John Cooper and Evangelical Misunderstandings of Pluralistic Society

By now, if you have any friends that are still evangelical, you have probably noticed many sharing the open letter by John L. Cooper of the Christian band Skillet written to former Christian leaders (like Josh Harris) who have publicly renounced their Christian faith. While there are some good points in the open letter about putting people on pedestals before they are ready, most of the letter falls into the typical Evangelical tropes about how every one else is wrong and certain types of Christians are the only ones that are right about the world around us.

From the beginning, Cooper displays an ahistorical ignorance of the fact that Church leaders have been leaving the Christian faith in significant numbers for as long as Christianity has existed. In the past, these people that changed faith affiliations (or even rejected faith of any kind) typically were shunned or ignored more than they are now, but I’m not seeing any proof there are currently any more than there were 10, 20, 30, etc. years ago. The number of attendees at Churches seems to be dropping due to the Exvangelical and EmptyThePews movements, but leaders are still coming and going just like they always have.

Most of the open letter is filled with Cooper being shocked that people who change their religious beliefs would want to share those changes with others. Of course, I have never heard of evangelicals extending the same idea to recent converts to Christianity – most “New Christian training materials” and “beginner Christianity books” encourage people to go out and share their new faith with others from the start. Why wouldn’t that go both ways? According to Cooper:

“I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance… I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused?”

I wonder if he ever realized that they are sharing now exactly because they are embarrassed, ashamed, confused, etc. Maybe they feel like they need to undo the damage they have done in the past. Sure, they might be afraid that they are getting it wrong again. But – newsflash – they probably weren’t that sure about their Christian faith when they were believers as well.

You see, this whole “how can they be so quick to share their unbelief” attitude comes from this subtle idea in evangelical circles that everyone really deep down knows that Jesus is God, and those that say they are not following Christ are just lying to themselves and others. Therefore, when someone finally converts to Christianity, this is why they can go out boldly declaring the Good News from the very beginning: they have just acknowledged what they knew deep down all along. However, when someone decides to go back into this supposed self-denial of the reality we all know deep down… they should hold back, not say a word, and be ashamed that they got something wrong once and might get it wrong again. Quite the double standard.

It’s also weird that Cooper’s second point against “being real” is itself being real and very cavalier with the way he treats other people’s differences in beliefs. However, the real kicker is this statement:

“So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.”

Cooper means this as an insult, but it is actually the most true statement in his entire letter. This thought is actually true of all of us no matter what we believe or how long we have believed it. If you are honest with yourself, you realize that your beliefs are always evolving, even if they still fit under the same category for years or decades. You can only be the voice of truth for whatever evolution you have in your life at that time. Whether that is within the same category of religious belief or if it changes from one to another, it is still all you can do: be a voice for your truth where you are at that time.

(Of course, many are in denial about their changing beliefs, or pretending changes are not happening – see Trump supporters and the changes they have made to their faith beliefs while denying they are happening – but that is another issue.)

But let’s say you disagree with the idea that beliefs can evolve. Let’s say you believe you make a big change in some belief system and then stay there for 20+ years. If it is true that this belief will not evolve, then you should be able to speak up about your belief on Day 1 or Year 20 – because it won’t change for a long time. Then, when it does finally change (and therefore you would be getting ready for another long period of little change), why not speak up again then? If our beliefs aren’t constantly changing, evolving, maturing, going to different systems, and so on – then why not speak up from day one of a big change?

Again, it comes back to the fact that no matter what you believe, you can only speak the truth about where you are at that moment of evolution (or non-evolution if you see it that way).

Then Cooper’s third point is the most cavalier one on the list – he completely misunderstands what people mean when they say “no one is talking about the real stuff.” Yes, we all know people have talked about it and written about the “real stuff” for centuries. This statement is usually a rhetorical device that is utilized to refer to how actual contextual/practical discussion of hard issues is often effectively shut down in many churches today. Not just “hard stuff” in general – there is always an acceptable list of “hard stuff” to talk about at every church (although not all of it really falls under the true banner of “hard”). Anything that contradicts main beliefs or tenets of various churches is quickly shut down or forcefully re-routed to pre-determined answers. Yes, people are handing out nice, neat answers in books about the “hard stuff,” but no one is talking about it with individuals in ways that helps them wrestle with and dig through the hardness of those hard things. Big difference.

