Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Nation

Today at Unreasonable Faith Vorjack asked which Christian Principles created the foundation for this nation. American history is pretty messy even if we only like to focus on the high points in history class. I mean the slaves were eventually freed and women were granted the right to vote, but why did it take so long and why were these even in issue to begin with in a Christian nation?

This video is mostly about the War on Christmas but throws in the argument that anyone other than Christians have no reason to put up displays in a public square because a) America was founded by Christians (not Buddhist or Atheist) and b) we should not disrupt the tradition of displaying our faith publicly on a Christian holiday. Anyone attempting to modify or even stop tradition is in effect declaring war on Christianity. Even though this so called War on Christmas happens EVERY YEAR Christianity is still the dominate voice in America. I'm fine with people celebrating Christmas, and even as an Agnostic we even display a miniature nativity scene set in our home. Celebrate Christmas however you like. What I think these other groups are trying to get across is a bit of acknowledgement that they exist during the one time of the year we feel it's more acceptable to show off your faith. Maybe if some (not all) Christians weren't so aggressive with their exclusivity other groups wouldn't feel the need to be noticed. With faith being such a major part in many people's lives acknowledging their faith exists translates into an acknowledgement of their own existence. This is why I don't aggressively attack the beliefs of any group because I know for many it is felt as an attack on their own identity. I may have my beliefs but these are my own views, and just because I hold them doesn't mean I'm against anything or anyone. What I support is discovery, exploration, and growth not only of our universe but our fellow man.

However you may feel or believe about Christmas and Christianity the Nativity is at the very least a story of hope during dark and troubled times. It is a story about something new coming into this world to transform the world for the better. I celebrate Christmas (as well as the birth of Christ) by internalizing that hope and meditating on how I can change the world for the better. That is the true spirit of Christmas to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Super Best Friends, Go!

I love it when stories like this come out, especially around the holidays, err I mean CHRISTmas/ New Year days. CBN reported last week that Christians and Muslims in Glasgow, Scotland are teaming up Super Best Friends style to fight off the gays.

Of course I highly doubt that this alliance will continue past whatever outcome the government comes up with over the issue of same sex marriage but I just love the fact that CBN reported on this story. Yes, the same CBN which reported in August of 2010 (and I'm sure many more times since then) that Islam is taking over America with their Mega Mosques. What tickles me is how much they point out that this is an unusual/unlikely partnership. Is homosexuality so dangerous, so "evil" that it inspires enemies to join together to stand for "family values"? Of course this is CBN which will only report on acceptable stories. Will this alliance stick around to fight of local injustices such as poverty or inequality of rights? Nah, this union was born out of a hate and will dissolve because of hate. The optimist in me hopes that this union might inspire the members of both sides to learn about the other, the realist in me knows that this union was born out of ignorance and will only stick around to keep homosexuals in their place: out of sight, out of mind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Meaning of Life

I've been out for over a month due to one main reason. The Mrs. and I welcomed our new little girl into the world last week, and while my wife recovers from her c-section I've been taking care of all 3 of our kids including house duties. Although I've been silent and absent from the blogging world I've been keeping up as much as I can via Google Reader from my smartphone. I intend to start blogging again once everything settles and we get back to our daily routine. Without getting too cliché I'd like to say that even though I don't believe in a Divine Being with a master plan or some inherent meaning to life doesn't mean there isn't anything meaningful in this world. To watch my little ones grow, learn, and explore the world we live in is more than enough meaning for me. There will be suffering which I hope I'll be able to suffer with them when they need me. But there will also be love and happiness, which I also hope I'll be there to enjoy with them. Life isn't about worshiping a divine creator, and even if a creator existed I highly doubt we were created for his/her personal gratification. My wife and I decided to have kids because of Love. They were born out of Love and they will be loved no matter what they do or who they become, and I will teach them to share in this Love. How can anyone, including the Divine, bring something into such a chaotic world and say "I will only Love you if..."? I can't imagine not loving my family, and by extending who we consider family I can't imagine not loving my fellow man. John was right, all we need is Love.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Violence in Religion

"If we want to get rid of violence we have to get rid of human beings. It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with us." ~Tariq Ramadan~

Tariq Ramadan speaking on the future of Islam in a pluralistic society. I know this video is a bit dated but I believe these are the types of conversations we should be having in regards to religion. He doesn't go as far as stating that religions and scriptures are man-made creations but that when sacred text mention elements of violence they are touching about aspects of our humanity. Essentially he states that the problem is not the source (the text) but the reader. I would personally go a bit further and state there is a problem with the source, but I believe mankind is the source. I applaud moderates like Tariq Ramadan because they struggle with the text and their faith while remaining faithful to their religion in an attempt to understand our neighbor, The Other.

On a similar note my favorite Tennessean rabbi, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, recently wrote on ending violence in religion and his hopes on interfaith dialogue.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This is Your Neighbor

This is your neighbor.

 Beautiful set of pictures found here from the Hajj and Eid al-Adha 2011 of Muslims across the globe.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Thoughts on the Greatest Commandments

I woke up this morning oddly thinking about the Greatest Commandments which for those who don't know their Bibles (myself included, I had to Google it) is found in Matthew 22:36-40.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

(I know I've used this picture in a recent post, but I just love it to bits. You can get the t-shirt here, now for only $12. Argh, I should have waited.)

The first thing I do whenever I read a passage from a sacred text is remember that these words were written in a different time and place. These words carried different weight and meaning back in 1st century Palestine than 21st century America. Regardless I am aware that these two commandments are references to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) and to a reference to an Old Testament Law (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus was once again using to pull the rug from under his debater's feet. He took something his audience was familiar with and turned it upside down and inside out to make a point. How his message(s) were read depends on us the reader. Once we read, think, or write about it, the meaning changes. There are timeless truths in the Bible but I don't believe the Bible itself IS a timeless truth. If the Bible were a timeless unchanging truth our legal system, culture, heck even our grocery stores would be completely alien.

This passage reads differently for me than it would to a Southern Baptist Christian (my favorite example of Christianity because I live in Southern Baptist country, gimme that ol' time religion!), not because I want it to be different to fit my worldview but because I speak in a different language than a Southern Baptist. The words carry different meaning in my language.

