of them own more than one pair of shoes. There are even some of them who have eaten at least one meal everyday of their lives. So we are talking about a minuscule minority of kids in the world.  

And so each week they gather to hear a talk from the Pastor. Their Pastor tells them about the Jesus Revolution. About Jesus resisting the system, and about the blood on the cross. And many of the first Christians getting arrested. About Jesus having dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors. About people sharing their possessions, about Jesus telling a man to selling everything he owned. About the uniqueness of their story, and the larger story of redemption. 

How do my children of the empire understand the Savior who was killed by the empire? How does my 12 year old who has never had hunger pangs for more than about an hour understand a story about a 12 year old providing fish and bread for thousands of chronically hungry people? How do my kids who are surrounded by more abundance than in any generation in the history of humanity take seriously, a messiah who said "I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor." How do they fathom that half the world is too poor to feed its kids when the church we recently left, just spent two years raising 1.2 million dollars to build a new front entrance? Families were losing jobs and homes. Marriages were failing from the economic stress and this church felt that the best use of it's resources was to build a nice new entrance to the church?! 

So we gather. We sing. We hear a talk from our Pastor. And then we all get back in the car with our families and go home. 

When we leave our church in Bend, we pass a Walmart which is across the street from the Albertson's, which is next to the Shari's, that is across the street from the Furniture Outlet.

We just listened to a message in Church about a "Jesus" who lived among the under-privileged and poor.  

Sometimes we get on the highway and get off a couple of miles down the road. There is a shopping center that has a Best Buy, and a Jamba Juice, and a Ross. A Home Depot, a Food 4 Less, and a Bed Bath and Beyond. Much like the other towns in our state and in our country. My kids all have an iPod and the music they listen to is distributed by one of five major corporations which also own the movie studios that create the movies they watch, which are also connected to the corporations that make the food they eat and the commercials they watch. Which also have significant ties to the clothes they wear and the cell phones they own and the ringtones on the cell phones. The ringtone by the artist that is signed by the record label, that is owned by the same company that owns the cell phone company and the advertising agency that announced the artist's new album. Which is owned by the same company that owns the beverage company in whose advertisement, the artist appeared, drinking that particular beverage. Singing the song that is now a ringtone on the students cell phone, that they purchased at the mall across the street from the Olive Garden, next to the home depot, on the other side of the starbucks.  

The garage door goes up. The car goes in. And the garage door goes down. 

And for most of us, that's it! That is the extent of our faith in action.

This is the revolution?!?!

This is what Jesus had in mind?

And so the youth Pastor turns to you and says again. "I just can't get my kids interested in Jesus." DO you have any suggestions?

What do you say?

How do you respond? 

I do not have the answer. This is something I have struggled with for some time now. Since I do not yet have an answer, I choose to take steps that I believe are aligned with what Jesus would have me do. I take my children to the homeless shelter every Saturday. We feed the residents food we brought and prepared, then we show them a movie. Does it make difference? Does it win souls for the kingdom? I don't know. I do it because I want my children to see that not everyone has been blessed the way we have. I do it because I hope that my children will learn to look beyond themselves and strive to help others, as they grow into adults. I do it because I want my children to be able to relate to a "Jesus" that came to preach to the poor.

My wife and I send our kids on mission trips. Does it make a difference? Aer they winning souls for the kingdom? I don't know. I just hope that by them being in poor countries and using whatever resources they have to help others, that they will learn to appreciate what they have and not become so entitled that they never help other people because they believe that everything they have is "theirs." I hope that when they return to America, the land of over indulgence, that they will use their resources to help other people.

Will my plan work? I am not sure. I can say, that I am going to do whatever I can to teach my children about the "Jesus" revolution, in spite of the fact that we live in an "empire."

I borrowed some insights from an author named Rob Bell to write this. I related everything to my own experiences and I waited to the end to share this because I know Mr. Bell raises a lot of controversy. He does not "fit in" with the modern day church as it is defined by society. He goes against what a lot of church's in our day proclaim. Funny, so did Jesus, and Paul, and John the baptist.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Should homosexuals burn in hell?

To address this question I first want to cover a Jewish concept called "binding and loosing." Jesus said "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." --Matthew 16:19; 18:18

For me, believing in the Bible is very easy. Actually applying the Bible is very tricky and sometimes quite difficult. The concept of binding and loosing was something the Jewish rabbi's did with scripture. They would sometimes lock themselves in quiet rooms for days and sometimes weeks to wrestle with interpretations of scriptures and their applications to the current day and culture. When the rabbi's would "bind" a scripture, they were declaring that after careful study and application, that scripture still held meaning for that day. If they were to "loose" a scripture, then they were declaring that although that scripture had meaning in the past, it did not have the same application or meaning that day.

Jesus gave us some examples of binding and loosing in His ministry. He binds murder to include anger.(Matt 5:22)  He binds adultery to include divorce/remarriage.(Matt 5:32) He binds/extends the commandment on loving neighbor to loving enemies. (Matt 5:44) But he looses Sabbath-keeping so that one might harvest grain by hand and even heal people.(Matt 12:12) He also looses the restrictions against idolatry by allowing tax payments to Caesar who considered himself a god. (Mark 12:17) Make no mistake, Jesus was a first century, Jewish Rabbi and He did what rabbis did—they took the law and applied it to daily practical issues of morality—loosening the grip of some rules and tightening and extending others. He never disposed of the law, but applied it to real-life through the process of binding and loosing.

Jesus said "I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven." Since that was the statement right before he discussed binding and loosing, I think we can say in context, that He was giving us permission to bind and loose the scriptures. Some (particularly Protestants) will say that Jesus was giving permission to bind and loose, only to "the Church." If we go along with this, we have to recognize that "the church" did not exist yet, in the way it does today. But even if we do accept that, which Church? The Catholic Church? The Mormon Church? The Baptists? Which doctrine gets the keys. According to wikipedia there may be as many as 38,000 Christian denominations. I have seen other authors cite as many as 130,000. So which Church do we give the authority to "bind and loose?" If we go out of context of the scripture and look at the actual concept of binding and loosing, we find that it was not done by the church, but by individual rabbi's. Each rabbi would bind and loose certain scriptures and this was called their "yoke." It was list of interpretations that the rabbi held, that he would teach his students. For instance one rabbi might say you could walk one mile on the sabbath and not violate the law. And then another rabbi would say you could walk 3 miles and not violate the sabbath. Both ideas were a part of that rabbi's teachings, or his yoke.

