Bible Says Spread the Word. Please. Don’t

My wife and I volunteer at a local food pantry.  While she and a few others spend time there nearly every day, the rest of the work is done by shifts of people who volunteer once every few months. It takes an army of people doing the unglamerous work sorting and lifting to keep that place going.  One could not find a better example of community goodness.

An interesting sidebar of the place is that the majority of workers are provided by churches.  Several churches volunteer to take a week where their members sign up to give their time.  On top of that, the churches do their own independent food collections and bring them to the Pantry.

There are also some people from the Freethinkers who volunteer.  There are not as many, of course, because there are not as many Freethinkers. 

And how do these people get along? Great.  There seems to  be an unwritten rule that no one wears their views about religion on their sleave, Freethinkers included. 

Contrast that with the evangelical soup kitichens where poor souls come to get something to eat.  They have to endure a sermon and prayers as their payment for the food.  Wouldn’t it be just as effective if the management would simply say, “This facility is provided by the — Evangelical Group”, and let it go at that?

The even bigger problem is that once a set of people has it embedded in their minds that they are to spread the word at  any and every occasion, the ability to turn if off when its inappropriate seems to be lost.  Every year new people are elected to office and carry this embedded idea with them, carrying on about how Christian they are and how they will bring this into office with them.

Please, check both your guns and religion at the door.

What’s the Rx for Christianity?

Poll numbers keep reflecting the same thing.  The group of people who identify themselves are practicing Christians has stopped growing.  The group who identifies themselves as nonbelievers is the fastest growing section of the faith spectrum.  Why is this?

One explanation I read recently is the focus on consumerism.  That is, owning and enjoying things is contrary to the old austerity message of Christianity. Young people today do not see themselves as relating to this message.

Another explanation seems more powerful to me.  It is technology, i. e., the computers you and I are looking at.  I recall about 20 years ago, columnist George Wills wrote that this little box had changed the political thinking of young people at that time.  The personal computer lead them away from government as a souce of success in their lives and toward the view that they, themselves, held the power to control their own future. Wills used that  as an explanation for young people voting conservative at that time. 

The computer may also have empowered them to seek challenges to the other outside source of well being their parents believed in, the Almighty.  At their finger tips is a powerful myth-busting machine.

The sense of community has also been changing.  Whereas, generations of Americans have used their chruch and its other members as a source of friendship and support, the new generation goes on line to find like minded people.  Why sit through an uninspiring sermon when there is a lively on line conversation you can tap into immediately?

So, here’s something to pass along to every preacher you know.   Christianity’s real enemy is the computer.  Smash it with a hammer and you have slayed the Devil.

Want a Traditional Marriage? Skip the Church

There is more news today about a cranky little group of Lutheran churches leaving the ELCA over gay pastors who are not married.  This focus on the chruch’s big, even huge, role in marriage is not part of the long history of human beings.  That is, it is not part of “traditional marriage”.

In the millions of years of humans living on earth, insertion of the church into the practice of marriage is a very recent thing.  Traditional marriage falls under the responsibility of government, not the chruch.

Government has been the decision maker in marriages of couples in extended families, clans and tribes for most of human history.  These governments, the clan’s leaders, had to adopt strategies of survival. That is, how does the clan find enough food and ward off attacking clans?  Sending a daughter off to marry into a different clan was part of that strategy.

We now call these “arranged marriages”.  Arranged marriages are traditional  marriages.

The is a common belief that having the pastor and church perform the marriage ceremony makes the marraige “better”.  It does not mean less likely to end in divorce.  We have had several couples as friends, born in other countries, whose marraiges were arranged.  Those marriages seemed wonderful.

If people want to get married in churches and churches want to provide this service, those are choices of the people involved.  But, it is dishonest for some Christian churches to portray themselves as the ultimate authorities of what is a good, traditional or successful marriage.

If Christians Were Not the Majority

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 100 times, “Those Freethinkers don’t like the Ten Commandments on City Property.  Let’s just have a vote and let the majority decide.”

