Monday, June 21, 2010

Where will Phil Collins spend eternity?

I'm not going to go through listing off everything Leah and I did this weekend, because Leah already did that. It should suffice to say that I had an amazing weekend with my wife.

My second Father's Day was pretty great too, save for the obnoxiously friendly waitress at IHOP that just would not leave us the hell alone. Here's some advice for those people who have absolutely no understanding of personal boundaries: Don't ever try to pick up a stranger's baby...You idiot.

The show on Saturday was OK. Not great, because I think everybody had some tiny fuck-ups throughout the show, but fun, nonetheless. I think I was dehydrated or something, because I had been drinking a ton of coke and very little water for the last few days, and my voice started feeling dry and weak and my hands started trembling when I was playing piano. So I'm trying to drink mainly water for the rest of the week so our show at the Ghost Room doesn't suffer for my gluttony.

The Target by my work didn't have the Mixed Berry flavor of green tea that I'd been drinking so I got Pure Green Tea instead. No, sir. No, this will not do. Good thing I got a big box of it...

I was walking my dog last night and listening to Switchfoot. I love that band and I know I've written about them before so I don't want to write a repeat blog but I had a thought as I listened last night. So many of their songs are about how lousy the world is and how lousy our culture is and how we're all imprisoned by it. I actually agree with a lot of what they say about our culture, where the two of us disagree is that they think the answer to the problem is faith, and, more specifically, faith in Jesus. So here's my thought: In America, easily 75% of the population professes faith in Jesus Christ (according to Gallup). Is that not enough to make a difference? If Christ's teachings are in opposition to our culture (and they are), then why does our culture thrive while faith diminishes when the majority of people claim to live their lives by those teachings? Switchfoot has a lot of records and they're still singing about the same stuff so, clearly, they haven't seen any improvement either. Personally, I think it's because, while most people still haven't figured out what works for them, more people are figuring out that Christianity simply doesn't. I hope I don't regret asking this, but what do you think?


  1. Semi-frequent reader, first time commenter.

    Having gone to a church in Houston for many, many years, I was always surprised at how often Christian culture took cues from crappy mainstream culture -- music, movies, advertising, etc. I understand that Christians do it to appeal to "non-believers" but inherently it really doesn't make sense and it's kind of silly.

    Also, I'd bed that a majority of this supposed 75% only profess faith through word and not through lifestyle. Like my old friends who loved Jesus but did more weed and had more kinky sex than a lot of people I knew. When people grow up in Christian families and around other "Christian" friends it's standard to align yourself with that faith, even if they haven't actually taken the time to think about what it means.

    But you're right, a lot of people are finding that it doesn't work for them. The reason I found out Christianity didn't work for me is because I saw myself and many people around me using "faith" as a way to dodge personal responsibility for actions. After I finally acknowledged to myself that I was not a Christian, I'd never felt more free. When I make mistakes now, I own up to them and try to make myself a better person, rather than cry out to God for forgiveness and then go on with life, confused and never actually dealing with my actions.

    Thanks for giving me something to waste my time on at work!

  2. I thought the culture was thriving and Christianity was hurting because of Satan and sin and temptation and other such things. Or at least that's how "they" (the people still defending faith) usually explain it off. In other words: because people are inherent pieces of shit, hate yourself, etc etc.

  3. Taylor,
    "If Christ's teachings are in opposition to our culture (and they are), then why does our culture thrive while faith diminishes when the majority of people claim to live their lives by those teachings? "

    Could you clarify what you mean by this?

    Should 'what works for me' be the test for any worldview? We talked about this a little bit a few months ago when you mentioned Joel Olsten. If we take Jesus and Saint Paul seriously, Christianity shouldn't be expected to always work for us. It involves dying to the world... Is this what you mean by 'works'?
    I don't know that something like a gallup poll can be trusted to be a representation of what people actually believe... Regardless of whether or not it is true or false, it seems pretty clear that this is not really a Christian culture... Maybe superficially, but not in any substantive way. I always find it funny when conservatives assert that it is..

  4. Marianne & Taylor,
    Your are correct in your assessment of many people referring to themselves as Christians. Unfortunately, all within the fold are very human which means very imperfect. Fortunately, these humans are not to be our example. For that we have been given Jesus who was perfect. And the church was established for all of us imperfect humans to grow in knowlege and faith of our Lord. The church is like a hospital not for the well or righteous.

