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God Religion

You Can’t Argue With Goodness

Like many people, I enjoy This American Life. I only started listening regularly about a year and a half ago. One episode from April 2011 called “Know When To Fold ‘Em” in particular struck a chord with me, specifically the first act, which you can listen to here (or read the transcript). It’s a short story from David Dickerson, adapted from his memoir House of Cards, about the evangelical Christianity he embraced, rejected and came to understand anew through an interaction with his born-again father.

I didn’t relate so much with the author’s life story so much as with his take on religion. Having an anti-religion person seeing it, warts and all, as something that can indeed be a force for good, despite all of the bad press it gets (sometimes rightfully) was an unexpected and encouraging takeaway I got from this story. “You can’t argue with goodness,” Dickerson writes. No matter how hard it’s fought, good wins out.

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Etc. God Life

Me, Myself, And An Ugly Sweater

I’m done with summer camp. It was my third summer at Lake Waubesa Bible Camp and definitely the most fun. Everyone on staff got along great. It was easy to have fun and joke around (a lot) but still be able to share the serious moments and enjoy God’s creation and his work all summer.

This summer I was the worship leader but I also counseled a few weeks of middle school and Day Camp. In the last three years of camp life, I’ve developed a deeper understanding of what servant leadership requires and how important humility and patience really are. Rolling around in old food and dirt and sweating constantly taught me to enjoy every second of what was given to me. Even when campers got so unbelieveably annoying sometimes, I could still find joy in them and in what they got out of camp.

We talked about character this summer and all the Godly characteristics it requires: humility, patience, loving-actions, unselfishness, a tamed tongue. The Book of James talks about all of these things quite concisely. My favorite one, again, is humility because if you really have it you’re being Christ-like. It’s as simple as that.

I also came to a place of brokenness literally and figuratively. I developed an inner and outer ear infection and, somehow, a ruptured ear drumback in June. The pain lasted about two weeks. In that time, aided by the constant rigors of summer camp life, I became completely broken and humbled. One day I was practicing “Blessed Be Your Name” for the evening meeting. As I sang through it casually, the lyrics hit me where I was:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord

I had understandably been a little Then there’s this verse:

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Right there I just broke down crying. The full-time staff guy was there and we talked for a while. I had been going through a period of drought and doubt and my ear problems became my rock-bottom, my total brokenness.

Looking back, and even at the time, I absolutely loved being broken down like that. To be nowhere but down and needing nothing but Jesus. I recommend it.

It was a great summer. To be able to be silly with kids and learn about Jesus and be outside all day every day and not in the stifling air-conditioned hell of Copps was a blessing. As far as next summer goes: who knows. I know I can go back there and have more fun and learn more about God, but I don’t know what he wants me to do. I need to be ready to hear that.

(P.S. If you have considered being a counselor but haven’t done it, DO IT. It’s the most rewarding, demanding, ridiculous, tiring, joyful, and painful thing you can do. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll have ridiculous stories to tell afterward.)

Categories
God Life Religion

Falwell falls

I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Jerry Falwell before he died. I grew up in a Christian home and attended a non-denominational church, but I never tried to pretend I knew much about “the Church” or its leaders. Now that I’m a college student, I guess I have to start caring. But caring about a person like Jerry Falwell is quite a feat, even for a believer like me.

My biggest beef against Falwell is that he really wasn’t a Christian at all. He was a hatemonger, a hypocrite, and a terrible representation of Christ, among other things. He accused feminists, liberals, homosexuals, labor unions, and those infected with AIDS of causing the September 11th attacks instead of ministering to them as a man of God should. He gives other Christians a horrible name. In fact, the only thing he really gives the world is another reason to steer clear of church altogether, and I wouldn’t blame you if that’s exactly what you did.

A man like Falwell should not be involved with politics, because that’s the last thing Jesus would do, but of course he just had to create the “Moral Majority” to provide a safe haven for churchgoers to point their fingers at the rest of the world without even thinking of pointing it at themselves. The organization disbanded in the 80s, but the inspiration lives on through the Republican Party and current day hatemongers—I mean televangelists, like Pat Robertson and Bill Donahue.

