Quitting Christianity

July 31, 2010

The blogosphere (at least the Christian one) is abuzz with Anne Rice’s announcement that she’s quitting Christianity.  On her Facebook page earlier this week, she said “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
With the following clarification: “As I said…I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

There are as many opinions about this pronouncement as there are blog entries about it.  Rachel Held Evans wondered on her Twitter feed what others thought (but didn’t weigh in with her own opinion).  Michael Geertsma said, on ThinkChristian, that he initally was agreed, but later thought she has a narrow view of what being a Christian looks like.  The Celestial Navigator seems to agree with her action.  There are others weighing in on either side; some agreeing, some accusing her of playing semantics.  Perhaps the best analysis comes from Jason Boyett, of “O, Me of Little Faith“.  Like many of us, he understands her frustration but disagrees with what she’s said.  According to Jason, “Look, if you follow the religious figure Jesus Christ, then you are aligning yourself, whether you like it or not, with his other followers. That makes you a Christian, and that makes you part of the Christian religious system. You’re not making a legitimate distinction by trying to separate the religion from your personal faith. ”  I agree with him, but also have my own two cents to add.
Anne Rice isn’t the only person to come to this conclusion, people disgusted with the way Christians act are leaving the Church in droves.  This same dissatisfaction is what brought about the Emergent movement (or conversation or whatever else they’re calling it today).  I, myself, have severe reservations about the very same things that drove Anne to “leave” Christianity.  But, here’s the problem with that: if you leave, you can’t make things better.  In fact, if Christ is our rabbi, we have a duty to show our rabbi’s yoke (personal theology) in the best possible light.  Otherwise, how will we interest others in taking up that yoke?  And, make no mistake, that is a part of following our rabbi.
I, personally, am Christian.  I will remain a Christian, no matter what some other misguided Christians decide is the proper way to live out their faith.  I will attempt to respect their beliefs and interpretations, even when they don’t respect mine.  I do, however, reserve the right to speak out when I disagree.   Otherwise, I might as well leave, too.

Let’s Get it On

July 29, 2010

When I started this blog, I planned on it being a more serious expression of my faith journey.  Then, I read Stuff Christians Like and everything changed.  SCL is a blog (and a book) written by Jon Acuff, a preacher’s kid and copywriter who lives in Atlanta.  It’s a very funny look at whether things we like get in the way of our relationship with God.  It inspired me to start exploring my own satirical abilities, which is an attitude much more in line with my personality than the serious tone I was taking to begin with .  Since Jon has most ably taken the high road by writing about what we like, I’ve decided to take the low one and write about the things we don’t like, or at least don’t like talking about.  Today’s topic is certainly in that vein.

Many folks who don’t follow our peculiar faith think Christians don’t like sex.  I can see why they might think that.  Nothing gets some folks more riled up than the idea that someone, somewhere might be having fun (nod to H. L. Mencken, who I paraphrased).  But, the truth is, we like sex as much as anybody; we just don’t want anybody to know it.  I’m not sure where this attitude came from, but I blame it on the Puritans.  That bunch was so uptight, they’d make the staunchest Baptist look like an absolute libertine.  The thing is, the Bible is almost as full of sex as it is violence.  If it was any other book, it’d the first one thrown on the fire at fundamentalist book burnings.  That last is something else I lifted from another place, a fictional church website called Landover Baptist Church.  The funny thing is that, usually, the Old Testament is the more hardline, unforgiving part of the Bible and the New Testament presents a more enlightened view.  In this case, it’s exactly opposite.  The Old Testament is filled with people happily knockin’ boots while the thrust of the New Testament is “Jesus is coming back any minute, so don’t waste your time getting busy”.  That was mostly Paul and, truth be told, a high colonic and a roll in the hay would’ve done wonders for his personality.  I’m not sure what it would’ve done for the faith, but I digress.