Now that you understand what binding and loosing is, let's see what we can do with it today. I want ot take a bold step and attempt to apply binding and loosing to homosexuality. Before you condemn me to hell for eternity, for twisting God's word to suit my own needs, please hear me out. It makes perfect sense to me, why God would forbid homosexuality 6000 years ago. In the days of Moses, the world's population was very low. And we know that the population of the Israelites was around only 1.5 million. If God wanted them to increase their population, they would not be able to be "fruitful and multiply" if they were in homosexual relationships. Since then, the population of "God's people" is estimated to be at around 2 billion people. That is one third of the population. We have defiantely been "fruitful and multiplying." We have populated the earth as God intended. So do we still need the decree that homosexuality be banned? Especially when we consider how many parts of the world are suffering from a lack of resources. If we are so over-populated in some parts of the world that there are not enough resources for everyone, should we still be being fruitful and multiplying? Is it possible that we can "loosen" the restriction on homosexuality based on what is happening in our world today?

This is the point where condemnation comes flying my way, especially from my fundamentalist brethren. Let me point out that I am not trying to "re-write" the Bible or God's word. I am simply trying to do what rabbi's have done for hundreds of years, what Jesus did, and what Jesus gave us permission to do. And even if we all decide that we cannot under any circumstances "loose" homosexuality, let me explain what I believe my "job" is, as a christian. I believe that it is my job to lovingly and gently bring them to the cross. And then leave them there, and let the Holy Spirit do, whatever He will. It is not for me to change the heart of a person. I find it to be the height of arrogance, when a christian believes that they are going to change someone's heart and bring them to God. And please consider how many homosexuals are scared to death to enter a church because of the abuse they have received from christians. Shouldn't we do everything we can to encourage them to come to Jesus, "as they are" and let Him change their hearts as He sees fit?

Please consider my words, consider the scriptures I have provided, consider your heart when you speak to someone about our Father, and consider your mission as a christian.


in His grip,

Victor

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What I think about hell.

In the Old Testament, the scriptures about hell are very vague and brief. They were usually used in poems. The commentary on what happens after a person dies isn’t very clearly defined at all. I have been looking and can’t find overly specific details. For whatever reasons, the details on who goes where, when, how, and for how long, simply weren’t things the Hebrew writers were terribly concerned about.

In the New Testament, I have found the word for “hell” used about 12 times, almost always by Jesus. I didn’t count when different writers wrote about the same instance hell was being used so you may count more, if you count every instance that it is repeated by different writers. The greek word for “hell” that gets translated into English is “Gehenna.” Gehenna was an actual valley just south of Jerusalem. It was literally, the city dump. Since it was the dump, there was always a fire going, to burn the trash. Wild animals would fight for leftover scraps of anything they could get. The poor people would often be there, scavenging for anything they could find that someone may have thrown out, that could be useful to them. Of course the poor are not happy and if you are digging through the dump, you are probably crying. You are most definitely, not living your best days. So you get a visual of a place where the fire never goes out and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The people listening to Jesus would have known exactly what He was talking about. James used “Gehenna” once when talking about the power of the tongue but all other mentions of Gehenna were from Jesus.

So, let’s go over the times Jesus uses the word Gehenna. In Matthew 5:29 He says “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” In Mathew 10 and Luke 12 he says “28 do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” In Mathew 23 he says 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” In Matthew 18 and Mark 9 he says 9 “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

And that’s it. Those are all the mentions of hell from Jesus. There are two other words that are sometimes used for hell. Tartarus and Hades. In 2 Peter chapter 2, Peter refers to the underworld. It was borrowed from Greek myth and was a place where the demigods were judged. Hades is basically the Greek version of Sheol (the Hebrew word for hell). Hades is used in Revelation 1, 6, and 20 and in Acts 2. This by the way is a quote from Psalm 16. Jesus uses Hades in Matthew 11 and Luke 10. He says “You will go down to Hades.” In Matthew 16 He says “The gates of Hades will not overcome it.” He also uses it in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.

And that concludes all mentions or likenesses of the word hell in the New Testament. Anything people have ever said about hell, they got from those few, obscure verses. For the most part, the ideas we get from hell are held over from primitive, mythic religions that used fear and punishment to control people. But obviously, we have evolved from all of those outdated beliefs, right?
Something that I find very significant is that all the mentions Jesus made of hell; he didn’t use hell to jam up the non-believers. He told the city of Capernaum; they would go to Hades, where the demigods are judged, but other than that he wasn’t overly harsh with His use of the word hell. Except with one particular group of people. There was a group of people that Jesus threatened with hell, more than once. That group was the Pharisees. The so-called religious experts of the day. The people who were convinced that when it came to heaven, they were in. It seems to me that Jesus, repeatedly informed them that they were “not” IN, and the people they were condemning, were going to be ok. I find that very significant because in today’s “church” people are usually condemning non-believers to hell. Since we don’t see Jesus ever doing that, I think Christians should be cautious in how they wield that sword. Especially since, “they” are the type of people Jesus threatened with hell. Not the non-believers.

So the next question would be, “does Victor believe in hell?” The answer is yes. I believe in hell because I see it every day. My wife and I are foster parents. We recently had a child in our home that had been sexually abused. She would stop going to the bathroom in the evening. Then when it was time for bed, she would crawl into bed and immediately pee the bed. So we started restricting her drinks in the evening. To compensate for this she would take a plastic grocery bag and pee in it throughout the day. She was saving it for bedtime. We also had a little boy who had been sexually abused. One day after he first moved in with us, he came out of the bathroom and had smeared poop on himself. I went in the bathroom and it was everywhere. This is not uncommon in foster care. There are usually about 500,000 children in foster care in America. 75% of children in the foster care system have been sexually abused in some way.

