Archive for May, 2006

Everyone Else Is Talking About It

Posted by on Thursday, 18 May, 2006

I read The Da Vinci Code last December, after hearing about the “controversy” for some time. I found it irritating. To be fair, I categorize it as a “decent” thriller. I have definitely read better, but I have also read some absolute trash, and this was certainly above-average.

What really irritated me is that so many people seem to read this book and suddenly think that they know more about Christianity than Christians do. It’s a work of fiction people; which is not to say that Dan Brown personally made up the claims in this book, (because in many cases he did not) but he did combine various theories together in a way that suited his own plot. I find the fact that multiple books have been written about this book to be rather absurd, because honestly, I can only imagine that anyone who would actually take their theology from a work of fiction is probably far more interested in fiction than in theology. (Of course, at this point, the atheist would be quick to point out that the scriptures of every religion are merely works of fiction, but that’s a slightly different issue.)

Of course, people find it interesting for the questions it raises. Even if you haven’t read it, I assume by now that you have heard the claims that Jesus married and had children by Mary Magdalene. (Or maybe you only heard, as I have on at least one occasion, that Jesus married “Mary” and assumed this meant the Virgin Mary, his own mother.) Am I bold enough to say that I have such confidence in the accuracy of the Bible as it has been preserved for us that I am one hundred percent certain that that never happened? Of course I am not. But I just happened to be in Paris while I was reading the book, and could not help but wonder, “Have you actually been to the Louvre, Mr. Brown? … Because I was there this morning, and it wasn’t like you described.” I have since talked to a couple of other people who declared that the book also contained rather serious errors within their fields of expertise, and we all quite readily agree that if the book is wrong on things that we do happen to know something about, why on earth should we trust it in areas that we do not?

Obviously the most grievous error is Dan Brown’s characterization of what Christianity “is”, verses what it was supposably meant to be. The book claims something to the effect that the Jesus intended to leave Mary Magdalene in charge of the Church, not Peter, and that there has been a conspiracy of male dominance ever since. I neither defend nor speak for the Catholic Church, but protestants hold that Jesus himself is still head of the Church, and Christians are not answerable to Peter or anyone else on earth. If you have not read the book, allow me to spoil it for you: according to Dan Brown, “true” Christianity is basically a goddess-worshiping sex cult. I mention this in the off chance that the producers of the movie tastefully decide to leave out the orgy scene (which somehow – I doubt.)

Having read the book, I have no desire to see the movie. I have no desire for anyone to see the movie, but I do not imagine that that holds a lot of weight. I do not think that the book was worthy of the attention and controversy it has generated. I wish that people would just stop talking about it, yet here we are.
Instead of going out to see this movie, why not rent Walk The Line instead?

All My Stains

Posted by on Tuesday, 16 May, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I became increasingly aware that all of my words and thoughts had the horrible stench of regret.

The team I went with to Louisiana was to give a “report” back to the church. I have thus far not been able to talk about that trip in great detail with anyone. I could tell you about the work we did or show you pictures of destroyed houses, refrigerators on roofs, cars in trees… but I can not describe actually being there. I have not even tried.

At the time, I felt that going there was the best thing that I ever did. I could perhaps say that coming home and forgetting all about it was the worst, though that is probably not accurate. Regardless, seeing the team again, hearing the stories and watching some of the footage only reminded me how little my life had actually been changed by this “life-changing” experience. I was in a dark place before I left, and when I came home, I went straight back into it.

Yet, knowing they were there did not remove the stains of regret. What could I do, really?
What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

It may seem hard to believe now, but I actually started my website as an evangelism tool. I wanted my friends and my family to follow along and discover what I discovered. Perhaps this goal inspired me to be more skeptical than anyone I might possibly talk to, so that if I could be convinced I could be assured that others would be as well. Of course, it was also terribly important that I not look like a fool.

Sometimes I try to imagine myself explaining the Gospel to one of my family or friends. It really is embarrassingly unrealistic from a practical, worldly viewpoint. This hypothetical person will always ask me, “And you really believe this, do you?” To which my rational, practical mind will always have to concede, “Well, not really, no.” I wholeheartedly believe in the teaching of the Bible, but I have a great deal of trouble swallowing the history.

My world religions professor said that the main difference between Western and Eastern religions is that we want to know, “Is it true?” whereas they ask, “Does it work?”

I have seen the people in New Orleans, who lost everything and had no choice but to trust in God, and then we showed up to do the work that no one wanted to do… for free. There were even people on our team with broken lives that God worked to repair as they focused on serving Him. I did not go there to glorify God. I suppose I did go there with some intention of helping people, but even that was secondary to the fact that I really just wanted a change of scenery.