To me the first commandment reads:
  • Open your heart, make yourself vulnerable to Reality with every ounce of your being, and by opening your heart you struggle lessens in shared suffering. No one has to suffer or enjoy bliss alone. 
  • Be open-minded to what you can discover about Reality, you don't have to believe in magic there are enough wonders in the universe for humanity to unravel, experience, and explore.
  • Open your soul to Reality by understanding and embracing your individual uniqueness. You are a unique cosmic phenomenon, the universe never has nor will ever see the likes of you again.
The Second commandment reads like the first:
  • By opening your heart, mind and soul to the wondrous and beautiful reality we live in we understand that we are connected to one another. We don't have to live life as if we are completely separate and isolated beings, but connection to one another and to the universe makes us vulnerable, which, in my humble opinion, scares the shit out of us. We're all scared even though we try to hide that fear behind beliefs and faith (faith in general, not just religious faith). By understanding that we all (yes, that includes homosexuals and Muslims) are connected to one another we can empathize with our neighbor no matter how strange their beliefs and culture may seem on the surface. And through understanding and empathy blossoms the opportunity for love and beauty.
I know I might sound overly optimistic and slightly ignorant of how the real world works, and you might be right. I admit I'm a fairly open-minded person but I'm not going as far as saying that holding hands with your neighbor and singing "All You Need is Love" by the Beatles will make war and poverty go away. I'm just saying that by understanding our interconnectedness to each other, to the universe, we may begin to minutely understand how our personal actions and beliefs may affect our neighbor. I believe that even a tiny bit of understanding and empathy can go a long way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jesusween Vs. Halloween

Hands down Jesusween is scarier. Why? Because in the minds of those celebrating Halloween the holiday is a night of fun and entertainment all based in a world of fiction. The kids (and sometimes parents, myself included) go out dressed as superheroes, princesses, and ghouls, but at the end of the night they all return back to reality. As for Christians attempting to Christianize Halloween (i.e. Jesusween, Trunk-or-Treat, Hell House) the horrors of Hell and the Devil remain a reality in their minds the following morning. Don't get me wrong I'm not attempting to bash the theology of Hell ( Liberal theologians within Christianity already do that), believe in Hell if you want to but examine how your beliefs affect your relationship with your fellow man.

Via Onkneesforjesus

Do you really believe that broken, grief stricken people who turn to suicide and drugs actually belong in Hell, or is it the people who failed to reach out a helping hand to those in need? Why is it more popular for Christians to be so against homosexuality while at the same time so casual about poverty? Is not the greatest commandment within Christianity to love God and Man, not God or Man? If we, as human beings, are truly seeking to love our neighbor as we love ourselves we must learn to wrestle with the demons within us.

So instead of using Halloween to pass out Bibles and proselytize to young children how about saving your Bibles and Chick tracts for another day. Let's face it they're at your door for the candy and if you slip a Chick tract into their bag they'll just toss it out as another lame gift.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Enjoy! The video says it much better than I ever could.

(via Unreasonable Faith)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hell House 21- Aftermath

That's right it's that time of the year again. It's time to dust off your Bible and crosses and come on down to the Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, TX for their 21st production of Hell House subtitled Aftermath.

And after watching their newest trailer you can tell they went all out again this year all to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children (sends chills down my spine every time I watch it). Shudder.

If you're new to the Hell House experience then, well, you must be living under a rock. Not only was there a documentary released a decade ago in 2001, directed by George Ratcliff entitled Hell House, but they are spreading like wildfire over the U.S. I'm not sure why these Christian haunted houses are so popular (especially in the South), maybe it's because the churches participating feel it's necessary to do anything to reel the youth back in to the fold. Maybe it's the reality factor of real life scenes (not ghouls and serial killers  with masks) that attracts such a large audience. My personal attraction to hell houses are watching the reactions and comments of my fellow attendees. Here's a listing of local Judgement Houses and if you're lucky (or unlucky depending on your view on the matter) you may have one in your local area. And if not don't lose hope, there's always next year.

What's a Judgement House you ask, and what's the difference between a Judgement and a Hell House? The Judgement House website claims the main difference is that they offer the audience a choice to accept Jesus. Those Hell House heathens just want to scare the bejesus into you. Luckily there's one about 10 minutes from my house and hopefully I can convince the Mrs. to go. If not it's not like I'm missing anything new, either way all Non-believers are going to H-E- double hockey sticks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life Beyond Christianity

My life beyond Christianity is not about giving any supreme being the finger or "enjoying" the sinful life. It's not about living a prideful life without the need of Big Daddy in the sky, or even a part of some Atheist/liberal/Evil anti-God agenda. My life beyond Christianity is not a life without meaning or sacredness, the core sacredness remains I've simply unchained the need for borders, labels, or tribal loyalties. At the heart of Christianity is (or at least should be) Love, love that transcends who we are and accepts us completely. The sacraments, rituals, and beliefs are just the language that attempts to translate that love into something tangible. I'm not seeking out to destroy the language but merely seeking THAT, the source beyond words.

If you were to ask a Christian (let's stick with Southern Baptist only because I know next to nothing about Eastern Orthodox Christianity) what God is, I mean really ask, they will inevitably end up telling you a story. Regardless if it's the Gospel story or their own testimony you will end up hearing a story. And why? Because there is power, beauty, and creation in words. Jesus is envisioned as The Word, as the source of all life, how can Christians not keep themselves from telling the Good News. But in the end the story points back towards That, the source beyond words! The story and the language are just vehicles and modes of expressions expressing a shared experience. It is that sense of community, the sense of connection with one another which is truly sacred. My personal choice to move beyond Christianity wasn't because the faith was lacking a sense of community but that I wanted to connect with a much larger community.This was as much of a personal choice as the personal choice of someone choosing to accept Christianity. The stories in the Bible don't have to be factually true to contain Truth, however, the Bible was written in a different time and place and many ideas, beliefs, taboos, etc. are no longer relatable or even morally acceptable. We've evolved (mostly) beyond slavery, treating women like property, and believing that the gods are the cause of natural disasters, so why can't we move beyond the need for our stories, our myths, to be factually true for them to hold any meaning or any values?

While I personally believe it's pretty messed up to turn to an outdated text for morality and daily guidance I understand why people do it: life is uncertain and people turn to something, anything which may anchor us through the chaos. But I find no peace or feel any transcendent love while reading Scripture (any scripture), just an interesting collection of stories. When I chose to leave Christianity I wasn't leaving behind Love, I was leaving the restraints which were keeping me from Love. This doesn't mean that Christianity is a monstrous, archaic evil organization filled with fearful angry bigoted people. Christianity can and is as beautiful and loving as the community of people which call themselves Christians. The beliefs and rituals don't speak to me, they don't help me to let things go, to move on, and to love my fellow man. It may work for others, and it worked for me for a time but not anymore. I know that may sound smug as if I were saying I'm too good for Christianity, and I apologize if that's the impression some may get. I see religion as language, it attempts to express something worth expressing but is limited by the words and symbols it uses. To me life beyond Christianity is an attempt to go beyond language to reach that something it tries to express. Or at the very least learn something about my own struggle, my own humanity, while attempting to reach THAT. The struggle, the journey, the experience itself is what I consider sacred, and the choice of leaving behind the Christian faith was my choice alone (not the Devil "tempting" me, nor the secular media "seducing" me into a life of Reason, etc.). I just want to express Love in other languages, or even using no language at all. We all know love when we see it, so can't we learn to let go of the words and experience it for a change? Is it really so evil/bad/sinful that I want to be more loving and understanding of my fellow man than I was yesterday?

