Archive for August, 2010

I Don’t Understand

Monday, August 30th, 2010 by JEL

After Glenn Beck’s big rally on Saturday, he went on “Fox News Sunday” and talked more about Obama and faith. Namely, he spoke about Obama’s “liberation theology.” He defined this term on his radio show last Tuesday:

“You see, it’s all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don’t know what that is, other than it’s not Muslim, it’s not Christian. It’s a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

I’ve read that quote a half dozen times and I still don’t understand it. It’s a lot of words that I’m sure some people will lap up, but I just don’t get it. Maybe that last part of the quote holds the key: “the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

So instead of the ACTUAL gospel of Jesus Christ that calls for tolerance and love and helping the needy and the poor, most Christians are following/believing something else entirely.

AOK Thursday: No Such Thing as “Random”

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 by JEL

People throw around the term “random act of kindness” all the time as an accepted phrase in our lexicon. It’s always troubled me. Randomly being kind? Really? Like, maybe you tripped in the kitchen, falling into the lemon meringue pie, ruining it, and thus saving your Aunt Trudie from a slice that would have only inflamed her gout?

Sorry, but I don’t buy it and neither does Susan Smalley, PhD in Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. She says in a recent essay,

“While the acts may be directed toward anonymous people or animals, the person’s act of kindness is anything but random — it is deliberate and directional — non-random in nature.

I think that the non-random nature of kindness is key to its value. It reflects a conscious choice on the part of the actor, to give, to help, to share and to soothe.”

So give some kindness, and give yourself some credit at the same time.

Hipster Christianity

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by JEL

Last week Brett McCracken, a 27-year-old evangelical, wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity.” In his piece, he talks about the efforts of pastors to stop the flow of young people out of their churches. He cites a 2007 study that states that 70% of young Protestants between the ages of 18-22 stop going to church.

What have church leaders infused in their services and programs to appeal to youth? Coffee lounges, “the emerging church” with a cool, countercultural image, cutting-edge technology, even open discussion of sex. I found these paragraphs especially interesting:

“In his book, ‘The Courage to Be Protestant,’ David Wells writes: ‘The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

‘And the further irony,’ he adds, ‘is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.’

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that ‘cool Christianity’ is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.”

Here’s an idea: try teaching what Jesus taught. Love, tolerance, and peace never go out of style.

One in Three

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by JEL

Sorry for the eerie silence last week on the blog. A much needed vacation pulled my fingers away from the keyboard. In between the biking, the roasting in the sun, and frolicking in the waves, I did happen to see this poll showing that only one in three Americans can correctly identify President Obama’s religion. One in five believe he is a Muslim. Which gets the big red X on your test paper.

Here are some snippets from Obama’s 2008 interview with Dan Gilgoff, then of Beliefnet:

“Let me just sort of be as clear as possible in terms of what that the background is.

You know, I was raised basically by my mother, who came from a Christian background – small- town, white, Midwesterner. But, she was not particularly religious. My father, who I did not know – I spent a month of my life in his presence, otherwise he was a stranger to me – was raised in a household where his father had converted to Islam. But my father, for all practical purposes, was agnostic.

My mother remarried an Indonesian and we moved to Indonesia. But for two years I went to a Catholic school in Indonesia, and then for two years went to a secular school in Indonesia. The majority of children there were Muslim. But it wasn’t a religious school.

So almost all the facts that have been presented in the scurrilous emails are wrong. And I’ve been a member of my church now for almost 20 years and have never been a person of the Muslim faith.”

He could have stopped there, but to his credit, Obama continued:

“…I absolutely believe that having lived in a country that was majority Muslim for a time and having distant relatives in Africa who are Muslim, that I’m less likely to demonize the Muslim faith and more likely to understand that they are ordinary folks who are trying to figure out how to live their lives and raise their kids and prosper just like anybody else. And I do think that that cultural understanding is something that could be extremely valuable.”

Sounds pretty rational and reasonable to me. I wish we had What He Said in Bunch of Grapes this past week. We just might have made a sale.

AOK Thursday: A Foundation!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010 by JEL

Imagine my surprise when, amidst my digital explorations, I stumbled across The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The have all kinds of tools, and ideas, and inspiration for performing acts of kindness in your school, your community, everywhere. Their mission is:

“The Random Acts of Kindness™ Foundation inspires people to practice kindness and to “pass it on” to others. We provide free educational and community ideas, guidance, and other resources to kindness participants through our website.”