Early on, in Genesis, we have our first mention of sex.  In Genesis 4:1, it says that Adam “knew” Eve and she produced a son, Cain.  It’s fitting that our first mention of sex is also our first euphemism, because the writers of the Old Testament rarely, if ever, were blunt about it.  While it may seem literary gymnastics to avoid a distasteful subject, I wonder if the words they used were similar to the ones we use today.  I mean, nobody says “having sex” when they’re talking about it; it’s always something like “getting it on”, “got laid”, “knocking boots”, etc.  I’m sure scholars much wiser than me could answer this, but they’d bore the crap out of us and who needs that?  Some more euphemisms for doin’ the deed include “came in unto her”, “went in unto her” or some variation of that phrase.  Another involves feet.  In the 3rd chapter of Ruth, where it says she “uncovered his feet”…, well, it wasn’t his feet she uncovered.  And, that whole “spread your cloak over your servant” didn’t mean “cover me up, I’m cold”.  There is some controversy over whether Boaz took advantage of the offer.  All I can say is that he was a strong man if he didn’t.  Leviticus is full of this stuff.  The term “uncover her (or his) nakedness” usually doesn’t just mean someone saw someone else naked.  In fact, there are some scholars that believe that Ham did more than just see Noah lying drunk and naked in his tent.  Whoa.

As I said earlier, the New Testament’s take on the act is a little different.  Where it seems people are getting it on all over the place in the Old Testament, in the New the idea seems to be one of constraint.  Jesus, himself, didn’t say much about sex other than “Don’t commit adultery”.  And, like I said, most of Paul’s advice on sex seemed to be “Don’t do it”.  There are a few places where he gets on someone about “sexual immorality”.  Those occur in Romans and 1st Corinthians, letters written to churches in two of the wildest towns in the entire Roman empire.  Rome and Corinth were both big trade centers and Corinth was seaport, which meant it was full of sailors and we know what those guys were like.  But, both cities were centers of worship for the cult of Aphrodite, a fertility goddess descended from the old Persian goddess, Ishtar.  Ishtar had several incarnations of the years and all of them had one thing in common: sacred prostitution.  If you think that means they had sex in church, you’re absolutely right.  In fact, another version of Ishtar, Astarte, was worshipped by the Canaanites in the old days of Israel.  Which explains why the Israelites had so much trouble sticking to the worship of Yahweh.  Work my butt off, make sacrifices and follow a ton of rules or have a romp with the temple prostitute as worship?  Hmmm. 

If I have a point, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with sex.  In fact, it’s great and it’s a gift from God.  So, why are we ashamed?

Through the Bible

July 28, 2010

There are tons of verses in the Bible, but only few ever get preached on, talked about or referenced.  Take John 3:16 for instance.  You know, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  Everyone knows this; heck, most of us memorized it in Sunday School.  There are others, that’s just an easy one to remember.  But what about the ones that never get mentioned?  The ones the preacher never talks about because they’re weird or hard to explain.  And, some of them are just funny; sometimes they’re funny out of context, others are funnier when you put them in context.  For example, in Job 13:5, Job says “If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!”  That’s a big ol’ “Shut up, stupid” if I’ve ever heard one.  And, it’s worthy of a chuckle.  But, when you back up a little, you find out it’s Job saying it to Zophar who’s been telling Job that all this bad stuff happened to him because he’s sinned and that Job needs to confess.  Put in context, “Shut up, stupid” is even funnier.  Another good one comes from 2 Kings where a bunch of kids are taunting Elisha by yelling “go on up, bald head!”  Elisha gets pissed and calls down a curse in God’s name on the kids.  Then, 2 bears come out of the woods and maul 42 of them.  After reading that, I found this picture (which I doctored for those more squeamish readers):

There are tons of these kinds of verses in Proverbs and it only takes a second to see why they’ll never be the subject of a sermon.  Imagine your preacher taking off on Proverbs 21:19 which says “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.”  Believe me, if his wife wasn’t ill-tempered to begin with, she would be by the end of service.  But, Proverbs is also the source of another favorite verse of mine, 31:6, which says “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish”.  Which backs up my favorite Ben Franklin quote that wine is “a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy”. 

God is even sounds like my father on occasion.  In Numbers 11, the Israelites are complaining about having to eat manna all the time, God tells Moses to gather 70 elders together and tell them “‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”  More than once growing up I was told after an extended bitch session that I was going get exactly what I was asking for.  And I’d get it until it ran out my ears.  He only had to do that once.  After that, threat alone was enough to send my scurrying away with my tail between my legs. 