Friday, September 16, 2011

B.F.F. T-Shirt Reprint

I've been waiting for this t-shirt to reprint for about a year. I completely forgot about it until I got an email yesterday about their recent reprint. This picture tickles me every time mainly because I'll never see this happen in real life, well at least in my lifetime. Order your t-shirt today so that we can be B.F.F. for life!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How NOT to Explain 9/11 to Children

 Only in America can you turn a profit on a national tragedy and sell it to children. Presenting the We Shall Never Forget 9/11 Kids Coloring Book by Really Big Coloring Books, Inc. On their website the company states that the coloring book  "is designed to be a tool that parents can use to help teach children about the facts surrounding 9/11. This book also describes basic freedoms in America. We suggest parental guidance." They also state that this has been their fastest selling book in their company's history. I'm not sure if I should be more concerned that this was marketed by the publisher as a "coloring novel" with a PG rating or that these coloring novels are flying off the shelves. Now there are and has been a lot of commemorative 9/11 merchandise out there but a coloring book for kids? Not only does the book fail to make any distinction between Islamic radicals and peaceful Muslims there is this following image of a Navy Seal taking out Bin Laden. The publisher has stated in multiple interviews that they have presented all the facts and are presenting them in this "coloring novel" to teach future generations about these "facts". Oh did I forget to mention that kids can color in the smoldering Twin Towers before their collapse?

I believe we shouldn't guard our children from heavy issues but for a parent to use this as a instruction tool just doesn't cut it for me. What's worse is that in the minds of an impressionable child material like this is similar to the propaganda distributed by terrorist organization: They are the enemy, They have attacked us, They hate us. The connection that children would naturally make is that Muslims= bad guys. The publisher states the book is not about Islam but about 19 hijackers who happen to be Muslim. The parents who purchase the book are more than likely to reinforce the negative stereotype that the publisher states is trying to avoid. Luckily children are very inquisitive and may begin to ask the tough questions their parents may not have the courage to ask themselves.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hiatus...Hello Sweetie!

So I've been out for awhile...a long while. I've been absent from the blogging world (reading and writing) due to minor health reasons and also because the Mrs. and I have been busy preparing for the arrival for our newest little bundle of joy. For the last month I've been busy painting and putting together the baby's furniture. Our kids are excited mainly because they now get to share a room with their new bunk beds. As a father of 2 kids I can honestly say that I can never get used to the anticipation of bringing new life into the world, and I'm sure my wife feels it 10 times more than I ever will. To be able to bring something new and unique into this beautiful, chaotic, and breath-taking universe is a blessing I will never take for granted. Which is why I can't understand why some people choose to abandon, abort, or even abuse their children. Now I'm not here to rally against abortion but simply stating that the anticipation and joy of bringing new life into the cosmos is so overwhelming that I can never imagine any other "options".

My wife is someone who is cutely impatient sometimes, and how can you blame her. I'd be the same way if I had to carry a life form which is constantly kicking and draining the life out of me. My wife is the type of person who can't wait to find out what happens in a book so she skips to the end or Googles the plot to see if the heroine of the story has a happy ending. This is why we're dishing out a few extra bucks to get the 4D ultrasound to see how River's face will look like. Yes, that's right, the Mrs. and I are HUGE Doctor Who fans and have named our new little girl after Riversong. I know it's not the most traditional of names but it is beautiful and of course my wife was also named after the witch from Bewitched. Nothing beats tradition. Now let's hope we don't run into a time traveling future version of River as we rush to the delivery room in December.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


"For the love you bring won't mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing."

-Travis "Sing"

I know this song came out a decade ago but I find the lyrics heartwarming and appropriate to the spirit of this blog. So regardless of what religious beliefs you hold or background you come from let your heart sing. Be your best self and share your song with the rest of reality. From the song of our lives we bring new life into this world.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Seventh-Day Adventists: It Gets Better!

As a former SDA myself I found myself excited after viewing this It Gets Better video filmed by Seventh-day Adventist filmmakers and activists as a part of the It Gets Better campaign. You can read the full article here.

It Gets Better (for Adventists too) from Stephen Eyer on Vimeo.

I was surprised at my own ignorance of LGBT people within the SDA church but also of my views of the SDA church. Growing up in a SDA church I always found the church stuffy, filled with an aging congregation pushing their conservative, Bible based views on the younger folk (or at least what this particular group calls Bible-based). It wasn't until after graduating from my SDA boarding school that I first realized that even within our conservative community some people were "different" from the established norm (almost 1/8 of my graduating class came out shortly after graduation, one of them being a very dear friend of mine I had absolutely no clue was gay). No one talked about it on campus because we all knew anyone who openly contradicted the values of the SDA church was grounds for expulsion. I wouldn't call it an ingrained fear or indoctrination against any non Bible-based relationships but it was a view that stuck with me and took years to unravel.

Ryan Bell, author of the article, is right, this It Gets Better video is a step in the right direction for the SDA church. I once viewed the SDA church with their heels dug in so deep into their conservative evangelical roots that I thought they were beyond any form of reformation. I've forgotten there are individuals and groups within the Christian church that are pushing the envelope of what it means to be Christian. What gets me even more excited is not that there are those who are challenging the boundaries of religious group they identify with but that we (mankind) are continuing to push the envelope of what it means to be human and how we interact and love our neighbor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chattanooga Mosque update

I've been keeping up with the construction on the new mosque being built on Gunbarrel Road and happen to get a quick snapshot with my phone on my way home. Anyone interested can actually see it from the highway traveling north on I-75 just past Hamilton Place Mall here in Chattanooga. But with all the buzz and protest covering the Islamic center in Murfreesboro I'm wondering why no one has protested the construction of this one which is well on its way to finish. Opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque have recently cautioned the local Muslims from commencing with the groundbreaking. Not that I'm trying to draw negative attention to the mosque being built in my backyard, but if Islam really was the "Great Evil" it is claimed to be by these patriotic God-fearing Americans how come this one is being built without any Bible-thumping, anti-Islamic rallies? Maybe the local Christian community isn't as God-lovin', or flag wavin', as the ones in Murfreesboro, or maybe they're just ignorant of the neighbor they're suppose to love that they're unaware of their presence. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

I fear that if any attention is raised during the construction of this house of worship there may be a local backlash. But then again once it's completed the local Christian community might cry foul and claim the Muslims are creeping in, sneaking into our peaceful town to convert everyone on pain of death. Damned if we know, damned if we don't. Either way it'll catch heat, unless the local citizens are **gasp!** reasonable, rational people accepting we are a multicultural society and that there is no danger in letting an already present community construct a larger facility to meet, pray, and come together.

Of course if people like GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain had their way they would crush any sort of diversity and multiculturalism by claiming any outsider or foreigner as a threat. People like Herman Cain believe it's best that the Murfreesboro Muslim community stay in their presently cramped house of worship. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Who Are You? Who Am I?

It's questions like these which keep me probing, picking, and wrestling within my mind. The simple question "who are you?" is a corrosive enough question which most people don't even dare to reflect upon let alone answer. If you were to ask someone who they were they would respond with titles, labels, occupations, etc. But are you, am I, merely a collection of labels and titles?