And, if you think it’s just another charity about to hit you up for a donation, think again:

“The Foundation is privately held and funded. We accept no donations, grants, or membership dues. We do not provide financial assistance to individuals or organizations. The Foundation has no religious or organizational affiliations; we encourage the practice of kindness in all sectors of society.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is the United States delegate to the World Kindness Movement, an organization that includes various nations. People in these countries promote kindness within their countries’ borders and are creating a global network of kindness and compassion.”

Who knew there was a World Kindness Movement?

Anne Rice

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 by JEL

I know, I know. I’m more than a little late on novelist Anne Rice’s defection from the Church. In a Facebook post last week she wrote she was quitting Christianity “in the name of Christ.” Why?

“I reached a point where I felt that I couldn’t be complicit any longer in the things that organized religion was doing. I really saw it as a fairly simple repudiation, you know? I was exonerating myself. I was saying, ‘Look, when you — when you see the persecution of gay people by the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church, I’m not part of this. I’m out. I don’t support this anymore. When you see the oppression of women. I’m not part of it. I’m stepping aside. This follower of Christ is not part of that Christianity.’ That’s really what I thought to say.”

Anne Rice was raised as a Catholic, left the Church for a while, and then strongly re-embraced her faith in 1998. To see her speak about these issues, among others:

AOK Thursday: Need Some Ideas?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 by JEL

Your random act of kindness won’t seem quite so “random” if you need to pull an idea from the list, but it’s the kindness that counts! Loki Morgan provides seven excellent places to start:

  1. When you walk past someone look at them and smile.
  2. Pick up trash and litter that you see, even if it is not in your yard.
  3. Hold the door for the person behind you. If you are the recipient of this act of kindness make sure to thank the person. (This is a big bugaboo for me. People who ignore my kindness often get a loud “YOU’RE WELCOME” which never fails to startle. Admittedly, this pettiness on my part diminishes the intended kindness.)
  4. Send a letter to someone you love. Emails do not count for this random act of kindness.
  5. Do extra chores or do a chore that no one in your family likes to do.
  6. Tip your waiter or waitress more than 20%.
  7. When you ask someone how they are doing, listen to what they have to say. (This is another big one for me. My wife, in particular, seems to think “HiHowAreYou” is a single word that doesn’t really require a response.)

Jesus and PTSD

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 by JEL

Command Chaplain Col. Donald W. Holdridge of the 200th Military Police Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, the Army Reserves top chaplain for MPs, believes faith in Jesus can cure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wrote an 11,000-word essay, “Spiritual Resiliency: Helping Troops Recover from Combat.” In it he says:

“Combat vets need to know that most of these [PTSD symptoms] do fade in time, like scars. They will always be there to some degree, but their intensity will fade. What will help them fade is the application of the principles of Scripture.”

He then goes on to list some resources to help combat vets with PTSD. Four out of 10 are evangelical organizations whose mission, at least to some degree, is evangelizing to members of the military. Not everyone shares Holdridge’s views. Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, responded with:

“This is a carefully calculated, base, evil, vile, filthy and despicable perversion of the United States Constitution which, at once, heinously divides and demoralizes military unit cohesion while concomitantly lubricating and accelerating soldier suicides.”

Whether you think the chaplain is on the right track or obliterating the boundary between Church and State, you can learn more here.

Life: At the End

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 by JEL

Jesus talks in the Gospels about how to live your life. He doesn’t talk much about death or dying, but my guess is that He would want a good life lived well to end with grace and dignity, surrounded by loving friends and family. In light of that, Atul Gawande’s latest article for The New Yorker entitled “Letting Go” is something everyone should read.

My quick synopsis: despite all of our advances in medicine and development of new drugs, we are actually diminishing the quality of our endings. Two passages really hit me:

“Twenty-five per cent of all Medicare spending is for the five per cent of patients who are in their final year of life, and most of that money goes for care in their last couple of months which is of little apparent benefit.”

And, this note on hospice care:

“Like many people, I had believed that hospice care hastens death, because patients forgo hospital treatments and are allowed high-dose narcotics to combat pain. But studies suggest otherwise. In one, researchers followed 4,493 Medicare patients with either terminal cancer or congestive heart failure. They found no difference in survival time between hospice and non-hospice patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Curiously, hospice care seemed to extend survival for some patients; those with pancreatic cancer gained an average of three weeks, those with lung cancer gained six weeks, and those with congestive heart failure gained three months. The lesson seems almost Zen: you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer.”