Next there is the jaw-dropping statement that showcases Cooper completely misunderstanding how the world functions, when he has the audacity to say that Christian beliefs about generosity, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and turning the other cheek are exclusive to Christianity. He is in a band that has toured the word and claims to have many friends of other faiths… but doesn’t understand that these ideals are common to many other belief and non-belief systems?

“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard…. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings?”

Every society has its own definitions of what counts as good. And while it is true that there is no proof of a universal morality, many of these systems do match up with Christianity…. often while pre-dating when Jesus walked the Earth. In fact, any student of Old or New testament studies knows that the Bible made explicit references to laws for good and evil that were copied from other – often earlier – religions.

Cooper is just a mouth piece of deeply self-centered form of Christianity (a very real form, even though it is self-centered) that thinks it is the moral epicenter of good in the universe. Cooper might be shocked to find out that many leaders and members that leave the faith end up leading great lives (despite his ascertain to the opposite). Many Christians that stay in the faith end up having their “lives fall apart” while they “sink in the sea.” Really its all over the place: those that leave Christianity and stay are both as likely to have a great life as they are to have it all fall apart.

Assuming that people who leave Christianity have horrible lives and no reason to tell their story is one of many forms of bias and hatred that the church extends to those that leave. Ironically, this hatred only encourages more to leave. I don’t think Cooper even realizes how he probably chased more people out of church than he convinced to stay with his open letter. Many have grown tired of how the church misunderstands its place in a pluralistic society.

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The False Gospel of the Counter Culture Church

If you have been at an evangelical church for more than a few sermons, you have probably run into some variation of the “counter culture” church narrative. This is basically the idea that 10-20 years ago, the church was the center of American culture. However, either the media or the government or both have been plotting against the church to move America away from Christian values. That has resulted in a Church that is now counter-cultural, in the midst of a culture that has different values than those at the Church.

If you are lucky it ends there. If not, you also get to hear about how a great persecution is coming, how churches will be shut down, and how Christians are soon to be going to jail for simply having faith.

Witness, for example, these recent articles:

Christianity’s Five Most Counter-Cultural Virtues

Three Lies Culture Tells Us About Being Single

There are many others like them. The problem is, these articles and the narrative that inspired them gets our “culture” all wrong.

Take some of these “most counter-cultural” values from the first article: patience, humility, hope, etc. How exactly are these “radically counter-cultural,” as the author says? The problem is, they aren’t. Go to the various values pages of most schools or colleges or community groups, or look at the values objectives in most state educational standards, or look at what characteristics are most valued on most TV shows, and you will find humility, hope, patience, etc explicitly listed. I know these specific characteristics are written into many state level educational standards, because I have studied those standards and read them for myself. They are not counter-cultural at all. They are being ingrained in our culture.

The second article about “dating lies” is so weird I don’t even know where to start. Nothing on TV or in our culture teaches this. Not at least any I have seen.

Which leads to the main problem with the “counter-cultural” church. Which culture does that refer to? America is a diverse place, full of different cultures that have different cultural norms. We all belong to slightly different sociocultural groupings. You can’t throw all of that into one box and call it “American Culture.” Its not that simple.

Another problem is the historical roots of the “counter-cultural church” narrative. You might think I quoted the first two paragraphs from a recent church sermon. However, I didn’t. Those ideas are from a interview in 1971 with early Jesus Music pioneer Larry Norman. Yes, that narrative is at least 40 years old (except Norman himself actually got it from sources that had been using it for over 20 years). Yet my first paragraph exactly describes a sermon I heard two weeks ago.

So if this “counter cultural church” narrative is over 60 years old, how is it that “culture” has suddenly moved away 10-20 years ago? Where is this great persecution that – 60 years ago and even today – is right around the corner? If people in 2016 thinks our “culture” has moved away from the Church in the past 20 years, but people 40 years ago said the same thing, what’s the deal?