On the weirdness end of things, there’s always Balaam’s talking donkey.  I’m not sure what’s more odd, the fact that the donkey talks or that Balaam doesn’t blink when it does and even carries of a conversation with it.  I don’t know about you, but if a donkey struck up a conversation with me, I’d be more than a little freaked out.  Then there’s Saul’s bride price to David for his daughter Michal:  100 foreskins.  Of course, Saul is trying to get rid of David because he realizes the boy is a threat to his power.  But, David, ever the overachiever, goes him one better and brings back 200 foreskins.  And, of course, my twisted mind wonders who had to get those foreskins after David killed all those Philistines?  That’s a detail that makes KP look like a day at the park.   

 It’s been fun finding all this weird, twisted funny stuff in God’s Word.  And this is just the Old Testament.  Be on the lookout for the New Testament coming soon!

Have a Bible

July 26, 2010

Obviously, there’s a huge market for Bibles.  Don’t believe me?  Go to any Christian bookstore or website and take a look at all different versions of God’s Word.  There are over 50 different English translations out and that’s just since 1900.  Go back further and list tops 100.  But, lately, my curiosity has been piqued by specialty Bibles.  I suspect that special translations of the Bible have been around as long as it’s been written down.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that back in the 1st century, there was Pharisee Bible, complete with essays and commentary about the law and how it should be lived out.  Today, while I was supposed to be working (beginning to notice a theme?), I googled the term “specialty Bible” just to see what was out there.  I had some rather far-fetched ideas for this post and I have to say the real deal gave my made up ones a run for the money in the weirdness department.  Take a look:

  • The Firefighter’s Bible.  Not strictly a Bible, it does have selected scripture readings and it certainly is compiled with a Christian focus.  This was the first one I searched for, only because I happen to be a firefighter.  It wasn’t a long shot, though.  In 21 years on the job, I’ve found that even some of the most unrepentant sinners have a soft spot for God.  I’m not sure if the people bring it to the job or the job brings it out in the people.
  • The Green Bible.  According to Amazon “The Green Bible will equip and encourage you to see God’s vision for creation and help you engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. This first Bible of its kind includes inspirational essays from key leaders such as N. T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, Brian McLaren, Matthew Sleeth, Pope John Paul II, and Wendell Berry. As you read the scriptures anew, The Green Bible will help you see that caring for the earth is not only a calling, but a lifestyle.”  More of a study Bible, it has a “green trail study guide” directing you to specific verses on the environment and stewardship.  I wonder those verses are printed in green letters?
  • The American Patriot’s Bible.   I call this one the Neo-con Bible since it “intersects the teachings of the Bible with the history of the Unites States while applying it to today’s culture.”  We all know the Neo-cons are fond of  telling us that this country was founded on Christian principles.  Now, they’ve got a Bible to back that up. 
  • The Stock-car racing Bible.  This is, quite possibly, the most Southern version of the Bible ever conceived.  Heck, it combines two things Southerners love, racing and religion.  Throw in tickets to a rasslin’ match and you’ve hit the trifecta!
  • The Glo Bible.  From reading the overview of this one, a better name would the Short Attention Span Bible.  It says that it “brings God’s Word to life through HD video, photographs, maps, reading plans, 360-degree virtual tours, and a unique zoomable interface for fast, easy, visual navigation on PC computers.”  See what I mean, plenty of distractions for you ADHD Christians.  I kind of in that group.  I just have ADD, which means I get distracted, but I’m too lazy to do anything about it.

Those are just a few of the specialty Bibles out there.  There are Bibles geared toward kids, teens, men women, moms, dads, singles and couples without children.  There are Bibles for Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen.  There’s the Battlezone Bible encased in aluminum if you’re really hard on your Bible.  There are even modern language translations like The Message.  These are especially handy if you want to send a fundie into orbit.  They can’t stand it.  But, there are a few groups left out that we need to consider reaching, like:

  • The Stalker’s Bible.  Amidst all the murder and mayhem of the Old Testament, there must be some verses that would comfort these folks.  If nothing else, there’s plenty there that says creepin’ is…, well, creepy.
  • The Pornographer’s Bible.   Of course, a case could be made that Song of Solomon already fills that slot. 
  • The Self-Esteem Bible.  This one’s gonna be hard to do, because the Bible isn’t that big on “I” statements.  But, with a little work, I’m sure we could come up with something.   Because, really, isn’t all about how good we feel about ourselves?
  • The Pick-and-Choose Bible.   Hey, folks are already doing this, why not make a Bible that helps out?  The concept is similar to Thomas Jefferson’s personal Bible, the one where he cut out all the parts that offended him.  Now, old Tom didn’t have technology on his side like we do today.  Imagine a CD version where you could cut-and-paste to your little hearts content.  That way, all those annoying verses that say what you don’t want to hear won’t be in the way anymore.

