When Did Religion Start Holding Us Back?

inquisitionWhen did religion turn into a system that retards society and culture rather than a progressive force pushing it forward?  The thought occurred to me this week in a conversation about the lack of response from Christians to the atrocities committed by ISIS and Boko Haram towards women.  As 10 and 11 year old girls are kidnapped, raped, and sold as sex slaves it feels like most Christian’s are more concerned about Donald Trump “restoring our Christian nation” to drive out the gays and atheists.  Believers across the world and from across religious spectrums are seeking to bring society backwards to some golden era of belief.  They seemingly forget that religion is what has moved us forward more than it’s held us back.

Without man’s belief in god much of the beauty and discovery we know today wouldn’t exist.  The constant pursuit to understand god and to come into contact with he/she/it has driven man for millennia.  The fine arts were once driven by man’s belief in something larger and bigger than himself.  From the tales of the gods told around tribal fires to the artistry of the Sistine Chapel, belief in god inspired man to create unimaginably beautiful works of architecture, music, art, and storytelling.

Scientists in their awe and wonder of the created world were once driven by their belief.  From the Mayans understanding of the solar system to Francis Collin’s work on the Human Genome Project, believers sought to discover God through the sciences.  They weren’t afraid of discovery as each new discovery of the miracle of life simply proved the existence of god.   Reformers from the prophet Isaiah to Martin Luther reached out to believers to almost shake them by the shoulders to wake them from a droll life simple existence.  The way they had been living wasn’t what God wanted for them.  They were not living a full life.

Today however, faith based art is a joke.  Christian film-making is disappointing in both style and substance.  Parents are appalled and would drape a cloth around Michelangelo’s David if given the chance. Scientists who believe in God must defend themselves as strongly to other believers as they do to unbelievers. Ministers are afraid to call their congregations into new ways of living with an ever evolving society around them. Pastors who challenge tired dogma quickly find themselves without a job.  Even faith-based businesses such as World Vision who offered healthcare to gay spouses quickly felt the backlash as faithful believers would rather abandon the lives of 3000 children overseas than to see a Christian organization be progressive.  We are once again in a fearful age where we would gladly excommunicate Galileo.  Many today would even say Jesus would find himself “not Christian enough”.

However, I don’t believe that any religious system was designed to hold man back.  Having spent my life studying the Bible and more recently other faiths such as Judaism and Islam, I’ve come to realize how crucial the prophets of those faiths were to progressing society.  Whether it was Moses, Jesus, or Muhammed, they all came with messages bringing their people out of an old way of thinking and into a new enlightenment about their role in the world and with their fellow man.  Take the Bible for example.  While many disgusted with the acts of Boko Haram or ISIS will also point to the genocide called for and enacted in the Bible as equally egregious, they also gloss over the majority of what the Pentateuch did for improving the lives of the Israelites.  In Deuteronomy 21:10-14 for example, God provided Israel with instructions for marrying female war captives.  It included giving her time to mourn her husband that you just killed and also for providing her freedom if you changed your mind.  This type of behavior was unheard of ancient times.  This thought not only gave conquered women rights, but self-worth.

Laws are now being written across the United States to “protect religious freedom” by essentially creating a system of intolerance and discrimination against anyone who doesn’t believe like you do.  Given the right administration the nation is footsteps away from a new era of dark ages when we should be on the verge of a new renaissance and enlightenment. This is wrong and I know personally I want nothing to do with that sort of belief system.