    It grieves me when I hear that is the reason why a person would choose to leave Christianity because it shows a lack of understanding of the whole reason for the teachings there. Christianity should never be about following others but about following Christ , who alone is worthy of our time, worship, and faith. Because he offers grace and forgiveness to us for our impure thoughts and actions, some, who have accepted His gift, believe that they are now free to live as they please and will avoid judgement from such a loving God. Not so, for a true “Christian.”

    Christianity is a relationship not a religion. Once accepted, this relationship changes everything about a person for the better, but does not take away the humanness. However, because we continue to have free will, even those true Christians will make mistakes along the way. Responsibility for our mistakes is not removed. We are to confess, repent and change that behavior but He supplies us with the knowledge and strength to make those wrongs right again. It is easy to be confused in the absence of this kind of behavior from believers.

    Please do not pass judgement of a few upon all followers of Christ. There are no secrets with God. He alone knows the hearts of men. Jesus condemned the self –righteous as well as the known sinners while he teaches us to love all mankind, and provides a way to the heavenly Father. What could better?
    Romans 2

  5. Travis,
    Essentially, I'm pointing out that our culture tells us things like "go to school so you can get a job so you can buy a car so you can get to work so you can make money to pay for your car so you can continue to get to work so you can also pay for cable TV so you can worship celebrities and envy unreasonable lifestyles and so on and so on." Many of the teachings of Christ oppose that as viable way to live. He champions the poor and the meek, chastises the rich, tells people to be free of their possessions and let the dead bury the dead, etc.
    I guess, in a way, I am pointing out that if Christian culture was really Christian culture, it would look vastly different, but I don't really want to get into a discussion with Christians about how other Christians aren't REALLY Christians, because that's a slippery slope where people just start saying embarrassing things.

    Mum, I'm not concerned with everyday, run-of-the-mill hypocrisy. Everyone is guilty of that and it has never been, nor will it ever be, a reason for my unbelief. And while I understand what you mean when you say that "Christianity is a relationship not a religion," and I'm even guilty of having said it myself, you're, at best, half wrong. You may view it as a relationship also, but that doesn't excuse if from being religion. You believe that a man was magically born of a virgin, performed miracles, and conquered death all while being the son of the god that he also is. You then believe that you and everyone else that believes the way you do is capable of having communion with said dead Jewish man and his father, who is also him, and that they speak to you though a centuries old book, that you know was written and editted by men (but also somehow by god), which is full of do's and don'ts which you believe that your participation in will affect your favor in the eyes of said invisible dead man and sky wizard. That's a religion.

    Religions are a lot like dreams, in that they only seem weird when you're no longer in them.

  6. it seems to me that, in a world of talking heads, where the likes of glenn beck can tell you exactly how to think, why bother reading jesus' words for yourself, let alone forming your own thoughts and opinions for yourself?

  7. Taylor,
    I think I agree with you about a lot of what you said about Christ's teachings being incompatible with our current culture. More would need to be said about this of course, and I think a Christian ethic is a little more subtle than just renouncing possessions, etc.
    I also think it's a bad idea to try and identify whom among us are the 'real' Christians. It's unhelpful and even immoral to speculate about someone else's relationship with God. However, one of the truly great things about all Abrahamic faiths is that we claim to have a standard (The Old and New Testaments) by which to evaluate our beliefs about God. So while I think it's not a good idea to speculate about the sincerity of other professing Christians, we can at least check ourselves against what that standard says.

    Gigi- I think a lot of what you wrote was very well put, but I do disagree a little bit about the 'relationship' vs 'religion' thing. A necessary part of any relationship will be believing a set things about the other member in that relationship. Christianity is a also worldview. It is a set of presuppositions about what the universe and we human beings are like. They will have incredible implications for how we interpret ourselves as moral, aesthetic, rational, and political beings. These core beliefs are what make up the Christian religion. Everyone has some set of presuppositions by which they interpret and understand the world. If Taylor wants to call our set of presuppositions 'religious' and his something else, then so be it.

    Taylor, you know very well that Christians don't consider miracles like the virgin birth, etc. to be 'magic'. The God of classical theism is not a 'sky wizard'. Using words like that is really just tantamount to name calling, it seems to me.