I realize this post may come off a little snarky, but that’s the breaks.  I’ve been fighting my natural smart-ass side and write satire that’s not offensive, but it’s just not in me.  If it offends you, I apologize.  If you like it, great, tell your friends. 

Mine: The Stalker’s Bible, Self-Esteem Bible, Porno Bible, The Pick-and-choose Bible,

Not that way, ya pervert!  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (right, babe?).  No, I’m talking about politically and religiously.  This has been brewing for quite a while, but today, I finally admitted it: I’m a liberal.  I can you hear now, “So, you’re a liberal.  What’s the big deal?”  You don’t understand; 25 years ago, I was a dedicated, Republican Cold Warrior and a dyed-in-the-wool Reagan conservative.  Now, listening to the Republicans speak makes my skin crawl.  What the hell happened?

I’m not going into my full political history right now.  I’ll just say the seeds this change was sown in the 90’s; they sprouted during the Bush years and reached full bloom lately with the rise of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck.  While those events provided the impetus for the change, the real motivator was the fact that I really began to study the Bible and learn about my faith.  To steal a line from a commenter on the Stuff Christians Like blog said today, my “mind simply cannot fathom how someone can be a Christian and not think that everyone has the right to means-tested food, shelter, education and healthcare.”  I really liked that.  I will say I’m still not a big fan of big government or government assistance programs, but I don’t see welfare queens on every corner and every homeless panhandler isn’t trying to get over on me. 

In the SCL blog I referenced above, Rachel Evans (one of favorite writers guesting on SCL) pointed out some ways that Progressive Christians show their progressive bent.  I couldn’t really identify them, so I thought up some of my own.

  • Fox News makes me itch.  Not only Fox, but Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and every other “conservative” pundit on the air, the web or in print.  These people aren’t conservative; they’re shills for the Republicans.  Even Beck (maybe especially Beck), who claims to be a Libertarian. 
  • I’ve taken Fair-trade to a new level.  Starbucks?  Pshhht, they’re pretenders.  I have friend who has direct connections with growers.  He gets raw beans, roasts them himself and passes on them to others at cost.  Two advantages to this: 1) I get to look down on all you Starbuck’s drinkers and 2) while it’s not a half-caf, soy mocha latte, it’s way cheaper and I’m kind of a tight wad sometimes.
  • Agreeing with Jim Wallis and Bono.   There was a time when, while I loved U2 the band, I thought Bono was a tool.   And, Jim Wallis, had I known of him then, would’ve been a damn commie.  Now, while I think both can get a little carried away at times, I find myself agreeing with more and more of what they say.
  • I actually wrote a post called “Social Justice is a Code Word”.  Again, there was a time when I would’ve screamed “COMMUNISM!!!” at this idea.  Now, I not only like it, I embrace it enough to go on record. 

Those are some of the ways my liberalism is coming to the surface.  I’m not quite a full-blown, card-carrying liber…, ur, progressive yet.  Here are a few ways I’m still holding out on.

  • I can’t stand NPRMy God, it’s so boring!!!  Molly Shannon and Anna Gasteyer used to do a skit on SNL called “Delicious Dish” which was supposed to be a parody of an NPR show.  They were so monotonous and boring it was hilarious.  The only problem was it wasn’t so much a parody as an imitation.  A damn good one, too.
  • I refuse to buy any Apple products.  I don’t know if this really a liberal thing, but all my more liberal friends and acquaintances think Steve Jobs sits at the right hand of God, so I’m counting it.  I just don’t like Apple.  They’re overpriced toys and Jobs is a jerky control freak and I don’t like Apple.  Nothing redeeming to say here.  Did I say I really don’t like these guys?
  • I’m not that big a fan of Sojourners magazine.  I want to be.  I want to be so into it that I have a subscription.  But, I don’t.  They just don’t move me.  Sorry, Jim

Looking at these lists, I’m really kind of a lukewarm liberal.  But, don’t think that means I’m going to back slide.  No, the conservative side of Christianity has never really fit me.  I think the Gospel is good news for everybody, everywhere; regardless who you sleep with, where you live or what you believe.

