November Update

It’s been an annoying week and a half. The stomach problems I sometimes get are plaguing me again, and I’ve been trying to deal with working and eating food that doesn’t upset things . It’s hard not to become frustrated due to the fact that Thanksgiving is in less than a week and I’m not sure I can enjoy it.
So in terms of this blog, I’m wanting to slow down so I can catch up on life and enjoy the holidays a little bit. I still have a church repeat to write about. Also an opinion piece has been on my mind. For the end of the year I wanted to try a quick “year one tour” of my favorites church-wise. This project has been so many unexpecteds. I didn’t think I’d find as many connections as I’ve found. There are pastors I keep in touch with; churchgoers who now recognize me. There are churches out there open to gay ministers and lots of programs helping people in so many ways. I have been anticipated at several churches now as “the Tracey with the blog”. I am also trying to decide what to do on Christmas eve. I’d need to find a midnight mass or service if I chose any church that day; I’m working second shift. I suppose there are Christmas day services as well? I’ll post again as soon as I can work some of this out.

How I spent last weekend

Last weekend I attended a Christian retreat about an hour from home. It was unconnected to a specific denomination. I’d characterize the themes and theology as moderate and vaguely Protestantish. The attendees were mostly college students from campuses around New York state. Format-wise, there were a series of sessions bookended by meals. The sessions started with Jesus jam band style worship. Next we listened to a speaker address a particular subject. Then we met in smaller groups of around 10-15 people to discuss our chosen topic- different from whatever the speaker talked about.

First I’ll discuss some of my favorite occurrences of the weekend. A lot of things ranked very high for me on this trip. I will give them all points based around an imaginary scale.
I was asked to hold a baby by someone I barely knew who barely knew me. That’s about 4000 points for trusting me with a baby and 1000 points for noticing I really want to hold a baby.
I was taught how to hold a ping pong paddle by an extremely patient and friendly student. 700 points for humoring me.
I had a great conversation randomly with someone about the ethics of harming or killing animals. 800 points for rationality.
Kim asked me to check a baby for a dirty diaper. 400 points for knowing I am capable and willing to check diapers!
My small group delivered its summary of out topic discussion including this line, “It’s up to us to make up our own minds.” 20,000 points for individual thought! I cannot agree more and wish this was the way most questions of faith ended.
Kim asked me if I believe in God. 1000 points for asking me this excellent question!
I don’t know how many that is because I’m too sleepy to do basic math, but it’s a lot!

You were probably wondering what I answered Kim. I said “Yes, I’ll totally check a diaper!” Oh you meant how I answered about God? Well I said that I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s a thing anyone can really know for sure. And maybe God isn’t defined the same way for me as for others. For instance, I don’t think it’s possible that God is interacting with us all personally on a minute to minute basis. There are too many times he seems conspicuously absent. If he is really micromanaging everything, bad things that happen would imply God either sucks at his job or he’s a jerk. I don’t think either of those is true. So God must be functioning some other way that is either minimal or no longer active. It could be that God did creation and then said “Laissez Faire! Hands off! You guys figure it out on your own.” Or maybe he (or she (or zie)) is working on Earth in a minimal way, perhaps to allow us the chance to help each other. Or I’m even willing to consider the idea that God is the goodness found in all of us when we help each other. God is good, God is love, right? I see no problem at all with calling it God in our lives when we do good things one for another. Does this make me agnostic? Maybe. I think openness to being wrong is good and I’m all about continuing to question.

Perhaps this begs the question: why are you still doing this church exploration project? I like religion. I like people and I like stories about life. No one is ever checked with a belief-o-meter to gain entrance into a church. I would venture to guess that many church members aren’t 100% ‘sure’. And none of this really conflicts with my original description in post #1 of what I want to gain by this adventure.