How can I serve You, Lord, when I do not love You?
How can I love You, if I do not know You?
How can I know You when I can not see?
How can I see if You do not open my eyes?

Is it really my fault that I don’t believe? What more can I possibly do, when the Bible says that there is nothing I can do in the first place? Am I not searching hard enough, or looking in the right place? If someone else was seeking God more diligently, would they then find Him and be able to boast? Or is that precisely the problem? Look at me, I read the Bible cover to cover! Look at me, I have gone to church every Sunday for three years! Look at me, I won’t stop seeking and questioning until I know the absolute truth. All the while I look with disdain on children who get baptized, saying things like, “When I was four years old, my mom told me about Jesus!”

Still covered with the stains of regret; my heart full of trash that I can not remove. I don’t care if Jesus was the Christ, or if he really said the things attributed to him. I don’t care if he even existed at all. I’m not interested right now in whether or not it’s true, does it work? Does Jesus Christ have the power to change lives? It seems that he does. Then how about my life? I am ready for the seeking to stop and the healing to begin.

For my unbelieving friends and family, I don’t know what to tell you anymore. This whole time, there must have been three things that I wasn’t saying for every one thing that I did anyway. All I can say now is that if you see a change in me, you might ask yourself if maybe there is something to this Christianity after all. Otherwise, you might as well keep doing what you are doing.


Posted by on Tuesday, 9 May, 2006

Ten years ago, I promised a girl that I would love her forever. Now it would be just as well if I never see her again.

I was with another girl for two and a half years. I always pretty much assumed that we would end up married, but ultimately, our lives diverged on very separate courses.

Then there was a girl that I seriously tried to marry, essentially (if you will pardon the oversimplification) because I honestly had nothing better to do.

I have also had probably more than my fair share of crushes and unrequited interests. All this time, I was looking for my soul mate, the one who would “complete” me.

Then I found someone who I did not see as perfect, and to be brutally honest, there were doubts about our relationship from the very beginning. Yet, as I had grown older, I started to realize what a serious concept marriage really is. It is easy to make promises of “forever” in high school, as your concepts of time and of life are somewhat limited. I began to fully realize that people were not like puzzle pieces that if and when you find the right match, they just naturally fit together perfectly. For the first time, I saw a relationship as a growing experience, and when there was a problem, I would actually try to talk about it rather than withdraw and brood about how we were not a perfect match. (I say “try” because I was certainly not always successful in this.)

I realized that marriage is not the goal. It’s not that you spend all the time up front finding exactly the right person, and then you just live happily ever after. Marriage is not the end, it’s the beginning. Marriage IS a battle, and it can either be an external battle, the two of you fighting against the problems of life, or it can be an internal battle between the two of you.

I saw the how those unresolved doubts could easily fester and grow into regret and bitterness until eventually the marriage would collapse or explode. The statistics on this matter are far from encouraging, and that very real possibility absolutely scared the hell out of me… but I still wanted to do it.

But hey, so what, huh? It still didn’t happen. Like I said before, I keep wanting my feelings to mean something, but am forced to admit that they do not. Can I really say that what I feel now is different than what I felt before? Of course I can say that- look what I’ve learned- see how I’ve grown… and yet… and yet…

But this time it’s different, I know she’s the one
Well, I say that for all of them

Damn it…

So there it is. This is the issue of which I can not let go. It’s why I’m here.

I was visiting my sister last Christmas, and took to reading some of her books. There was a book called Wicked that I had heard a lot about. Although I had heard nothing but praise for it, I still approached it with deep suspicion, as it’s stated intention seemed to be to reverse the ideas of good and evil. I did not get very far through it before realizing that it really ought to be higher than Harry Potter on any christian’s books-to-burn list. I presume that it isn’t because it isn’t nearly as popular, and it isn’t marketed to children. (At least, I sincerely hope that it isn’t.)

Anyway, I realized that I should not be in such a hurry to get married, as my wife is sure to cheat on me anyway. I considered how if a man cheats on his wife, it’s his fault for not respecting her. If a woman cheat’s on her husband… it’s still his fault for not respecting her. Something definitely seems wrong about that, but regardless, I am certainly the kind of emotionally distant man that would drive my wife away. (And with that realization, I gave up on THAT book in favor of one that really is higher on the books-to-burn list. But now is not the time to say what I thought of that one.)