Guilty Pleasures

July 22, 2010

Today, while I was supposed to be working, I was surfing around on YouTube and stumbled onto one of my guilty pleasures: “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin.  Hey, don’t laugh; if you ignore the completely dismissive lyrics, this is a cool song.  It’s got smokin’ horns, a bitchenly surfy guitar line and that kickin’ Latin beat.  All combining to make it impossible for you to sit still while it’s playing.  I also love “Walkin’ On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.  Even the Disney/corporate cover by Aly and A. J. can’t destroy the toe-tapping awesomeness of this song.  And, maybe worst of all for someone who considers himself a rocker, the song “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.  Hey, that video has a midget playing the lute and a dude wearing a chicken mask dancing around a maypole; it’s deliciously weird.  My television guilty pleasures are Cops, Cheaters and Tosh.0.  Jerry Springer used to be on that list, but it’s no fun to watch any more.  No fights, no nudists, no food fights; now, it’s just people who sleep with their relatives or cheat on their significant others with someone of the same sex.  Boring, in other words. 

Because of this, I started thinking about guilty pleasures.  Of course, with my definition fetish, I had to look it up.  Hey, ya gotta know what you’re talking about to have any kind of intelligent discussion (although that ship may have already sailed).  Anyway, according to Wikipedia (yet another guilty pleasure), a guilty pleasure is “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it.”  Also, “Often, the “guilt” involved is simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt. Fashion, music, and food (especially unhealthier foods high in sugar and/or fat) can be examples of guilty pleasures.”  As I thought about it, I began to wonder if there were any Christian guilty pleasures.  By that, I mean Christian stuff you didn’t want people to know about, not the secular, worldly stuff we’re all into and don’t want our church friends to know about.  I’m talking about songs, shows and practices that we secretly enjoy.  Here are some I came up with:

  • Pat Robertson’sWords of Knowledgeon the 700 Club.  I love these, though if you asked me about it in public, I’d deny it to my grave.  I don’t believe a minute of it, but it’s fun to watch Pat’s expression as he tries to “interpret” what God’s telling him. 
  • Faith healers like Benny Hinn.  You ever watch these jokers at work?  They’ll rather forcefully “lay hands” on folks while calling for their healing and, inevitably, the person being prayed for will be “slain in the spirit“.  The first time I saw that happen (which was actually in person), I thought “Hey, he just knocked that dude out!”  Seriously, if I’m asking for prayer, I really don’t want to whacked in the forehead.
  • The Rick Moser Dance.  Okay, this one may sound a little strange, but anybody connected with Methodist youth in the North Carolina Conference knows exactly what I’m talking about.  For the rest of you, here’s a sample.


            I personally don’t have this particular guilty pleasure, but there are plenty of folks who do.

  • Hand signs for worship songs.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t act like you don’t.  We’ve all seen you when we sing “Lord, I Lift Your Name On High” and “Days of Elijah“.  It never ceases to amaze me how many normally straight-laced people will act like complete goof balls during their favorite song.  It’s kinda neat to see them let down their defenses

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m still looking.  What are your guilty pleasures

The Youth Leader

July 21, 2010

If you grew up in the church, you were more than likely in a youth group.  You went to lock-ins, rallies and conferences.  You sang those songs with the goofy hand signs, ate way too much pizza and played tons of silly games.    You did all kinds of mission stuff and visited folks in nursing homes.  You washed cars, made pancakes and did general grunt work to raise money to do it all again.  Through it all, there was always one adult on hand, directing, pushing and cajoling you into just a little bit more.  They also listened to your problems, taught you about the Christian life and tried to show you that being a Christian could be more fun than your mom and dad let on.  Know who I’m talking about yet?

That’s right, the youth leader (or pastor, if that’s the way your church rolls).  How do I know what this individual does?  I am one.  Now, I need to say I didn’t just snap one day and decide “Hey, why don’t I spend my Sunday nights with a bunch of brain-damaged teens on a sugar high?”  Well, actually, I kinda did.  You see, I’m a volunteer youth leader.  That’s right, I said volunteer youth leader.  I volunteered for the lock-ins, the rallies and the conferences; for the goofy songs, bad pizza and silly games; for the car washes, the pancake suppers and yard work.  I know you’re thinking “Are you crazy???” or “What could possibly make you do that???”   I know that’s not what you say out loud; but, it is what you think.  Oh sure, when you’re around others, it’s always “Thanks, we really appreciate all you do with the kids”.  But, when you’re alone in your car, after dropping your teen off for the loosely controlled mayhem about take place, you’re thinking “Better him (or her) than me”.  Well, that and revelling in the thought of a whole night without listening to the sighs, grunts and huffs that can pass for conversation with a teen-ager (hey, I’ve raised two.  I know).  And, that’s okay.  We all need some time like that.