The faithful are now fearfully stepping backward when they should be moving forward.  Their beliefs beg them to discover their god, not cower from him.  It is this willingness to move forward against our fear, to make new discoveries, and come into new realities that separates us from the animals.  If faith can’t do that, it will simply step back into extinction as society moves forward with new prophets.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Easter Monday Morning Quarterbacking — April Love-Fordham

It is the Monday after Easter. On Easter Sunday, in the glory of the resurrection, it is easy – and probably appropriate – to overlook one of the really interesting details of the Jesus story. But now that it is Monday, let’s do some Monday Morning Quarterbacking… “The women hurried away from Jesus’s tomb, afraid yet […]

via Easter Monday Morning Quarterbacking — April Love-Fordham

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Ben Carson’s Campaign Manager Attempts to Defend Him and Fails

Las Vegas Prepares For Final Republican Debate Of The Year

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson prepares for a television interview before the start of the CNN republican presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As Ben Carson not so surprisingly stepped out of the presidential race this past weekend and shockingly endorsed Donald Trump, many people (including myself) wanted to know why.  (See my open letter to Dr. Carson here).  Well, his campaign chairman responded via Facebook over the weekend.  The response is below and I will honestly say I’m even less impressed with Dr. Carson now.  I’ve added thoughts and responses to the statements in blue italics.

*     *     *

March 11, 2016; General Bob Dees, Campaign Chairman, Carson for President 2016 on Dr. Carson’s endorsement of Donald Trump:

Team Carson,

You are no doubt aware of Dr. Carson’s official endorsement of Donald Trump at a press conference today, the rationale for which he reiterated on his Facebook page this morning.

Subsequently, many of you sent strong messages of support for today’s endorsement, while many others sent equally strong messages of disappointment. In all candor, some of this critical dynamic reminds me of Passion Week which began with Hosannas from the people, and ended with “Crucify Him.” Yet Christ had not changed, just as Dr. Ben Carson has not changed his devotion to God, his fundamental policy convictions regarding the right path for our nation, or his undying commitment to Save America for Future Generations.

For those of you who seek to analyze this decision through a spiritual lens, we must ask how God’s purposes might have been thwarted if Daniel had not served in Babylon, or if Joseph had not served Pharaoh? In a similar vein, Dr. Carson’s endorsement is not driven by political ambition or any “sell out” on Dr. Carson’s part — rather Dr. Carson remains the same wise, practical, empirically-driven, and God-honoring leader and selfless servant he has always been.

Daniel and Joseph were slaves in a system with no other options for survival, and God blessed them through their adversity.  If Dr. Carson actually believes he’s stuck in a system with no other options I’ll let him off the hook.  But the truth is he’s not stuck.  He could do so many other things and run for other offices where he could make a difference without attaching himself to another candidate who is so toxic.  

While each of us is ultimately responsible to God and others for our response, I would ask those who have been so quick to judge and condemn to simply think about it further. The thoughts below reflect Dr. Carson’s thinking on the challenges we face.

Let us reason together for a moment:

  • Our nation cannot survive another secular progressive administration, particularly under the leadership of someone like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. If the Democrats win this next election, America as we know it will cease to exist.
    • Is this such a bad thing?  Racism still runs rampant.  Our education system is behind the rest of the industrial world.  We have more incarcerated individuals than any other country.  And we have the largest military in the world basically holding every other country hostage because after all the fears of nuclear war, the US is the only country in history to actually use it.  Yeah, let’s keep that America.
  • Dr. Carson is an empirical thinker, assessing realities and determining common sense solutions to achieve the desired goal. The reality is that Donald Trump, along with the talented team which he will no doubt assemble, is the Republican Party’s best opportunity to win back the White House. Instead of Republican Party operatives falling on their sword regarding “anyone but Trump,” they should embrace the millions of newly interested Republicans, channeling their passion (and anger) into positive change and a likely victory. They should let the democratic process work.
    • Okay, I’ll buy that.  Let the democratic process work.
  • A majority of Dr. Carson supporters have consistently identified Donald Trump as their fallback choice, another outsider who can truly break the political paradigm of corruption and cronyism in Washington. As we have said for many months now, “Donald Trump and Ben Carson sing from the same song book; they just sing in different keys.”
    • Trump breaking the paradigm of corruption and cronyism in Washington is like thinking Kim Kardashian will rectify the inequality in women’s roles in hollywood.
  • Our strength is our unity. In Dr. Carson’s sentiments from this morning, we cannot allow agents of division and political operatives to pit us against one another, or to thwart the voice of the people. Donald Trump possesses the capability to unite Americans and represent all of “We The People” in ways that his leading opponents simply cannot do. As Dr. Carson highlighted this morning, Donald Trump possesses the intellect, introspection (a surprise to many who do not truly know him), adaptive leadership, and boldness needed to truly break the Washington DC political paradigm that holds America captive.
    • Has Dr. Carson not watched the news?  Has no one shown him a Trump rally?  At what point does anything Donald Trump has done or said tell you he is uniting people of all races, faiths, and sexual orientation to his cause?
  • As always, Dr. Carson is not being politically correct — he simply wants to save America. He simply wants to solve the great challenges we face. This is why he has courageously and boldly endorsed Donald Trump as the best way to help “We The People.” The man who we have loved and followed has not changed – he continues to walk in faith as his Lord provides wisdom and a “lamp unto his path.”
    • Sorry, you can’t say he’s not being politically correct when in bullet two he was towing the party line.  