Do I believe in hell? Absolutely, I do.


In the world, there is estimated to be 2.5 million people who are stuck in the human sex industry. Most of them are women and children. Portland, Oregon is considered one of the main hubs in America for human trafficking and has the highest rate of human trafficking, per capita, of any city in America. We don’t hear about it as much in America because our leaders want us to feel like we are “safe” and don’t want to admit that something as horrific and disgusting as human trafficking, occurs as often as it does in America. Organizations like Operation Ransom work to fight against human trafficking and have rescued over 87,000 women and children since they were created.  

Do I believe in hell? Absolutely, I do.

I believe in “two” hells. There is the hell on earth that if you are willing to look at, you can easily find. We know this hell exists and we can support it with videos, eye witness testimony, police records, and real concrete data. Then there is the hell that exists after we die. This hell, we know very little about. We have no eye witness testimonies, no scientific data, no records of any sort that give any specific details on exactly what takes place or what happens, or long it lasts. As a Christian, I choose to focus on the hells on earth. The hells I can see, touch, experience, prove, and identify with.
An observation that I have made in the Christian community is that the people that focus on the “hells’ on earth now, don’t usually pay too much mind to the “hells” after we die. They seem to be so occupied with helping real people, in real danger, today, that they just don’t seem to have the energy to compare, criticize, and critique how other people live their lives. On the other hand, the people I see that have a condemning and judgmental view of who will be in hell after this life, don’t really get involved in the “hells” that occur on this earth.

But again, that’s just my observations.


So, what will you do, now? Will you focus on the "hells" later or the "hells" now? At the very least, hopefully, you will choose both, if you are a christian. If you are not a christian, I am certain you can agree with me at least in regards to the hells on earth we see everyday. If you are interested in being a foster parent, send me a message. I can help and guide you. If you want to help fight against the human trafficking industry go to the operation ransom website and help. You can also come to my gym and buy some of their retail. We do not keep any of the money. It all goes back to supporting their mission.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Understanding what Jesus said about divorce

This past Sunday, my Pastor preached on family and for about 10 minutes, he discussed divorce. He was talking about abuse in the marriage and he said "you need to protect yourself above all else." Then he went on to say that you should seperate for awhile, but do everything possible to not divorce. Then he left it at that and moved on. I was thinking to myself "how long should one stay seperated for?" I have known several women in abusive marriages and as christians we should always try to save the marriage but what if the man is unrelelnting? How long should a woman stay seperated? I couldn't stop thinking about this and I ended up not paying attention to the rest of the service. I kept wondering if Jesus expected women to stay in an abusive marriage. So I went to the internet to do some further study and her eis what I found, and what I think.

“Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. But anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “ Deuteronomy 24 gave us some of the earliest records of divorce. In Matthew 5: 32 Jesus said “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
How many people have had this verse quoted to them in a way that caused them pain?
Is it possible that there is more about what Jesus was saying about divorce than what we find in the scriptures?  Maybe there is more to what it means to Jesus’ followers in the year 2012?
Divorce in the greek is apoluo. It means to loose, or unbind from, to send away. The roots are not in a “mutual” parting but in “one” unbinding, loosing, or sending another away. In that day, it was always the man who divorced his wife. I know it’s not right, but it was 3000 to 4000 years ago.
When Jesus used divorce, there was a huge debate going around the rabbis of His time. The debate was in regards to the verse in Deuteronomy 24:5. But that passage was based on a culture that had conditions, that were not in the same context as Jesus day. First of all, 3000-4000 years ago in the middle east, a wife was treated like a piece of property. The husband could get rid of her at any time, for any reason. If the wife was sent away, she would have no rights, no protection, no dignity, and no provisions. She literally had nothing. She was a “sent away” woman in a primitive and barbaric world where she had no way to provide for herself. So unfortunately, when most women were sent away they ended up being prostitutes.
Now, here comes the book of Deuteronomy. Here comes Moses. Moses never condoned divorce. He never said it was a good thing. He only acknowledged the reality of divorce. So Moses said that men must give their wives a certificate of divorce if they sent their wife away. (Deut 24) I want to point out two things about this “new” concept of giving the woman a certificate of divorce. The first thing, is that if a man had to go through the hassle of acquiring the materials for, writing out, and proclaiming the certificate, that maybe he would reconsider. Remember writing materials were quite expensive and not always readily available like they are today. The second thing it did, was it “restored” the virtue, the dignity, and honor of the woman, in a culture in which she would normally have none of. Now, I know a lot of my friends will say “Yes, that’s great but it is still barbaric and horrible.” I would agree. However, it was a huge step in that place, in that time, for women’s rights. For today’s standards in 2012 that would still be a terrible way to treat women. But in the days of Deuteronomy it was a very radical, empowering, pro-woman legislation, that was a progressive and revolutionary step forward. She was no longer just a cast off of society. She now had a legal “right”, she had dignity and honor like she did before.
Now, let’s go forward to Jesus’ day. Right before the “Jesus” movement, there were two great rabbis that stood out from the others. They were the “Lady Gaga” of their time, if you will. One of the rabbis name was hillel. The other was Shammai. These two rabbis dominated the scene in regards to how you were supposed to follow God. These guys were so huge that they each had their own schools of teaching. Hillel usually was a little more liberal or permissive in his views on scripture. Shammai, on the other hand was a little more restrictive. You could say that he was a little more on the conservative side of the scriptures. These two rabbis had different interpretations of Deuteronomy 24. This was very common in that day. In fact, a the way a rabbi interpreted the scriptures was called his “yoke.” Verse 24 says that a man can write a certificate of divorce if his wife becomes displeasing to him. So the next question would be, “What exactly is ‘displeasing’ mean?” The phrase “indecent” was translated from the word ervah dabar which means “nakedness of a thing.” That is what the phrase indecent really meant. So, the discussion was what was “nakedness of a thing” all about? Shammai focused on the “nakedness”  and Hillel focused on the “of a thing” part. So Shammai stated that a man could not divorce his wife unless he found out she was having an affair, because he has found in her, indecency in a matter. But Hillel said that he may divorce her, even if she burns his food, because he has found in her, indecency, in a matter. Normally, Shamai was less permissive, but not in the case of divorce.
First of all, some of you, who have been through a divorce, and some Christian beat you over the head with Matthew 5: 31,32. They might have told you that you were not following God’s will for your life. But if they didn’t explain the entire context of the debate that was happening in that culture, at that time, in which Jesus was speaking to, they could have hurt you. And even though they were “using” the scriptures to correct you, they were “wielding” that sword very inappropriately. When Jesus used the word divorce, he was going into one of the most controversial subjects of debate, of his day.
The question of divorce is “Who is Jesus going to side with?” Hillel or Shammai? Sometimes people think that Jesus just made everything up because He was God. This goes hand in hand with the notion that God just defies science to make things happen, as opposed to just using a higher level of science that we don’t understand. Jesus didn’t just make this stuff up. He was a first century, Jewish rabbi, who lived within a particular time and culture. When Jesus used the word divorce, He was going with the interpretations of Shammai. Jesus said that a man can send her away if she has committed adultery. But if she hasn’t then he cannot. And if he does, he must properly give her a certificate. Which means he must honor and giver dignity in the process. He is not allowed, at any point, treat her like a piece of property. You do NOT send a woman away because she burnt your eggs.
So in regards to Jesus and His position on divorce, He is saying “You don’t treat a woman like that.” Hillel is too rigid on this one. Shammai at least gives the woman her dignity.
For thousands of years, people throughout history have wrestled with the ugliness, complexity, and despair of divorce.
Paul states that if a non believer lives with a believer And the non believer leaves, the believer can let them go. So he expands on what Jesus was saying. But he didn’t stop there. He kept going. We went on to say “because God has called us to live in peace.”