Later, in my walks to and from school, I would consider how shortly after creating Adam, God declared, “It is not right for man to be alone.” Upon saying this, did He immediately create a whole group of men for Adam to engage in fellowship with? No! He created woman. Did not Jesus himself say,
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
If divorce is so wrong, how can a break-up be much better? Does God’s interest in the relationship only begin at the point of marriage?

Where am I wrong in all this?

Yet I am wrong. For as Paul said, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” because, “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” However, Paul also conceded, “It is better to marry that to burn with passion.”

I can not help but think of the Ethiopian who, immediately after hearing the Gospel, declared, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” I say, “Here is a godly woman, why shouldn’t she be the one?” But perhaps I should not apply that passage to this situation. For lest we forget, the Ethiopian was a eunuch.


Posted by on Sunday, 7 May, 2006

In my Bible study a few weeks ago, we discussed how the word “hope” has different meanings for Christians and non-believers. For Christians, “hope” is a guarantee; something that you know is going to happen. For non-believers, it is really quite the opposite. “Hope” is something that you want to happen, but it is not at all certain. In fact, it generally implies that this thing is more likely to NOT happen.

How did this difference occur? I can only imagine that it came from repeatedly hoping for things that did not come to pass. I think I can speak for cynics everywhere to say that hope only leads to disappointment and regret. That is, of course, the hope for things that will not be. If you always hope for true things, you will never be disappointed.

It has been a source of great vexation to me that both my own experience and my understanding of the Bible lead me to the conclusion that God does not really give a flying noodle what I want. Oh, there are some verses here and there that would seem to suggest otherwise, and some fringe theologians have built entire ministries off of that, but I think that those who really study the Bible would agree with me, though they would obviously spin it quite differently.

Anyway, why should He care, really? When what I want and what I feel changes from day to day, moment to moment? I keep wanting to think that my feelings mean something, and that the things that are important to me might be important to someone else. But I am constantly reminded that they do not, are not. Ultimately, they can not, because in order for what I want and what I feel right now to be significant, to be “true,” I would also have to admit that what I used to want and feel are just as valid. But in most cases, they are not.

An eternal God sees my yesterday in exactly the same way that He sees my tomorrow. What possible importance can my desires du jour have? But for me, who has no choice other than to live one day at a time, nothing could be more important.

I Had Such Hopes…
I have a journal in which I write even less often than I blog, but I have been using it for the past few days to write some notes in. Today, I happened to read what was on the first page. Written during my church group’s summer retreat last year, it was a list of issues that I was struggling with at that time. The shocking thing was that I could easily make an identical list today. How can this be? Has really nothing changed, at all? What in the world have I been doing for the last year?

I have not been literally sitting around doing nothing. There have been struggles, ups and downs, disappointments and new hopes; but all the while I had the ultimate hope that I was on a path that was leading in a positive direction. Yet here I am, in exactly the same place. All of my searching has led nowhere, all of my hopes have been in vain.

And yet, foolish as it seems, I still dare to hope that God will come through, that love will come through. Honestly, that is why Sundays have become so distasteful. I start every Sunday morning with such hope, but by the end of the day, I am always left broken again.


Posted by on Thursday, 4 May, 2006

On Sundays I go to church.

I’ve found churches to go to while staying in San Francisco, Geneva, San Antonio, Washington D.C. and Paris. I’ve walked the mile and a half to church when my car battery was dead. I went to church in the morning the night after my mother died. I even went to church last Sunday after blowing off God, my blog, and everyone. It’s what I do.

I’ve been either physically sitting in church or at a church sponsored function without exception every Sunday since I started going. (That is, if you consider “spending Christmas with my family” a church sponsored function – which I do.)

In the absence of faith, there is legalism.

Over three years ago, I set out to try to answer the question, “Why do otherwise rational and intelligent people believe this absurd story?” I gradually immersed myself in the christian culture. I went to church with a genuine curiosity to understand what it was all about. I was doing this for several months before I was asked to work on a Sunday. At that point I had to take an official position. I decided then that I would never miss church for work. I was perfectly willing to work Sundays, just after I had been to church in the morning. At that time I did not consider it a “sin” to miss church, I just knew myself well enough that if I skipped church once for even a legitimate reason like work, it would only be that much easier to miss in the future. Often times I would get home from work very late Saturday night, and I just might rather sleep in. Then before long, I would only be going to church when I felt like it.

Of course, the longer I went, the more important it seemed to keep my “streak” going. I had another motive as well. There was a certain individual whom I would have liked very much to tell that I had been to church every single Sunday since the last time we had spoken. But that was a long time ago, and I have neither the expectation nor the inclination to ever speak to that person again.

