Archive | June, 2012

When Faith and AIDS Collide

28 Jun

I think this an incredibly sad example of how faith divides familes, friends, and even whole communities.  I won’t offer much commentary, but I wonder what your thoughts are when your read a story like this…

Nobody Expects An Inquisition!

26 Jun

It was almost closing time and I was out on the sales floor straightening up my department.  When all of the sudden…..

Jesus Tweaker

I was approached by a young man in his twenties who began to barrage me with questions about my beliefs and the Lord.

The following is my best recollection of that conversation…

The Inquisition

Jesus Tweaker:  “Do you know the Lord?”

Me: “Uh….that’s a complicated question.”

JT: “Well, I’m here to tell you that the Lord loves you..I’m a messenger of love.”

Me: “Well, I won’t fault anyone who wants to share love.”

JT: “Do you believe there’s evil in the world?”

Me: “Yes, but I don’t believe in thought crimes.”

JT: “Did you know that Jesus talked about our thoughts and said if we even look at a women lustfully we have committed adultery?”

Me: “Well, that’s what I’m talking about.  I think that Jesus is teaching a form of thought crimes.  I personally think morality is based on consent.  If you harm or do something to someone without their consent, you’re immoral in my opinion.  Demonizing, natural sexual attractions is a form of thought crime and I think it’s only purpose is to make people feel guilty, even though they haven’t done anything wrong.”

At this point Jesus Tweaker seems confused and begins to talk about right and wrong.  He’s talking so loud and with a huge smile…that it reminds me of when I’ve talked to people who were massively drunk.  After skirting some more on morality, the inquisition continues.

JT “Do you believe in a higher power?”

Me “No”

JT “No…why not?”

Me: “Because, I don’t have any evidence that sems to indicate a higher power exists…”

JT “But do you have a wife or kids?

Me: “Yes”

JT “You love them don’t you…well, how can you explain your love for them?”

Me “I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”

Again, my answer seems to have thrown Jesus Tweaker a bit off track and he changes course.

JT “Well, I’m just here to tell you that God wants a relationship with you.”

Me: “And how do you know this?”

JT: “Because the Bible is God’s word and it tells us about God’s love.”

Me “OK…but why am I speaking to you and not God himself?  Doesn’t he have the ability of making that clear to me.”

JT “Well…I’m a messenger of the Lord, a messenger of his love.  I don’t believe it’s an accident that we’re speaking right now.  I didn’t come here on my own.”

Me “Hmmmm…..but you did walk in on your own 2 legs?  You did come in here by your own choice, didn’t you?

JT ” I just want to tell you God loves you and sent his Son, Jesus to die for you.  I’ve seen demons cast out and I believe that I will see the dead raised.”

He then proceeds to tell me about how he prayed for a woman with one leg shorter than the other.  She asked for him to pray for her back, but he refused and they prayed for her leg and it grew out 2 inches.

Me “So it grew out 2 inches?  What about an amputee, have you ever seen one healed by having their leg grow back?

JT “No…I did ask a couple of amputees in the city if I could pray for God to heal them.  But they seemed offended and wouldn’t let us pray.”

At this point, a concerned shift leader stops by to make sure I’m ok.  I indicate that I am and I begin to try and wrap up the conversation.

Me “Well…it’s been nice chatting but I need to close up my department.”

JT “Can I just pray for you?”

Me “No..I don’t think that’s appropriate since I’m on the clock.  You can feel free to pray on your own time.”

JT ignores me and prays loudly “I just bless you in JESUS name. THANK YOU FATHER! I bless you”

At this point he walks away to a cash register, where he loudly proclaims his love for the Abba Father, and begins asking employees and customers if they beleive in God.

I turn away and wonder if I was ever that “crazy” for the Lord.

18 Jun

I’m still getting a ton of hits from folks searching for info on Young Life. Just wanted to highlight a new post over at Young Life Watch.

Young Life Watch

One of my bone of contentions, is Young Life’s lack of honesty.  What I mean is this,  Young Life is an Evangelical Christian outreach to teens.  Their goal is to win an audience with teens and convert them to an Evangelical form of Christianity.  The problem is, that Young Life leaders are often coached to be vague with non-Christians.  In other words, hiding their true intent to convert teens.  This is deceitful, in my opinion.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  The following are two quotes from a Young Life Leadership manual published in 2008…,

“How would you explain Young Life?

Christian: Young Life is a Christian outreach to adolescents.
Non Christian: Young Life is a non-profit that connects caring adults with kids.