That question itself is what put me on the path I'm on today. Once you allow yourself even once to peak beyond the Wizard's curtain you can't help but tear down every curtain you see. Asking questions is my spirituality, even though I know these questions might not ever lead to answers. I'm not looking for answers, which is what the religions of the world claim to have, I'm looking for interconnectedness with reality, my fellow man, the All. What better way to connect with one another than through the corrosive questions which melt away the labels and ideas which separate us.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't Waste Your Prayers on Me

"I'm praying for you" is the most common closing response I get whenever I share my lack of belief in Christianity or a supreme Being. I don't find it offensive or disturbing, simply pointless. Now I'm sure there are plenty of people praying for me to "see the light" and change my mind but if the prayers haven't worked so far why continue wasting your prayers on me, or any other unbeliever for that matter? I'm not saying prayer is pointless, in fact even as an unbeliever I find prayer and meditation an incredible way to connect oneself with the All, with everyone and everything else. Prayer is the vehicle which cracks open our hearts to reality and teaches us how to love one another through understanding and interconnectedness. Of course, this is my opinion as to how prayer should be utilized and not for one's own personal gain. Praying that your loved ones agree with you, join in with your tribal/religious community, is more for one's own interest than in the interest of the ones you're praying for, your fellow man.

So when I say don't waste your prayers on me I'm not saying stop praying, I'm saying change what you're praying for.
-Instead of praying for someone to turn from their sinful lives, pray for the empathy to cry and suffer with the suffering. In shared suffering comes unending love.
-Instead of praying for situations to go your way, pray for the strength to get through the tough times. Some things may be out of our control but that is why we have each other, to get us through the downs while enjoying the ups.
-Instead of praying for people to turn to God (i.e. accept your belief system), pray for the humility to understand your neighbor.Through understanding comes love.
-Instead of praying for the defeat of your enemies and the destruction of evil, pray for the courage to stand up against injustices.

Prayer only gets us halfway there, we must do our part to answer our own prayers.

On a related note John Shore has an incredible 3 part series on compassion and prayer for those we dislike or consider or "enemy", and the difference between praying for and forgiveness.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quote on Marriage

 I've been reading Robert Heinlein's sci-fi novel Time Enough for Love today when I happened to come across this thoughtful quote. And with the recent news of the Marriage Equality Act passing in New York I found it very apropos.
"Companionship, partnership, mutual reassurance, someone to laugh with and grieve with, loyalty that accepts foibles, someone to touch, someone to hold your hand -- these thing are "marriage", and sex is but the icing on the cake." Robert Heinlein
With all the condemnations by God-fearing folks like this guy focusing solely on the "ickyness" on what homosexuals do in the bedroom they never consider that as human beings we all need companionship. We all want to be loved and have someone to share the love we're born with. Does preventing someone's pursuit of companionship really make life better, safer, and more enriching for the rest of us? Or is it because as heterosexuals who have mucked up the institution of marriage **cough, divorce, cough cough** that we want everyone else to be as unhappy as we are?  

(Just a note of clarification before I get into trouble with the Mrs. I am merely speaking in generalities, not from personal experience. Although to be honest, marriage is tough at times, but even the rough times are 1000 times better than one moment of loneliness. And I would never dream of taking those moments of companionship from anyone regardless of sexual orientation.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quote of the Rabbi...err I mean Day

"If you’re going to imagine a god who chooses people, it isn’t surprising that you imagine this god choosing you. If you’re going to imagine a god who reveals truth in a book, it isn’t surprising that you would imagine this book is your book. And if you’re going to imagine a god who dabbles in real estate, it isn’t surprising that you would imagine that your land is in fact the Promised Land."" -Rabbi Rami Shapiro

 Thought I would share this honest bit of truth Rabbi Rami shared today on his post on why Rabbi Rami is a Rabbi. And for you Facebook and Twitter followers you can find him here and here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Because You Listened...

 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
   “Cursed is the ground because of you;
   through painful toil you will eat food from it
   all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
   and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
   you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
   since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
   and to dust you will return.”  (Genesis 3:17-19, New International Version, ©2011)

[The Expulsion From the Garden by Gustave Dore]

For the last few months I've been spending more of my free time outside working on the pool and the yard. The kids even helped to plant hydrangeas for my wife on Mother's Day. And even after all the hard work I have put in thus far I've found I've been rewarded ten fold. I'm thankful for the chance of simply being alive,  as walking, talking stardust, where I can help through painful toil bring new life into existence to share in the experience of life.

Now I know there are various interpretations of Genesis (this one being my favorite) but I just can't stomach the Christian theology of Original Sin (let alone the misogynistic language and theme in the Bible) . To share and indulge in our innate curious spirit is as sinful as an infant exploring its environment. It is in that spirit of curiosity, exploration, and questioning that I temper with reason to fashion my world view as my world fashions me. We are interconnected, dust to dust, to the world and people around us. A growing number of people are depending less on what an outside intangible Supreme Being from a book may so "goes" verses the tangible people and events we interact with everyday. I'm fine with people following a belief system as long as they realize that in the end their actions affect the people and the world around them. Life can be difficult at times but it is much easier when we listen to each other, when we grow with each other.
It is through the hard work of removing the thorns and thistles of ignorance, bigotry, injustice, etc. that we can bring blessings from a "cursed" ground. But this can't be done by simply praying for their removal or awaiting a cosmic apocalyptic event to wash it all away, it must be done by us. And if we listened in this life we may just return to the dust leaving behind a more Edenic world for the next generation.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Do I Love Muslims so Much?

I've found myself on several occasions defending my stance on Muslims, more frequently since the wave of Islamophobia that spread across the nation last summer. As a person who enjoys a good reflective thought every now and then I tried to imagine what others thought my reasons were for my stance. Why exactly do I love Muslims so much? Why would anyone want to align themselves with a group perceived as having such a low disregard for life?

I recently got around to watching the CNN in America special, Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door, a documentary on the battle over the construction of the Islamic center in Murfreesboro, TN. I recommend watching it if you haven't already (I missed it when it first aired).

I don't hold their beliefs, in fact I think they're bunk. But just because I don't agree with their beliefs doesn't mean they don't share and participate in human values I cherish. I love Islam's focus on universal unity (although Muslims believe that unity can only be found under the banner of Islam) and sense of community.  What drives me wild, what holds my interest, what makes me want to defend them is because they're human. And I no sooner want to see they're human diversity extinguished or set aside as inferior than I do Christianity. Both are capable of great horror and tremendous beauty and love. My heart goes out to them because they are one of the most hated groups in America for no other reason than being Muslim.  A lot of people can't see past the labels and misconceptions and see our shared humanity. This is mostly because the negative image of Muslims comes from the constant bombardment of bombings and militant attacks in the Middle East portrayed on the news. Most simply accept violence caused by extremists as the norm for all Muslims.

The biggest fear of Muslims living in America is that our way of life might be drastically altered by their culture and religious background. This irrational fear, held mostly by Christians, is based on the misunderstanding of Islam as a whole and the fear of losing the privileges as the majority faith. The fact is that Muslims have been living in America for well over a century pursuing the same freedom other immigrants have pursued without attempting to "take over" America. There's actually a new DVD out on the Muslim community of Minnesota detailing what it means to be a Muslim in Minnesota. I've already ordered my free copy and hope to watch and review it when it arrives.