Since I’m still talking about my weekend, I’ll tell you what my small group talked about. Our topic was “are Genesis and evolution compatible?” I think it’s interesting that we didn’t actually talk much about which to believe over the other one. Even without this key point it seemed obvious that a few of us favored evolution and a few of us favored the bible. Those who were expecting a final answer would have been disappointed. One of our conclusions was that we weren’t sure. And our group leader did nothing to give us an ‘easy answer’- I think part of his point was that Genesis 1 is confusing. God creates light first, but doesn’t make the sun until day 4. God creates plants even before the sun is around. So what are we to make of this? Even in biblical times they must have been aware plants need the sun. The Genesis writer may have been making a poetic point rather than a logical point. God is big and can do anything. No one in the group seemed inclined to believe these ‘days’ in the beginning were 24 hours long. We noticed other things too. One student remarked that no dinosaurs are mentioned- perhaps they aren’t real? I responded by noting that rabbits aren’t mentioned either, then disavowed belief in rabbits!
Several in the group came to the conclusion that evolution is possible only within a species, and that one creature turning into another makes no sense at all. As a corollary they saw man as somehow different and special- created separately. We talked about this briefly in a small small group of three. Myself and another fan of evolution wondered/wandered into a chat about the big bang and the universe. He had the thought, ‘If life was found on another planet, the bible would collapse.’ Maybe it would. So much hangs on humans being special. How would we react if this was not the case?
In the end, we didn’t all agree on how to take Genesis. Really the only conclusion we could make was for each of us to decide what we believe. I think it was a good conclusion.

The rest of the large group lectures were alright. One in particular was very disappointing though. It was called something like “How can I know what the bible really says- won’t people twist it?” The talk was rambley and unclear. I think the points are summed up as follows: 1) God’s understanding will always be higher than our own 2) pray about it, and 3) read the words and you’ll get it. That last point was articulated the worst. In my notes I wrote “nouns, verbs, therefores” and I remember it was pretty disjointed at the end. Clarity was not my only complaint however. Our speaker was obviously not a fan of what’s called biblical criticism. Biblical criticism and biblical scholarship seek to find historical information about a book of the bible. They try to answer questions about when and why a book was written. Sometimes it reveals an author you weren’t expecting. This was not in the talk, but I’m familiar with letters from ‘Paul’ that biblical scholars think were written by someone else as an homage to Paul. Well this talk made it clear the biblical scholars were the enemy. They determined John is less reliable than the other three gospels. How dare they! And our speakers refuted this by… saying it was wrong. That’s not much ammo for me if I was interested in arguing down the atheists and religious softies.
There was also a very discouraging point in the talk when the speaker addressed the ills of ‘rationalism and scientism’. As far as I am aware scientism is not a word. He said these two evil forces dismiss miracles because science doesn’t allow miracles like resurrection. Instead the resurrection is treated like the spirit or idea of Jesus living on. According to our speaker that is very very bad. Personally, I love, new wider interpretations of the mystical stories. I don’t think it necessarily means the stories with lose their power. If anything that power is more accessible. I heard a version of the loaves fishes miracle told this way: Jesus begins passing around the bits of food they have. As the baskets go past people they begin pulling food from their pockets to add for those with less. So many are inspired to add to the baskets that the bits leftover are more than when they started. What a great testament to human goodness. Almost the stone soup story. According to our speaker, this type of story is dangerously wrong.
The speaker then addressed the fixing of the biblical canon. I know some of this story. There was no fixed bible for the early church. They used any number of scrolls or books which were floating around at the time. I suppose you could pick your faves. The church decided to pick certain books to keep and throw the rest out the window. As this was a human endeavor, my assumption would be this was done by folks arguing and asserting power and so on. Our speaker contends that no politics were allowed in and the church fathers were guided solely by the Holy Spirit. Which is funny, because you’d think God would consider doing that for us today on even a single issue- letting the Holy Spirit guide us all to harmony without political bickering. Unless of course politics were in play back in the day, which I suspect.
Our speaker also talked at some length about biblical rules and what their importance should be. He rightly said that Jesus had a few run-ins with the rule-obsessed Pharisees. Jesus and his disciples skipped washing up before a meal. Because that’s in the Jewish law, the Pharisees called Jesus out. Jesus told them that cleanliness doesn’t come from from stupid little rules. Jesus said we cannot leave people high and dry when they are in need. These points I actually think are well taken. We should toss the cleanliness rules that bar us needlessly. Among these are restrictive sex rules dictating how, when, and who to sleep with. We also need to take care of those in need, in poverty, or in other terrible situations. I will not put words in the speakers mouth. But many religious groups seem to miss these key points when it comes to say, gay marriage and welfare programs.

