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, 


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. 


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.


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.