Christian: Young Life is a ministry that shares Christ with kids through relationships and helps them grow in their faith.
Non Christian: Young…

View original post 328 more words

Future Mad Scientist, DB…Responds to Creflo Dollar and the Issue of Spanking

14 Jun

In my last post (which you can find here), I commented briefly, that Creflo Dollar is claiming that he did not hit and choke his 15-year-old daughter, he only spanked her.

Future mad scientist DB had this to say

First, as a still-Christian, the rod is symbolic of parental authority not permission to beat your kids.

Second, why is everyone up in arms because of her age? Why is it ok to beat little kids but spare older kids? No one should be hit period.

One of the things I regret as a result of my time in the same cultish church as our dear host is that I ever physically assaulted my children.

Nothing will take away that shame and regret.

What you may not know about DB and christianagnostic, is that we used to go to the same church.  In fact, we used to go to the same small group, at this church.

It was at this church that I was first exposed to the teachings of Gary Ezzo.  DB approached our pastors about some concerns she had with the Ezzo and his parenting advice.  They kicked her and her family out of the church and forbid anyone to speak to her.  They shunned her family for merely asking them to justify these extreme parenting ideas.  You can read DB’s story about these events here.

So there’s a little context as to why DB and I fell so strongly against spanking.  It’s because we were parenting young children at a church that encouraged parents to spank at almost any infraction and at any age.

In the parenting classes I attended, we were instructed to begin disciplining children as young as 3 months old.  And when I say discipline, I mean we were specifically taught to flick a baby’s  backside if they were crying and showing their “sinful” nature.  All of this was  according to Mr. Ezzo and our pastoral staff, the “Biblical” way to raise “Godly” children.  This same pastor, went so far as to suggest that we NOT take our children to any doctor that would inspect their backsides for marks, because then the doctor might be obligated to report suspected abuse.

He went on to say he could recommend a Dr. who “understood” Biblical discipline and was always careful to never inspect children’s backsides for bruising.

If you’re sitting here with your mouth now open and wondering if anyone actually followed this advice….I’m sorry to report that I witnessed young babies being “flicked” for crying too much.  As a parent of a toddler, I had been encouraged to begin spanking with a foot long glue stick.  Yes, a glue stick.  I was told that it ensured that pain was felt and that it left very little bruising.

Now call me crazy, but this sort of teaching is all about control through violence and intimidation, not discipline.  And you want to know the other side of it.  It doesn’t work….I could list family after family that used to follow this regime, believing that they were raising “Godly “children that would never rebel or disobey (yes-they actually pitched this as a way to insure that you did not ever have rebellious children).  Only to have major issues with their children.

I actually attempted to follow this parenting model, but just couldn’t.  It seemed so wrong and harsh.  As a new parent, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just harsh, it was abuse.  We chucked it pretty soon into it and decided we didn’t care what our church thought.  But I still have regret for ever giving heed to such an abusive outlook and it has weighed heavy on me, at times.  Once I realized how awful it had been, I would cry (almost uncontrollably) at how adversarial I had been to my own children.  They were young and tender, and I was assuming the worst of their tiny hearts.

So when it comes to spanking, I say “Buyer Beware”.

You might be able to control your children in the short-term with such tactics, but you could be sowing seeds of resentment that could last a lifetime.

Creflo Dollar Denies Choking and Slapping Daughter…It was Only a Spanking?

12 Jun
Dr. Creflo A. Dollar

Dr. Creflo A. Dollar (Photo credit: iandavid)

I was never into the Word of Faith movement, so I don’t usually follow or comment on the semi-regular scandals that seem to bubble to the surface now and then.

As for the latest,  Creflo Dollar is the on the hot seat, after his 15 year old daughter called 911 and said her father had choked her and slapped her.  Her 19 year old sister backed up her story and an investigation is ongoing.  You can read a brief news report on the incident here.

I guess what stood out for me, was that while Pastor Dollar denies choking and slapping his daughter, he apparently admits that all he did was wrestle her to the ground and spank her.

Wait a second, that’s your explanation?  That’s your defense?  That it was just a little spat that ended with you ( a 50 year old man) wrestling your 15 year old to the ground and spanking her?

I don’t know about you, but the spanking of a 15 year old seems like grounds for possible abuse.  I have 2 teens close to that age and I would never dream of slapping them, let alone wrestling to the ground and spanking them…this whole thing is wrong at it’s core.