So this particular speaker wasn’t my favorite. But the topic of gay marriage (is this like my new favo topic?) brings me to another conversation I had with a student. It was brief but pretty interesting. I was wondering to him whether God really wants us to wait until marriage to have sex. In at least a few cases married people may find out they aren’t compatible. Are we so obsessed with waiting that we believe God wants us to be unhappy and stuck? If God is a nice guy he doesn’t want us unhappy right? I also said that speaker (the one I described already) was being naive or stupid when he asserted the biblical rules are not about controlling women. I wasn’t there in biblical times, so it’s possible they aren’t meant that way, but that’s what they do. Just based on pregnancy ‘proving’ a woman’s transgression this seems obvious. Not one single man will ever be pregnant, so they already have less worry about being ‘caught’. The student I spoke with seemed a fan of marriage. The last thing I said was, “Now that gay people can marry, we can all just accept them I guess.” He seemed surprised at the statement. Maybe he hadn’t considered the juxtaposition of the ideas together. His answer was ambiguous; he seemed to be truly thinking about how to answer the idea of homosexuality as ok inside a committed relationship. And that was basically it.

The weekend was a lot of good talks and interesting folks. I remembered some of the reasons I like retreats. I think the normal church crowd is going to include those who are wondering, those who don’t care, those who are thinking deeply and those who aren’t. A retreat has the bonus of being all people who want to answer questions of faith. They are all interested and nearly all will be rather engaging to talk to. They really want to deepen their faith and be a better human being by being a better Christian. No one ambivalent is going to take the time from their busy life to go on some retreat they don’t care about. And I got some of the in-depth talks I was craving. I think size helped too. If I can find some relatively small retreats to attend in the future those will go to the top of my effort list.

PS: It had slipped my mind, but I was part of a really hilarious game of life. You know, the board game? I was the banker for the game. The other players made some observations about the nature of the game. It’s really about making money. And they force you to get married and have kids. A bit of a narrow view I always thought, which is why I banked. One of the players made an extremely low salary, constantly landed on squares for babies, and spent money (again landing on squares dictating this) like it was going out of style. I told her she had a shopping addiction. At the end of the game we all reviewed our ‘life tiles’ and hers included a Nobel prize. How she had the time stumps me, but at least she made the world a better place.

I don’t get prayer

I don’t get prayer. I don’t get how prayer helps us. The mixed messages I’ve been exposed to drive me insane on this one. I’ve heard that God knows what we need. Why should we pray? I’ve heard that prayer works. Pray until something happens! But what if nothing happens? Some prayers are answered and some seem to NEVER be. Is it based on how strong your faith is? Is it based on how often you pray? How long you pray? How good you pray? Why is prayer given as the answer when there is hurt in the world? Prayer is not the answer. There’s been hurt in the world since Jesus; are we all just not praying right or something? People lose their jobs, their loved ones- they are wracked with guilt over things they never even did wrong- they suffer pain for reasons that defy physicians- I see it and it’s horrible. I know there are other things out there I can’t even imagine, maybe so horrible my heart would break if I saw them. What am I not seeing? How bad is it in the world and why do my prayers seem to do so little good? I don’t get prayer. I don’t get prayer.

The mythical perfect church

So I thought I should address the idea of the perfect church. I’m putting it in the same category as the soul mate/one true love.

First my thoughts about soul mates and a one true love. The ‘one true love’ idea supposes a lot of things. It implies real love can only be found with one partner and no other for an entire lifetime. Someone who lost his mom to cancer told me he did not believe in the 1:1 love business because his dad had found happiness in a second marriage. There is no way to reconcile that apart from losing the myth of soul mates- unless of course you pick the first or second wife to label as ‘wrong for him’. And there are those who are clearly content with never choosing a single permanent partner. I used to work with a woman who put her career first in her life not because she was hiding from lack of a relationship. She enjoyed dates, but clearly loved her work and it was sort of her monogamy. So even though I do have a wonderful marriage that I wish to keep, I have rejected the notion that it is the only one I could ever have.

