Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Facebook Faith # 28 - No Real Middle Ground

I saw this on Facebook this morning and the reality of it finally hit me. We have all heard the argument repeated multiple times - if you are going to use the bible to persecute homosexuals, then it is only fair that you go after all of the other items the bible speaks against - and that you go at them with equal vigor.

Yet the truth is, we never see this. There are no big Christian groups going after the people who eat shellfish without the slightest hint of shame. No religious sects are calling for the boycott of clothiers who mix fabrics. I watch as well-fed Christians go on and on about the destruction gay marriage is going to rain down upon America.... while they greedily chomp on pork in its varied fried forms. They don't go after these things because, even from their narrow perspective, that would appear.... looney.

I only seem to be able to perceive the Christian who condemns homosexuality in one of two ways. Either they give equal credence to the condemnation of mixed fabric, at which point I can't help but think of them as a bit looney - or they are simply grabbing a scripture to support a bigotry they already have... and leave mixed fabric alone because it is of no consequence to them. In this case, they are simply an asshole.

So, I am not finding room for middle ground. I know a lot of Christians who insist of their love for homosexuals and want to treat them kindly, but feel they still need to define homosexuality as sin. It sounds like a softer, more acceptable position.... and for a while, I tried to respect it... but I just can't.  I don't buy it anymore.  Because, again, you will not find that person taking that more metered view on any number of other abominations in the bible.  They don't love the shellfish eater, but still feel the need to hold to the biblical truth of that person's sinfulness.  You don't hear them trying to draw equivalencies like, "Yes, that person mixes fabric... but God hates my sin of gossip too... so we are all just sinners!"

No, you never hear statements like that because... well... the Christian knows they would sound completely moronic.  Which just shows how cultural these things are.  What Christianity has not yet grasped is that when they hold an anti-homosexual position, even when nuanced with as much grace as they can allow, it sounds to everyone else the way a biblically based anti-mixed-fabric person would sound to them.

A bit looney.

So, the choice is - take the whole "Word" and EVERYTHING that entails.... or, admit that you are selecting to separate certain verses because your religious culture directs you to do so.

But please stop acting like you have an acceptable, nuanced, middle ground because... like Jesus... that position just makes everyone else want to throw up.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Facebook Faith # 27 - Why Not Call It A Rock?

I have been out of religion for a year or two. It is hard to pinpoint a specific time, since it all runs along a continuum. Many believers would say I left the fold many years ago when I rejected a belief in Hell. Others might tag my walk-away decades previous when I quit believing in an inerrant scripture... and some still consider me in the faith.  :)

One of the things you notice when you leave faith is how much similarity there is between the varied religious voices. Although I considered my religious flavor unique when I was embedded; looking at it in the rear-view mirror reveals it to be merely one shade of color in the cacophony.

So when I saw this posted on Facebook this morning by a member of my old tribe, I had to chuckle. One of the rallying points of my previous religion was that we weren't religious! No, no, no.... we had a relationship! Such a statement seems silly now that I am out, but it made great sense at the time.

As I look at this chart now, I see the same foundation to both lists.  The difference rests merely in how it is spun, but at the end you find yourself in essentially the same location.

It reminds me of an exchange in the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. Ford Prefect has crash landed on prehistoric Earth with a bunch of Management Middlemen who insist on acting as if the marooned reality of their situation can be changed simply by addressing it differently.

Look! C’mon please! I mean everybody! there is some important news: we’ve made a discovery. 
Is it on the agenda? 
Oh don’t give me that! 
Well I’m sorry, but speaking as a fully trained management consultant I must insist on the importance of observing the committee structure. 
On a prehistoric planet!? 
Address the chair. 
There isn't a chair! There’s only a rock! 
Well, call it a chair. 
Why not call it a rock? 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Facebook Faith #26: Not A Fair Exchange Rachel

Today on Facebook, Rachel Held Evans posted an article she wrote for CNN.  In it, she offers a bargain:
So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?
In other words, you ignore gaffs our side makes and we will ignore gaffs your side makes.

Gee.... what a deal....

