Fred Phelps is a Con Man. An interesting read on the motivations behind the Westboro Baptist Church that casts what they do in an entirely new light.
I’m having a day of snark – one of those where everything I want to write about involves some sort of sarcastic response toward ridiculous opinions and viewpoints. Hazards of coming off a couple of sick days, I suppose – I tend to be a little less patient and tolerant.
For starters, in response to the shooting at Virginia Tech the other day, gun control outcriers have cropped again. And they’re welcome to their opinions, of course. But I still think they’re wrong. There seems to be this mentality that allowing people to own and carry weapons will only cause the crime rate to increase, since guns will be that much more available. Almost without exception, though, I find that those opinions come from folks who have had very little exposure to guns. For those of us who have grown up with guns and have been taught how to safely handle them, we know that those folks who make the decision to 1) own guns and 2) earn the license that gives them the right to carry said guns are _far_ more likely to handle them safely. These are the people who respect these weapons enough to, get this, keep one with them at all times. The people who go on these shooting sprees usually acquire their weapons by illegal means or, if they’ve acquired them legally, haven’t bothered to learn how to use them properly or gained the licenses necessary to carry them. In short, shooters like this do not respect the laws that govern the use and ownership of guns. It places those of us who actually _do_ respect these laws in a difficult spot because the resultant fear from tragedies like these threatens the right of American citizens to own and carry guns.
Recognize this – psychos like this Virginia Tech shooter will always be able to find guns when they want them, no matter what sort of legislation is in place to make it “impossible” to do so. The black market will never be shut down. All these gun control laws do is make it more difficult for honest citizens to put a quick end to a shooter’s spree should such a crisis arise. Personally, I feel much safer with a licensed-to-carry citizen next to me than without. But then again, I realize that said citizen has been trained in how to use that weapon and would never casually use said weapon unless there was no other option.
The other thing that has my snark up right now involves Fox News apparent posthumous besmirching of Kurt Vonnegut. Apparently, Fox News ran a story the other day that wasn’t terribly flattering to the late science fiction author. Ultimately, I couldn’t care less what Fox News thinks of the author or how people are reacting to the news story. I deliberately tend to avoid the news in any form exactly because the news seems to bring out the worst in people.
What I _am_ a little bit surprised by is Fox News’s deliberate mention of Vonnegut being a ‘leftist.’ Well, of _course_ he was a leftist – most science fiction authors are. Read just about any science fiction novel, and you’ll see worlds in which religion is all but dead, with God having been debunked and traditional and historical forms of morality having been given up in favor of less restrictive and more ‘liberating’ personal values. These are worlds where anything goes, guilt-free, so long as others are not harmed in the process. This is the ideal of 21st-century man, to live as he desires rather than being bound to a set of rules set down by a third party, whatever that third party may be. This view is liberal and leftist, and for some reason this viewpoint, this hopeful future, goes hand-in-hand with science fiction. The shirking of religion, with all its rules and regulations, is seen as progress for mankind, and science fiction embraces this hope with vigor, eagerness, and passion.
What _I’d_ like to see is science fiction where the future world doesn’t look all that much different to the world we see today, with the obvious exception of more advanced technology. I’d like to see some science fiction where, if anything, morality and religion have become _more_ entrenched, just to see what that kind of world would like. I wouldn’t mind seeing such worlds built in both a positive and negative light, since either outcome is equally likely, in my opinion. Essentially, I’d like to see a more deliberate exploration of such universes. And just once, I’d like to see a world of the future where religion isn’t the demon that it’s made out to be today, where religion is actually beneficial and productive. Stephen Lawhead attempts this in his Empyrion set, and Orson Scott Card presents another version in his Ender series. But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule. I just tend to think that science fiction does not necessarily need to be divorced from religion and morality in order to be good and exceptional. But since many times science fiction expresses the ideologies of each writer, they tend toward a certain brand of preachiness against religion that grows wearisome after a while.
So that’s a bit of the snark factor bouncing around in my brain today. And now that it’s out there, perhaps it’ll leave me alone.