The next piece of the puzzle is the idea of perfection. If you believe in a soul mate, it follows they are the perfect one for you. Perfection is nice as an idea, but once you actually call a thing perfect you give it extremely high expectations. A cake that is perfect must be the best tasting with the most fantastic design, and as you eat it you forget about every other cake you ever had. So if you set out make the perfect cake you almost always disappoint. How could a spouse ever live up to the idea of perfection? I think the desire to have a soul mate leads some people to look for perfection and reject those who don’t seem to align exactly. Of course your partner in life can’t be perfect all the time, they are human! Which brings me to churches…

Churches are also a human construct. I know everyone thinks God lives at their church (maybe only at their church) but if I was God I’d hang out at the imperfect churches more. Kinda like how Jesus hung around sinners because they needed him more. And expecting perfection from a church isn’t realistic or helpful. It just means you will be disappointed. A church that believes itself to be perfect is on dangerous ground. If you think you have no improvements to make, you become arrogant and miss seeing problems that develop. You aren’t looking for them- after all, you’re perfect right? One of the themes I keep coming back to in this project is that of churches owning their identity and the negatives that are a part of that. It’s too easy to imagine that church, which is of God, can be only good. But people make a church up, and those can be wrong sometimes.

A really great thing about my project is that I am getting to experience such a wide range of views and messages. It feels like this actually works better than sticking with a single church ever did. I am constantly stimulated to re-think my theology and spirituality against new interpretations I hear both good and bad. Now that I understand a church cannot be the ‘one perfect church’ for me, I don’t have to pick just one. Community is nice, and so is getting to know people. But I don’t have to feel disloyal in any way if I attend a church for a short time then leave. Or if I attend three or four churches simultaneously. Or none at all. Jesus said “follow me”, but he didn’t say
“pick just one church ok?” Jesus traveled around and tried to change things he saw as negatives. Maybe it’s ok for us to do the same thing. And even if you prefer a monogamous church relationship, it should be a realistic one that acknowledges perfection as an ideal rather than an expectation.

More on Christian Science

The more I read about Christian Science, the less I like it. Much of it makes no damn sense; a lot of it is based around the idea that matter is not real. And that being the case, coupled with the fact that God is good and wouldn’t hurt us for Christian Scientists = there is no pain. Pain is considered an illusion we need to pray ourselves out of. I’m all for avoiding pill popping when possible- but this seems to go far beyond that. Like never visiting a doctor farther. If faith is supposed to get you beyond the illusion of pain, it will be extrapolated that those requiring a doctor are faithless. This sounds so dangerous and seems like it could only be harmful. I’m having trouble wanting anything to do with this group, and based on my reading they are the least deserving of the title ‘Christian’.

Now, all that said, I will as usual give them the benefit of the doubt in case I’ve misinterpreted parts of what they believe or how strongly they believe it. But only if I come across it or it gets handed to me. I’m not going to go seeking more. What I already read was depressingly confusing and I’m not up for more of that type of negativity.

What’s up right now

No church this week. I’m trying to do a few things at once recently and things have gone towards hectic. Also I’m working on slimming and streamlining my posts without sacrificing too much content. I want to be posting these things by Wednesday of the week.

A few interesting items are coming up. A Christian Science church is next on my list and in a month or so I’ll visit a Greek Orthodox place. Stay tuned like your favorite guitar.

Two posts at once?

Yeah the church visit post is below this one. I wanted to post twice this week. I need to get my project thoughts in order again. Vacation has me distracted and I’m wanting to refocus.

So I missed some weeks. One was due to a shift change at work. One was vacation. And one was just a weird bad week. There are some kinks I’m working out with my time balancing act, but I’m hoping they won’t cause major damage to the project format. There is another project I’m taking on this summer- I will able to talk abut it more once it comes to fruition.

This project however, is one I’d like to still keep. Posting thoughts and book reviews are ok, but church visits drive me in different ways. For one thing, I always meet new interesting people. I often encounter new ideas about God and scripture. It makes me think, and I hope it makes them think too. Thinking is so good. And even better when you can compare new and old ideas. Maybe something will be revealed that you wouldn’t get to by thinking on your own.

I think it stimulates me to get a large variety of beliefs from the visits. And sometimes it is hard. They say your brain is a muscle and whatever metaphors go along with that. Sometimes new stuff makes my brain sore in a good way, but sometimes it gets pulled and I have to ice it. It’s still worth the risk though. I feel like I’m doing something no one expects. I really want to follow through with it and get to where I’m going.