I think that is huge. Paul isn’t just adding “one more” justified reason for divorce. If that was the case, he wouldn’t have gone on to talk about living in peace. That opens up a much bigger “grounds” for divorce. So, I think a valid question can be asked. That question is “Is there hope for peace in this marriage?”
Let me say that as a Christian, I think we should always seek to reconcile. No matter what the circumstances, I think we should always try to save the marriage. But that takes two. What if the other person is unwilling? What if the abuse continues? What if the abuser refuses to stop the abuse? Some would say that there should just be a time of separation. OK, but for how long? 6 months? 1 year? 3 years? How long does a person have to stay separated in “limbo” waiting for the other person to come around? Is that an example of living in peace? I don’t think it is. Is there a point, when staying together is actually more destructive to the peace in the family? Because God calls us to live in peace.
Are there some marriages, that maybe they just have too much junk, too much hurt, too much disappointment? And while we as Christians believe in healing, we believe in miracles, we believe in the power of God to change hearts, we believe that some things can be raised from the dead, perhaps sometimes, things DO die.
Let me again be very clear. We should always be about fidelity, reconciliation, honoring the vows, the commitment, as far as it is possible.
My wife and I own a gym together and we have a couple thousand members. Most of these members become friends with us. We do things with them, we get to know their family. I have seen couples be together, and there was never peace. There was constant strife, arguing, pitting the kids against the other spouse, etc. Then they got a divorce. We were sad for them. But then, sometimes, both of them re-married. They had both created warm and loving marriages the second time around. There was finally “peace.” Are we to assume that God wasn’t pleased with this? I don’t think so.
We should always be first and foremost, interested in reconciliation and recovery for the marriage. But then, we add to that, “peace.” As much as it is possible. So live with the profound respect for the sanctity of marriage and at the same time, with the reality and the honesty that sometimes, things just die and you have to call it what it is.
The implications of this can definitely go on, but I try not to have articles become too long or involved so I don’t lose the reader. In addition to that, the longer my articles are, the more chances for grammar errors I have. J
I want to end with this final point. I have seen several “well meaning” Christians wound people with scriptures like Matthew Chapter 5. But as I stated earlier, without full knowledge of the teachings of Hillel and Shamai, they would be missing over half of the context. It is very difficult for us to sometimes have a full understanding of the details of some of the scriptures. As Christians, should we not be careful and guarded with “our” interpretations of the scriptures? Because after all, they are just “our” interpretations, right?
Please look for my next blog which will cover my thoughts on this idea. “With over 130,000 different Christian doctrines, how do we know which ones are the correct interpretations of God’s will?”
As always, thanks for reading, 

Victor

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My son told me he doesn't think he is a christian anymore

Last year my oldest son decided he wanted to go on a foreign exchange trip to Finland. Finland is a very secular country, as they have very few churches compared to America. In addition, his host families weren't religious so going to church was very difficult for him. Over the course of the last year, I have noticed that he was talking less and less about God. So today, I was talking to him on facebook and decided to ask him how his faith was doing. Here was our conversation.

My son: Ehhh, I have to be honest, I don't really consider myself a Christian anymore.

Me: Why?

My son: I began to question my faith like you said, because blind faith is no faith at all. And I realized that all of my reasons for believing were based off of you. I don't have any reason of my own to believe.

Me: What are you going to tell mom? So I guess you aren't worried about me getting mad at you? Since you are telling me.

My son: I don't know, I was just gonna keep it to myself and try to get a Sunday shift at the duck store so I wouldn't have to go to church. Well I'd hope that you'd be accepting and understanding and try to teach me, or teach me to teach myself before you got mad at me. I feel like I can trust you with anything and I want to have a relationship with you where I can tell you anything.

Me: Son, I am not mad at you. I don't know exactly what happens when we die. I believe that God puts everyone right where He wants them. If He wants you to be a christian, you will be a christian. If He wants you to be an agnostic or atheist, guess what? You will be an atheist or agnostic.
One thing is for sure. Our time on this earth is short. You are my oldest son and mean more to me than you will ever know and I am not going to waste a single second, being angry with you for what you believe. I have always taught you to think for yourself and "question" everything you hear. How could I condemn you now, just because you came to a different conclusion than me. That would make me a huge hypocrite.
I love you very much now. And I always will. You will always be my son. I will always be your father. And I will always love you.
 