If I were one of Pastor Dollar’s 30,000 congregants,  I would want to know how he justifies spanking a child that old.

Wouldn’t you?



Is Young Life a Cult ? Introducing….Young Life Watch

11 Jun
English: YLlogo

English: YLlogo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I’d be writing about and how people would respond.  Overall, I’ve found that I love to write and genuinely enjoy the folks who take the time to comment and add to the discussion.

One of my big surprises, has been the huge amount of hits due to Google searches on Young Life.  In fact, the number one search engine phrase that people use when clicking to the christianagnostic is “Young Life Cult” or some similar phrasing.  It seems, that there are a lot of people with questions about Young Life, but there are not a lot of places on the web that discuss the ministry with candor.

Since the focus of my blog is not exclusive to Young Life, I’ve set up a separate blog called Young Life Watch.  All of my older posts dealing with Young Life can be found there, and hopefully, it  can be a place where people with questions or insight to Young Life can go and discuss the relevant issues.

If you have story to tell, or a question about Young Life, please click on over and add to the discussion!

Learning to Stand Up for Myself

7 Jun

In my last post (which you can read here) I pondered the motives of my five-year old friend who lashed out violently.  The many comments, about childhood pain and pressures got me thinking, about the one time I did take up my fists and try to hurt someone.

New Kid on the Block

In between my 3rd and 4th grade school year, my family bought a new home and moved us about 2 miles away from my old house.  At the time I thought nothing of the move.  Little did I know how tough it would be, to be the new kid on the block.

Our new house was built in 1967 and was situated on an acre of woods and green grass.  It was one of 15 lots whose backyards were mostly open and backed up to each others’ yard on the block.  The block was teeming with kids and it seemed like nothing, to have 30 kids playing kick the can until ten at night on a summer evening.

I also discovered my two passions in life.  Playing baseball (something we did almost every day of the summer) and collecting baseball cards.  With any spare money we could find, about 5-10 of us would walk 2 miles to the local Wawa.  After arriving, we would divvy up our spending between buying candy, playing Asteroids, and buying as many packs of Topps baseball cards as we could afford.  Our greatest hope was to find cards from our hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies.  At that time, 20 cents could get you a pack of 15 cards and a stiff piece of gum.  Those were the days my friend, (cue Mary Hopkins)…..

But summer ended, school began, and a new trial arose.  My neighbor from across the street, was a year older and didn’t play with us during my first summer.  Everyday at the bus stop,  he would pick on me without mercy.  He would tease me, trip me, shove me, make fun of me.  And all my new friends went along with him.

Why did they do that?

How come I could go over to Dave’s house and play for hours, but the next morning he would join along or stay silent, as this ring leader taunted me?  My feelings were deeply hurt and I began to doubt my own self-worth.

A few months into it, and I broke down and begged my dad to move back to our old house.  I cried and pleaded for us to just move back…I just wanted the simple life that had been mine before moving across the street from a bully.  My Dad was shocked and concerned, but he made it clear that moving back was not an option.  I would have to learn to deal with my new arch nemesis.

I tried my best, by mostly pretending that his taunts did not hurt me.  But on the inside, I was crushed.  I was not (and in many ways am still not) a fighter.  I simply had no natural skills at standing up for myself and I was taking a verbal beating, everyday.

Learning to Cope

I wish I could report that these incidents of bullying stopped.  They continued for another couple of years and it took a toll on my self-image.  Just when I would start to feel comfortable, this guy would take me out, cut me down to size, and make me doubt my self-worth, for weeks on end.  It never crossed my mind to punch him, I just learned to cope.

For me, coping came in the form of wit.  I learned that most bullies are dim and easily disoriented by a little wit and misdirection.  Kind of like confuse a cat for bullies.  He’d say something typical, like I was an idiot.  I would thank him for the compliment and ask him if he wanted to know where I’d bought my sneakers.  He usually would repeat himself and then I’d comment on how nice the weather had been lately.  This would tire him out, because I had gone off script and I’d be off the hook for a little while.

The other way I would cope, was to pretend that it didn’t bother me.  As this is not the most emotionally helpful coping mechanism, it has taken me well into adulthood to realize that it’s ok to say when someone has hurt you, or admit that I have emotions about what has happened in life.  Or God forbid, actually get angry.  No, at that stage, anger and emotion was exactly what this bully wanted, so I refused to give it to him.