So, what makes a seemingly normal adult seek out what, too many, sounds like absolute punishment?  I can’t speak for other leaders, but I never really grew up.  At heart, I’m still 17 years old and I don’t see that changing any time soon.  I’m lucky in my job, too.  On some level, being a firefighter (2o+ years) requires a healthy dose of inner teen that most other careers would crush.  We talk trash, play practical jokes and go like a bat out of hell on a big, red truck.  Tell me that’s not a teen-age boy’s dream (yeah, I know they dream about other stuff, too.  I’m trying to keep it relatively clean, here).  Being a big kid is a definite plus when dealing with a church youth group, too.  One of the most important qualities in a youth leader is the ability to remember what it was like to be that age.  Too many adults expect teens to act like smaller versions of themselves and that just won’t cut it.  Even better than remembering is still acting that way.  Hey, it works for me.

Why did I get into this?  I’m not really sure, but a part of it was I didn’t want to be one of those parents who just pulls in the parking lot and drops their kid off.  And, the more I got to know these kids, the more I knew it was where I was supposed to be.  I’ve been at it for almost 5 years and some of the first kids I worked with aren’t really kids any more.  They’re growing up, finishing their education and starting their lives.  I’ve been able to be a part of that and it’s pretty cool.  There are new ones coming up and older ones moving on and I’m proud of every one of them.  It’s like having a huge family.  I’m just glad I don’t have to feed them all.

Weird Evangelism

July 20, 2010

There are more and more studies, surveys and articles these days telling us how the Protestant church is shrinking.  I referenced one of them in an earlier post and there are plenty of others.  Obviously, we’re falling down on the job when it comes to spreading God’s Word and I have a feeling Jesus isn’t very happy with us.  I mean, there’s all that stuff he said at the end of Matthew about making disciples and baptizing and all that jazz (we won’t talk about the snake handling version of Mark.  That’s another story).  In light of that, I’ve got a few new ways of evangelizing.  Some are original, some I got off the web.  See if you can guess which ones are which.