Man, I really hate “falling under a label”:http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/this-blog-is-different/ that seems to generate so much animosity and antagonism from folks in the scientific community – that being, in this case, Creationist (as opposed to the term ‘denialist’ that is also mentioned). It honestly makes it difficult for those of us who are genuinely interested in the study and research in those fields to actually have calm, rational discussions with these folks because they’ve already labeled us as ‘quacks’, ‘kooks’, and ‘idiots’. We never even get a fair shake to ask our questions because as soon as we do, we’re blown off with some sarcastic, derisive answer. I am actually quite hesitant to identify as being with any one particular camp exactly because of the reaction I know I will get – I _hate_ being written off just out of hand. It kind of annoys me, really.
I’ve deliberately subscribed to RSS feeds from a number of science blogs recently because I want to stay abreast of the things that are being discussed in the scientific community. I have to admit, though, that I have to grit my teeth through just about every single one because the comments and snide remarks directed at Creationists and people of faith who hold opinions and beliefs that differ from those popularly recognized in the scientific community set me right on edge. Granted, a lot of this animosity some of these folks bring on themselves due to ill-informed arguments and general ignorance, but some of it is truly undeserved, as well. There’s something about people of faith being involved in science that almost instantly seems to generate the hostility of secular scientists. It makes it tough on those of us who do belief in a literal 6-day creation but who also want to be involved in, at the least, the discussions going on around the scientific community.
Consider me a true skeptic, I guess, who also holds Creationist beliefs. I know _I’m_ not going to get in your face about things, but I _will_ look at the evidence presented with as impartial a mind as I can.
So, I guess I’d just like to see the hostilities dialed back.
I’m linking to this particular article for only one reason. I’ve considered writing about this for a little while now, but this quote was the catalyst:
bq. Scenes like this make me proud to be American.
Popular sentiment, this one. And I suppose that’s ok. America is, after all, a nation known for its freedoms and liberties. It’s the very reason this country was established, so that people could worship there God/gods (or not) however they see fit, so that people could be free to live their lives however they want – within certain limitations, of course.
I’ll be honest, though. This sort of thing does not make me proud. It does, in fact, make me feel physically nauseated. As a Christian, I do have a moral problem with homosexuality. I do think that homosexuals have the right to live their lives how they want, even to marry, if they wish. That’s part of what this nation is about, after all. But I’ve stated my opinions on the moral and legal nature of this issue before, so this is nothing new coming from me. Morally, I object, but legally I think they have the right.
Physically, though, the thought of two men having sex, even just kissing, makes my stomach clench, makes me feel like vomiting. Even were I to come to a place where I believed that homosexuality was an ok thing on a moral level (never gonna happen), I would still have this physical reaction to the idea.
It makes me wonder. All these people who are pro-gay, who say they are so proud to be an American when they see things like this, in particular the ones who are very heterosexual, do they feel any sort of physical reaction when they think about it? Or do they simply not think about it enough to allow such reactions to rise up? Would they look at their _lack_ of reaction and say that it is a good thing, that it is a sign of progress, of… evolution toward a better, more welcoming world for all? I don’t know because I’ve never seen anyone address this side of this topic.
I’m just grossed out by the thought. It’s part of what adds fodder to my belief that homosexuality is _not_, in fact, natural or normal, that is really just a perversion of the human nature, of the way things are supposed to be. And holding it up under even the evolutionary microscope (which I also believe to be complete bunk), it still doesn’t make sense because it threatens the preservation of the species.
But people want their personal freedoms, but more importantly people don’t like to be told they’re wrong, let alone have to fight against their ‘natural’ ((Read: sinful)) urges. Rather, they embrace them and tout them as the next best thing, the next logical step in the evolution of mankind.
Whatever. I just know that I think it’s wrong, and the gay pride movement is one of the last things I would ever hold up to show my pride in being American.
Take it for what it’s worth.
I’ve been grappling with my feelings about an ongoing conversations I’ve been watching for the past few days. Long-time readers of this site know that I strive to always be respectful of the beliefs and opinions of everyone who comes here, even when those opinions are very different from my own. As a result I have won some unlikely friends and subscribers, and we have had some lively and engaging discussions, as a result. What I have struggled with lately is the debate between three particular groups that seems to have soured all parties involved.