The deal is that this whole “counter cultural church” narrative is a false gospel. To some people, it is good news that the culture is rejecting them, because that means they get to be mean back to the culture.

However, the reality is that the moral decay of America is a church myth.

But if our culture is a diverse thing that is hard to put in a box, and many facets of it value the same things we value as a church, then what is the real problem in churches? Why does the church seem to be on the decline in so many people’s minds?

In general, when looking at Protestant churches (where you will usually find these ideas in sermons), attendance is only down among… white people. When you look at people of color, whether Black, Latino, Asian, etc., you see that attendance trends are increasing.

The truth is, the Protestant church is becoming less white.

metamodern-faith-avatarNot necessarily declining, or losing ground to our culture, just shifting in ways that those that have enjoyed the position of power are probably uncomfortable with. Instead of acknowledging this trend, they decided to create the false gospel of the counter culture church.

The Real War on Christmas

Every year it seems to start earlier and earlier. We didn’t even make it past Halloween this year before it started. But I guess you can’t blame people for being antsy to get the emotions flowing. After all, we only get one month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that is not nearly enough time to wage a war.

Oh wait – you thought I was complaining about how Christmas decorations come out earlier every year? Sorry, I was referring to the pretty much guaranteed squawking about secular culture waging a war on Christmas. We have already been told how Starbucks is ruining Christmas for millions of Christians by removing snow flakes from coffee cups.

(even though, of course, as a Christian you should boycott Starbucks over their stance on gay marriage…. right?)

It just dawned on me that these heralds of the destruction of all things Sweet Baby Jesus are actually correct. There really is a war on Christmas going on every year. There is a group of people out there hell-bent on ripping the living, breathing meaning of Christmas right out of the chest of every cheap plastic nativity scene on every Church lawn out there. Problem is, its not the atheists, post-modernists, secularists, greedy corporate executives, sodomites, or evil liberal college professors (the ones requiring you to deny that St. Nick was actually a jolly servant of Jesus or else fail his course).

The people waging a war on Christmas are evangelical Christians.

The real meaning of Christmas is Emmanuel – God with us. Its a beautiful story of the Supreme Being of the whole universe humbling Himself to be born in a manager. To become a baby born in squalid circumstances. To grow up to heal the sick, to befriend the least of these, to be mocked and ridiculed by the culture around Him, to bring a message of hope and salvation, to preach repentance to the self-righteous, to dine with social outcasts, to buy products from unrighteous merchants, to forgive sins.

Does any of this sound anything like what we are getting from so many Christians or churches in the media?

Instead, we get complaints over coffee cup decorations. Complaints that Santa was moved to the wrong place in the mall. Complaints that people can’t turn their house into a tacky and annoying eye-burning Christmas spectacle. Complaints about not being able to have live nativities on public government property.  And those are just from October and the first few days of November.

None of these complaints have anything to do with anything we are called to do as Christians.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo, yes, those that are complaining about the War on Christmas are actually unintentional double agents, actively creating the war and not realizing it. How is that? Because they are complaining about things that have nothing to do with Emmanuel, God is with us. The are completely obscuring the meaning of God Incarnate a thousand times more than anyone that says “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas,” or that removes a cheap wooden nativity scene off of public property. They are making a mockery of the real meaning of being present in messy world, or breaking down the barrier between the divine and the ordinary, or being a realistic Savior in a complex world. The real war on Christmas is not about removing man-made traditions from the public arena, but about removing God-breathed love from the discourse that occurs within that arena.

The Privilege of Fitting In: A Tale of Two Churches

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are articles about why people shouldn’t leave church coming out every week? Most of them boil down to pretty much the same argument: quit being so narcissistic, get over yourself, and stop being so selfish. Suck it up and take it or get off your lazy rear and start doing something to change your church rather than just complain about it.

This kind of remind me of a scene from The Big Bang Theory, in an episode that deals with adults confronting their past with bullying. Penny seems to be convinced that she wasn’t a bully. The girls she picked on where just in on the joke and were having just as much fun as everyone else.