As always, my comments simply cannot do justice to the true depth or significance of Dr. Carson’s thoughts. I commend Dr. Carson’s full comments at this morning’s press announcement. I have never heard him to be more clear, convicted, or compelling. He remains laser focused, always seeking to do the right thing for the right reasons.

While some of you may still disagree with Dr. Carson’s endorsement decision, may the “banner of love” characterize our thoughts and actions. May each of us avoid the politics of personal destruction and divisive rhetoric that besets our land. May each of us be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. May each of us seek to Save America for Future Generations. Ultimately, may God heal our land, as He inspires and revives “We The People.”

 

Prayerfully and respectfully to all,

General Bob Dees

Campaign Chairman

Carson for President 2016

1 Comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Trump, Evangelicals, and the Road Ahead

In 1934, at the age of 28, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to a friend about an upcoming conference that would involve members of churches from several countries and denominations. In this lette…

Source: Trump, Evangelicals, and the Road Ahead

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Thoughts

Dear Ben Carson, Please Tell Me Why

ben-carson

Dear Dr. Ben Carson,

When when you announced your candidacy for president I was intrigued.  When you trended well in the polls I was surprised.  When you kept getting bullied and knocked around during debates I felt sorry for you.  When you withdrew his candidacy I was relieved; you can do better.  But when you endorsed Donald Trump I was disappointed.  And not just a little bit.  I actually lost a lot of respect for you.

See, when you entered the presidential race I wanted to see how this “man of God” would stand up to the pressure.  Throughout your campaign you referred to your commitment to prayer and seeking the lord for guidance in your decisions.  I respected that.  I trusted that with good advisors, your years of education, and your faith you would make sound decisions that represented your commitment to integrity and honesty.  Then you stood up to endorse a man for president who is your opposite in every way. If you were truly looking at what was God’s leading why would you support a man on his third marriage, who defrauds people in nearly every business deal, mocks those with handicaps, threatens those who don’t agree with him, and has less biblical knowledge than a kindergartener?  Do any of those things sound like something Jesus would endorse?

Your campaign while filled with quirks the media exploited was still honest and made me trust you.  My dislike of Donald Trump has little to do with politics.  In him I see anger, pettiness, greed, and selfishness. He is bringing out the worst in people.  I’m afraid of the world that Donald Trump will create for my kids.  And now you’re explicitly supporting that world.

Dr. Carson, all I want to know is why?  Why would you let us down by supporting such a narcissistic sociopath?  What did he offer you?  What promises were made in those back rooms where you saw a “different Donald Trump than the rest of the world”?  What do you hope to accomplish by doing this other than disappointing so many people who looked up to you?

I want to trust you still, but right now I don’t believe you.  Stop insulting my intelligence by saying you see something redeeming in Donald Trump.  Stop insulting my faith by saying this is the decision God led you to.  Or you can keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll believe that you have sold out to the political machine.  That you aren’t the person who inspired people with your faith and integrity.  And that will be a great loss to the world.