I believe that apologetics are important. Generally, when one thinks of apologetics, they think of the formal defense of the Christian faith, but technically anyone who engages in the formal defense of their faith, whether they believe in God or not, is engaging in apologetics. The reason that I believe apologetics are important is because I think it is crucial that a person know what it is they believe and the fundamental reasons behind that knowledge. I mean, how else can a person stand on their faith and beliefs if they do not know the ‘why’ of said beliefs?
I’ve been watching a virtual apologetic slug-fest for a few days now. The three groups I have seen thus far are: 1) atheists intent on breaking down the Christian faith by showing its logical leaps and fallacies; 2) Christians reacting to said atheist arguments; and 3) other Christians in conflict with the former group of Christians over various issues, including the proper approach to apologetics and whether apologetics are even necessary. What I see is a lot of sarcasm, cynicism, and derision; snide remarks, caustic questions, and critical allegations. What I see is a debate that is merely spinning its wheels in the mud, with any headway in the argument being completely stalled because everyone is pushing against each other in a reactionary manner rather than working and talking together to gain a better understanding of one another and of Truth. As you might imagine, it’s frustrating to watch. I’ve been tempted to chime in a time or two, add my own viewpoint and perspective, but I really wonder if it would even make a difference. I think it probably would not, and so I have not.
I’m all for firmly standing on what one believes. I don’t like dealing with wishy-washy people ((So, when I’m wishy-washy about something because I don’t completely what I believe myself, I’m usually pretty frustated with myself.)), so I have a great deal of respect for an individual who knows what he believes and can back that belief up with reasonable, rational arguments. ((And yes, even statements of faith can be rational, contrary to what some might tell you.)) What I can’t abide is that same individual having a condescending and arrogant attitude about his beliefs, arguing with you about your beliefs simply for the sake of having conflict and with no intention of coming to an understanding with each other.
It’s difficult to determine attitude on the Internet. All we have are words to read. There is little to no inflection added to indicate tone or soften a seemingly harsh turn of phrase. So, something that reads like sarcasm or arrogance may not actually be so. Yet given enough time with the dialogue, one should be able to pick up from the response of the opposing party that one’s own words are being taken as sarcastic and arrogant, and one should then make an effort to couch one’s words from that point onward in softer language that conveys respect and humility. It’s tough, I know, but it’s well worth the effort in the longrun and greater strides are made at mutually beneficial discussion.
I’m watching harsh words be flung about haphazardly, words that contain bitterness and cold resentment, words that strike out with anger, and I think to myself, This ought not be. But I am helpless to do anything about it.
My faith is important to me, and it is important to me to be able to defend it to those who might call it into question. But I find it unreasonable to defend it with sarcasm and arrogance because in doing so, I validate the point of my challenger and forever turn him or her off to the message of Hope that I carry with me. Why do so few see the damaging affect that their words have on the hearts and minds of others? And when faced with the truth of what their words do, why do they then shrug that revelation off so that they may continue as before?
Hard are men’s hearts and blind are men’s eyes when they are confronted by Truth yet do not recognize nor heed it.
To all who come here, to all who read my words, know that you are welcome here and that you are welcome to present and discuss your beliefs in this forum. I cannot do anything about the others who do not seem to be truly open to discussion, but I can continue to assure that this will be a place of sanctuary, where people are free to believe as they will and are free to talk about their beliefs without animosity or rancor. I welcome you with arms wide open and hope that you will choose to stay awhile.
At the Men of Purity conference over the weekend, we sang this song. ((There’s nothing quite so powerful and spiritually moving as hearing 800 men singing worship songs together.)) I love the words, love the music, love the richness of theology described herein. Take a moment to reflect on the words and to think about what they mean. I don’t know how anyone can read, hear, or sing these words and not fall in love with Jesus all over again.
In Christ Alone
by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty © 2002
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Ã¢â‚¬ËœTil on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
SinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From lifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtil He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stand
bq. If you can’t laugh about your religion or personal beliefs on occasion then you need to take a serious look at what it means to you. You can find humor in any situation.