Which is? I don’t really know yet. I didn’t intend to use the project to choose a church. That would mean I’d have to stop at a certain point and never explore all the places I’d set my mind to. But it’s possible I will see a place I just need to be and want to go back. It’s hard not to be wary though. My experience with OldChurch proves churches can change. Still, part of my project is being open and seeing what happens. So I guess that’s where I am right now: keep thinking, be open, and see what happens.

Regarding homosexuality

This week I want to do a post on my thoughts regarding homosexuality. Specifically, how I think it’s ok. Well, for starters, I’ve always thought of love as a positive thing. Everything I’ve heard suggests homosexuality (and heterosexuality for that matter) is basically about love. So it seems, to me, love is good and other people should stop bothering about how or who you love as long as there’s mutual consent. But, since condemning homosexuality is a religious topic, I decided to check out the biblical basis for this.

Among Leviticus laws:
It’s illegal for a man to lie with a man as with a women. Punishment is death.
No mention is made of any problem with women lying with women. I am not aware that it is mentioned at all in any book of the bible.
It is illegal to give your children to Molech. (Who is Molech?) Also punishable by death.
It is illegal to commit adultery. This one is also punishable by death. These are all mentioned in Leviticus 20.
In chapter 24 we are told a little story illustrating that anyone who blasphemes God’s name will be killed.
Ok so, just comparing these pieces I could say IF sex between males is bad, adultery is just as bad, and blaspheming God’s name is even worse, because we were given a cautionary tale. Since I don’t believe taking God’s name in vain is too terrible, I should be even less upset by adultery or men having sex. And it does sound like the law addresses just the sex part, not the being in love part. Even those taking every little bit of the bible literally should still be ok with the emotional aspect of a same sex relationship.

Where the laws could have come from:
If the laws in Leviticus had to do with keeping healthy, it seems possible they are out of date. There are instructions to take sores of a possibly leperous nature to priest- nowadays we’d go to a doctor who is far better equipped than a priest. There are restrictions against pork-we know how to kill trichinosis and other microbes now so it can be eaten safely. There is a ban on men having anal sex- we know that sex in that area can be problematic because of bleeding and germs, but we now have condoms to prevent disease. I’m thinking Leviticus needs an update real bad.

Sodom and Gomorrah:
I have some problems with this story that make it difficult to take it as is. Here’s my paraphrase of Genesis 19:

Lot lives in the town of Sodom. Two angels visit Lot and he invites them to stay overnight. That night, all the men in town surround the house and pound on the door. They ask Lot to send out his two guests so they can “know them carnally”. Lot says, “Please, these men are my guests. I have two virgin daughters, take them and do whatever you want with them.” But the men instead try to grab Lot. The angels pull him inside and they shut the door. The next day God destroys the city.

How seriously can I take the morality in a story that involves a man offering his innocent daughters as a bribe for an angry sex-crazed mob? It’s also difficult to say the problem in Sodom was man on man sex. To me it sounds like a story condemning rape, or possibly stressing the importance of hospitality. And some books of the bible indicate that Sodom had other issues including treating the poor badly, idleness, and being prideful. In short, it sounds like a lot of exaggeration has gone on about what the bible actually says. Even assuming no distortion, there are so many old biblical things we’ve moved on from worrying about. Generally we aren’t too concerned with mixing fibers of two kinds in one article of clothing. Or with breaking any pot that a mouse or chameleon has died inside. There are many things we’ve left behind. It’s time this was another one.

Book Review- Christianese, a terrible book

Book review!

So you may or may not remember I was given a book called Christianese written by Donald E Moore. I got it after talking to the pastor at Solid Rock church. We had some conversation about the odd phrases used to describe Christian concepts. The book was a response to that. So I read it, and now I’ll tell you all about it.

So I’m not gonna lie to you, I had a lot of problems with this book. It was hard for me to keep reading to the end. The back of the book (and title) make it sound as though it’s a book explaining Christian language sensibly. In actuality it teaches a very narrow view of exactly what Christianity means. And there was a lot of really negative stuff in it. I found maybe two pages worth of anything positive or interesting. The rest was kind of a loosely arranged mish-mash of confusion and negativity. I wrote down some of the things that stood out to me and put them into categories.