That reasoning, let the majority decide, defies any hint of intellectual detachment.  Since the beginning of  time, religions have risen up, been popular, and then died away.  Why would someone think it is impossible that this would happen to Christianity in the United States? 

It seems like a rational Christian would want his/her children and those many generations to follow to have the option of Christian worship.  Would not it make this possibility more likely if the government was secular rather than entangled with a religion?  Then, if the majority became nonChristian, that majority might allow the minority Christian population more opportunities to full citizenship including the right to worship as they please. 

Thus, it seems self evident to me that a secular government is more in the Christian religion’s best interests than is a “Christian government”.  Ironically, Freethinkers  do more to protect the interests of flag waving Christians than they do for themselves.

Speaking of self interest, I have my own.  It is a daughter and her three children, my granddaughters.  I want those granddaughters and their childrens’ children to have the right to be Christians if they want to be. 

So, I keep on working to make our government more secular.

Gay Kids and Sad Stories

For a few years, I did a volunteer job of reading applications from gay High School seniors for college scholarship money. One of the qualifications for this money was that the kids were “out”.  The “out” requirement had been placed on the scholarships by the donor,  a deceased gay man.

In one part of  the application, the kids would tell their story.  There were lots of happy stories of kids who came from supportive homes, had good grades, excelled in everything and had lofty goals for themselves.  But then, there were the others.

These were it kids rejected by their parents and living with someone else. Others considered themselves “out” because they had told someone, but were frightened of  telling their parents.

It seemed like there was a clear pattern.  Kids with supportive parents were involved in more extracirricular activities and had higher grades.  One would suspect the  kid rejected by his/her parents, or afraid the parents might find out, spent all available time trying to navigate a difficult life rather than studying and doing High School activities. 

I’ve know of parents who have rejected their gay child and had the support of their pastor, relatives and friends. The most common explanation of these parents is, “It’s against my religion.” 

 I think a more accurate answer would be, “I’m really kind of full of myself.”

Pray Yourself to Riches

Years ago we used to get a televangelist named Robert Tilton on our cable.  You may have heard of him.  His technique followed the same format every day.  “Brenda, tell me your story.”

She was down to her last $5 and saw Robert on TV. She sent the $5 to Robert and the phone rang. It was a job offer (or, a rich Anut died and left her money, etc.).  Tilton would lean toward the camera.  “Things can get better for you. Send your check to me at this address.”  Tilton got in lots of trouble, but today is doing well and living in a million dollar home.

His success brought many clones.  The clone that most surprised me is Pat Robertson.  I don’t recall him doing “prosperity evangelism” until  the last few  years.  Now there is a Robert Tilton like story on his 700 Club a few times a week.  It’s the same thing, “Things were tough, but I decided to increase the money I was sending to Pat.  My business took off right after that.”

The good thing is that this kind of monkey business makes up only a small  part of that broad “institution” called Christianity.  Kudos to every church and pastor who could do this stuff and does not.

Freethinkers probably are not all good people either. I don’t know any bad ones, but I’m sure there are some.  The thing is that even the bad ones cannot practice “prosperity evangelism”.  There is no devine figure or big personality to deliver the prosperity.  If you are a Freethinker and times are tough, we can’t do a thing for you.

Why Did Jesus Leave Europe?

Television preachers and pundants alike grieve over Europe.  So many of us have European Christian ancestry,  it is hard to understand why the U. S. has a thriving Christian faith while over there it is languishing.  

One explanation given often is that Christianity has fallen off there because of the “State Church” concept.   Because the church had a monpoly, the argument goes, it did not have to present itself in an attractive way.  In the U. S., the competition among churches has lead to aggresive and successful marketing.  This explanation is used to make the case for separation of church and state. 

There might be another explanation.  There have been wars over religion in Europe  since I-don’t-know when.  It’s been a big part of the history there.  Thus, I wonder if the general population makes a different cost and benefit calculation than the majority of U. S. people do.  The European calculation may be that their ancestors were killed and chopped up over religion and wonder what was accomplished from all that?  They may see more bad than good in religion.

In the U. S., religion has not had to swim upstream by explaining, at least as often, why it is just to kill in the name of God. The positives have looked, up to now, larger than the negatives.  