When you are the one that fits in, that is part of the main group, that never has to try and connect, your view of the group is usually vastly different from the outsider, the weirdo, the one that doesn’t fit in so well. It may be really easy to call someone a narcissist when you rarely have to consider your own needs because they are already being met. But you have friends, you have connections, you have community. The whole idea of “not being fed” seems weird to you, because you have rarely ever gone without spiritual nourishment.

Would you tell a starving beggar not to be a glutton? Because that is what you do when you call someone a narcissist when they leave a church for “not being fed.” Narcissism is usually defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity,” or “pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.” Do you see the extreme words there? Narcissism is an extreme issue that is about as far away from “wanting to be fed” as starving is from gluttony.

Look, Jesus just said to “think of others before you think of yourself.” How did we turn that into “think of others and never think of yourself“? because we put the cool kids in charge of everything and left the weirdos on the fringes, silently hoping they will go away and leave us alone. And then calling them narcissists when they leave so they will feel guilty about leaving… but not guilty enough to come back.

Because, let’s face it – it is a lot easier to lob guilt bombs at those on the outside than it is to actually leave our comfort zones to draw them in.

Whether someone fits in with a church is not just a matter of whiny teenage angst. It is an emotional health issue that can severely affect physical health if not resolved. So if you are going to tell them to stay and tough it out, you also might as well just buy them a lifetime supply of Twinkies and eat those for the rest of their lives.

And telling them to stick around and change the church? Really? Have you ever tried to change a church? I mean, really affect change and not just enhance the direction it was already going? Probably not. Usually, those that benefit from the privilege of fitting in think that it is easy to change a church because they think were able to affect changes. But what they were really doing was just furthering their church in the direction it was already going. Those hairline changes they made seemed huge to them because they were so close to home to begin with. To those on the outside, the changes that need to happen are massive tectonic shifts that are impossible to affect outside of an “act of God.” I know, I have tried in many churches. It is impossible to do so as someone that doesn’t fit in, no matter how much time, effort, and love you put into it.

This is one of many “tale of two churches” in America, albeit one that is just now starting to come into focus. Its usually the tale of the same church, from two sides with different views. The one side with those that fit in, who think everything is great and people just need to quit being so narcissistic, and the other side that doesn’t fit in because it sees issues that makes them want to bail.

Pick a sport you don’t like – like say, golf. If you love golf, pick another sport that you hate. What if the church you went to suddenly became all about golf. Golf was mentioned in every sermon, every Facebook post, every thing the church did. It even started being a part of the music that they sung. Soon, the church starts meeting at a golf course. They may even rename their church meetings to have golf themes. To someone that loves golf, this all seems great, and they can’t see why people who don’t like golf can’t just get over it and ignore these “minor” issues and worship God. But for those that despise golf, it is everywhere. They can’t get away from it. It is everywhere they look and a part of every conversation. How can it be healthy to tell someone to even be in a situation like that?

Look, I’m not talking golf here – the real issue may be speaking in tongues, or gay rights issues, or political leanings, or the nature of Genesis, or the safety of vaccines, or a hundred other topics that divide us in the Church. Every church has certain topics that everyone has differing opinions on. So this is not just about differences that naturally occur. This is when a church creates a major focus on certain issues, big or small, and thinks that everyone in the church should get on board or get over it. For those that fit in with that stance, those who are “on board”, its no big deal. And they have a hard time seeing why others find it a big deal. Kind of in the same way people who aren’t allergic to peanuts don’t often seem to care much about those who are; even when they find out they still eat peanut M&Ms right next to them. Certain things may be small to you, but they could be a huge deal to others because we are all individuals that are wired differently.

Maybe instead of always pointing fingers at people for the “bad reasons” they use for leaving church, we could actually use it as a time for self-reflection to consider what we may be doing wrong as church? Maybe even make some compelling arguments for coming back? Or even yet, try to reach out  with no strings attached to the people that left? I have tried that before, and I was shocked to find very few people actually leave churches for any of the reasons anyone is writing about. Their reasons are usually pretty compounded and complex.

metamodern-faith-avatarLet’s face it – compounded and complex is more than most people want to deal with. And it won’t make you a popular writer by writing about it. Just lump everyone into five categories and bask in the glow of all the yes-people that will agree with your column without even really reading it. It is past time to get real about the reasons people leave church and stop with the :Sunday School” answers to everything

The Beauty of Equality

I made a quip on Facebook a few months ago that was born out of our frustration in trying to find a church home in our new area. It seems like every church around here is pretty much a carbon copy of all of the others. You can look at the staff page and guess who is what position just by the pictures. The pastor is always a male with facial hair in his late 30s to late 40s. The worship pastor is always the youngest, hippest looking guy. The oldest looking guy is always the Pastor of Education (or some variation of that). And any women in the mix are always, always children’s “leaders” of some kind (and never children’s “pastors”).