This reminded me of conversations I have had with my friends on the political Right.  They too want to make the case that BOTH sides have their share of crazies:
"Yeah, we have crazy voices on the radio - Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and such; but you have.... uh..... you have.... ummmm.... YOU HAVE NPR!!"
And from this, they want to frame equivalencies.

In the same way, Rachel is trying to set reality as if both sides make the same errors and both sides are playing the game the same way.

We are not.  Let's be honest... at the end of the day, religion has a lot more batshit crazy to explain. The exchange she offers is just too lopsided.

I do appreciate Rachel's attempt to encourage dialogue and make it respectful.  But in her article I see her put in a position she often finds herself - having to excuse and try to make palatable all of the nonsense that goes on in her religion.

As I have said before on this blog,  I believe Rachel is a good and honest soul.  I think she would be amazed at how much further she could go in her humanity if she would let go of the double minded juggling she is forced to do within her religion.  It takes a lot of energy to call a book full of bigotry and violence, peaceful.  It is laborious to try to reframe an exclusionary religion as loving.  Everytime she tries to build something beautiful, she watches in horror as her own people tear it down.

What she does not yet see... or can't see.... is that folks like Robertson are not people who are smearing her good religion with bad things.  The religion itself is the source of these troubles... folks like Robertson just bring that reality into sharp relief.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Should Our Kids Say The Pledge?

As you have probably read, or heard in the news, there is a court challenge in Massachusetts over the phrase "under God" in our pledge.  Atheist parents, and I assume other non-Christian parents, object to their children having to make this declaration.

As an Atheist, I share their concern but I feel this is simply a symptom of a much more problematic tendency resulting from our Western team-competition mentality.

If you listen to what is being said, the children are "pledging allegiance" to something they do not yet understand. They are applying a signature, when they have not read the contract.

I cringe when I see young children being baptized.  I recently attended a child baptism. The parents beamed as they gushed over their child with compliments.

"We are so proud of you for making this decision to be baptized" they said; and the crowd gave its assenting nod (at my previous church they would hoot and holler).

I once heard a young teen declare that the United States was "the best country in the world." This was stated by a child I know has never traveled abroad, nor spent any time researching alternative economic or political systems.

In all of these, and similar situations, we have taught our children to have certainty in areas in which they have no knowledge or experience. They have been trained to make statements of an absolute nature, and to regard with suspicion anyone who does not share their certainties. From what I have observed, these children grow up, not only being weak in critical thinking skills, but regard with disdain those who practice such skills.

How much better a citizenry we might have if we taught our children to withhold judgement on matters in which they are not yet educated. What if we taught them it is ok to abstain from opinion when they are not well versed in the subject? What if they really understood the old proverb "Every argument sounds correct, until the other side is presented?

Instead, we train our children to parrot words they do not understand; make declarations on topics in which they are not schooled; and enter into commitments they are too young to comprehend.

I believe we can do better....

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Survey Says...

I just got done filling out a survey for a friend's college class. It was directed toward me for insight into the fashion decisions educators make.  I am a bit dull when it comes to fashion, but here are my answers:

Current Teaching Assignment : 2nd Grade Teacher

Degrees Held: B.S. M.Ed. with certifications in ESL, Math, and educational technology.

Describe your “fashion” style: At work I wear a button down shirt, tie, and slacks.  Outside work I live in jean shorts and a t-shirt.

On average, how much time effort and thought do you put in to getting ready in the morning: Not long at all.  Quick shower and shave.  I run my hand through my hair and spray it. Brush my teeth and  then I am off to the closet. I grab the next shirt and the pants that go with it.  The only time I “think” about it is around the holiday season when I try to coordinate seasonal ties.  Total time, about 20 minutes tops.

Favorite piece of clothing: There are various fall jackets I have been fond of…

What other activities are you involved in:  I am a novice thespian - many guys at 40 buy a corvette and chase women half their age, I found the stage to be much more attractive.  I am also a voracious reader, a sporadic writer, and have a particular fondness for the couch and my remote control.  

Favorite Hangout: Coffee shop or a quiet pub with friends.

Describe Your Body Shape: Perpetually slightly overweight. 