  1. Have church in new places, like bars, strip joints and adult bookstores.  Hey, since the sinners won’t come to us, we’ll go to them.  And I’m not talking about that namby-pamby way some emerging groups are doing it: having church when the bar is closed.  No, I say we go in while the debauchery is in full swing and have service right in the middle of the dance floor. Who knows, maybe one of the strippers will get inspired and break out into an impromptu Christian interpretive dance.                       
  2. Start offering different classes at your church.  Not the normal stuff, like crafty things or English as a second language.  Think outside the box and try something really different.  Like Mixed Martial Arts.  That’s right learn to kick, punch and gouge eyes for Jesus.  If you really want to step out, tie it in with Spiritual Warfare classes.  You can end each session with a rousing rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers”. 
  3. Instead of inviting people to your church, kidnap them.  This a different approach to the problem addressed in the first point.  Sinners won’t come to church?  Go and get them.  Imagine the effect of a big white van pulling up alongside someone when, all of a sudden, the door slides open, a bag is tossed over their heads and they’re bundled inside and off to who knows where.  Of course, you’ll be playing contemporary Christian music (or hymns, depending on the service) to set the proper mood.  Then, when you reach the church, the hoods are yanked off and they’re shoved out and met by the parking lot greeters.  Give them the option of being returned home the same way.
  4. Testify to everyone you see, everywhere.  I call this one the Shotgun Effect.  In the same way that a shotgun shell puts out multiple pellets to ensure the possibility of hitting a fast-moving target, throw out your testimony to everyone you come into to contact with.  Who cares if your friends start avoiding you?  You’re witnessing for the Lord.  Just remember: if you keep throwing it out there, you’re bound to hit something.
  5. Embrace weird theology and get a reality TV show.  This ones a little more ambitious.  You have to find a belief, a sect or something that’s sufficiently strange to catch a producer’s attention; like being an extreme fundamentalist, having about 20 kids and saying it’s biblical.   
  6. Start a blog and plaster your ideas about faith all over the internet.  You might think this is a little tame, but it’s all in how your page is set up.  You can load it up with videos of you and your friends preaching on the street.  Or, my favorite, add a ticker showing how many people die every day (it’s runs continuously as long as the page is open) and be sure to make it plain that the vast majority of them are doomed to Hell.
  7. Tattoo Bible verses all over your body.  I know there are some folks who think tattoos are sinful, but what better way to turn sin against itself than to use it to spread the Word.  Literally!  Besides, you’ll never be at a loss for the appropriate verse.  Which is handy if your memory is full of holes like mine.
  8. Force people to take your tract.  Tracts seem to be losing their appeal.  How many times have you had people decline your palm sized piece of evangelical brilliance?  And, leaving them around for people to take doesn’t work either.  As soon as you’re gone, they get used for anything but their intended purpose (and most of those uses aren’t fit for a good, Christian blog like this one).  What’s a believer to do?  Make ’em take it.  Tackle them if you have to.  Okay, maybe not that.  But, you can make them walk a tract gauntlet.  First, find a spot where people have to walk by (you know what they say: location, location, location).  If passers-by refuse to take your offering, get about 5 or 6 friends and position them strategically along the route people have to follow.  As they come by, they keep getting the tracts offered.  Eventually, you’ll wear them down and they’ll take them, if only to make you go away.  But, hey, you the Word into their hands and that’s what counts.
  9. Drive thru church.  I’m surprised no one has done this yet.  In our rush-rush-rush, go-go-go culture, drive-thru church is an idea whose time has come.  Just think, drive up, get your Jesus and be on your way in less than 2 minutes.  A variation of this is church delivery.  It works like pizza delivery: call in and custom order your sermon and worship and it’s on your door-step in 30 minutes or less.  Both have the nifty advantage of not having to get out and deal with people.  Perfect!
  10. Photobomb Evangelism.  This is another one of those ideas that turn pop culture back on itself.  The photobomb is where you jump into a complete stranger’s picture at the last minute.  Photobomb evangelism works like this: jump into the picture, then hand them a tract.  What better way to make friends and win people to Christ?  I love it!!!

She Needs Gushing

July 20, 2010

God knows I’m the last person to advise anyone about relationships.  Unless, of course, you want to know how to screw one up; then I’m your man.  But, tonight, I’m going to.  I’m writing this because the woman in my life told me tonight (subtly and not-so-subtly) that, occasionally, she needs me to gush over her.  Not in private, either.  No sir, it needs to be in public for all the world to see.  Okay, she didn’t really say that last part, I added it because I’ve been slacking off in that department and I’m trying to get out of the hole.  The reason I’m in that hole is that I don’t gush.  It’s not my style.  For me, gushing is just words and I prefer to show love in more concrete ways.  But, it’s not always about what I want.  She needs me to gush, I’ll gush.

I’m a lucky guy.  I’ve found a woman who not only puts up with my smart mouth, she gives it right back.  Her name is Diana Koenig and she doesn’t take any crap from me.  I like that.  In the past, women I’ve dated didn’t get it, didn’t like it and wanted to change it.  Not her,though.  She doesn’t try to change me.  Well, maybe a little, but it’s generally over things that I realize I need to change and I’m just to lazy or set in my ways to deal with.  She doesn’t criticize the bad stuff I do and she encourages the good stuff.  She’s part of the reason I started writing this blog.  She’s definitely a big part of why I continue.  She accepts and loves me for who I am, warts and all (believe me, there’s a lot of warts) and I’ve been looking for her for a long time.  Now, she’s here.  Thank you, God.

Early in this relationship, she gave me a book and asked me to read it.  It was a relationship book and, being a man, I did not want to read this book.  No man likes reading those things, they’re all touchy-feely and stuff and generally make our skin crawl.  Not mention too many of them are full of crap and, from our end, nothing good ever comes from them.  In fact, I’ll postulate that a significant portion of break-ups and divorces come from reading this drivel.  And, there was an added problem.  I fancy myself a writer (even if is on the internet) and, in my opinion, it was a dismally written book.  But, as I read it, something happened .  I realized that the information in it was good and, after a while, the poor writing didn’t bother me so much.  The book was The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  One the things I took away from it was that doing just a little of something for the one you love that causes you to step outside your comfort zone means more than doing a ton of the stuff you like to do.  So, tonight, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and gushing a little.  Because, not only does she need it, she deserves it.