After awhile, as I slowly got to know people, it became more and more common to go out for lunch after the sermon. Eventually it became part of the Sunday routine. By that point I was no longer going to church to learn, but (as my father has observed) for the community.

In recent days, that community has dwindled significantly. They obviously do not share my compulsion to never miss a sermon. I imagine that it is not a big deal to someone who has an actual relationship with the Lord.

It occurred to me not long ago that, in a way, I have more faith than those around me. Many people go to church because they have faith in God and believe in His promises. Me, I literally do not believe the Bible, but I go to church anyway, and I still have faith that something good will come of it. This is nonsense of course. For who ever said that blinder faith is greater faith?

I have been on the verge of walking away from all of this for as long as I can remember. What holds me back? As I said, three years ago I set out to answer, “Why do rational and intelligent people believe this absurd story?” Strictly speaking, I have not yet found an answer to that question.

More than one person has told me that I have been an encouragement to them. I am fascinated by that. If after years of searching, I never found what I was looking for and gave up, that must come as a challenge to their own faith. But if in times of doubt, they can look to me as one who is spilling over with doubt, yet I persist, they can be assured that their faith is not in vain.

Perhaps I give myself too much credit, but the point remains: is it really just a sort of mob mentality? Are we, in our doubts, looking to the faith of those around us, who in turn are finding their strength in us, none of us willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes?

I can hear the skeptics quickly agreeing that yes, that’s all it is. I myself am not so ready to accept that, especially when the stakes are so high.

How I Lost My Mind, But Gained A Purple Flower

Posted by on Tuesday, 2 May, 2006

Every once in awhile, I will fast and go to one of the local parks to write. I decided to do that today, choosing Caroline Park. (I did not actually write anything, because I had a book in my car that I had intended to return to its rightful owner yesterday, but that didn’t actually happen, and today I suddenly thought, “Hey, what if I actually read it first?”)

Anyway, I went to sit down on a bench at the top of a long grassy slope, and suddenly the thought occurred to me, “Run to the bottom of the hill and back.”
“Run to the bottom of the hill as fast as you can, then turn around and come back.”
“Why not?”

Well, I couldn’t argue with that logic… so I put down my stuff, then I sprinted down the slope and about two thirds of the way back up. Perhaps it would have been better if I could have done the uphill first, but I am out of shape. I made my way panting to the bench.
“Alright God, what was the point of that?”
I’ve got to stop talking to myself.

So I started the book, and about an hour and a half later, “Do it again.”
“Do it again.”
“Is there a point this time?:
Well, I choose to ignore that for awhile, but when I finished the chapter that I was had been reading…
“Do it again.”
Alright fine. But I ran downhill more slowly this time, and was able to make it pretty much back to the top. “Alright now, what was the point of that?”
“Roll down the hill.”
“Excuse me?”
“Roll down the hill.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“You did the other things…”

So I emptied my pockets, firmly convinced that I was losing my mind… but it’s not as though I was really using it anyway.
The rolling didn’t work out so well. I kept turning so that I was heading for the edge of the lawn rather than down the slope, never really got the momentum that I had expected, and besides the grass had a lot of prickly weeds in it. I got maybe a quarter of the way down. “Ok, I did it. Now what was the point of all this?”

“It’s Monday. Most people have to work for a living while you are out rolling in the grass. So why don’t you SHUT THE F*** UP!”

Something about the phrasing leads me to believe that this was not the Voice of God, but point taken.

“Now run to the bottom again, but this time, bring back one of those purple flowers.”
“Come on…”
“You like purple.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“DO IT!”

So, now I have a purple flower.

That’s Not What I Said

Posted by on Tuesday, 2 May, 2006

>Its a good time for endings.


I know I don’t usually like to explain myself, but… Robert Smith is the lead singer/only permanent member of the band The Cure. In the 90’s and 00’s, he (they) released four or five albums, each time claiming it would be the last one. Well… that’s lame.

I did not want to do that. When I say I’m done with this, I want to be done with it. If I say that I’m done, and then I keep going, you will think that I’m weak, lack the strength of my convinctions, refuse to let go… whatever. So I specifically said that I was not making any promises.

I know, one vague sentence when the whole rest of my demeanor says “I’m done with this crap” would give anyone the wrong impression. Especially if you have no idea who Robert Smith is. So, everyone thought I was done and… dang it… what was I supposed to do? Well, screw it. You already think I’m weak, and you’re absolutely right.

I’m glad we got that cleared up.