So why do I love Muslims so much? Mainly I find their religious symbolism, culture, and history absolutely beautiful. Most assume I'm ignorant of Islam's long history of violence whenever I comment on Islam. But of course those who remind me of Islam's history often tend to be Christians who are themselves ignorant of Christianity's own bloody past. I'm not saying Islam is a "better" faith to follow I'm just saying I want humanity to cherish the beauty, wisdom, and cultural diversity brought to the global table.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Christianity After May 21st

Well it's the day after "The Rapture" and I'm sure Camping's followers are feeling a bit let down that they're stuck here with the rest of us unworthy sinners. My family and I enjoyed a cool dip in the pool and completely forgot about the impending 6 p.m. deadline. The Mrs. brought it to my attention after we came in for supper, "look honey, it's 7, we missed the Rapture.". We joked about it all day and as comical as it may be, it's really not for hundreds, if not, thousands who gave up their jobs and possessions all based on Harold Camping's predictions. But for them there wasn't suppose to be a May 22nd because the Bible guaranteed it. Even many mainline Christians disregarded Camping's claims by quoting that "nobody knows the day or the hour". But what differentiates believers in the Second Coming with a set date as opposed to those without one? The Second Coming has been an event that's always been just around the corner which always fails to appear. How long will Christianity wait for an event that even Jesus himself thought was imminent? Should Christianity evolve and stop waiting for the Second Coming, and if so how would this reshape Christian's attitudes and relationship with non-believers?

I believe that Christianity is on the bring of reforming itself. Or at least I hope. And it's not just Christianity, humanity as a whole is collectively realizing the deep interconnectedness with itself to itself and to reality. We can no longer afford to continue living in a tribal mindset. We are a part of each other, and the more we struggle to deny our interconnectedness the more pain we cause. There can no longer be a They, since They might be our neighbors, lovers, and family. Instead of hoping for escape maybe Christians might be more willing to live in the here and now instead of up in the clouds. And although I direct this to Christians (mainly because this is a post on the Christian theology of the Rapture) this goes for everyone. People flocked to Haiti after the horrific earthquake and there were many who had mixed emotions after Bin Laden's death. The closer and more interconnected we become with our neighbors the more space we have in our hearts to love them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Naked Before Reality

"The point is that each moment of your life you're confronted with reality. And you have to do what seems to be right in that moment, but you won't know what that is until that moment happens. You can't prepare for it...that's not how it works. Life brings stuff that you're not prepared for, and then you simply have to confront the wildness of it, the madness of it, the horror of it, or the ecstasy of it." Rabbi Rami

Rabbi Rami Shapiro at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville 7/25/10

The wildness of reality is too much to bear at times which is why I believe some people turn to religion. But even when people clothe themselves with religion to guard themselves from the wildness of reality our hearts are still opened by our shared suffering.

"When you're suffering together love emerges."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mistake Fail

Have you heard the News?

But apparently his creation does.

(H/T Failblog)

I'm tempted to say more on this picture **cough, the Bible, cough**, but I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Muslims in Chattanooga

It's sad that I get the paper everyday (my wife gets it for the coupons) and I hardly ever read it. It took Doug B (thanks Doug, what would we do without your daily dish of local religious hijinks) over at Groping the Elephant to bring to my attention the announcement of construction of the new Islamic Center being built here in Chattanooga. The full article can be found here.

When I first learned about this I felt both anxiety and relief. Anxiety because I know the sh*t is about to hit the fan as vile anti-Islamic groups, like the one which set up camp in Murfreesboro, will soon migrate down here as news spreads of the construction. Relief because the more visible any group gets the local citizens will get to know them. And through understanding, I believe and hope, compassion and love can flourish.

The really sad part about this story is the construction of this Islamic Center was never really a secret. And there are also 2 or 3 mosques (and a private elementary school, I think) in Chattanooga already. I remember last year when that broohaha over Park 51 spread across the country to local mosques, I feared for the local Muslim community. In fact I even tried encouraging some of the more liberal pastors in the area to get together with the Muslim community during Ramadan. That got nowhere quickly as most either ignored my calls and emails or kindly brushed me off. (I've never participated in any political or community activism so I didn't really know what I was doing in the first place.)

Now that the Muslim community will become more visible in Chattanooga, I hope more people will try to learn a bit more about this misunderstood faith. I know there will be protests and a lot of ignorance shown on how this "Muslim Threat" is taking over our once "peaceful" community. Local citizens will form groups to try to find ways to stop the construction and the same pointless protests will go down at city hall like up in Murfreesboro. I highly doubt any of my doubting and fearful neighbors will attempt to speak directly with the Muslim community. All they'll do is shout and holler "go back home". Sadly they've been here for years living, eating, and shopping like the rest of us. And when the sh*t finally does hit the fan I'll be right there standing with them on opening day.

Update: I just got a change to see Thursday's episode of the Daily Show and nearly died of the giggles after watching this clip on the dangers of Muslims and Christians getting along.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Big Mohammed's House
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

God Bless Jon Stewart!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What We Should Celebrate

In my last post I wrote on my distaste for the jubilant celebrations which broke across the country after the announcement of Bin Laden's death. And it didn't occur to me till today why I found it distasteful. It reminded me of the scenes in old Westerns where the whole town gathers to watch a public hanging. In fact I happen to watch a Twilight Zone episode today on Netflix which mirrors how some people must be feeling these past couple days. You can watch the episode, Dust, here and here. There's also a scene where a man brings his whole family to the hanging to teach his kids what happens to a man who drinks and drives.

The Internet is abuzz with mixed emotions on Bin Laden's death. The fact that we are wrestling emotionally over the death of an undeniably evil man (at least in my opinion) is a good sign we haven't become completely heartless animals. I thoroughly enjoyed Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi response to the celebrations "Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace." People responded differently to different situation, yet the call for reflection is one I believe everyone should consider as the world moves forward. It may be that the human race will never forgive nor forget Osama Bin Laden's actions. What we should remember and celebrate (instead of celebrating his death) is the opportunity to increase our love for our fellow man. Yet this can only be done if we attempt to understand them. Before 9/11 most of us probably didn't know what a mosque was. Unfortunately now we have several states trying to ban their construction and the practice of Sharia Law.

What we should celebrate is that we have the time, freedom, and opportunity to understand and embrace the people which practice Islam. Behind the veils and the Arabic prayers they are still human beings. Osama Bin Laden was not born with hatred, nor were the rest of us. I don't doubt the death of this man will bring closure and peace of mind to many people yet his legacy will live on. The legacy of tribal supremacy (Us. vs. Them); the legacy of fear of the Other/Our Global Neighbors;the legacy of failing to understand/respect the sacredness of ALL life. We must actively seek to continue to bury his legacy long after we bury the man. We have the opportunity NOW to understand and love our fellow man, and THAT should be celebrated.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice is Done

"How can you not celebrate this man's death?" blurted a local talk radio personality over my radio today. How could I celebrate anyone's death? As most of you know Osama Bin Laden has been killed in a recent military operation, yesterday. Yet I don't feel joyous for this man's death, in fact I don't think I could ever celebrate anyone's death regardless if they deserve it. Several of my fellow bloggers also share in my view rejecting Bin Laden's death as a cause for celebration as seen on the news with crowds of people cheering and chanting U.S.A. Does my lack of celebratory spirit mean I'm a traitorous, terrorist-supporting, unpatriotic American? No. All life is sacred, and until we collectively realize that sacredness we will always have terrorist attacks, wars, and senseless killings. Always.