Thank you,

 

4 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

What Movies Should Your Kids Be Watching?

deadpool-tickets-166826

It’s 11:30pm on a Wednesday night.  My friends and I have been counting down for months, waiting for Avengers: Age of Ultron.  We’ve already been at the cinema for hours waiting in line to get the right seats.  Despite it being a work night and my 35 year old body not responding to the lack of sleep like it did in college, I’m here past my bedtime and excited.  As the theater starts to fill up I glance around to see the people coming in.  I love opening night.  It’s truly for the fans.  Half the people have some sort of superhero logo on their clothing.  Some are in costume.  Then I see it, the one thing that can ruin the whole night.  Some parent brought their kid.  And I’m not talking about their teenage son.  No, the kid’s probably not older than six or seven.  They’re carrying them in because the kid is already sleepy.  And it makes me angry.  This is inconsiderate movie going.  And it’s irresponsible parenting.

One of my biggest pet peeves is parents who bring their kids to movies they shouldn’t.  I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a theater for a PG-13 or R rated movie where there’s a parent (not an older brother sneaking them in) who has brought a kid who winds up frightened or confused.  One movie I was at the kid behind me was literally sobbing and shaking the row they were so scared.  And while that example is extreme, it’s far too common for parents to assume they know what’s good movie content for their kid without previewing the movie first.  What upsets me most about these situations however isn’t that a film was too crude or violent, but that people will blame the movie studio for their blatant ignorance about what’s appropriate for their kid to watch.

The topic of what movies to allow your kids to watch most recently came up with the release of Deadpool.  At first glance Deadpool looks like another costumed superhero and therefore many parents assumed it carried the same PG-13 rating and fun campiness of other Marvel movies like Spiderman or Guardians of the Galaxy.  However, Deadpool is nothing like those heroes.  He’s nicknamed the “merc with the mouth” for good reason. He’s quick witted, foul mouthed, and offensive to heroes and villains alike.  The film won huge credibility with comic geeks and fanboys for staying 100% true to the character by actually fighting the studio to get a hard R rating.  And despite years of promotions and marketing material that blatantly said “this isn’t for your kids”, there were still parents who were shocked by the brutality, language, sex, and nudity throughout the movie.  As if those parents spent six months in a cave without internet or TV and decided R stood for “Right for everyone”.

Movies themselves are not the problem however.  I love movies.  And therefore I will always defend film and filmmakers.  I love the stories they tell, the characters they create, and the worlds they take me away to.  And I’m sorry, but not every movie is made for everyone.  Actors, directors, producers, and distributors make movies with a specific audience targeted and with a specific message/story in mind.  The elements of content therefore are their artistic expression to the world.  Asking for Deadpool to be a PG-13 movie (which one child actually petitioned to do) is like asking Van Gogh to use more red in Starry Night or asking Jay-Z to use more didgeridoo in “Empire State of Mind”.

With that in mind we must take into consideration that not all forms of art are appropriate for everyone.  At the public library they break children, young adult, and adult books into separate sections, yet despite age categories a reader’s comprehension may wind up blurring those categories.  Therefore, when it comes to film there are a variety of things to keep in mind before choosing to watch it and whom to watch it with.  Particularly your kids.

Check the Rating

The Motion Picture Association of America screens every film, provides a rating, and a mpaa ratingsbrief explanation.  While some movies may share the same rating (PG-13 for example), they may not have that rating for the same reason.  One movie may have more foul language, while another has more adult situations.  There are also certain lines that films can come right up against without moving up a rating.  For example, did you know a PG-13 movie is allowed to use the F-word once?  Make sure you understand the guidelines and the content for the rating of a movie before deciding to watch.