He had to go, so that was the end of the discussion. I am sure we will have more. I will admit, that at first, my heart started to beat a little faster. I initially felt a little fear about what might happen to my son. But then, I remembered everything I have been researching and writing about. Do I think God will torture my son in hell, forever? No. Not at all. The Bible says that God loves my son more than I do. If that is true, then He would never do that to my son.
 
I am not sure exactly what I am going to do at this point. However, I can tell you what I am NOT going to do.
 
I am NOT going to let him feel, for one second, that I love him any less.
 
I am NOT going to judge him or make him feel condemned in any way.
 
I am NOT going try to "pressure" him to come back to his faith. I have always taught my children to question everything.
 
I am NOT going to let a single "well meaning" christian try to scare him back into his faith. If his faith was ever genuine, it will come back stronger than it ever was.
 
The only thing I am confident I will do, is maintain my relationship with my son where he feels that I love him unconditionally, and he can talk to me about anything.
 
And of course, I will pray for his wisdom and guidance through life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's wrong with christians these days?

I am writing this piece as an attempt to explain some things in my life and gather support for a cause; the Jesus cause. I spent the last 11 months communicating with atheists on facebook and on forums on the internet. I wanted to find out how they thought, why they denied the existance of a God, and why they were so hostile towards Christians. After communicating with them and listening to their stories it became very clear that if you were on the fence about a God or Jesus, that most often, it was a Christian that would push someone the wrong way. Believe it or not, most atheists I spoke to were very well versed in The Bible. In fact, I would say that more thasn half the atheists I spoke with, knew the Bible and it's history better than most people who claim to be a Christian. I realized that for several of them, they didn't have a problem with a mighty God as much as they had a problem with us. I say this because most of them were willing to admit that we don't have the answers to the universe, but they are confident it is not the God of The Bible. After listening to them, most of them would somehow admit that they couldn't believe stories about a God, because the people who said they believed in this God acted very much like they didn't. Of course, they are mostly seeing the churches that protest soldiers funerals and go on gay bashing protests, but what about the rest of us? Is the church body as a whole, on track with the message of Jesus? I guess that is for each person to decide as we see experiences and tell ourselves different stories about those experiences. Nonetheless, here is my take.

We are all children of the empire

Imagine the average youth group, in the average church, on the average Sunday. Imagine you came to visit my church in Bend, Oregon and visiting our youth group and having the Pastor say to you "I just can't get my kids interested in Jesus. Do you have any suggestions?"

How do you respond?

Let's start by breaking this down to what is really going on. To begin with, our church has a youth group. This is a brand new idea in church history. A luxury. Everybody in the church doesn't just meet altogether? All of the baby's adults, men, women, widows, and children aren't in the same room; but have gone to separate rooms? And there are resources for this? People and organizational structures? And a budget? Let's imagine that in this case, our youth pastor is paid a salary as most are. A church with enough resources to pay someone to oversee the students? Once again, this is brand new and almost unheard of in most of the churches in the world, and in church history; a brand new invention. This salary can be paid and this building can be built because people in the congregation have surplus. They have fed themselves and their children, bought clothes, houses, cars; and now after these expenses there is still money available. And this money is given in an act of generosity to our church, which disperses it to various places, among them, the bank account of the Pastor. In many, if not most churches in the world, immediate needs simply don't allow for such luxuries. Too many people are hungry, too many people don't have a roof, too many people are sick. So any surplus is spent immediately on the basic needs that are staring them right in the face.

But this particular church is blessed; and we should be very clear about this. It IS a blessing. It is good. It is fortunate that this particular church doesn't have those issues. This church has enough resources to hire a Pastor, who had the resources to get training to gather these students in the student room to teach them about the way of Jesus. Many Christians around the world would simply stand in awe of THAT kind of blessing. And the students in this church, these are good kids. They are from families who just want to see their kids become good Christians. Imagine just how much is available to them. They have more at their fingertips than any generation in the history of the world. More information, more entertainment, more ideas, more ways to kill time, more options. Many of them own more than one pair of shoes. There are even some of them who have eaten at least one meal everyday of their lives. So we are talking about a miniscule minority of kids in the world.

And so each week they gather to hear a talk from the Pastor. Their Pastor tells them about the Jesus Revolution. About Jesus resisting the system, and about the blood on the cross. And many of the first Christians getting arrested. About Jesus having dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors. About people sharing their possessions, about Jesus telling a man to selling everything he owned. About the uniqueness of their story, and the larger story of redemption.

How do my children of the empire understand the Savior who was killed by the empire? How does my 12 year old who has never had hunger pangs for more than about an hour understand a story about a 12 year old providing fish and bread for thousands of chronically hungry people? How do my kids who are surrounded by more abundance than in any generation in the history of humanity take seriously, a messiah who said "I have been anointed to preach good news to the poor." How do they fathom that half the world is too poor to feed its kids when the church we recently left, just spent two years raising 1.2 million dollars to build a new front entrance? Families were losing jobs and homes. Marriages were failing from the economic stress and this church felt that the best use of it's resources was to build a nice new entrance to the church?!

 So we gather. We sing. We hear a talk from our Pastor. And then we all get back in the car with our families and go home.

When we leave our church in Bend, we pass a Walmart which is across the street from the Albertson's, which is next to the Shari's, that is across the street from the Furniture Outlet.

We just listened to a message in Church about a "Jesus" who lived among the under-privileged and poor.
I just don't think that as Jesus was dying on the cross He
 thought to Himself  "It's ok that I am dying, because one
day they will have huge, million dollar facilities and
wonderful multi media presentations every Sunday." 

Sometimes we get on the highway and get off a couple of miles down the road. There is a shopping center that has a Best Buy, and a Jamba Juice, and a Ross. A Home Depot, a Food 4 Less, and a Bed Bath and Beyond. Much like the other towns in our state and in our country. My kids all have an iPod and the music they listen to is distributed by one of five major corporations which also own the movie studios that create the movies they watch, which are also connected to the corporations that make the food they eat and the commercials they watch. Which also have significant ties to the clothes they wear and the cell phones they own and the ringtones on the cell phones. The ringtone by the artists that is signed by the record label, that is owned by the same company that owns the cell phone company and the advertising agency that announced the artist's new album. Which is owned by the same company that owns the beverage company in whose advertisement, the artist appeared, drinking that particular beverage. Singing the song that is now a ringtone on the students cell phone, that they purchased at the mall across the street from the Olive Garden, next to the home depot, on the other side of the starbucks.

