July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
I was talking with my wife this past Sunday at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. It was brunch and we couldn’t help but notice how calm and pleasant the atmosphere was and how happy and in good spirits the waiters seemed to be. It’s because churches have not let out yet. It is common knowledge in the restaurant business that church folks are rudest, most demanding, and impatient kinds of folks to deal with. (not to mention bad tippers) If you have ever worked as a waiter in college or at a coffee shop you will know what I am talking about.
My wife tells me how she used to work at Pappa Johns in high school. She said that they used to get calls from a mega-church in the South Asheville area, Biltmore Baptist, asking them to cut the pizzas that they ordered into thirteen slices (the usually come in ten). They were trying to turn a profit off of the pizzas by charging three dollars for a miniaturized slice. When the managers at Pappa Johns refused saying that it was unethical and against their policy, the church officials threatened to verbally defame them to the entire congregation and hence potentially put them out of business. The managers ended up cutting the pizza for them. These same church officials even threatened the owners of a small Italian restaurant when they came one Sunday and their usual table was taken. They told the manager to move the family with seven kids to move to different tables, which they did due to fear of the churches influence. I only know this because the family that they told to move are some close friends ours. I guess the church officials fat asses couldn’t be supported by any other table that the restaurant owned…
I used to feel certain degree of respect for these types of churches given the massive undertaking involved in running a mega-corporation. Too many times young churches are done incompetently being that the pastor is young enough to actually believe what he is preaching and is therefore disadvantaged by being divorced from reality. He makes dumb decisions and alienates people due to the sincerity of this beliefs. An experienced pastor is either the master of compartmentalizing or he does not really buy what he is saying and has learned how to put on a good show. (most pastors realize what I have been saying on this blog a few years into the ministry but are too lazy or embarrassed to learn a different trade) At least the experienced and doubting pastor can function in reality. But now I have lost that respect I once have felt towards the competent mega-church officials who are, at least, good at running a business. But what good is it to be competent at the “ministry” if you loose your competency at being a decent human being?
September 26, 2010 § 1 Comment
I used to be the kind of person that believed that hell was a place of torment for people who didn’t believe what I did. I believed that we all deserved to go there because we were all terrible people. I believed that God hated people unless they believed in Jesus, and that he would want to torture them for them forever for not choosing to take part in his ultimatum. I see now that I believed these things out of fear.
Milton once bragged that he could change the course of history by saying that people would take his words or fiction for Truth. Unfortunately for us all he was right… He created a cartoonish place of torment called it Paradise Lost. For Hundreds of years after his sick prank on human-kind people were still giving their hard-earned money to get their dead relatives out of purgatory, torturing their backs with flesh-peeling whips, and burning innocent people alive to distance themselves from an imaginary place created out of the sick mind of a true narcissist.
My friend lately told me that he felt sorry for me. He feels sorry that I am happy because he believes that my happiness is leading me to hell. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the irony of the situation. It’s ironic because I feel like he wasting his life. Hell is described in the original hebrew primarily as a place of rot, waste, and denigration.
This makes me wish he know more about the Bible. There is no single word in the original manuscripts of the Bible for the concept of ‘hell.’ In fact there are three, and they all have very distinct and different connotations. The oldest word is Sheol which literally means “black pit” and it was used to describe death as a whole. In fact prophets and righteous men of the old testament are described as being there. (Aron being summoned by a witch as requested by kind Solomon) The second is Hades which comes from Greek mythology which bears little resemblance to that of Milton’s paradise lost. (though some believe it was his inspiration) The third is Gehenna, which was the site of an old Hebrew garbage dump outside Jerusalem’s walls. It was a place where old food, furniture, and excrement was tossed. It also was the site of a pointless bloodbath where soldiers lost their lives over an unjust war. Gehenna is a symbol of waisted potential, meaninglessness, denigration, and decay. It is symbolic because that is the way Jesus refers to the word in his parable Lazarus And The RIch Man. This obvious allegory is about waisted potential, confused identity, and a hardened mind-set.
Someone who lives their life just to get a ticket into heaven, at all cost of joy, happiness, and experience, to me is not a sincere person. That to me is the kind of life that Jesus describes in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Hell, if it exists at all, exists here on earth when we waste our lives living out of fear, unable to grasp onto the gift that we’ve been given. Those people are the ones who deserve our sorrow, not the other way around.
September 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
Unfortunately, it feels like war again here in the United States… Whenever I start hearing messages on T.V. that have to do with some radical spokesperson talking loud and passionately about rallying people to fight against general ideas, as opposed to particular issues, I know it’s mobilization time. And nothing appears to unite people more in this country right now than fear.