Let’s start with what little good stuff I found. There is an interesting section which describes ‘Abraham’s Bosom’. This is a phrase Jesus uses in a story he tells around Luke 15:22-23. In Jesus’ story, a good man who has died goes to Abraham’s Bosom. I found many translations also say ‘Abraham’s Side’ or just ‘to be with Abraham’. He also says that a rich man who dies ends up in ‘hell’ ‘Hades’ or ‘torment’. In the story, the rich man wishes for the good man to bring him cool water and also warn his brothers to change their ways. Apparently the good man is not allowed to do either of these things as he cannot cross into ‘Hades’. This little phrase ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ is actually the origin of the idea of purgatory as taught by the Catholic church. Even though Donald Moore obviously dislikes Catholics (he calls them a cult) he nevertheless believes in a place for holding souls that is neither heaven nor hell. He just believes that it is now closed, since Jesus opened heaven to us when he died.

There is a spot in the book which mentions how Jesus loves the Jews as children of Israel. I like it when Christians make a point of loving others, and specifically when they try to combat that whole “let’s blame the Jews for stuff” business.

The author makes mention of anointing being a practice used by shepherds. They would put oil on the heads of their sheep to protect them from parasites getting in their ears and eyes. God and Jesus are both often compared to the shepherd taking care of his sheep. From this the symbolic use of oil developed and the meaning of ‘anointed’ moved to something like a ‘chosen’ status.

This author actually seems to know the patriarchs pretty well, and a lot about the festivals and sabbaths listed in the bible. I’ve always thought it strange that Christian groups ignore their Jewish roots and don’t really celebrate any of the same holidays as Jews do or did. Moore thinks we need to get back into these old-school holy celebrations. I think that might be neat. I could be up for holidays involving eating flat crackers or building a tent.

I ran into a few spots with a claim followed by a contradictory claim in the next paragraph. I find it difficult to want to follow the ideas of someone who can’t even keep his own ideas from opposing each other. One such paragraph was explaining that if you are evil, evil will come to you. Moore states “What goes around, comes around.” Then a couple sentences later he says “Trouble comes to us all.” So which is it, does trouble bother only evil people, or everyone?

In a particularly confusing section, Moore talks about “sheep that are not of this fold”. Apparently Jesus told his disciples that there are others doing good that they (the disciples) don’t know about and those are still ok with Jesus. These are the sheep not of this fold. That sounds nice, and a great way to give other Christian groups the benefit of the doubt. It’s really too bad that Moore then contradicts himself to say that we can in fact know about which ‘sheep’ Jesus approves of and which he disapproves of. It’s a really stupid way to end what otherwise would be a nice little section on openmindedness.

It is explained that old testament rules, such as those regarding sex practices, must be followed because God knows best. A paragraph later we hear the opposite regarding dietary rules.- “we can eat limited amounts of prohibited foods…under the New Covenant.” If Moore thinks I can eat pork sometimes, by his own logic he ought to think I could have non-biblical sex just as often.

There are a few claims in this book that seem to be based on incorrectly understood information. One such idea is the claim that “gene studies have proven…all came from the same mother. We call her ‘Eve’.” I would guess that this is a misunderstanding of the ‘mitochondrial Eve’ concept. It’s a term some geneticist came up with (probably thought they were being cute) to describe the tracing of human lineage using mitochondrial DNA. Nuclear DNA is the classic DNA that most of us know; babies get half from dad (in the sperm) and half from mom (nucleus of the egg) and it contributes to our characteristics and tells our bodies how to grow. Mitochondria are components of human cells and they happen to have their own DNA which is totally separate from the nuclear DNA. The DNA in the mitochondria (aka mtDNA) is pretty much just for details of making more mitochondria. Furthermore, sperm don’t carry any mitochondria, so babies get mtDNA virtually unchanged from their mom. Over time small random changes would happen to inherited mtDNA, but nothing like the complex changes in nuclear DNA. Scientists realized this could be a really easy way to trace maternal lineage. The ‘mitochondrial Eve’ is a really ancient lady, but not the very first. She represents a woman who had at least one daughter, then at least one granddaughter then at least one great granddaughter, so on until today. Any women living before ‘mtEve’ had all sons, or at some point their lineage was only sons and thus mtDNA they possessed died off. I can understand that this stuff might be a bit confusing for the non-science types, but to say that science proves a biblical Eve is ridiculous.