The garage door goes up. The car goes in. And the garage door goes down.

And for most of us, that's it! That is the extent of our faith in action.

This is the revolution?!?!

This is what Jesus had in mind?

And so the youth Pastor turns to you and says again. "I just can't get my kids interested in Jesus." DO you have any suggestions?

What do you say?

How do you respond?

I do not have the answer. This is something I have struggled with for some time now. Since I do not yet have an answer, I choose to take steps that I believe are aligned with what Jesus would have me do. I take my children to the homeless shelter every Saturday. We feed the residents food we brought and prepared, then we show them a movie. Does it make difference? Does it win souls for the kingdom? I don't know. I do it because I want my children to see that not everyone has been blessed the way we have. I do it because I hope that my children will learn to look beyond themselves and strive to help others, as they grow into adults. I do it because I want my children to be able to relate to a "Jesus" that came to preach to the poor.

 My wife and I send our kids on mission trips. Does it make a difference? Are they winning souls for the kingdom? I don't know. I just hope that by them being in poor countries and using whatever resources they have to help others, that they will learn to appreciate what they have and not become so entitled that they never help other people because they believe that everything they have is "theirs." I hope that when they return to America, the land of over indulgence, that they will use their resources to help other people.

Will my plan work? I am not sure. I can say, that I am going to do whatever I can to teach my children about the "Jesus" revolution, in spite of the fact that we live in an "empire."

I borrowed some insights from an author named Rob Bell to write this. I related everything to my own experiences and I waited to the end to share this because I know Mr. Bell raises a lot of controversy. He does not "fit in" with the modern day church as it is defined by society. He goes against what a lot of church's in our day proclaim. Funny, so did Jesus, and Paul, and John the baptist.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kicked out of my atheist group :(

Last night I received this letter from the atheist club I was a member of. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.


Hello Victor,

I have been asked by several (actually more than several)  Atheists members to ask you to please not attend any further group meetup events.  The reason for this is not anything personal against you, but  because this is a meetup group for atheists and freethinkers to meet and chat and feel comfortable.  This is the only place in Central Oregon for atheists and freethinkers to meet and socialize, whereas there are tens, probably hundreds of churches for religious people to meet each other and socialize.   They feel uncomfortable by your presence, and by the fact they are aware you write about your experiences with the group.  They know that your primary purpose for attending is to obtain material for your blog, and to witness to us.  You have even said you do not care about what we say or think.   They have asked me this over quite a long period of time, and I do not want to ignore their wishes any longer.  The responsibility of the leadership of this meetup is to the members; the atheists, freethinkers, agnostics.,  and their needs and wishes.   I would not want to see any member stop attending our meetups.  Again, please do not take this personally, as it is not intended as such.  

Thank you, 

Betty

COA co-organizer



My response:

Dear Betty,

I completely understand that some people may feel uncomfortable with my presence at the meetings. In my time with our group I have learned the abuses and the hurt, that several people have been through at the hands of "christians." And although I will absolutely honor the groups wishes I would like to make some parting comments to some of the statements you made.

Yes it is true that I wrote articles for my blogs about my experiences with your group. A couple of members read my blogs and enjoyed their message. All of my blogs were messages to the christian community about being more open minded towards atheists. From my experiences with the group I stood in front of my entire church congregation and told them why we don't need "In God we trust" on our money and the 10 commandments on our public buildings. I explained my experiences and told them how many things we had been wrong about. I encouraged everyone at my church to be willing to "get to know" atheists before judging them, as I had done in the past. For all intent purposes, I was on "your" side. I was trying to change the minds of my christian friends and encouraged them to be more open minded. The members of the group that read my blogs saw this intention, and they appreciated it. Some of them commented on my facebook pages, and some commented directly on the blog their appreciation and encouraged me to continue.

In regards to the comment that I have said that I don't care what you say or think, that is simply not true. That was a night when Ben was describing the abuse he endured as a child at the hands of religion. He was describing how religion was forced down his throat and his childhood was ruined because of it. Then he turned to me and asked if I wanted to hear the details of his deconversion from christinaity. I told him no. He was clearly "taken back" by what I said and said "What? What do you mean you don't want to hear it? I can't believe you would say that?" I thought I had explained that the reason christians want to hear his story is because they have hopes of finding "something" in the story that they can use to try to convince him to come back to the faith. I told him I had no interest in "converting" him back to the faith and therefore, I didn't need to hear the details of his story. He was already clearly upset by the parts of his story that he already told, and I felt that he would only get more upset as he went into the details. I never said "I don't care what anyone says or thinks." If I didn't care how the group felt, then I wouldn't waste my time coming to the meetings in the first place.

I never spoke about God, Jesus, or the Bible, unless I was asked specific questions. And I was careful to never speak in a tone or even a suggestion of why anyone needs to accept Jesus, or God's redeeming love. I was always respectful of everyone. Even when I was ridiculed and made fun of by one of the members, I never retaliated or struck back. I tried to only attend meetings once a month to once every other month. The group description says that occasional visits from religious people are ok. You may want to consider re-wording that or taking it out altogether.

I am not angry or upset but I feel that the group wants to isolate itself, and alienate people who don't think like they do. That is something the group has accused the christian community of doing and should be considered. I am not saying that is wrong to do, but perhaps the group description should reflect that. And "freethinkers" usually come from the premise of being open minded and tolerant of others beliefs, or lack of beliefs.

I sincerely apologize for making people in the group feel uncomfortable as it was not my intention. 

Victor 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Evolution and the Bible........together?

In my late night studies of the Bible, it has been made aware to me that perhaps the Bible gives some indication of some sort of "evolution."

In Genesis 1:21 it says "So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good."

Then in Genesis 1:25 it says "God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good."

