December 22, 2013

Homophobia and Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in bible, church, culture, love, psychology at 6:35 pm by Jerry


For those christians who are incapable of recognizing homosexuality as anything more than a “lifestyle,” a “belief,” a “behaviour” or a stumbling block needing to be removed, they will never understand why others accuse them of fearing and/or hating the LGBT community.

Do I believe that these christians are without any compassion or love for the LGBT community? No, I suspect all of them having some form of  love and compassion for all of humanity. To me, this isn’t an either/or situation here. It’s a matter of cognitive dissonance. People are quite capable of having both love and fear for the same person (or deity).


June 11, 2013

Mennonite Thought Control

Posted in church, culture, psychology of religion at 2:44 pm by Jerry

My experience as a young adult in a Mennonite community included the naive assumption that all Mennonites were heterosexual. Which makes me wonder, was I THAT clueless, or was my community THAT good at making no room for any thoughts about it.

Check out this article from a cool Mennonite magazine:

February 9, 2012

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

Posted in bible, church, culture, family at 7:26 am by Jerry

I expected this blog post to be controversial among evangelicals due to the subject matter AND how it was presented (“Jesus showed himself to be particularly concerned about children, and we ought to be, too.”). But I honestly didn’t expect the kind of responses Prof. John Stackhouse is getting in his comments section (although, I’m not at all surprised at how poorly he responded to the comments).

Believe it or not, I remember my twenty-some year old parents being more than “particularly concerned” about how to raise their boys. Looking back, I can’t say the “main reasons” my parents hit me was that they were “lack[ing] the imagination or the determination to actually find out about other forms of discipline that do work”… or that they were “too tired or lazy to do anything other than whack [me] when [I was] bad” (see Stackhouse comment in thread #2). No, I think the main reason was because they thought they were being faithful to God.

In fact, I remember (though not word for word) my Dad expressing (confessing?) his struggles over what to do when me and my younger brothers mis-behaved. He said he and my mother had done a lot of praying about it, and finally, the pastor in the church we were attending at that time sanctioned parents to hit their children by justifying it with his interpretation of biblical verses found mostly in the book of Proverbs. And yet, though my Dad grew up with this model from his own parents, and was taught by his moral advisers that it was God’s Will to hit his children, I could see that he hated doing it. And I don’t know if his conscience was at all soothed by getting use to it over the years, either (with each consecutive child there was less hitting). So allow me to emphasize a very important point I’d like to make here…

My parents thought they were acting on the best moral values available.

Later, when the four of us boys were moving out of their house, one by one, they made sure to communicate with us that they know they weren’t perfect parents. But they said it was their hope that we would learn to be better parents than they were, just as they had learned to make their own improvements on the parental examples they were given. They said they believed that each generation of parents made improvements based on what they didn’t like about how they were raised.

These days there are so many different parenting styles out there (some made fun of in the movie above). And there are even more disapproving judgements being made of each other’s parenting styles. I’ve personally come to a place where I think that every parent is different, every child is different, and in every home methods are developed that have practical value for all who live in that home. However, when it comes to child abuse, a line has been crossed. Which begs the question: Is “spanking” (read: hitting your child hard enough that they don’t want it to happen again) child abuse? According to some of the comments following Prof. John Stackhouse’s blog post, corporal punishment isn’t abuse when it’s “mild spanking done in love” (see evedyahu’s at the end of thread #2).

January 13, 2011

What Changes For Social Justice Are You Looking Forward To?

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, family, history, politics, religion, Secular Humanism at 7:32 pm by Jerry

Here’s something I’d like to see changed:

October 23, 2010

I Wish Believers Had Faith In…

Posted in church, culture, film, marriage, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 8:03 pm by Jerry

I wish believers had faith that same sex attractions were not sinful.

I wish they had faith that same sex marriage is righteous, Godly, beautiful.

I wish they had faith that wherever the bible seems to stand on a committed same sex romance, someday, God would reveal to biblical scholars and theologians that same sex marriage is God’s plan.

I wish believers had faith in THIS kind of love.

April 5, 2010

Why Do Catholics Go To Church?

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, religion at 3:37 pm by Jerry

January 2, 2010

Pop Theodicy Part 2: Self-Imposed Prisons

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, politics, scripture, theodicy at 10:02 am by Jerry

Self-Limiting Freewill

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” – says Jesus in Matthew 5:38-41

According to this verse, we are NOT free to put limits on another’s behaviour. And from what I grew up hearing in the church, even God’s expressed will is now touted as merely invitation, seeking permission to intervene. I suppose that’s why it’s also often said by Christians, “I agree with C.S.Lewis when he said in his book, The Problem of Pain, ‘Hell is locked from the inside'”.

Interesting. And yet, I’ve never heard any Christian state they believe it’s quite possible that some of those who will be (or are) in the never-ending hell will manage to make their way out. Of all the various spiritual journeys hell-bound people are on, will none of them find “salvation”? Or is it, in the grand scale of things, these people are destined to stay in hell? Sounds deterministic to me.