I said something to the effect of wishing that I could find a church with a dude for a children’s pastor, a female head pastor, and a horribly un-hip old guy for the worship pastor.

We visited one church near us that looked promising, but the pastor quoted Mark Driscoll and then started making fun of people for their reasons for why they leave church. Yeah, real compassion there.

But not more than a block away from that church, we found a church with a female head pastor. And several other women on staff – even one as the pastor of education. That one alone will make the blood of most evangelical fundamentalists boil.

I can’t say we will or won’t join this church, because the most important factor for us in a church is connecting with the people in a way that forms solid friendships. That doesn’t always happen no matter how good the Church is. And this is not a bad thing, its just a part of life. Some people connect well and others don’t. Its best to find relationship over theology.

But this is the first time that I have ever heard a female head pastor speak. And her husband was in the row next to us. So its not like this was some weird deal where this denomination was low on leaders and so the wife led a “sister congregation” under her “husband’s authority.”

This was not a woman that was allowed to speak because she had a special message for women that men wouldn’t mind hearing. This wasn’t a church that releases women to speak as a long a male is the main person in charge (no matter what title he gives himself).

This was honest-to-goodness, true, real equality in a church. It was very moving. Very beautiful. Anyone that really honestly thinks that women are in some way not designed to lead, to teach, to preach a sermon (and not just on “women’s topics”) – I challenge you to visit this church. Or any other church that has ordained a women as head pastor.

You will walk into a situation where you truly know that everyone is valued equally. That there are no rules or flowcharts for half the people there to figure out their place. That anyone can really learn from anyone, that everyone is a minister, that everyone is equally loved and accepted.

To reinforce the point, I was going down the list of staff on the bulletin. Right in the middle it had this entry:

Every Church Member – minister

Yeah, its a little cheesy, but it still makes a point on what they value. How do you become a member? Fill out a small slip of paper and bring it to the front at the end of the service. Your profession of faith is enough.

metamodern-faith-avatarOh,and for the doubters, the service wasn’t frilly, or girlie, or sissy, or any other word you might hear coming from your typical Driscoll/Piper SuperManlyMan Jesus®©™ type person. It was a just…. human. And holy. Which was a nice respite from the flood of testosterone-inducted mega-services we had been to lately.

My Random New Year Reflections

I always want to wait until January 1st to write any kind of “best of the year list” because I am convinced that the last week of the year just might hold something awesome to make my list. Once again, I am proven wrong. Come on 2014 don’t fail me!

– If you want site traffic, forget Facebook or Twitter or commenting on other blogs or any of the advice the experts give you. Just get someone on Reddit to use your post as a rebuttal in heated debate and watch your stats go from a handful of hits per day to hundreds per hour. Of course, half of those hits will be people looking to burn down your blog for daring to say something intelligible against their point, but all stats are good stats, right?

Related to that, it is amazing how many people will prove they are not a hateful person by posting a long, ranting hateful blog comment. You should see the comments I didn’t approve for this post because I really just don’t want to paint the evangelical church as that maniacal.

Oh, and final thought on that post. Make sure to be careful taking on people’s sacred cows before those sacred cows become national news. I don’t know if many people have gotten the point of that blog post yet. But if Reddit is to be believed, I have had at least one visit from Sarah Palin. I still would never vote for her, but at least I can say my post was used as a counter argument for her weird logic. That’s a win in my book.