The main thing I noticed was the word "created" being used in Genesis 1:21 and "made" being used in 1:25. It may not seem like a big deal but those two words have completely different implications. Let me give you an example. Today, my wife "made" a loaf of bread for our family. She didn't "create" a loaf of bread, she "made" it. What that implies, is that she didn't "create" something from nothing. She took flour, water, salt, oil, and sugar(don't worry it was only a teaspoon of organic cane sugar) and she "made" a loaf of bread. She took different parts of food items and combined them into something completely different that has little to no resemblance of what it was two hours before she started.

We do not find ANYTHING in the text of the Bible to suggest that God made each individual species separately. That came from "the church" not the The Bible.

Now, I want to make this very clear. I am not saying that I prescribe to evolution. I haven't studied it long enough, but as I study it, it is raising questions about things that are considered "heresy" based on organized religion, "not" The Bible. So, at this point I am just trying to answer what I consider to be valid questions. I do not believe everything about evolution. Which is ok, because I don't believe everything I hear in church either. :)

I guess at the end of the day, I am just suggesting that on this huge ball of mass called earth, that there is enough room for the ideas of the bible to exist peacefully with the ideas of evolution.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Justify your God!!!!!!!!

That was asked of me by one of my atheist buddies at my last atheist meeting. My response was “Why do you care?”

She said, Well if you’re going to believe in something so strongly, you have to have proof to support that belief, don’t you think? I told her that I didn’t agree with her, since “proof” is in the eye of the beholder. Two police men can walk into the same exact murder scene. One says it was a murder, the other says it was suicide. How can that be? They both have the same evidence to look at, shouldn’t they both come to the same exact conclusion since they are examining the same crime scene? No, because “evidence” is in the eye of the beholder. The way a person interprets evidence is in context to the amount of study a person puts into the field the evidence falls in. For example, if a person wants to discredit the Bible, I would ask them if they speak ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic languages. I would also ask how much Judaism they have studied. If you haven’t studied any of these, how can you possibly hope to completely understand a book that was written over the course of 4,000 years, 2,000 years ago, by 44 different authors, groups of people that lived in a culture we could not possibly hope to understand? For starters, you have air conditioning. How can you possibly relate to a group of people living in the desert with no air conditioning? How can you possibly relate to a Jesus, who said I have come to feed the poor, when you have never experienced real hunger pains? By the way, “real” hunger doesn’t begin until you have been denied food for about 14 hours. The hunger you feel when you know you just ate 4-6 hours ago is the entitlement you experience because you want food all the time. (It’s true, look it up)

When you try to apply science to faith, it doesn’t work because science is based on facts and evidence. Well, things we considered to be facts 150 years ago, have since been found to be wrong based on learning new things. So, some of the things we know to be “facts” today, may not be facts 150 years from now as we continue to learn.

So, then she said, what about all the bad stuff in the Bible? I said, well, there is a lot of things I don’t understand about the Bible and a lot of things I don’t like. I asked her if she loved her husband and of course she said yes. Then I said, does he ever do anything bad? Maybe, lose his temper? Maybe not always treat you the way you want to be treated? She said of course. I told her that by the same logic she wants me to condemn God for, she should also condemn her husband. I said, I cant explain everything in the Bible. NOBODY can. I have to believe that God wanted it that way, otherwise, the Bible would have just been a small tri fold brochure with some simple rules for getting to heaven.

You may not like the comparison or even agree with it and that is ok. I don’t believe I need to understand everything about the Bible to believe in God. And even if God did some things that “I” wouldn’t do, or you wouldn’t do, doesn’t mean there isn’t a God. It just means we aren’t Him. As time goes on, perhaps we will gain more of an understanding of the will of God. Or maybe we won’t. But just because I read stories about bad things happening in the Bible, doesn’t mean I think it’s ok for me to do bad things in God’s name. And that should be the important part. If God ordered a city to be destroyed, well, I don’t understand it and may not even agree with it, but I don’t think it is permission for Christians to hurt people in God’s name.

So, I am not going to justify my God. I am not going to “prove” to you, why He is real. And you should never expect me to, unless I start trying to convince you, why you need to believe in Him. Then you can feel free to ask me to prove my God to you. And in the same respect, I won’t demand that you prove with empirical evidence that you really love your family.

Fair enough?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How I would eliminate Atheism forever!

In order to eliminate atheism for good, I would have to fix all that is wrong with christianity. I think that if christians did "only" what Jesus did, that there would be a lot less outspoken and angry atheists. As I read the Bible, I don't see Jesus preaching a message of judgement and condemnation. I see Jesus helping people and telling others to help people. I see Jesus showing God's love to people. In fact, the only time I see Jesus speaking harsh at all, was when He was criticizing the pharisees. They were so convinced that they had "earned" their way to heaven and Jesus warned them that they were in danger of God's wrath. He even went as far as to tell them that, not only were they not getting into heaven, but those they had deemed unworthy of heaven "would" be in heaven.

Anyway, I want to take an atheist argument about atheism and turn it around on christians. Atheists have told me that atheism is NOT a belief. They state that "not" playing checkers isn't a belief, so atheism isn't either. I decided to take it a step further and ask the question "why isn't NOT playing a checkers a belief?" And I think it has to do with the attitude of the people who DO play checkers rather than those who don't. Let me explain.

In checkers you have rules. In checkers there are certain ways that you do things and certain ways you don't. People who play checkers are sometimes very passionate and enthusiastic about playing checkers. They have big tournaments with prizes, and they are a real big deal to these "checkers players." But people who play checkers don't criticize other people who play checkers. There are several different versions of checkers and people don't go around saying that their version of checkers is the "right" one and everyone else is wrong. Checkers players don't make fun of chess players and proclaim that chess players are wrong. As I stated earlier, checkers players have rules that they play by, but they don't freak out if someone doesn't like their rules. They just choose to not play with them. Checkers players don't run for political office and then try to force other people to play checkers; by "their" rules. Checkers players don't try to pass laws based on their rules and belief that checkers is fun. They don't try to force people to play checkers, who don't want to play checkers.