I wish I could speak for all Christians when I say that these men do not represent Biblical teaching, but sadly, there are still many out there who insist on using the Bible as a weapon of hate rather than a tool of compassion, which is its true purpose. We live in a country where religion is thought of as a set of rules and is required if you want to get into heaven. But the truth is that religion is man-made—hence, flawed. It’s run by humans who are just as corruptible and insidious as the next guy. If you put all of your stocks into something that is going to fall away, don’t be surprised when you’re left with nothing in the end. And that’s exactly what Falwell gave us: nothing. Nothing except spiritual terrorism in the name of Christ.

To non-believers: Jesus is not a religion. Jesus, to me, represents a lifestyle that demands humility, forgiveness to all (all meaning everyone, including those who Falwell so adamantly opposed), and a charitable heart. Don’t dress up for church or put your hands up during worship just to impress God. He sees through that bullshit quite easily. Instead, talk to someone you don’t know. Make amends with your enemy, then treat him or her to Starbucks. Clean up a mess without being asked, especially if it’s not yours to clean. Make sure your tipsy friend gets home safe. Jesus befriended the lowest of lows in his time; the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors. Jerry Falwell condemns them. So much for being Christ-like.

To my fellow Christians: stop pretending to be righteous. If there is one thing that non-believers, and fellow Christians, see easiest it’s hypocrisy. Wearing a crucifix around your neck while you judge homosexuals sends a strange message to those around you. If you actually have read the Bible, you would remember that “if anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion worthless” (James 1:26). Don’t deceive yourself, and don’t make God worthless. In other words, shut up and do something. Be relevant to the lesser of this world. Do anything else and you’d just be kidding yourself.

Categories
God Religion

apologies all around…

I’ve been going through a season of doubt and general questioning of all that I’m supposed to believe. I’ve been told over and over again in Sunday school and at home that “Jesus died for my sins” and “God created you and loves you very much,” but what does that really mean? How is it even possible that a perfect being like “God” created such imperfect and broken things as us humans? How does God have a son and why is he our savior? I’ve grown up in the church my entire life so I technically know the answer, but in reality I have no idea how that relates to me.

I’ve realized that no matter how much I can learn about evolution vs. creation, the possibility of a God, if Jesus really rose from the dead, etc., it won’t mean a thing if I don’t feel something real in my heart. We can cram so much into our heads with hope of finally understanding the world, but in the end we’ll find ourselves weak and hopeless creatures. That’s what I’m feeling now. Like Paul the Apostle said: Of all the sinners in the world, I am the worst. I’m pretty sure everyone feels like that at one point in their life.

The word “faith” has taken on great significance in my life. I see religious leaders debate with atheists and people wonder why God can let things like the Holocaust and starvation happen to his so-called “beloved” people. I wonder that myself sometimes. But to have faith means to realize that you don’t know all of the answers the world asks. I want to be able to let go of the need to know what I don’t need to know. Knowing everything about the Bible doesn’t guarantee entrance into Heaven. It’s about what’s in your heart, not in your head.

On behalf of those who claim to be Christians representing Jesus’ teachings, I want to apologize for all of the bad things we’ve done in the name of Christianity. It makes me sick the way “religious leaders” go on TV and condemn homosexuals and pro-choice supporters just because they think they aren’t following the Bible. I apologize for not being more loving and considerate to the needs of the world. Many think that Christians are supposed to be perfect. I can tell you with authority that this is not the case. We are all broken, hopeless, desperate people living in a screwed up world. I’m sorry for the cutting remarks, the misplaced judgments, the gossip, the back-stabbing, the rejection, and the pride.

We are not being good representatives of Jesus. I can assure you that Jesus and his teachings are far better than how they look on us. I just ask that you give him a chance. Contrary to how it may seem, Jesus is a stand-up guy with some advice that really helps in the attempt to heal this messed up world. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.