Relief, at Last

It finally happened….he moved away.  As in miles away.  His parents had gotten a divorce and the family soon moved.  All I understood, was that my hell was over.  The daily taunting was mostly over and I could actually enjoy my mornings waiting for the bus.

In hind sight, maybe the hell of his own family situation is what motivated him to pick on the new kid.  Maybe, he was just repeating phrases he heard his Dad hurl at his mom.  Maybe he felt let down by a Dad who couldn’t be bothered to take him to a Phillies game when my Dad offered them first-rate tickets.  I don’t know, but for my 11-year-old mind, all I knew was sweet relief.

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

Fast forward another year or so…I am walking home from school with my new best friend, James.  He’s a year or two younger, but we share a passion for all things Baseball and my new passion, The Beatles.  We are Beatle nerds, for lack of a better description.

Anyway, we are walking home-me lugging a very heavy trombone and James lugging a bag full of books, including a discography of the Beatles.  At some point, one of my neighbors joins us, but he starts in on James because he is younger and a little overweight.  I tell my neighbor to stop, but he doesn’t and then he starts to tease me.  He teases me just like the bully who’d moved away had teased me.  He called me the same names, because he’d seen me a thousand times before just suck it up and endure.

It’s fall, the sky is overcast, and we are actually standing in the middle of my old back yard from where I had moved, a few years before.  Back when I didn’t even know what a bully was.  But now, my neighbor starts pushing James to the ground, and I just snap….

There Will Be Blood

Just as I saw James hit the ground, it happened…I snapped.  All the years of teasing, all the years of never standing up for myself had caught up, and I erupted in anger.

I threw my bag and instrument to the ground and came at my neighbor with a fury of fists and screaming.  I told him I was going to kill him and I just kept punching and punching.  All the anger, all the pain, I was determined to punish this neighbor with my fists.

He looked like a scared dog and he just kept backing up and ducking as I screamed and punched.  Lucky for him, he was able to miss the full fury of most of my punches and he quickly retreated, as I yelled at him some more.  I was swinging so hard at him that I pulled the muscles in both arms.  I yelled so loud that my voice became hoarse.  But I didn’t care, no one was ever going to treat me like that again….never.   He eventually ran home and I settled down enough to finish walking home.

I’m sure the whole incident was less than 2 minutes, but in that 2 minutes, something changed.  I had stood up for myself and my friend.  But I also had become violent and out of control.  I had let things go for so long, and now I could barely contain my rage.

I never again threw a fist at someone, and learning to stand up for myself, even verbally, was a skill that I had to learn over and over.  Many times, I would let feelings build up to the point of eruption.  Eruptions that sometimes hurt relationships.  Learning to cut these off at the pass, meant learning the fine art of standing up for myself and believing in my own self worth.

Post Script

As an aside, nobody in my neighborhood ever picked on me again.  As for the neighbor I threatened with my fists, he sheepishly said hello the next morning and kept looking over his shoulder.  I think he was actually scared I’d attack him.

Lucky for him, I’m more of a lover than a fighter.

Sucker Punch to the Nose

4 Jun
The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was only 5 years old and summer was quickly approaching.  I was finishing up my first year in school of afternoon Kindergarten.  Besides the new things I was learning academically (like how to walk quietly in a straight line), I was enjoying all the new and interesting people in my class.  There was Dan, who would become my best friend through high school.  There was Douglass, who even in Kindergarten, exuded cool and always was the leader of the pack.  And then there was my other new friend, Tommy.

Tommy lived 1 block away from my house, but he lived across a street that I was not allowed to cross by myself.  Getting to go over to Tommy’s was always a big deal, because I had to have special permission and mom’s help to go back and forth to Tommy’s house.  Besides being playmates, Tommy and I would also walk to school together.  At age 5, the quarter-mile walked seemed like a hike on the Appalachian trail.  But we always had fun, discussing the latest Saturday morning cartoons, or the newest Six Million Dollar Man episode.

I think Tommy was a little jealous, because my parents had bought me a Six Million Dollar Man action figure.  The only action figures he had were his older sister’s Ken and Barbie dolls.  No comparison, in my humble opinion.

Out of the Blue

It’s funny how certain moments seem to be etched forever in your memory.  I can still remember the warmth of the June sun.  The fact that I was wearing my favorite motorcycle t-shirt.  And that I had been waiting for Tommy at the outside exit, on the far end of the elementary school, right at the edge of our concrete playground.