Also, if C.S.Lewis says it, is it necessarily biblical? In one of his stories about heaven and hell, Jesus says,

“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” (Luke 16:26).

It looks like God has only made freewill available to us during the years we spend on earth, and the afterlife exists without the highly praised freewill we’ve been talkin’ about.

Christianity For the Abolishment of State Prisons

So what does this earthly-bound freewill look like? Our societies of voting citizens, judges, politicians, lawyers and officers deem it NECESSARY and JUST to limit a citizen’s freewill for the purpose of protecting our societies from greater dangers than restricting the limits of our freewill. For example, though consistent with their theology, is it reasonable for the christian church to expect our society to hand over the keys to dangerous criminals in state prisons, freeing them to be the only ones to lock themselves in jail, if they so choose to?

Obviously, not. It’s absurd. And so is the freewill argument.

December 31, 2009

Personal Infallibility

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, family, fiction, friends, history, psychology of religion at 8:35 am by Jerry

It’s quite possible that faith first starts with having no impulse (naivete?) to intellectually challenge an experience of some kind, be it received through parental indoctrination, a social confirmation of parental indoctrination, a rejection of an ultimately unjust reality, some sort of mystical/ altered state of reality, or other sociological/psychological mediums.

Then, when that naivete is overcome by the everyday human experience of disillusionment (to whatever degree), inquiry or the all too popular “faith seeking understanding” stage can be entered. And so, whatever that experience was, it now involves reason.

But how far will that reasoning travel? Will we take it beyond our ignorance into some level of agnosticism, acknowledging that we could be wrong about not only the truth of the experience, but also the reliability of the medium through which we received that experience?

Faith has been said to be more than just an act of belief. Faith can also involve or imply a commitment to a pre-agnostic version of that experience, adapting one’s everyday decision making according to this version, thereby developing one’s personal investment in that version.

December 30, 2009

A First Century War On Mythmas

Posted in church, culture, fiction, history, mythology, politics, scripture, theology at 6:05 am by Jerry

Under the Caesars, Augustus and Octavian, the mantle of divinity was claimed for the Roman emperor. They claimed the titles Lord, Son of God, Bringer of Peace, and Savior of the World.

First century Christians remembered very well that according to Jesus “You shall love the Lord your God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Jesus was their Lord. They did not have divided loyalties.

The ancient world was full of miraculous birth stories. It was a favorite way for rulers to claim divine rights. It was a literary tool that was waiting for early Christians to use to declare the divine specialness of the one they called Lord.

The birth narratives that were eventually attached to Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, were stories that were created and circulated to counter the claim of the Caesars to be divine and worthy to be called Lord. Every claim of specialness for Caesar was countered by the claim that all his titles belonged to Jesus.

The birth narratives are as much political treatise as theological statement. They cannot be found as a part of the earliest memories of followers of Jesus and make sense only in the context of their Roman oppressors claim for divinity…

Broadly speaking the authors were storytellers. They were not historians. Their work cannot be understood as history.

The birth narratives are properly called myths. A myth by definition is any story or report in which God or a God is the primary actor. Angels, free-moving stars, dreams, and unexplained bright lights are a part of the tools of mythology. Christians and the world at large have not been served well by attempts to read the birth narratives as history.

Just as many children feel deceived when they find out Santa is not real, many Christians feel deceived when they conclude that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that a star did not travel through the sky and come to rest over a particular place in Bethlehem. (bold mine)

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

October 27, 2009

Mother Nature and Father Time

Posted in atheism, church, film, history, novelists, philosophical theology, philosophy of religion, science, soup, theology at 5:35 pm by Jerry

Check out this video on what kind of “God” cannot logically exist…

I remember when I wrote about these ideas sometime ago in my novel-in-progress. The end result was, however it came to be, that I couldn’t think of “God” (I was a christian at the time) as being the creator of all things ex nihilo (out of nothing), but rather the creator of all things in the sense that he/she worked with material already existing. So, “God” to me was a “God” that could NEVER have been “omni-present”, nor “omni-potent” (unless whatever is, logically, the most powerful being ever to exist could be called “omni-potent”).

These changes in my theology also included a limitation of “God’s” knowledge. I couldn’t see “God” as a supreme being living outside of time. And assuming time is never without an end, it was impossible for me to picture “God” with the ability to know the future. And so, my novel-writing process led me to re-interpret my theology into one of many “Open Theist” interpretations.

I never even considered the fact that I had stepped into a “liberal” understanding of christianity (though I had yet to see the bible as a strictly human artifact) . From my perspective, I was only trying to see God in a logical manner because I assumed he/she thought of him or herself as logical. Even when I started reading Brian Mclaren’s books while entering into the “Emerging Church” scene, I never realized that I had liberal leanings in my christian faith. Looking back, I can see now that I could have easily labeled myself a Liberal Christian much earlier than I did – which was right after I left the church for good.

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