But what if they did? What if people who played checkers did all the things I listed above? I can assure you that people would rise up against them. People who didn't want to play checkers would proclaim their right to "not" play checkers and not be judged for it. These people would most likely organize themselves and look for political attention to create awareness of their persecution. They would write blogs about it being ok, to not like checkers. They would proclaim that not everybody wants to play checkers and they have the right to decide that for themselves. They might even create a logo for themselves, and before you know it, they would have a "movement" going. A movement that was fighting for the rights and freedom to NOT play checkers.

Of course, I am painting a ridiculous and exaggerated comparison. But am I? What if christians never did the things that I talked about checkers players doing? What if all christians were known for, was helping people in need. What if christians never preached about how bad people were, or how they were "sinners" and needed to repent so they didn't spend forever in hell? Why can't christians do that? Jesus didn't come with a message of hell, fire, and brimstone. He talked about heaven. He talked about His Father. He talked about forgiving your enemy. Don't get me wrong, He talked about the dangers of sin. He talked about being a good person. And I don't think atheists have a problem with that message. They would agree that we need to be good people. They would agree that there are consequences for being bad. What I never saw Jesus do, was point out to someone how bad they were. How they were a "sinner" who needed to change their wicked ways or they would spend eternity in hell.

Except........

He did speak like that on about 3 occasions. He spoke like that to the pharisees. The so called "religious experts." The one's who proclaimed that "they" had it all figured out. Jesus very clearly informed them, that they absolutely did NOT have it figured out.

I am not saying that we don't have to be saved from our sins because we do. We all do things that are wrong, from time to time. But that is not the point of heaven. God is not about "avoiding" hell. He is about having a relationship with. When I converted to christianity, it wasn't because someone told me what a horrible sinner I was. Someone took the time to share God with me. And that message was about love, mercy, and grace. Had he sat me down and told me about my sin, and how wicked I was, I probably would have walked away and would still be an atheist today. Or at the very least, a strong agnostic. But I was lucky. Someone who cared about me, taught me about mercy and grace and the rest grew from that perspective.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A good atheist/christian conversation

Below, is a conversation that took place between and an atheist on Facebook and me. I changed his name to Jay so my christian friends don't try to track him down. :-) 


I think it is important to point out, that although neither one of us changed our position, we had a good conversation without slinging insults and without getting personal. This is the goal of my blogging. To show more examples of how atheists and christians can completely disagree on a topic and still be civil to each other. He is still an atheist (he even has the atheist logo tattooed over his heart) and I am still a christian, but we get along. 


The conversation was based on my last blog about "Is God really a jealous God?" This was Jay's comment:




Jay: if that was the case. that he is a jealous God, which he is, and your explanation makes some sense. Then why is the "devil" so well behaved? Isn't jealousy one of the seven deadly sins? let me explain my point further. Why is the devil a perfect gentleman, never talking back, never explaining why he does something, never complaining. But one time... he challenges god (bets him). But thats it. for a guy that constantly gets the short end of the stick. He never tries to explain his side of the story, or complains, etc. like the christian God does. Not even close! If you ask me God is an awfully whiny, jealous, unfair, hypocritical, narcissist and most definitely needs to learn some gentleman's manners from satan. 


for those of you besides Victor reading this.. I'm not a satan worshipper. just playing the devils advocate. 
^_^ Pun intended. Nor do I hate your God.... wait. yes I do. I hate the idea of "that" God.




Me: Everyone reading this: Jay totally worships satan, don't let him fool you. He even has a goat head mask. Ive seen it.




Me: but to answer your question, Jay most of what you said about the devil comes from "man," not what the Bible says. The Bible is very vague about Satan. other than he tried to overthrow God, which is quite a big deal, but doesn't necessarily live up to the hype of his evil that "men" have attributed him to.




Jay: good point but why wouldn't god give him a fair trial? why not let him says his peace while he blames everything on him? and are some of Gods traits the same as he tells you not to have, or becareful of?




Me: We don't know what happened exactly, when satan was expelled from heaven. The Bible doesn't say. And I don't try to put myself on the same plane of thinking as God. I don't have a true concept of infinity like He does. Without a true understanding of infinity, it is difficult to make sense of the "here and now" when the "here and now" is all we know.




Jay: hmmm yes but then why the human traits if hes an all knowing God and why the pathetic jealousy and narcissism. I know your answer to this is what you just said. but it doesn't satisfy my reasoning. :)




Me: well I didn't write it to satisfy your reasoning. I wrote it because I was asked a question. Besides when have you ever known me to try and convert you or get you to see things my religous way. I am just trying to get christians and atheists to quit fighting, and focus on real problems that they can actually solve if they worked together. 

I think whether you agree with my reasoning or not, you can still find it valid and appreciate where I am coming from, in a subjective manner.




Jay: yup i can.



Me: and see? That is how a christian and an atheist can agree to disagree and coexist. Now we can stop talking about religion and focus on how we are going to get our country back from greedy politicians 
and bankers.



Now, I know some people will say "that's great, I wish their could be more talks like that too. But the christians are too intent to try to tell everyone how to live their lives."

That statement is completely false. I don't know any christians who try to tell people how to live. I hear about a couple of churches that try to, but I don't listen to them, just like atheists don't listen to them. Some will say that politicians are always making laws with religious content and I want you to know, I will vote against them every time I see them on the ballot. Those aren't christians trying to tell you what to do, they are politicians trying to tell you what to do. And ALL politicians try to tell us how we should live our lives. They are doing what they do because they are politicians trying to appeal to certain special interest groups, not because they are christians. And don't even try to play the "well they do these things in the name of God" card, or I will pull out how many white supremacist groups do what they do in the name "preserving the true American way." You don't want me comparing you to nazi skinheads do you? They claim to be true American Patriots. You really think it's fair to "generalize" a group, based on what a small percentage of them do? Whether they have power or not, they don't get to speak for the entire group. And like I said, instead of arguing with me, why not join me in taking them down? Work with christians like me who don't want religion in politics. We are both fighting the same things but from different angles. 



How powerful of a message would it be, if atheists and christians worked together on eliminating the same things they despised about "religion?" It can be done my friends. Indeed, it can.