It is casually suggested that the ideas of the big bang and evolution caused atheism. “Our forefathers had not invented the big bang and evolution yet, so they all gave thanks to a deity.” This shows not only a misunderstanding of the big bang and evolution (ideas which did not even develop in the same field of science) but also a misunderstanding of the existence of atheism. As I understand it, atheism is way older than either of those theories. It’s also silly to believe an atheist would necessarily need either theory as a precursor their atheism.

This guy really loves to attack evolution. In one section he explains that evolution can’t be right because it is “impossible to reproduce in the laboratory”. Yeah, of course it’s impossible to reproduce in a lab. So is butterfly migration to Mexico. The scale of both things in terms of time and space could never be contained in a lab, unless we are going to dedicate an entire continent, and most of our global resources to building a lab for a single experiment. I don’t see that as a possibility really- ever.

The most striking example of the author being rather uninformed is far into the book. It follows a tirade against tolerance and how tolerance is making Christians into weaklings. We are ‘reminded’ that Jesus was intolerant of sin. Yeah I’ll agree Jesus did have some major beefs with a few things that went on in his time. But Jesus ate with sinners, and saved an adulteress from being stoned saying “I do not condemn you.” Jesus seems like he was a pretty tolerant dude who was more about helping people than judging them.

So my last example of this section fits someplace between this category and the next one. Moore says, “Great is the volume of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died.” Actually no, not as far as I know. If you are looking for evidence outside the bible there is little to none. Several historians mention the Jews demonstrating at the instigation of Christus or Cherstus, but they don’t say a lot more about this person, so it’s even possible it’s not Jesus but another dude with a similar name. Josephus mentions Jesus, but there is some debate that his work may have been altered to include the reference. Altogether that’s certainly not a ‘great’ volume of evidence . But then I guess it’s possible Moore means the bible itself and the many books therein. To me that’s more like a single source though. I’d feel the same confidence in a single news report that 20 different people described to me. I’d still just count it as one source.

So basically everything in this book that was not a biblical quote was without external reference. A few of them stood out as probably wrong or just weird, but I was unable to figure out where the ideas could have come from, making them difficult to address.

The twinkling of an eye = 1/100th of a second. I’m not sure why this was defined or where the definition comes from. Is it important to my Christian faith?

Monogamy = health, wealth, and longevity. Could be true or false as far as I know. And I definitely lean towards false based on the other ‘facts’ provided by the author.

An increase in believers from 1992-1996. What type? Is this just Moore’s denomination or all Christians, or what?

A few sections of this book were written in what I find to be the most confusing manner possible. Several sentences didn’t seem to be syntactically correct.

Soul defined?
Soul was defined as 1) mind and emotions 2) mind, will and emotions 3) mind, will, emotions, heart, and personality… I feel like I’m in a Monty Python sketch.

Moore talks very fervently about what I can only guess is an account of something from his own church. He says that sometimes people backslide and fall into their old ‘ fleshy’ ways. Then they say things like “I’m not playing church and it’s not about me.” He repeats the phrases as though they are some magical beacon by which we will see those backsliders and do whatever it is you do to backsliders…

Towards the end of the book, I don’t know maybe Moore was getting tired or something. It starts to dissolve into long pieced together bible quotes. Most of these I can’t follow what he’s getting at. There is a bunch of stuff from Revelations including this enigmatic quote: “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” My best guess here is that God is a big fan of clean laundry. I’ll have to get myself some extra strength bleach- gotta be holy, right?

Pot vs Kettle-
Several sections had this feel that the author was trying to describe what’s wrong with other groups, but also wound up describing his own group. Mainly this was regarding descriptions of cults. The takeaway points seem to be that a cult is exclusive and rearranges bible verses. Exclusive like the way Moore says only his interpretation is correct? I also see a bunch of bible verses all rearranged in the last several chapters of Christianese. So I guess the author is in a cult too.