I wonder if Obama had this Bible verse in mind when stating "justice has been done" during his announcement last night. Maybe we celebrate because the memory of our suffering that day is too great to bear. Maybe we feel Osama did deserve death for death. I'm not saying he didn't deserve it, I just can't find it in myself to celebrate, whoop and holler. What I hope for is a collective awareness of our global neighbor's suffering so that we may be moved to compassion.  I pray that through our collective suffering our hearts are cracked open so that we may learn to love beyond our social, tribal, and national borders.

Peace and blessings be upon you and yours.

Update: I recently stumbled upon an interesting article by Aziz Poonawalla over at City of Brass how he, as a Muslim, is emotionally coping with the recent news of Bin Laden's death.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sacred Emptiness Mark 16:8

"On Easter we find the tomb of God empty. To me the tomb is for Christians what the Holy of Holies is for Jews, and the Ka’aba is for Muslims: an empty space speaking to the ineffability of God. In the Abrahamic religions God cannot be imaged, so of course their sacred space should be empty of images." Rabbi Rami

Growing up in the church I always found the imagery, or lack thereof, of the empty tomb much more powerful than the ascension of Christ. I'm sure many in the early Christian community thought so as well as Mark, our earliest witness, ends his tale at 16:8 with the women fleeing from the tomb. What a way to end a story! But there is something alluring and terrifying of that sacred emptiness, and in the end we give in and fill the sacred space. Maybe it's our creative drive kicking in urging us to create an answer (i.e. a god, a gospel, a religious symbol) when we can no longer deal with the existence of a question. Maybe it's much easier dealing with something tangible than living with an empty space.

Rabbi Rami posted his new reading on Easter today: God died for his sins so that we may be free of the old images/gods which sanctioned evil. This empty space draws us in to create and terrifies us of the lack of creation. Like an exploding star, it is pregnant with endless possibilities and that infinite emptiness scares the shit out of us (pardon my french). It is no wonder that the early Christian community had to believe that the Christ had to return some day to once again save us, this time from the empty space. I admit it is too much to sit and ponder the immensity of the destruction and creation happening throughout the cosmos for billions of years. As Named things we give into the urge to Name, including naming the Unnameable, the eternal Tao. Maybe that is simply our nature(or maybe destiny?), to become in harmony with the destruction and creation of all things, to find our part in the cycle and destroy the emptiness by filling it with our presence only to one day create emptiness by our departure. Last week I pulled up the weeds in my flower bed so that next week I can fill it with flowers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Digital Fatigue

I'm not sure if "digital fatigue" is the actual term for what I'm feeling, but let's just say it's recently hit me like a ton of 01100010 01110010 01101001 01100011 01101011 01110011! My fatigue is the main reason why I haven't been blogging as much as I used to before I started working at my current job. Until now I have never worked at a job more nerve wreaking and demanding then as a customer service representative at a local call center (which will not be named). Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do not just because I get to help customers with their concerns but because the demanding environment and company expectations has driven me to excel. All of my previous jobs never demanded as much mentally either. Answering phone calls sounds like a relatively simple job except for the fact that you have to stare at a computer screen for 10 hours a day till midnight trying to calm down irate customers. At work I HAVE TO be in control of my time, words, and my systems when resolving the customers concerns. There is no off time in between calls (except for breaks, maybe), no time to simply be. I have to remain at the edge of my seat, two steps ahead of the customer and always with a smile in my voice. By the time my weekend rolls around my mind is too frazzled and exhausted to blog. I feel my blog has become more of a chore than a place of reflection which is why I've cut back to about a post a week. I want to get back to writing more meaningful reflective posts than commenting on random religious video I happen to stumble upon earlier in the week. I want to get back to what it means to participate in the universal cosmic dance, to discover my place in the interconnected tapestry we live in and share with one another. But most of all I enjoy simply being on the weekends. Sure I still have chores, yard work, and kids to tend to on my days off but these are experiences I breathe in and not tasks to be accomplished.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Aha! Moment or How My Children Saved My Soul

In the last 5 years since I began my spiritual journey I've looked back and tried to pinpoint the moment when I realized I was on a journey, that Aha! moment. That moment when you realize you've been more than curiously researching outside of your personal worldview/belief bubble. It is the moment when things began to make more sense to me and the complexity of reality itself began to sink in. My Aha! moment began with the news that my then girlfriend (now happily married going on 5 years) and I were having our first baby. Cliché as it may sound, my whole world changed that day. My thoughts began to revolve around everything from daydreaming what physical characteristics I would pass on to my children to considering changing majors (I was a junior in college studying audio engineering) to find a more reliable job. It was a tough first few years but we pushed through and now we have a house, two beautiful kids, and thankfully both of us are employed. What inspired me to look beyond my worldview bubble wasn't a "love for sin", a negative experience with Christianity, or even a "misguided" attempt to create my own religion, all three of which I've been accused of for leaving Christianity behind. No, what inspired me to leave behind title and tribute to my religious tribe was my yearning to love a completely brand new human being as unconditionally as possible. I never appreciated the interconnectedness to my fellow man until my wife and I brought our son into the world.

I took the news rather well, at first. In fact I had been mentally preparing myself for years to have children. All that preparation meant nothing, you really can't prepare yourself for such life changing news. "I'm going to have a baby", I thought to myself, "and one day they might have a baby." And that's when my mind blew a gasket.  For weeks on end all I could think about were the endless parade of descendants I will never get a chance to meet. I remember the sleepless nights where I obsessively tried to picture how they would look like, what they would do, and who they would become.  Looking back my obsession sounds silly but at the time I desperately wanted to connect with those who were yet to be. I wanted the chance to share with them all the beauties of life and also comfort them through the dark times. Why? I have no earthly idea! I simply felt it was imperative that I communicate with them somehow. I thought about leaving behind a journal, a collection of my thoughts, as a way to "speak" to them. But then I realized my obsession was turning into a desire for immortality, to be remembered long after I pass. So I decided that I should focus on being a good and loving father to my children in the here and now. I didn't know where to start, so I began by examining myself. I was 22 and I didn't have a clue who I was.

Raised in a conservative Christian home I began with the one part of myself that I knew well: my faith. Well, at least I thought I knew well until I began examining my faith. It wasn't until I began my examination that I realized I didn't really have faith at all. All I had was a collection of beliefs that were passed on from my parents. I didn't really believe them, I simply inherited them. This is not to say that I didn't believe them at one point. In my youth I had accepted Jesus into my heart and spoke to him everyday. I truly believed I was saved. I was a Christian. Now, when my family and friends hear me use the phrase "examined my faith" they jump to the conclusion that I dissected Christianity as if I were conducting an autopsy, carving away at a carcass to see what made it tick. What I really did was ask questions, A LOT of questions. Some were your basic run of the mill questions of curiosity into the history of Christianity, which were quickly answered by perusing through a few history books. But the vast majority were reflective questions that demanded more time and energy to wrestle over.  

Does God hate homosexuals? What happens to the unbelievers who never get to hear the gospel? Why is the divine portrayed as distant and separate from mankind? What IS the divine? Why is hell even necessary if God IS love? etc, etc, etc.