– Some people mistake “love” for “lack of conflict.” Its not very loving to make someone bite their tongue about something that offends them. Love is genuine and real, and if you have to put on a mask and pretend everything is okay between you and someone else, that is not real or genuine and therefore is not love. True love means sometimes bumping heads and arguing for a while to make sure everything is out on the table so that you can work through the issues. Telling someone to not say anything and just love each other is a contradiction.

– Intolerance seems to be a vicious cycle that those who bring attention to it never want to step off of. Every time one person screams intolerance at one group, that group screams intolerance back and a huge back and forth battle ensues. At some point, it would be nice if people would just stop and say “even if this person is being just as intolerant back at me, it’s not very mature for me to scream ‘well, you did it too!'”. You know, step off of the intolerance merry-go-round and be the bigger person even if you are sure they are more intolerant than you.

– Or maybe even take it one step further and care about their issue even if you think you have a bigger issue that they should care about more. I made a Facebook post about how the conservative side seems to want to care about rich businessmen losing a side job as a reality star than the hundreds of gay suicides occurring every week due to people making fun of them. A conservative blogger decided to come in and diminish teen suicide to a minor problem of mere teen angst when compared to a suicide bombing in the Middle East. I guess dead from a car bomb is worse than dead from suicide? I would love to see this person go tell the parents of the 30,000 yearly suicide victims that their kid’s death was just mere teen angst when compared to a politically motivated tragedy in the Middle East. Of course, this person doesn’t realize that I have been to Middle East and worked with Christians and Non-Christians. And I still have friends there. Never mind that they all hate Americans using their news events to further political positions here. Never mind that they will tell you how every single story in the Western media about the Middle East is ignoring half the facts and nothing is ever as cut and dried as our news makes it seem. What really got me is what a pastor in Middle East told me a decade ago: “Why would we look up to the Church in America? You can’t even love gay people when they fight for laws you don’t like or even make fun of you a bit. We have to learn how to love people that imprison, torture, and kill us. We have to learn to love people that kill family members just for looking at a Bible, even if they don’t believe it.” He didn’t have to continue. The ,message was clear. The American church thinks it can teach the whole world how to be a mature church, when the reality is we haven’t even learned the basic commands of Jesus.

But, related to that, I have found that there is always someone worse off. Don’t come into an argument expecting a cookie because you found someone worse off that gays, or women, or non-white ethnicities, or transgendered people here in America. I can do some digging and find people worse off than anyone you can find. And then you can dig more and find people worse off than I found. And then tomorrow comes around and the news will be filled with people even worse than any of that. There is always someone that has it worse somewhere. Tragedy is tragedy. Getting in a pissing contest over who cares about the worse tragedy is not only stupid, it makes you look uncaring and egotistical. Especially when are a privileged white guy.

Any time you have to start off with “I don’t mean to ____, but…” Just stop. ‘Buts’ like that are for buttheads.

– Being a guest blogger is pretty cool. I need to take more time to submit more ideas when people open up their blogs like that. It really makes you stretch your writing focus to other things when your own blog gets a little too myopic 🙂 Plus, after dealing with bloggers like the one I mentioned in the rant above, it’s a good reminder that there are some bloggers that are just as nice of people behind the scenes as they are on their blog.

– 2013 was a great year for music, with The Ocean Blue, Dime Store Zombies, Daniel Amos, Lifesavers, Stryper (yes, Stryper), Megadeth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Pacifico, Aradhna, Soul-Junk, Bill Mallonee, Elephant Stone and the various Down The Line Collective artists all returning with great music. Radio and popular music still continues its downward slide as far my interests go.

– There are probably some good movies this year, but moving twice to different cities in one year and having to completely start over with babysitters each time makes date nights pretty scare. Of course, I did get to enjoy some kids classics like Cars 2, Ice Age 4, and Madagascar 3. We did manage to catch Iron Man 3, The Heat, Man of Steel, Star Trek Wrath of…. opppss… Into Darkness, and Thor 2. All of which were very good and I don’t get where people are griping about them.

