Monday, January 30, 2012

Ironic blog post

I can't define "irony", but I find the following actual true facts to be full of it:

1. Barry Manilow didn't write "I Write the Songs."

2. Westboro Baptist Church is neither Baptist nor a church.

3. Prince Fielder is a great hitter but not a good fielder.

4. Jimmy Fixx helped get the whole nation interested in running for health reasons, but then he died while running, at the too-young age of 52.

5. The song playing in the restaurant on the Italian cruise ship at the moment it hit the rocks? "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. AKA the theme from "Titanic".

6. The phobia of longs words has a name: Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

7. Cy Young was a great pitcher, but he never was quite good enough to win a Cy Young award.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thinking As You're Supposed To

The following opinions are my own and are in conflict with conventional thinking, a fact which is not of great concern to me.

1. I'd rather listen to Knopfler than Clapton.
2. The temperature outside is not generally worth talking about.
3. I am surprised when people act surprised that a kid they used to know 15 years ago is now a grown-up.
4. I prefer Van Halen with Sammy over Dave.
5. If I am in a group of guys and the conversation turns to cars, I'm going to find an excuse to leave.
6. In and Out is essentially the same burger as Steak n Shake
7. I've been to Disney Land and Disney World. And I like Six Flags better.
8. Cats: yes. Dogs: can take 'em or leave 'em.
9. I believe Raffy Palmeiro
10. Baseball isn't boring.
11. Bob Dylan: Extremely overrated.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy MLK Day

I have established a yearly tradition using Youtube to show my kids why we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr.   This year, Burnside Writers has published my account:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Bethke Gets it Wrong

If you know any Christians, or are one yourself, you may have seen Jefferson Bethke's 4-minute poem titled "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus".  It's become quite popular in just a few days. Bethke is sincere, passionate, and mostly off-track.  

The bulk of his message is that old standby "It's not about religion, it's about a relationship", which has been around at least since I  came back to the Lord in 1987. It was refreshing and eye-opening at the time, but here we are a quarter-century later, and it's still being said as if it were a brand new concept.And that would be fine if it were in line with Scripture, but in fact, it's in opposition to what God's word says.

I have searched the Bible to see where it says anything negative about Religion, and it isn't in there. It's fairly easy to find a passage where the writer denounces those following a false religion, or not following their religion well. But the concept of Religion itself being evil is not found in Scripture.
In fact, the Bible gives us a definition of "religion.". The Bible is not a dictionary, but there are a few words which are defined for us as if it were a dictionary. For example, "Faith" is defined in Hebrews 11:1. It says "faith is the assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen." Very straightforward definition.

Likewise, James 1:27 tells us that religion is defined is helping those in need:
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
There are lots of ways to unpack the meaning of that verse, of course. Many would say that to visit orphans and widows can be expanded to helping anyone who's in need. The meaning we are given is deeper than what it seems to mean at surface level. But regardless of what all it means, it is indisputable that religion is defined positively in James' statement. 

I mention this because throughout the clip, Bethke mentions Religion, and why he despises it.

Rather than deliver a blanket dismissal of the video, I'm going to back up my position in a much more fair way: by going through the clip thought-by-thought:

0:26 He says that voting Republican is not to be equated with following Jesus. I agree wholeheartedly. It goes downhill from here, but it is a nice start. 

0:38 He accuses Religion of starting wars. It's true that there have been some conflicts which had Religion as a root cause, but the most significant wars in the last century have been fought for completely different reasons. "Religion starts wars" is a strawman. 

0:40 He says Religion builds large churches but doesn't feed the poor. This is a lie, pure and simple. I am not familiar with the outreach efforts of every single church in the US, but it's much more safe to say that most churches do, in fact, help the poor.

0:45 Now he says that Religion tells single moms that have been divorced that God doesn't love them. Really? I've been a Christian a long time, and have never heard someone do that. It's likely that some person, somewhere, purporting to represent Jesus, has done so. But the fact that it's mentioned here carries an implication that it's a common occurrence. I seriously doubt it. If Bethke thought it to be extremely rare to tell divorced single moms that God doesn't love them, then he wouldn't bother mentioning it.

1:05-1:15 Says that Religion is superficial. Again, not what James 1:27 says.

Let's take a timeout
I should stop and mention that many of the things he says about Religion are perfect descriptions of Legalism. If he just would have said "Legalism" in every place where he said Religion, there'd be no problem.

At this point, "I think we're letting ourselves get hung up on semantics" if about to come out of your mouth. As if word choice isn't important. If Bethke is a poet, he needs to learn that carefully chosen words are a poet's best tools.  It is no small thing to choose the wrong word and focus on it for the entirety of your piece. I am reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit where Gilda Radner's character named Emily Litella heard that advocacy groups wanted to put a stop to "violins on television" and gave a long speech about why we need more violins on television. When someone corrected her and said that people were actually against "violence on television", she put on an embarrassed smile and said "Oh. Never Mind."   Similar sketches had her railing against "protecting endangered feces" and "making Puerto Rico a steak."   Bethke seems to be following in Litella's footsteps.

Ok, back to the clip.

1:35 "Acting like a church kid while addicted to pornography"  That's not religion. That's hypocrisy. Someone please buy this guy a dictionary.

2:19 "just following some rules". He takes the idea that rule-following will not get us into heaven (very true), to the illogical extreme. One man's "rules" is another man's "holiness".  And God has a lot to say about our needs to follow "rules" once we have attained that initial salvation.

2:25 "If Jesus visited your church, would you let Him in?"   In a clip full of senseless statements, this one reigns above them all. I'm quite sure my church would let Him in. We have never turned anyone away, to my knowledge. I'm going to go out on a limb and say most churches in the US can say the same.

2:51 "Religion says DO". So he pulls out the cliche about works. We all know that salvation is not from our works. Nobody argues that. But Scripure is very clear that works are important after you become a believer. In fact, the sentence right after we read that our salvation is not from works (Ephesians 2:8), we read that we were made by Him, for works (Ephesians 2:10).

I'm saddened this young man is so sincere, yet lets his passion has led him into perpetuating untruths about the bible, churches, and pure, undefiled religion. Even more sad, he's not alone.