But, in my opinion, the conservative branches of Christianity are mortgaging their future by acting as if they are monopolies.  They refuse to adjust to the new market reality of gay marriage, abortion rights and couples pairing up without marriage. 

There is this saying, “Buyer beware.”  Sellers need to beware as well.

Christians are “Atheists”, Follow Up

This is a follow up to an earlier post, “You My Christian Friend are an Atheist Too”.   

That earlier post pointed out that since Christians consider the many thousands of gods human beings have worshipped over millions of year to figments of human imagination, they are in almost 100% agreement with atheists. They only disagree is over one of these thousands of gods, the Christian one. 

An unstated point of the post was immediately recongnized by some critics.  To say that all other gods were and are figments of human imagination is to suggest that the Christian God is as well.     

There are essays by practicing Christians who believe the Christian God and the Biblical character, Jesus Christ, are in the mind exclusively.  It seems plausable to me that someone could reason in this way and be a faithful Christian. 

Things of the mind are in their own way real.  I believe it was the baseball base stealer, Morrie Wills, who put it best.  As his career advanced he began to have terrific pains in his legs.  Doctors could not diagnose any physical ailment. Wills said, “A pain that occurs in your head is the most real of all.”

It seems like wholesale adoption of the view that every god exists in the human mind exculsively would be a win for everyone.  Believers could hold fast to their respective faiths. Believers and nonbelievers could agree on the origin of faith. 

Most importantly, it seems like it might limit the bloodshed that insertion of religion into governments causes around the world.  Gone might be the war cry, “My god is more real than your god!  Bang, bang, you’re dead!”  Citizens of the world could agree that all gods are equally real.

Why I Love Being a Freethinker

“Lindgren, I saw you there and thought, ‘Man, he’s the guy I need to ask.'”

I’d was standing in front of the car repair shop where I’d left one of our cars waiting for my wife to pick me up.  The man had instantly changed directions and squealed his tires to turn and stop in front of me.  “What’s up?” I asked.

“Well”, he said, “I work at this place and there are a lot of people there who were born in other countries.  They’re nice people. The thing is they don’t know how to get along here. They don’t say the right thing, sometimes.  They spit in the streeet. Stuff like that.  Now, they’re smart.  I know I’d have  trouble in their countires.  They need some help.  I thought you’re group, it’s call the Freethinkers, right, could set up some classes and teach them this stuff.”

We chatted awhile.  I have no idea why he thought the Freethinkers would have any skill or wherewithall to do such a thing.  People’s impressions of the Freethinkers and our 100 year old name is all over the map.  Some think it means something like free spirit.  Others, perhaps the fellow, think it is about free help to others.  It’s always fun to hear what people’s impressions are.

He left and my wife came by to pick me up.  I told her my story.  “Let’s see” she said.  “He was suggesting that the Freethinkers teach new arrivals in town about America?  I think some people would have a problem with that.”

Oh, yes.  Would they ever.

Please, No Yoga In Here!

In today’s Wall Street Journal was an article about two religious leaders who are urging their followers not to practice yoga.  One was the Pope. The other was an authority on theology in the Southern Baptist Church.

As I understand it, both of these authorities see something evil in using the body as an entrance to the spiritual state.  Whether its a sin to get in touch with the Almighty in this relaxed and meditative state, or, that you are having a phony visit with Him when you get there, I’m not sure.  In any event, if you are a Catholic or a Southern Baptist, no Yoga.

Actually, I’m a little concerned about Yoga myself.  You see, part of my social life involves nonbelievers.  We get together and yak and laugh about things–I really enjoy that. 

But what if all my nonbeliever friends took up yoga and opened the door to spirituality?  They might take up with some Hindu god or whatever, and, poof, they won’t need me any more. 

 Perhaps they might think they had become Catholics or Southern Baptists when they really were not because they came into port on the wrong ship.  That would not help  me because I would have missed the ship altogether.

If you need to relax and get yourself into a great state of mind, don’t try to get there through your body.  There are substances that go right to your head, but we won’t discuss them here.