All I had were questions and no answers. At this point in my post any Christian reading this would be thinking, "well duh, stupid, the answers are in the Bible". And that is exactly where I first looked. But I didn't stop there because at that point I believed God (which at the time I still believed to be a supreme being) could not be contained in one book. So I read the Qur'an from cover to cover, I read parts of the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita. I read nonstop everything from comparative religious books to science fiction books with religious themes. [I have to say that Philip Jose Farmer's Jesus on Mars has to be one of my all time favorites. I highly recommend it!] I even changed my Minor from Music to Religious Studies. All my readings and reflections on religion, faith and God led me to the answer I already knew: to be a good and loving father, husband, and human being I just need to love. Simple, no? I didn't need to turn to religion to instruct me how to love my new family or my fellow man. Love is as natural as breathing, all we have to do is breathe in and breathe out, love and be loved. My children saved my soul not from hellfire but from a life devoid of love. Now don't get me wrong, I love my friends, family, and my darling wife but the love and connection one experiences when holding your newborn for the first time is so overwhelming all other relationships pale in comparison.

The main reason for today's post is inspired by the incredible news that the Mrs. and I found out last week that we are 8 months away from having baby number 3! The house is filled with excitement (especially the kids because they get a bunk bed) as we begin preparations for the new little one. The secondary reason is that I'd also like to hear from you and your Aha! moment. If you've already written one then please share the link in the comment section, and if not I encourage you to write about your story. I'd love to hear them.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Tattooed Faith Healer

I've written and read on faith healers enough to make myself nauseous, but it's one of those subjects that will always break your heart. Here is Todd Bentley in a recent interview with Lisa Ling. Note how she phrases her questions around Todd's "power".

The Indonesian woman with the "exploding tumor" is on of the craziest stories I've heard, but a quick search on Youtube reveals several crazy Todd Bentley videos. Now I don't have any beef with Pentacostals, if they believe the Holy Spirit is coursing through them while they speak in tongues and thrash violently around on the floor is fine by me. Different denominations express their faith through different practices and I have no problem with them until "preachers" like Todd Bentley start conning the weak, poor, and desperate out of their money. Take for example Lisa's interview question from the above video.

Lisa Ling: Do you think that anyone can learn how to heal?
Todd Bentley: I think you can help people to have faith to believe in healing. I think there's, you can teach people how to pray for the sick. And you know how to be more effective maybe when they do pray for the sick. Yeah, I think anybody has the ability to pray in the name of Jesus and God answers prayers.

Bentley's response demonstrates his shockingly lack of connection to his fellow man. I believe that he believes that he's doing the right thing by praying for and laying on hands on his followers, but the divine healing that Bentley dishes out is conditional: you'll be healed on the strength of your faith and if God wills it. Of course the level of medical treatment one receives at a hospital also depends on the size of your wallet but at least medicine is based on tangible research (if done properly). If Bentley wants to participate in a tangible good he should raise money to donate to foundations researching the incurable diseases he states he has cured with his "power".

Of course without Bentley and friends to remind us what craziness looks like we wouldn't be inspired to create gems like these.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back to Basics: My Adventist Roots

I recently stumbled upon a USA Today article heralding Seventh-Day Adventists as the fastest growing Christian denomination in America. Although the article did state that the vegetarian lifestyle and it's "clear" message on Christian life are a couple of the reasons people are flocking to SDA, I found the article too vague in answering WHY this particular denomination is growing so quickly. I remember going to seminars, camp meetings, and week long outreach events all the time growing up as a kid. It seemed like every other week we held an outreach event explaining, in vast detail I might add, what WILL happen during the second coming. I'm sure this frequent reminder reassured the aging population of our church but such details on a future event puzzled me as a child. How were they so sure these events would take place in this manner?

A lot of my friends and family members comment on how they feel it's the end of the world with everything that's been happening. I remind them, without trying to step on their religious convictions, that anytime the world has experienced a catastrophic event throughout history there have been those heralding the end of the world. The SDAs were born out of the Millerite movement which continue the strong emphasis of the second coming of Christ. I understand why people look towards the second coming, they want to leave this chaotic world behind along with all of the pain and misery. [On a sidenote, did you know Muslims are also awaiting the second coming of Jesus?] When chaos strikes they also run towards that which makes them feel safe and secure, and for many people security is found under the protection of an all knowing God. They (SDAs) believe that by going back to the basics and following some (not all, though) of the Old Testament observances that they will be following God's Will more closely thereby also receiving God's divine protection.

I understand the draw to a "back to basics" faith but all the faith in the world will not protect you from the chaos created by either nature or man. What faith should do during turbulent times is to give one the strength to pull through the chaos and even help to bring some order back into the world instead of a hope for escape. Faith should not be the person saying "thank you God for protecting me", faith should be "give me the strength and the compassion to help the suffering". Although, I personally don't believe religion is necessary to inspire compassion in our fellow man there are many who do. Much of Christianity tends to lean towards an escape from being our brother's keeper, whereas it should be an inspiration to watch and care for them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't Blame God, Blame People

I don't know if Uncle Pat has decided to crack open a science book or if he just can't think of a reason why Japan, like Haiti, deserved to be hit by a natural disaster, but when I Googled "Pat Robertson Japan" I got this. Of course ever since Haiti people have been waiting for another heartless response from Pat "direct-line-to-God" Robertson. During his Bring It On segment he answered the viewer question:
"Why would God let disasters, such as Japan, happen?" Kathy
Pat goes into an all out PR defense to protect God's image by stating God doesn't let disasters happen, people decide to live in earthquake zones. Pat also explained plate tectonics to his audience members (which I'm sure caused him to lose a few hardcore anti-science viewers) and stated that's just how God designed the earth and if people decide to live there, it's their fault. Unless, that is, they make a pact with the devil, then they're pretty much screwed any way you look at it. What happened, Pat? You let me down again. What happened to to the good ole' days, remember when you called out for the assassination of Chavez or the time when you called a Larry King viewer a homo? What happened to your spunk, don't fizzle out on me just yet Uncle Pat. The world still needs a firm reminder of God's Will. Or, I guess it's just time for the next generation of evangelicals to step up to the plate.

[Read Tamtampamela's story here]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everything I Ever Needed to Know about ISLAM, I Learned on 9/11

Man oh man. What I would have given to be at the scene of this failed rally. It all started with self-proclaimed Islamic radical Anjem Choudary who planned on holding a rally called "Sharia4America". These are the kinds of people that give peaceful Muslims a bad name. You can read the comical backstory story here, but to make this brief Choudary canceled leaving the counter protest standing around with no one to protest and all that pent up protest rage. In enters a lone Muslim, a White House regular, who just happened to show up on the day of the rally and the various protest groups swarmed in on him.

There are several ironic and comical moments I love throughout this clip but the most memorable was the scene at the very end where protesters were throwing metal crosses in the Muslim's prayer space. The Muslim pointed out the Christians' lack of respect for their own holy symbol. The Christians stated it's not God, it's merely a symbol. The gentleman next to the Muslim stated they tossed the crosses on the ground to show how much Jesus loved him. I'm sure the real reasoning was because they wanted to disrupt his prayers.