– Television shows? Well, I am a bit of a geek. Um, yeah more than just a bit. So I was checking out shows like Defiance, H+, Arrow, Falling Skies, Sleepy Hollow, Glee, Revolution, Agents of SHIELD, The Big Bang Theory, Continuum, and Almost Human. Defiance, Arrow, Falling Skies, Big Bang, Glee, and Continuum will be definite keepers for me. H+ seems to have vanished, and I’m not sure if I really ever followed it that well. Too confusing. Sleepy Hollow is just a weirdly cool mix of horror, police drama, fantasy, and historical fiction that I usually don’t like but somehow have gotten hooked. Revolution went from “why am I still watching this junk” to “when did this get so good?” at some point. Almost Human and SHIELD both need to get better soon or I might drop out. I am also trying to see what people are liking about The Tomorrow People… but… despite a few good ideas, the really, really bad ideas just bug me. The next evolution of humans can’t kill because they get a buzzing headache. Really? That not only flies in the face of Science and Reality… its just stupid. And inconsistent. Apparently they can’t hit someone with a stick if it might cause death, but kick an unconscious person in the water while acknowledging they will drown? No problem!

– Parenting continues to be a blast, but I’m starting to wonder how older parents face all the judgement and know-it-allness of some segments of society with out punching someone in the face. Every kid is different. What you do with your kids (or would do if you had them – since so many people without kids kike to criticize) would not always work with mine, and what I do with mine won’t always work with yours. I think several people are just upset with my egalitarian views and get uncomfortable with me taking such an active role in my child’s life. That’s woman’s work after all.

– Living with someone that has had unexplained medical problems for most of the year has given me greater appreciation for those that live with chronic illness every day. Of course, with my back spasms, I already had a little knowledge of that (PS – if you can still stand up after hurting your back, you did not throw your back OUT – the key word there is OUT, as in no longer working at all – please stop cheapening the word for the rest of us that have a real medical condition). But when my wife went through some crazy unexplained stuff that forced us to move twice in the span of a few months, our understanding went to a whole new level. Especially seeing how many people just either don’t want to understand or care about what you are going through. But of course, extremely thankful for those that did care and even pitched in and helped. My wife is starting a blog to chronicle those days and what she has learned, so I will let her tell her own story there.

– Spiritually its been odd to dig into the Bible more than ever before, learn more about the intricacies of certain scriptures, realize more and more how unclear certain issues are in the scriptures, express those discoveries, and then be accused of everything from not taking the Bible seriously to losing my faith. Kind of odd how I feel closer to God than ever, yet father apart from those that I have attended Church with at some point in life. Its not that I don’t think they are close to God – it just seems that they are unwilling to accept that I am also still on the same path seeking God just because I don’t tow an extreme right wing political agenda.

The funny thing is, I never really did lean that far right (or left for that matter). I have always been a moderate/progressive in political terms as well as spiritual. I don’t hide it as much as I used to for fear of judgement, but anyone that really knew me they would have noticed. So its kind of odd to get defriended by people on Facebook just because I have no problem with gay marriage or women as pastors or the Earth being billions of years old, when I technically felt the same way about those issues since I first joined Facebook. It just goes to show how certain mindsets have a very narrow view of what a “real” Christian looks like, and if you don’t match it they want nothing to do with you.

– Of course, I don’t want to paint my faith as perfect. There are still nights where I lie awake knowing for certain that God is not real. Eventually the same logic that led me to follow God in college comes back to me, but I still feel that Steve Taylor’s song “Harder to Believe Than Not To” is so true on so many levels.

metamodern-faith-avatarI saw a New Year’s resolution that simply said “Read the Bible. Do What It Says.” I’ve been trying that every year since college. Every year it seems to get harder. Read and Do: if only it was that easy. That’s the most overwhelming resolution I could ever think of. But one to still strive for nonetheless.

My First Guest Post!

Some people have told me they don’t ever submit ideas for guest posts on other blogs because they don’t think they will get chosen. You never know until you try – I have tried a few times and actually got one accepted! Addie Zierman, author of When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over, was kind enough to post my submission for her One Small Change series of guest posts. So please go read One Small Change: Freedom Firm of India for my stories of travel in India and finding small ways to still live out my earlier dreams of changing the world in the midst of the busyness of life. And if you have never read Addie’s blog, I would highly recommend it. if you are recovering post-evangelical, you will find a lot to relate to there (and in her book).