If you could look like a celebrity who would you look like: Gene Wilder

What is your favorite color:  Blue

How do you dress to impress: I really don’t.  This quote by the character Ian Malcom has always been my perspective on fashion (and sports)  "Truly, can you imagine anything more boring than fashion?  Professional sports, perhaps.  Grown men swatting little balls, while the rest of the world pays money to applaud.  But, on the whole, I find fashion even more tedious than sports." 

On scale of one to ten how outgoing would you say you are: Probably a 7.  I am bad at small talk, but I find people fascinating, so I always want to strike up a conversation.

What is your favorite food:   Deep fry it and I will tell you…

What social issue are you interested in: Education is near and dear of course.  Outside my profession, I would say religious liberties… specifically freedom from the need to be or appear religious.

Where and how do you buy clothing: Whomever has a  good sale… plus, I often find I have to buy from the Tall section even though I am far from tall.  I have a long torso and short legs… so I gotta buy tall or my shirts come untucked.

What brands are your favorites:   See above quote by Malcom.

What are you primary concerns when you select clothing for work? Recreation?  For work, that I look professional.  For recreation, that I am comfortable.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Balancing The God Equation

For the past three years I have been working on a math certification for my teaching license.  It was 6 graduate level math courses which often pushed the envelope for this elementary teacher.

One of the classes was called "Algebraic Reasoning".  Since there is a focus presently in education on addressing real world situations, there were lots of story problems and hands-on scenarios, rather than just lists of equations.

Often, the story problems were rather lengthy and convoluted (from my perspective), involving many variables.  It occasionally took 30 minutes to solve one problem, or the knot of numbers seemed so tangled that I would have to set it down and attack it again later.

When a problem had multiple variables, success often depended on getting started with that first variable (A).  From that starting point, I would one by one work through the other variables (B)-(F). Some variables took longer to get than others, and B might sometimes need to be reworked when I discovered what (E) turned out to be.

In any case, when done I would do a last check by plugging all of the variables into the equation and, if done right, the equation should balance.

It was frustrating when the equation didn't balance, and I would have to go back into the problem to find which variable was out of sync.  It was often tempting, due to exasperation, to declare the equation "close enough" and be done with it.  However, my personality is such that I don't like to leave a mystery unsolved.

My first variable (A) was usually the last variable I would review.  It was the linchpin that everything else flowed from, and the reason it was selected was that it was OBVIOUSLY true.  I would often spin back and forth through the other variables multiple times before I would even consider that my first variable (A) might be where the problem was.

It occurred to me recently that this was the pattern I had lived out in my Christianity.  Back when I was a teenager, I committed many books of the bible to memory.  I could not reconcile what was written in its pages and what I saw in the world.  So even as a young man, I realized the bible was not inerrant.  I decided the bible was the testimonies of men who encountered God and was told from their human perspective.  I could not say this aloud because it would not have been acceptable in my circles. However, for the moment it seemed to help balance the equation.

As time moved on, my life and perspective broadened.  New situations and experiences challenged my thinking and I realized the way I had been framing the equation was not taking into account all the variables. One by one I started to address them... first the nature of God and salvation (were the acceptable children really such a small number?), then Hell, then other religions, the history of faith, meaning, eternity, other voices and philosophies.  Though each adjustment brought relief for a time, the variables seemed to multiply with each change.  When I plugged my new results into the God Equation, some variable would be out of sync. It became tempting to just quit fiddling with it and declare "close enough".

Similar to my class math equations, I spent my time readjusting all of the variables after the first, but never touched the first itself.  God was the linchpin, the given, the obvious starting point that had to be correct.

Then came the day when I addressed my first assumption.  What if there is no God?  A lifetime of conditioning fought against the idea, but my need to address the unsolved mystery won out.  I changed my first variable from "God" to "no god"..... and for the first time in my life, all the tumblers fell into place, the variables flowed smoothly together like the pieces of a puzzle, and the equation balanced.

Like the old computer Joshua in the movie Wargames, I played out all of the scenarios, all of the equations, with God as part of the equation - and they all end eventually in human devastation.  Like Joshua, I discovered that religion is a strange game....

and the only winning move is not to play.
Related Posts with Thumbnails