It seems like this time it’s the Muslims that are on the chopping block. Not terrorists, not political extremists, but Muslims. All this talk about how it is ‘disrespectful’ to have a mosque near ground zero is proof of that. The crazy thing is that no one seems to be paying attention to the real disrespect going on. I couldn’t think of anything more disrespectful than for conservative leaders such as Sarah Palin and Glen Beck throwing a beer-festival to ‘commemorate 9/11’, while at the same time conservative leaders vote to withhold healthcare to the families and firefighters who were victimized by the attacks.
To this day, ten years later, if you go to ground zero you will not find anything in the way of a memorial; no plaques, no list of names, no commemorative fountain to speak of. What you will find is a baseball field of twisted metal, clay, and rusting construction equipment surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. It’s disgraceful and embarrassing, but these latest antics from the Becks and Palins of this world are an insult to injury.
If we are going to protest a Mosque being built around the corner and three blocks away from ground zero, clump all Muslims together, then we have to go ahead clump all the Christians too. If we are going to talk about how it is an insult to have a mosque owned by a community of law-abiding, peace-loving Muslims that have been residents of NYC for over 50 years; then all christian churches should be removed from the surrounding area as well for all the heinous acts of terror committed in the name of Christendom. After all if would be disrespectful to have any building around the corner that condoned acts of terror such as the Salem witch-hunts, the Inquisition, Crusades, raping, torturing, and genocide for hundreds of years.
My point is we didn’t get out of the dark ages by marginalizing every Christian and Christianity as a religion, we did it through education and through the Enlightenment. If we are to show our respect for the families of those lost at 9/11, we should do so taking a good long look at the rubble of ground zero and thinking of how we are to bring something beautiful out of something very ugly; arm in arm with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment
Whoever originally thought it to be good idea to start telling people that his ideas were ‘the will of God’ must have been a true American. I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump is even jealous of that guy. He would definite get his own reality T.V. show if he were alive today. It’d be full of him getting people to do ridiculous things like whipping themselves, rubbing ashes all over their faces, wearing potato sacks, and all sorts of other funny things. He’d be rich too. He get them to give him 10% of their weekly paycheck and live in the nicest palace in town. He’d be s a high roller for sure. I’m pretty sure he drove a flashy red Mercedes chariot, wore dark sunglasses, and had a signature fragrance in the temple stores.
Reminiscent? I saw Joel Osteen the other day on the tube and I had to watch. He used to make me angry. In my zealot days he was downright infuriating. I hated how he just made-up Bible verses, and completely took scripture out of context to promote his sort of die-hard optimism-health and wealth type of preaching. I believed it was antithetical of the message of the gospels. It is mostly, but no one really cares. He’s a true American, I guess that matters more in Texas where his church is based.
In America, if it sells, then it is Truth. Nothing is really scared anymore. We have contraception and bowl movement commercials showered on us in between sitcoms about family alienation and their struggle against it. Then after the show we watch news reports about the awful thing that happened that day, (you know the one about the mother who drowned her infant, or the genocide that’s going on some remote corner of the earth) then the reporter makes a one liner comment about how it’s sad or tragic it is, and then we are immediately off to talk about Jessica Simpson’s sex life to cheer us all up.
This shocking lack of self-reflection is to be expected of the media, but now I see that it is no less shocking coming from the American church either. I don’t believe Joel Osteen is a Christian, not in the evangelical sense of the word, but I do think that he believes that he is doing good in his own way. I’m pretty sure his predecessor would be proud.
September 13, 2010 § 2 Comments
It’s gotta be hard, being a writer and needing to eat. I can’t imagine the pressure one might feel if the lively hood of your life depended upon book sales. I can just imagine myself writing and then rewriting a single sentence believing that my next car payment depended on it, and if I chose the wrong line then my car will be taken away from me. Sound paranoid? Sure.. but I’m guessing it’s not as far from the truth as you might think. This is probably the only legitimate reason I can think right now that makes me feel less disappointed with Don Miller right now. I guess I wouldn’t feel more than ambivalent about the guy if it weren’t for the fact that he’s been one of the few authors that has been able to grab my attention long enough to speak to me on a meaningful level.
He’s a good writer for sure. I had a friend once give him the greatest of compliments when he said that he said, “Don Miller writes books the way I would write them if I could write good.” Though my friend losses points for grammar it’s not a bad compliment. I can grant that it’s entirely possible that my general disappointment comes from other sources right now, but I can safely say that even if I wasn’t feeling generally let down by friends and family right now I would most likely be pretty disturbed by that I saw when I looked on his blog site here.