I  somewhat agree with these anti-shariah protest groups, I don't want to live under a theocracy either. Although we have a greater chance of living under an Amish lifestyle before we ever come to live under Shariah Law in the U.S. It's just not going to happen, period. Yes, there are Muslim radicals who do want to see America destroyed or converted to Islam and these are the REAL enemies we should be worried about not some lone Muslim peaceful praying near the White House. But these groups make the threat large than life claiming ALL Muslims want Shariah Law enforced in the States.

If you missed it in the video the title of this post is based on a t-shirt worn by one of the protesters. It's actually inspired me to create a similar t-shirt (although I doubt I have the gall to even wear it in the south): Everything I Ever Needed to Know about CHRISTIANITY, I Learned on 1099. Sadly, most Christians would completely miss the historical reference to the siege of Jerusalem where the Crusaders massacred the civilians of the city. I'm not sure that too many of my Christian neighbors would appreciate a history lesson on their own faith, especially on such a dark point in Christianity's history. They would also argue that all Christians can't be held guilty for the actions of the few, an argument commonly ignored when stated by a Muslim.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One Nation Under God, Not Allah

I know I post a lot of videos and I don't want to become dependent on them to make my point but this one today, oh boy. This one would make me want to drown mankind in a torrential flood if I were god. I know I'm all sunshine, rainbows, and "let's hold hands in brotherhood" kind of guy but this video screams of so much hatred I just want to chuck my laptop into the river and boycott all media (except cartoons) for the rest of my life. But ignoring the problem won't make it go away, if anything it'll get worse.

(h/t Unreasonable Faith)
This video makes me want to vomit. How can there be this much hatred in a "God-fearing" America? And what really broke my heart were the worried expressions by the children entering the building at the 2:00 minute mark. If THIS is America, I don't want to stay. One of the protesters shouted "One Nation Under God, Not Allah" to demonstrate, I suppose, the righteous anger of God (the Christian god) for worshiping a false god (the Muslim god). I guess the protesters thought that if they shouted at non-believers and their children long enough they (the Muslims) will understand the protesters belief in a God who hates non-Christians for being born to parents of a different faith. Everyone knows that even though you may be born and raised within a different culture YOU HAVE TO leave the culture, faith, and traditions of your parents behind when you come to America. Oh, you can bring your delicious food, wise sayings, and herbal remedies with you when you step on American soil, but everything else is banned. It's simply un-American to be different, you gave up that freedom when you entered the land of the free.

And what really gets under my skin is that the event being protested was a charity fundraiser held by the Islamic Circle of North America to raise funds for disaster relief, women's housing, and other causes. If this is truly one nation under God I hope it's not the god of these protesters who shout at families going to charity events to raise funds for those in need. I would say God Bless America but if immigrants are more loving and empathetic to their neighbors than "real Americans" then I'd rather say God bless everyone BUT Americans.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fundies Say the Darndest Things!

It's videos like these that I thank Allah every day for Youtube.

 Fundies Say the Darndest Things is a website dedicated to archiving the most outrageous, irrational, and mind-numbing comments made by fundies from online forums. A quick perusal of the archives at first brought me to a light chuckle but after a few minutes these quotes quickly became depressing when reality began to sink in: these are quotes made by real people. You forget that sometimes while perusing through the internet.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"The only thing a kid will learn in an American public school is that homosexuality is good, and America is bad. There is no way, under any considerations, circumstances, or conditions, that my kid will attend one of our leftist public brain laundries." Wolseley
["The Hebrews crossed the 'sea of reeds'. Most Jews agree on this. After all, the first 5 books are theirs."] 
"The first five books are theirs? Um, no. Moses was a Christian. Sorry."
"That's the beauty of Heaven... we can leave our brains behind." Lainy68
"Are... are you now disputing the existance [sic] of DNA???"

Yes. DNA can never be proven. Evolutionists are obsessed with it because they always say ''chimps share 97% DNA with modern man'' etc. That's great, however you would then need to prove DNA is real. Asycthian

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I'm Both Ashamed and Proud to Call Myself a Tennessean

I was born and raised here, Tennessee has always been and always will be home. I even chose a college within my state's borders to attend when it came time to complete my higher education. And if for some reason I do move away I will request that I be buried back in my home state. I know how southerns may come across as slack-jawed, twangy hill folk fiercely clutching to our Bibles, but we're just like everyone else. All we want is to drink our sweet tea on our front porch on a hot summer day while listening to a bit of Johnny Cash (or maybe that's just me).

I live in the Bible-Belt where there's a church within walking distance from every home (well, I may be exaggerating but you get the point). As a non-Christian I am in the religious minority, and I'm OK with that since most people assume I'm Christian anyway (the Chi-Rho tattoo on my right forearm confuses people all the more after I tell them I'm not one of them anymore). Since Christianity is the religion of the masses here I understand how Tennesseans can feel threatened by an outside group, like Muslims, especially when their knowledge of The Other is based on violent images shown on the news. I'd be afraid too if that's all I knew about them, and at one point I was afraid of Muslims. What changed for me was that I took the initiative to learn about them. Now, it's true that because of my openness and my developing sense of reason that, in the eyes of my neighboring Christians, I have lost my faith. But what I've gained in exchange for breaking my tribal ties is an immense love and respect for my fellow man, a love without conditions, exceptions, or fences.

What breaks my heart is when my fellow Tennesseans allow their fears to overcome their ability to love. I'm referring to the proposed bill which would make following Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail. Tennessee is not the only state on an anti-Shariah kick, but since this has hit home the issue has caught my attention. Of course this comes on the heels of last summers wave of anti-Islamic fervor which took root in my old stomping grounds, Murfreesboro, TN, over the building of a new mosque. Fear is truly the mind killer since most of the protesters of the proposed mosque refused to take anytime to consider that their longtime Muslim neighbors (the Murfreesboro Muslim community has been there for close to 30 years) simply needed a larger facility to accommodate their growth over the years. Christian communities expand all the time here in the south but when a minority group begins to expand to the point of becoming visible some Christian communities feel threatened. If Christians communities want a competing religious community to fear it should be their neighboring denomination. And with the decline of the housing market also affecting churches, denominations should be in fierce competition for a flock to fill their coffers.

The mosque protesters tried everything from labeling the Murfreesboro Muslim community as terrorists to claiming that Islam is not a religion but a political movement out to destroy the U.S. To counter the anti-mosque protesters a group formed and grew to not only embrace our Muslim neighbors but support their right to build their mosque and worship freely. The fight over the mosque last summer happened a few weeks after I graduated from MTSU and I unfortunately could not attend any of the rallies. I supported them in any way I could by clarifying the subject with friends and family and by also attempting (a very feeble attempt at that) to contact and bring together the religious communities of my local area to support their Muslim neighbors. What does make me proud to call myself a Tennessean is that even though the loudest residents caught the national media's attention, the silent majority believe that Muslims should also have the same rights to build their house of worship. To be honest I did not believe that my fellow Tennesseans would be as tolerant as they turned out to be last summer and for that I hope they will receive my humble apologies. I was so fixated on the intolerant, Bible thumpin' Southerner stereotype that I too fell victim to pigeonholing my neighbor. I'm glad they proved me wrong then, and I hope they prove me wrong over this ridiculous bill.