Read up on the Movie

Ignorance is truly a choice in today’s world of media saturation.  You can find detailed reviews and spoilers for nearly every movie made.  There are great websites like http://www.CommonSenseMedia.org and http://www.ParentPreview.com that give details about what’s in a movie.  Some sites will even give you a count of which swear words are used and how often.  Don’t rely on word of mouth alone.  If you’ve never heard of the movie, it’s plot, or it’s characters check it out first.

Know Your Audience

I made the mistake years ago of simply drawing a line at PG-13 for movies to watch with my youth group.  That was a huge mistake on my part.  As I mentioned earlier, not every rating is created equal.  In my opinion there are many R rated movies I would show my own kids (ages 8 and 10) before some PG-13 movies.  Take time to think about the setting you’re watching a movie in.  My options are a different with a group of my guy friends than with a group of couples.  Some people are sensitive to nudity while others can’t stand foul language.  Checking the ratings and reading up will help you choose something that will fit the needs of with whomever you’re watching movies.

Choosing what to watch with your kids isn’t an easy job.  Every person and kid is different too.  I have one son who handles fantasy really well, while the other gets nightmares.  Wherein real life possibilities of life and death scare the other.  It’s my responsibility to protect their minds and help them adjust to movie-going experiences appropriately as they’re ready for it.  Some parents want to take that responsibility lightly.  I don’t.  Rushing them into it because they’re friends are talking about it or I think it would be cool is bad for everyone involved.  After all, Steven Spielberg won’t be there to tuck my kids back in and sit by their bed when they have a nightmare.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life & Family

What is Appropriate Sabbath Keeping?

Sabbath.  The single most important thing that separates Seventh-Day Adventists from every other Christian denomination.  In short it’s the observance of Saturday as the day of rest told to Moses by God and etched into stone as part of the 10 commandments.  For Adventists the Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and concludes at sundown on Saturday as followed by the Hebrews.  Sabbath is a welcome respite from the other 6 days of the week.  Adventists don’t work jobs that require Sabbath hours (unless it’s healthcare related), nor do they buy or sell.  Traditional Adventists won’t do strenuous activities like sports or things that are too playful such as swimming.  Sabbath is a day of rest and worship.  At least that’s the theory.  In practice, keeping the Sabbath is much more complicated that many would have you believe.

Growing up I remember the mad scramble of our Friday afternoons preparing the house for Sabbath.  As soon as we got home from school our parents put my brother and I to work as we all dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed toilets, made beds, picked up laundry, and anything else that needed done to make the house spotless.  It was a stressful and annoying ordeal as we worked to undo the toll that life had taken on our house during the week.  The Sabbath hours would roll around and the house came to a screeching halt as we all collapsed from the mad dash to Sabbath rest.  For two boys Sabbath had mixed emotions.  We cherished the time as a family when we didn’t have the distractions of the rest of the week.  Then it was also unwelcomed since our Sabbath observance eliminated Saturday morning cartoons, playing with friends, and generally anything fun (at least in our minds).  Church in the morning was followed by the best home cooked meal of the week which led directly into nap time.  Our parents would sleep for hours while my brother and I watched the clock march slowly toward the exact moment sundown came and we were free.  For my brother and I Sabbath keeping was a burden.  A bondage from which we sought freedom for 24 hours once a week.

So what is appropriate Sabbath keeping? To a growing number of progressive Adventists this childhood bondage experience has led to a different application of Exodus 20:8-11, one that is more open to personal interpretation, and at first glance more liberating.  Many progressive or “liberal” Adventists I know have no problem going to Starbucks before or out to a restaurant after church.  They enjoy going to the beach for a swim or cycling down the road.  Personally some of by best Sabbath’s start in the gym early on a Saturday morning and include a long hike, some rock climbing with my boys, and conclude with a scoop of ice cream from the dairy some time mid afternoon, well before sundown.