Demographic research? Advertising kits? What the hell? This sort of thing is not new to the motivational speaker world, or religion for that matter, but it certainly feels slimy coming from Don Miller. In his books he talks about the nature of marketing how it’s more designed to sell you insecurities than products. I couldn’t agree more. He talks about how contrived it feels to sit in a church and notice how the music and lights are timed perfectly to illicit emotion and how it all feels so plastic. You would assume that someone who professes these kinds sentiments wouldn’t try to market themselves in similar ways.
That’s the crazy thing about all this. A large reason Don Miller has done pretty well for himself is largely due to the fact that his notoriety was spread via word of mouth. I myself bought 10 copies and gave them out at a community center group book meeting that I lead because I thought that people probably wouldn’t get a chance otherwise. Those people then gave copies of their friends when they were done. Christian markets didn’t want to touch him at first, neither did anyone else it seemed. Now that he’s all over the book shelves of B&N it looks as if he’s fallen victim to the marketing monster that is the business of religion. But then again I guess it’s easy to judge when you aren’t a writer and your paycheck doesn’t depend on you going along with things that you don’t believe in.
September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Sometimes I feel like my life is playing a huge prank on me. I keep hoping that the unpleasant part of the prank is going to be over, and that friends and loved ones are going to come around the corner yelling “surprise!” and I’m going to laugh, and we’ll all joke, and all talk about how it was all just for fun.. but that moment comes all too seldom, and I feel like I am just left there in the mist of a something horrible half the time and that the situation would be funny if it were not for the fact that I feel like I’m going through it alone.
I’m know not alone in feeling this way. I’m know I’m not special. No one likes a mope, I know that… But who the hell are you if you can’t relate? I mean seriously, get over yourself. What is so great and funny about being depressed? Nothing! Then why are told that we should we act like it? Why we feel as though we have to put on a face is beyond ridiculous. I hate it when people act as though grieving were not necessary sometimes. Life is hard, we all know that. Sure, you shouldn’t be bummed all the time, it’s not healthy. Sure you should try to cheer up if you feel yourself in a depressing rut, granted, but why the hell are we so afraid to acknowledge that we all are in this world that is occasionally beautiful, and sometimes a shit-hole!?
Sometimes we are honest and sometimes we aren’t about this reality, but the point is we should really try to own our experiences; whatever they may be. Life is hard enough as it is, it’s even harder when you can’t admit that it is. A pain invalidated is a viral one. That’s why I want more friends. Friends that have lived enough and have enough experience to know what I’m getting at. Is that too much to ask?
September 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
I don’ think I could think of anything more petty and petulant than National Burn A Koran Day if I tried. Occult leader Terry Jones must have mixed some pretty strong Kool-Aid to get his congregation to go along with this nonsense. The real kicker to me is that his line of thinking (much like the terrorists of 9/11) is in complete conflict with his own religious text; the Bible.
Paul had plenty to say about living quietly amongst unbelievers to gain their respect in order to win converts to Jesus. Somehow I doubt that going on television and exclaiming to world that it is evil and wrong, as if your beliefs are bases on anything other than faith, or that you somehow merited your own salvation, (Ephesians 2:8) you wretch of sinner… and then inciting violence by burning something that the world considers sacred wouldn’t be what Thessalonians was talking about.
Fanatical Christians aren’t the only ones alone in this category. In the Koran in the book of Sura chapter 40 there are several specific rules regarding jihad which include but are not limited to: fasting and the abstinence from alcohol 7 days prior to jihad, no killing of women or children, no attacking an unarmed man, no destroying a tree with at least one green leaf left, etc… The attacks of 9/11 and almost all terrorist attacks in the last century have violated almost every one of these rules.
It’s annoying to me that even though I am a non-believer in the gospels or the Koran, I am far more aware of the Bible and Koran than the vast majority of Christians and Muslims that I come across on a day-to-day basis. The older I get the more I have a sneaking suspicion that his is very telling about the true nature of religion as a whole. It’s doesn’t inspire the deep self-reflection and education that it proposes to value, but rather creates followers who are intellectually enslaved, insecure, and emotionally stunted who would do anything on the promise of divine deliverance from their own self-created hell.
The the narrowly religious are not thinkers, they are sheep that feel that feel they just need to be told what to do, because they lack the creativity to live life apart from what someone else dictates. I know that may sound harsh, but what if you love your family you must call them out. I may not be a Christian or a Muslim, but the human race is my family, Bible misinterpreting fanatics and genocidal morons alike.