Tommy was a little late today and as he exited the building he said something to me.  I don’t remember what he said.  But then, out of the blue, he clenched his fist and punched me square in the nose.  It knocked me to the ground.  I remember feeling light-headed as I struggled to get back to my feet.  As I stood, I realized that there was a warm liquid gushing down my face and onto my shorts.  I had a bloody nose.

I looked to my left as I clutched my nose to see Tommy sprinting towards home.  As I coughed on the blood, a classmate and her older sister exited and were shocked to see me bleeding all over the pavement.  They helped me to the nurse, where my bloody nose was attended to.  After the bleeding stopped,  I was escorted to the principal so that I could report what happened and who had done this.

The principal asked if we had been fighting.  No, we had never fought.  She then asked who hit me.  I told her it was Tommy.  She wrinkled her nose a bit, sighed, and then told me to walk home with the two good Samaritans that had peeled me off the pavement. They we’re more than happy to escort me home, where my nose got some motherly attention and some chocolate milk to help ease my injury.

Sometimes,You Never Know Why

After the incident, a few phone calls were made and Tommy came over to tearfully apologize.  He never did say why he punched me. We never really played again and he moved away after school finished that year, so I never saw him again.

Just like that, a sucker punch to the nose and the relationship was over.  No explanation, no reasons given. Done.

Now that I’m older, I realize that something must have been terribly upsetting in Tommy’s world for him to lash out violently.  Were his parents getting divorced?  Was he being abused? Was he a foster child?  I just don’t know.

But that’s how life is sometimes, you get sucker punched in the nose.  By the time you’ve regained your footing, life has changed and you’re not really sure why.

Biblical Law, American Law, and the Debate Over Gay Marriage

1 Jun

It seems inevitable, whenever I read a Christian perspective on Gay Marriage that God’s Law will be invoked.  It’s usually invoked with a “slam dunk” sort of statement.  You know, that “God’s Law clearly states homosexuality as a sin” sort of argument.  Since homosexuality is clearly stated as a sin in God’s Law, then Gay marriage should be off the table.  You can see an example of this type of discussion here.

But there is a problem with this argument, even from a Biblical viewpoint….let me explain.

Biblical Pick ‘N’ Pull

There is a  problem with invoking God’s Law as support for issues of American Law.  First off, there’s the constitutional issue of religious neutrality.  Most Christians skirt this issue without much thought, so I won’t waste my time on that one.

The main problem for arguing that God’s Law should apply to American Law, is that according to God’s Law, you are required to follow every jot and tittle.  Not just the laws that you like.

So in the case of homosexuality, it is most clearly condemned in the book of Leviticus.  I have seen it referred to many times when Christians discuss Gay marriage.  But here’s the rub.  Leviticus clearly condemns homosexuality as an abomination, deserving of death by stoning.  Do Christians really want to apply the full force of Biblical Law  to American Law?  If not, than why not?

To be fair, some Christians do think we should be executing Gays…but it seems most Christians adopt a much lesser version of disapproval.  Most invoke a type of “love the sinner, hate the sin” type of ethos and would never dream of actually killing Gays.  They say God will take care of that in the afterlife, if they don’t repent.

The other issue, is one of consistency.  What about other laws in the Bible ?  Shouldn’t they be regarded as well? Leviticus 19:37  says ‘Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.’ If we are to be consistent, then we are obligated to follow all of God’s law, not just the ones that support arguments against Gay marriage.

Here’s just a few…

Men can not clip their sideburns  (I guess Elvis was on to something)

No one can ever consume pork or shellfish (There goes the roadside diner)

No one can work on the Sabbath (Oh, and the penalty for this is death)

Children who curse their parents are to be stoned ( Stoned with rocks, not weed…)

Rapists are to be punished, by forcing them to pay the victims dowry and marry their victim (don’t think this is the type of Biblical courtship that most women have in mind)

I could go on with a couple dozen more verses that I suspect, very few Christians would actually want as American Law.  If you don’t believe me, go check out the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and then get back to me.

All or Nothing

It seems to me the scriptures are clear.  You can not apply a pick n pull approach.  Either you obey all of the law or none at all.  You can not argue that God’s Law should apply and then make exceptions that do not suit you.  That’s why I find it intellectually lazy when Christians do so.

It’s all or nothing…and I find that most Christians would rather be called pagans than be forced to obey all of God’s Law.  As the New Testament declares, the law was a burden that neither they nor their forefathers could bear.

If this is the case, then why should homosexuals be forced to obey God’s law?