    I actually like your comparison of religion and dreams. It reminded me of something that Elizabeth Anscombe (one of the most important of 20th century philosophers, and in my opinion the greatest woman philosopher in history) once said. She is famous for saying that the difference between looking at a religion from the inside vs. the outside is comparable to the difference between looking at a stained glass window from the inside vs the outside.

  8. All in good fun, all in good fun. And come on, "Sky wizard" is comedy gold!

    Isn't that what makes someone a god though, really? If they know magic?

  9. I love it. Knew I'd heard it somewhere, of course it was the genius, Brad Neely.
    He lives in Austin, we should get him to do a music video for QC.

  10. While Brad Neely is awesome and everything (especially the baby cakes stuff), 'sky wizard' has been a favorite of village atheism on the internet for, like, over a decade.

  11. TD, if it's not "magic" to you, what is it really? Is it a matter of connotation that makes you reject that word as an apt description? I'm not picking on you, I'm just wondering what you would call it.

    Also, I don't know about the stained glass thing. That seems awfully simple and romanticized to me.Its more like the difference between believing an invisible stained glass window is there or not. You see stained glass, I just see a gaping hole. The window christians describe also just doesn't sound that great. I'll take the outside any day of the week.

  12. Teresa,

    I think a part of it is the connotation, though there is more to it than that.
    In a way, that characterization is similar (and no less annoying) than the kinds of characterizations of evolution that certain young earth creationists give. Also, I think using those terms instead of ‘God’ and ‘miracle’ isn’t really a rational characterization. It’s a characterization in the service of polemical ends. I don’t have any problem with polemics, but I just don’t think they have a place in a honest conversation about God. I know Taylor was joking around so this isn’t really directed at him… but I think doing that too much really just amounts to bullying, not real rational argument.
    In a deeper sense, I think equating the word ‘miracle’ and ‘magic’ betrays a misunderstanding of how God operates in the world. The word ‘magic’ was being used to refer to a mysterious power that God supposedly has to defy the ‘laws of nature’.
    But from a Theistic point of view, the ‘laws of nature’ aren’t something independent from God that he has to defy in order to perform a miracle. The ‘laws of nature’ are just our description of how God ordinarily handles his universe. We believe that God is the final cause for all events- both ‘miraculous’ and ordinary. He handles the universe in a mostly ordered and predictable way (as described by physics) so that we can live our lives. But if, for one reason or another, God decides that in some cases he wants to handle things differently, that ‘miraculous’ event won’t be any more mysterious than any other ordinary event is. Does that make sense?
    I mentioned Anscombe’s analogy just because I thought it was similar to Taylor’s comment about religion and dreams. I’m not really committed to it… If you don’t find it helpful that’s cool with me.
    Remember though, the illustration isn’t really talking about the existence of God. It’s referring to the Christian religion, which I take it is not invisible to you. To you, being on the outside, it will appear simple, dark, opaque, and ugly. To me though, being on the inside, it is filled with ornate beautiful light. As you said, this is a pretty simple analogy. That’s ok though… I’m not sure it aspires to be anything terribly profound.

  13. "a centuries old book, that you know was written and editted by men (but also somehow by god), which is full of do's and don'ts which you believe that your participation in will affect your favor in the eyes of said invisible dead man and sky wizard. That's a religion."

    That does sound like a religion. However, that is what Jesus referred to as legalistic. Jesus really only had one major do & don't-DO accept me as the son of God; DON'T reject me as the son of God. Each one has definate consequences. Those who follow the DO rule are then led by His "magical" spirit, or your inner voice, or His Bible to know what they should do or not do in life. And because again, we are human, those decisions or interpretations may be trial & error. God allows us to learn through those life events much like a parent does a child. The more we seek God & Jesus the better we get to know His heart and wisdom. That search begats the relationship of a God that I believe is not dead but is very much alive and preparing an eternal home for me and anyone who CHOOSES Him.

    As I have shared before, there is an enormous amount of evidence to validate the Bible as an authentic witness to the life of Jesus. Therfore, it is more than a book of do's & don'ts but a historical record as well that has been authenticated by many others. And worth study.

  14. Gotcha. I guess the beauty of the stained glass is in the eye of the beholder, then.

    I think it's worth noting that many things perceived as miraculous in the past have been discounted as such by science and a growing understanding of natural laws but I guess there will always be something we don't yet know that will be credited to god or some supernatural force.