To traditional Adventists however, everything I just said is quite disturbing.  Those individuals still rush home to ensure they aren’t in the public sector at Sundown on Friday.  And although they don’t work or engage anyone to work by eating out or shopping those Adventists also fail to see the host of hypocrisies and inconsistencies they have created.  While in college at an Adventist University I witnessed the same individuals who condemned going to a restaurant after church pre-purchase meal passes to the campus cafeteria where they would wait to be served lunch by a college student working to earn tuition dollars.  Those same individuals can also tell you exactly when sundown is, as they look forward to the moment when they can get their scoop of ice cream or turn on the TV.  I’ve seen Adventists condemn new members to their church for “inappropriate” Sabbath activities, yet never invite those people home to enjoy “proper” Sabbath fellowship.

Although I’m clearly not a traditional Adventist, I by no means dismiss everything that traditional Sabbath observance brings.  I don’t go shopping, do house work, or play competitive sports.  Those things tend to be rather selfish in nature and have a different time and place.  The difference for me is the heart of the decisions that are made during Sabbath hours.  That time at the gym is personal reflection time, often listening to sermons or worship music.  A time to “come apart from the world” and relax my mind and body, the blessing of peace and health.  The long hikes and ice cream are all about the blessings of time spent with my family.  All things that I know traditional Adventists would promote as worthy Sabbath outcomes.

All of these things are tough topics to tackle and the topic of appropriate Sabbath keeping has come up recently in our household as we made some significant changes removing ourselves from the shelter of Adventist culture in the past year.  Our kids no longer go to an Adventist elementary school and now are faced with the challenges of school activities during Sabbath hours.  We have also had to answer relatives and friends who question my transition to a job where I work Friday and Saturday evenings.  In a world where many Adventists give up jobs because of Sabbath observance, I embraced one.  But they don’t see the bigger picture.  My job in itself is a ministry.  My Fridays and Saturdays are spent reaching out to teens and connecting their stories to the bigger story we all share in God.  It’s the same thing I did as a youth leader for the church for ten years.  In essence I’m no different than the pastor who is paid to present the sermon each Sabbath morning (unless you honestly thought pastors were paid for Monday through Friday and the Sabbath sermon was free).

My point however with appropriate Sabbath observance is that each person has a different way in which Sabbath brings physical and spiritual rejuvenation.  I like to think that God on the seventh day took a step back as He filled His eyes with all the wonders He had just created and said “This is good”.  Then decided to swim in His ocean with the humpback whale, run through His fields with the cheetahs, or free-climb with Adam to the top of the mountains.  There wasn’t a church or a sermon or a Bible study.  Just the joy of the blessings of rest and refreshment in the presence of God and His wonderful blessings.  Jesus confirmed that Sabbath was made for man to enjoy (Mark 2:27).  It should be a blessing not a burden.  And for each of us our joys and our blessings are different.  They can’t be dictated or spelled out in a rule book.

The most profound statement I’ve heard regarding Sabbath came from my pastor when I was a teenager.  He said, “If you’re sitting around watching the clock for sundown so you can do something after Sabbath, then you’re heart isn’t on Sabbath anyway.  You’re mind isn’t on God.  You would be better off doing that thing and enjoying it on the Sabbath than to ruin your Sabbath thinking about what you can’t do.”  And it made sense.  My brother and I would play one on one basketball on Sabbath afternoon, but never played on our school’s team Friday night.  For non-Adventists (and many traditional Adventists) that differentiation doesn’t make sense.  But to me, the difference is clear.  God in His infinite grace has blessed with so much more than I deserve.  And in His wisdom he also gave me one day a week where I can set aside all the stress of the world, willfully and guiltlessly say “no” to distractions, and open my eyes to love and appreciate those blessings.  And however you spend your Sabbath my only question would be is are you encouraging yourself and others to enjoy and give praise for all the goodness God has placed in your life.  Or is your Sabbath keeping merely a requirement and a stumbling block to the joy of saying “this is good”.  Then you will be able to answer what is appropriate Sabbath keeping.

1 Comment

Filed under Random Thoughts, Religion