Demons and disease-
According to this book, demons figure heavily into our lives. Demon oppression or possession can trouble people who are either weak, or choosing sin. Mental illness is seen as a sign of demon issues. This idea strikes me as particularly dangerous, because it then makes it easy to blame the sick for their illness. Then furthermore if treatment is faith-based, those not healing are even more at fault for not having faith enough to heal.

Another section describes a second set of possible reasons for all your problems. God may have cursed you or maybe he’s just angry. Yes, it is suggested in this book that sickness, poverty, insanity, and natural disasters are all results of Gods wrath. If anything, this is worse than blaming demons because it implies you did something soooo bad, even the good guy is pissed at you. I’ve worked really hard to shed the idea that my God is one who punishes. It just doesn’t seem consistent with the many examples of good people afflicted and bad people living the easy life. So it’s really annoying and discouraging to find the idea given weight in this book.

Insulting to women-
So there’s at least one spot where Moore appears to be trying to bring in the idea of equality for women- which I would applaud if he didn’t do such an awful job of it. There is a spot in one of Paul’s letters which mentions women who are too vocal in the church needing to shut up. This is explained away by saying that yeah, that’s how society was at the time. Moore also cites a few instances where Paul says women are spiritual leaders in one church or another. And this might have been fine with me. Except that the section ends with this: “If God can speak through a donkey (numbers 22) He can surely speak through anyone.” Yeah our God is one wacky guy. Of all things he could choose to talk through he chooses donkeys and even women. What crazy thing will he do next?

I cannot believe you just said that-
Here’s a list of things I can’t believe anyone would say, much less print in a book:

“A lack of Faith is often because self-talk (thinking) causes Faith to turn into doubt.”

(Don’t think!)

“how far would Hitler have gotten if the Christian world…used their free will to stop Hitler’s evil free will?”

(apparently Christian free will was the only factor in WWII)

“AIDS…seldom plague(s) those who keep God’s laws.”

(I suppose for example babies born with AIDS were breaking commandments in utero?…so offensive)

Last but not least, wacky!-
I had to end with something vaguely amusing. This entire book review has taken me two weeks and is depressing me like crazy. So here are some concepts from the book I found a bit wacky.

Christians are like Christ but not “joining a mind melt of Christ’s”.
(You are not winning over dorknerds with the inaccurate geek slang.)

Ghosts and aliens people think they’ve seen are really demons and human/angel hybrids.

Heaven is in space. Hell is in earth’s core.

Yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture are all dangerous pathways. Spirits can gain entrance, just like what happened to this one pastor the author knows…he lost his mind!

Thanksgiving was declared a holy day by government officials and atheists miss the point of the holiday because they are incapable of thankfulness. Also they are selfish.

Harry Potter leads us the wrong way, but Tolkien is just fine.

Injected microchips fit with revelations talk of the end times.
(Aren’t those for dogs? Dog rapture is near! Repent ye hounds!)

Alright so, I’m tired to death of this book. I’m surprised it exists, and surprised it was recommended to me. It seems to want to be a book to recommend Christianity to the non-Christian. As a Christian I find it to be a better recommendation against the religion. Don’t bother reading it, it will just make you want to cry.

Lord’s Prayer Rewrite

So, on my mind a lot recently has been the meaning and usage of prayer. I’d really like to do an entire project devoted to just prayer and how it is viewed by different people. I have a feeling that the answers would be different even among those attending a single church. Instead of asking everyone I meet, which would be tedious, I’m asking here and there and keeping my eyes and ears open. I have seen prayer as speech and song, heard it described as a solo activity, and seen it done in a large group. I have read a few different takes on what is to be expected of prayer. They boil down to one of the following answers:1)prayer is about maintaining a relationship with God and getting in touch with God’s presence 2)prayers of the faithful are answered, pray and don’t stop, you will get what you ask for. Why is prayer seen in two such vastly different light’s? I don’t know, but I’m watching out for more information along my journey.

Meanwhile, Jesus explained how to pray in the new testament. How would this be expressed if he retold us today? I tried my hand at guessing:

Heaven: The Big Chair
Dear Holy Dad,
Let your kingdom be here with us on earth. We want to do what makes you happy. Give us food each day. Forgive us when we mess up. Remind us to forgive others who mess up. Remind us not to get into precarious situations. Help us when we are in need.

Comments welcome!