I ran across this quote earlier today, and it gave me pause. A lot of non-religious folk quip and make jokes (or simply snide remarks or witticisms) about various religions, laughing to each other over the punch line and nudging each other in the side as they watch the people about whom the joke was made vent and fume and react with offense. Then, they can’t understand why these people get so upset over what was so obviously a joke, telling them that they really need to learn how to have a sense of humor. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this recently. Person A cracks joke about Person B. Person B gets offended and responds with words to that effect. Person A puts up his hands and says, Now hold on, pardner, itwasjustajoke. Person B is not placated because he cannot see any way in which the joke was funny. Person A chalks Person B off as being an extremist or having an underdeveloped sense of humor (or both).
What we actually have here is a failure for both parties to understand each other.
For Person A, who made the offensive joke, he fails to understand that Person B’s religious beliefs are _very_ important to him. They are, in fact, an integral part of Person B’s way of life. When Person B hears Person A making the joke about his own beliefs, what he hears is someone ridiculing and mocking his beliefs. What Person A is saying, by implication, is that Person B’s beliefs are stupid and childish. Even if Person B doesn’t know Person A from a stranger on the street, Person B is still hurt on a personal and emotional level because no one likes to be told that their beliefs are stupid, particularly when such a message is communicated via mockery. That mockery stings and hurts, and most people placed in such a situation are going to react defensively in some manner or another. What Person A fails to understand is just how important Person B’s beliefs are to him. Yet, when the roles are reversed, Person A reacts with offense whenever Person B (or Persons C, D, E…) make jokes about a belief that Person A holds particularly dear. Person A cannot find anything funny about Person B’s joke, just as Person B could not find anything funny about Person A’s joke. In both instances, the belief joked about was held dear by the joke’s ‘victim’, making it no laughing matter for that person. Unfortunately, Person A gripes about how unfair Person B’s joke was, often forgetting about how unfair his own joke about Person B was. Person B, on the other hand, fails to grasp how unimportant his own beliefs are to Person A and forgets that he should not take Person A’s joke personally. So Person B ends up reacting in a way that does little to make the situation better.
Sure, it hurts to have others make fun of you for your beliefs. But unfortunately, it is also a part of life. Lashing out because you feel hurt is not usually a good way to handle the situation and, in fact, typically only serves to justify the point of the joke. If you are going to address the joke at all, ignore the joke itself and discuss the _point_ of the joke. Make a good discussion about it, and don’t let yourself get all up in arms about it.
Water off a duck’s back, as they say.
What was “posed”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=514 as merely a curiosity question and an aside ((Since I’ve switched to a widget-compatible theme, I’ve started using a new plugin for my asides so that I can continue displaying them in my sidebar. For some reason, though, my asides no longer show up in my RSS feed, so if you read my site from the feed, you won’t see any of my asides until I can figure out how to get them to show up in the feed again. Feel free to offer any solutions or suggestions, if you have any.)) has become a rather more interesting discussion than I expected it to be – an exploration of the fact that Jesus was probably not actually crucified on a Friday but more likely on Wednesday and buried later that same evening so that he could be buried for a full three days, according to both prophecy and His own words. Feel free to check out the discussion and add your own thoughts and knowledge to the topic.
I “mentioned”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=507 the other day that I had added another atheist blog to my blogroll. Unfortunately, I’m really not sure how long it will be staying there. I don’t have much use for blogs whose sole purpose for existing is to rant and rail continually against only particular cause or organization. I’ve removed several blogs from my blogroll over the past few weeks because they do exactly that.
When I added this blog, I didn’t realize that there are actually several authors that contribute content – in itself not necessarily a bad thing. But the one author whose content most intrigued me is about the only one whose writing on this blog I can stomach. I have trouble staying with any writer who voices their opinions in a manner that is designed to be deliberately antagonistic, whose style is aimed at doing little more than goading the exact sort of behavior about which they constantly complain. ((And it figures that people are all too willing to oblige by providing such extreme examples.))
This blog is maintained by several atheists whose only purpose is to prove and demonstrate just how stupid religion is, with a particular emphasis on trying to mock and ridicule Christianity and show just how stupid and ignorant Christians are. Now, it should be clear by now that I have little problem with people who believe this way. I have had several discussions here already with other atheists. We’ve shared our beliefs with one another, pointed out our differences and the reasons for them, and had mutually respectful dialogue about them. I’m also aware that at least a couple of atheists think I’m naive and foolish for my beliefs. And I’m alright with that.