Rob Bell said in his book, Velvet Elvis, “Something can be labeled Christian and not be true or good” and “Christian’ makes a great noun and a poor adjective”.  I bring this up because there are more and more things bearing the label “Christian”.  Well, that and I have a Rob Bell fetish, but that’s another story (I blame you, Sean).  But, the “Christian trend isn’t new.  4 years ago, Marian Salzman said in Metro American “Americans have become so decidedly religious that religion is going to become a very serious problem between the US and the rest of the world. Americans are living in a country where CHRISTIAN RETAIL is a shopping option, CHRISTIAN FOOD is a snack food option – there’s a chain called “Chick-fil-a” – it’s Christian chicken.”  It’s gotten worse.  I did a search using the word “Christian” followed by words that aren’t always associated with the faith, starting with “Christian stuff” and ending with “Christian sex”.  The following is some of what I found.

  1. Christian t-shirts_ There are a lot of these around, and I’ve yet to see one that isn’t kind of lame.  Of course, there are common ones, like “Got Jesus” or the ones with lines from popular CCM songs.  But, I found some new ones in researching this post.  Try “Jesus in my wingman”, “Living heart donor- I gave mine to Jesus” and my personal favorite “When the world was young and restless-and we were all worried about the days of our lives-God said you all my children-let me be your guiding light-and I will take you to another world”. I like this one because it takes the Christian tactic of using pop-culture to seem relevant to a level like no other.  “Got Jesus” pales in comparison.
  2. Christian recipes _ What exactly makes a recipe “Christian”?  Is it the ingredients?  The method of cooking, what?  Who knows.  But, search for “Christian recipes and you’ll find things like “Joseph’s Edible Coat of Many Colors” (white bread cut into coat shapes, painted with yogurt), Jesus mangers (taco shells with shredded cheese as hay and a gummi bear for the baby Jesus) and Resurrection Rolls (marshmallows rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar, then wrapped in a crescent roll).  I was hoping for something like this and I was not disappointed. 
  3. Christian shopping _ How many times have you been told “Oh, I like that store, they’re Christians”?  I suppose the idea is that Christians won’t stick it to you like a non-Christian.  I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that some people have made a killing in retail while displaying some Christian symbols.  This has gotten so big, there’s even a Christian shopping channel.  And, it’s on a Christian television network called DoersTV.  Now, that’s embracing new media.
  4. Christian dating services _ This ones been around for a while.  It’s all about being “equally yoked“.   In fact, there’s even a site called Equally Yoked.  There’s also Christian Mingle, Christian Connection Matchmaker and Big Church Dating, just to name a few. 
  5. Christian car dealers _ This one came up when I started getting bolder in my searching.  I was trying to think of words that didn’t really go with the adjective Christian and this one popped into my head.  I was concerned about this, because I’ve run across more shady car dealers than any other profession.  Most entries were variations on the name Christian.  But there was one ad listing site, a Christian Craig’s List, if you will.  Which leads to my next item:
  6. Christian Craigslist _ Yes, Virginia, there is a Christian Craig’s List and it’s called Christian Fish List.  And, no, it’s not the one I mentioned in #5.  That was just cars, this everything you’ll find on Craig’s List and more.  Less, too, because there are no racy personals and hooker ads on it.  There are, however, listings for missions, community and churches.  I did this search as a lark and hit the jackpot
  7. Christian Sex site _ Yes, I said Christian sex site.  I know you’re all thinking “What the f…”; Hey! don’t drop that f-bomb!  This is a Christian site, after all.  The sex site is called Christian Nymphos and their mission, they say, “is to teach married women to walk in sexual freedom with their husbands, so they will be able to reach out and help free the women in their lives.”  All you non-believers need not act so surprised; Christians like to knock boots as much as anyone.  And, repressed as some of us are, this site provides a needed service.  Their motto is “Married Sex: Spicy, the way God intended it to be!”  And, believe me, brothers and sister, it is!  I gotta be honest, the name of this site made every bit of research instantly worthwhile.  That’s saying something, too.  I love writing, but researching can be like crawling over broken glass sometimes. 

 I know that I haven’t even scraped the surface on this one.  So, if you’ve got any good ones, please share.