What I have a problem with are those types of atheists whose interaction with Christian beliefs are driven by anger and animosity, no matter the reasons they have for such feelings. These are the people with whom no real discourse can be had, simply because it is already abundantly clear that they do not wish to actually talk openly and respectfully. Their minds are already made up, and any response to their claims will only be twisted around to serve their own purposes.
I had hoped to be challenged by this blog. The writing really is quite well done, for the most part. I just think that such writing could be put to more productive purposes, that whatever time and energy has and is being put into trying to ‘undo’ Christianity is such a waste. ((Just writing their beliefs and opinions in a rational, calm manner that lends itself to more open discussion would be a great improvement.)) The level of frustration I see in most of the articles posted in itself puts me off – made worse by the fact that they engage in the juvenile behavior of hacking some of their commenters’ responses in order to make them look more ridiculous than they already do.
I’ll keep this site on my blogroll for a little while longer, but sadly, I fear that it likely won’t remain. I know for a fact that there are other atheist blogs out there with high quality writing that are more willing to dialogue with Christians about their beliefs, and so are far more inviting to those of us who wish to engage in such discussion.
Another atheist blog got added to my blogroll today. Obviously, I don’t agree with the vast majority of this young lady’s opinions, but I do find that her articles are articulate and very thought-provoking. I also find myself deeply saddened (though, I’m sure she would probably say that there is no reason for me to feel that way).
Here is one of those individuals whose writing gives me so much to think about and say in response – counter opinions and counterarguments to every belief, perception, and conclusion she poses, assurances that there are ‘religious answers’ to all her questions, promises that there really _are_ religious people out there who _do_ actually seek unity in their faith, rather than divisions and sectarianisms. But she is also one of those individuals who is widely read by a diverse audience. There are already many believers who are shouting their own thoughts and opinions in response – many of whom seem to have both correct theology and an appropriate attitude of respect and compassions, many of whom do not.
It seems like it would be a vain effort to add my own voice to the throng. I would be just one noise in the din, one that would, in all likelihood, be lost or ignored. Would it even be worth the effort to add my opinion to those already offered, my assurances to those already given? It seems like a futile effort, particularly when there are others who are already saying exactly what I would say, particularly when those others have already been shrugged off.
This is one of those times and places where I feel like it might be wiser to just remain silent. I don’t know if she is even still searching for answers; it certainly seems like she has arrived at an ironclad conclusion, one that she will not be shaken from – at least not easily.
This is possibly the first and biggest proof as to why virtual relationships will _never_ replace real ones. As much as I love the digital realm for sharing ideas and furthering discussion and the expansion of one’s own mind, when it comes right down to it, blogs and discussion forums will never prove an adequate substitute for a physical presence in someone’s life.
It has been “suggested”:http://www.rmcrob.com/?p=2697 that the next “Billy Graham will be a geek”:http://www.e-church.com/Blog.asp?EntryID=53109 ; to wit, the next great evangelist will be a blogger. And this may be true, to an extent. Blogging has certainly allowed many to give voice to their convictions and inspire and encourage others with truth from Scripture. “Talk”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=201 is “cheap”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=8 ; it will only convince an unbeliever of just so much. Ultimately, your actions must back up your words, and they have consistently proven to be far more persuasive than anything that can ever be said.
I don’t know if someone like this young lady can ever be convinced that God really does exist, let alone that He loves each and every one of us. I do know that no amount of talk has convinced her to this point, and the actions that she _has_ seen by the religous at large has proven to her that God does _not_ exist. But I also know that a single person can have a profound impact on an individual. I know that even the most hardened atheist can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But I also know that it is usually those personal relationships with other living, breathing human beings that serves as the catalyst. So, as much as we all love our little digital worlds, as much as we all love our writing, there comes a time when the keyboard needs to be set aside and the computer turned off, when we need to put on our shoes, tie up the laces, and take a walk in the real world. The sunshine will do us good, and maybe, just maybe, _we_ will be the one who impacts someone in a profound way so that they can see Jesus.