Do you really want what you want?

snowroofAfter a few fleeting moments of playing in the snow this morning, the kids were inside, warm, and dry. And ready to watch something.

Hello, Netflix!

Eliza wanted to watch Annie.

Liam wanted to watch Mater’s Tale Tales. Then Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

It turns out it was Liam’s turn to choose, so two things happened:

1) we started Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and
2) Eliza threw a small fit.

It was a very small fit: actually fairly worthy of the moment, and quickly left behind.
Within minutes – no more than 10 – both of them were enjoying the movie.

This is how it often goes with our kids.  Loudly (and proudly?) claim your preference.  Get louder if someone else claims an alternative preference.

Stand your ground

Raise the stakes

Refuse to listen, negotiate, or compromise.

Throw a fit if you don’t get your way.

I realized yesterday that we don’t necessarily unlearn this pattern as we grow up.

We don’t always want what we want. Sometimes we just don’t want to let someone else have a say.

It’s hard to listen when you are shouting, “My way or the highway!”

While this is worth considering for anyone, I particularly hope my church, the United Methodist Church #UMC, will give it thought.

We’ve not been listening so well to each other lately.  On some things, we have dug in for decades and refused to actually listen.

We want what we want. Or do we?

Do you really want what you want?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

for everyone!

I have long said that Christian are at our best when we are advocating for the rights, liberties, fair treatment of others.  I suppose I am willing to allege that this is true for everyone, not only for Christians.  But I especially want Christians to own it.

I think it represents Jesus far better than getting all whiney about our own rights, liberties, or fair treatment.

To be fair, people can advocate for their own rights, etc., without being whiney.  This is just my opinion: but US Christians seem to go whiney awfully quickly if we feel our rights, etc. threatened.

Just look at all the fuss we’ve been making over the persecution of Christians around the world lately.  I believe we would make a better case AGAINST persecution of Christians and FOR following Jesus if we opposed all religious persecution.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if you noticed, but a case of religious freedom was argued before the US Supreme Court yesterday. Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied to work at an Abercrombie and Fitch store.  She was rated as a very good candidate.  Her rating dropped when management found out she wore a hajib – a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslims.  This dropped her rating enough that she wasn’t hired.

I don’t know how the case will come out.  The report I heard indicated that most of the Justices, in oral arguments, sounded like they leaned in her favor.

I have heard Christians lament about not being allowed to wear cross necklaces to work; shouldn’t we be just as concerned for the religious liberty of others?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

Someone shared this with me in an email titled: Church Services of the Future. (It can also be found at places other than  Slide1I believe the idea behind the email (I was among a  good number of recipients) was to engender discussion of the ways technology is, or seems to be, or threatens to be, infringing on worship.

My first thought was that this was posted by a traditionalist, strongly opposed to any technology in worship.

Of, by that I mean (or the traditionalist means) opposition to any recent technology in worship.  I assume, anyway, that there is not widespread opposition to the use of electricity – whether it be in the lights or sound system.

(I don’t know if distribution of cassette tapes of sermons is more acceptable than downloading digital copies.  Find a traditionalist and ask.)

FYI, I am not, at least in the technological sense, a traditionalist.

Neither am I one who insists that proper, relevant worship of God must be on the cutting edge of technology.

So here is my response to the email discussion of this alleged “Church Service of the Future”: I do not believe worship (at least Christian worship) should be about technology.  By this I mean Christian worship is about Christ and not, specifically and clear NOT about either

  • the use of the latest technology


  • the avoidance of technology.

God has no more (and no less) issue with your being distracted from worship by your smart phone than by worrying what that other person is looking at on her smartphone.

When I was a youth, we sometimes passed notes to one another during the sermon. Offering envelopes served well for this.  When caught, we were admonished that we should be paying attention.

I don’t remember whether or not the notes were ever related to what the preacher was saying or not.

I know people who taking notes on their phones or tablet computers during sermons.

Is writing notes on by hand more worshipful than writing them electronically?  Not a chance.

Worship is about worship – worship of God. It is not about technology – whether that means for technology, or against it.

Fear of Neither Future nor Past

What is Religion?

PopeandArgentinaYes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new pope.

As I was driving to work this morning, the radio (news) was, of course, helping us get to know Pope Francis 1.  The report included these two statements about Argentina, the Pope’s home country:

  1. The reigion of the majority of the people is Roman Catholicism, yet very few attend Mass.
  2. Soccer is “the second most popular religion” of Argentina

I don’t want to get to caught up in the whole “words have meanings” thing.  This too often ends up being a tool used for suppression by those in the majority.  On the other hand, how can the word religion be used in both these senses together?

Regarding the Roman Catholic religion, the meaning is basically lip service.  The Argentine people do not, as a whole, attend Mass or the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (over 70% favored gay marriage in 2009, before it was legalized).

Regarding soccer, though, religion means something that the people of Argentina overwhelmingly support, enjoy, and spend time and resources toward supporting.

So, is “religion” a category of which things like Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Buddhist are subgroups, or is “religion” that which one feels strongly about to the point of dedicating a good bit of one’s life and energy toward?

I look forward to your answers!

What is Religion?

Is Your Church as Good as a Dollar Store?

I made a quick stop in a Family Dollar store on my way to work this morning. I have had a hard time finding things in dollar stores in the past, so I asked the first employee I saw for help.

She told me they didn’t have what I was looking for, but that I should try the Dollar General across the street. For a second I thought I was on Miracle on 34th Street.  I thanked her and moved on.

Sure enough, the Dollar General had what I was looking for (maybe Bono should try there). I told the clerk at Dollar General who helped me find it the story of Family Dollar referring me over there.  She replied that they do this for each other.

I walked to my car thinking what a good business practice that was; that I would gladly stop at either of these stores again.  I might, in fact, pass up some other store to bring my business to one of these.

Then God, I believe, invited me to consider the implications for my own line of work.

Would I be willing to recommend another church to someone who couldn’t find what they were looking for at mine?

Would you?

Is Your Church as Good as a Dollar Store?

Belief in God overblown?

Today’s post is a follow-up from yesterday’s.  In that post, I argued that perhaps a decrease in the percentage of Americans who claim to believe in God could be a good thing – if it means greater honesty with oneself and others.

In today’s America, more than ever before, no particular religious background or pedigree can be assumed.  Therefore, there is less peer pressure than there used to be to claim belief in God when one’s life really shows no evidence of such belief.

Today, though, I’d like to take this a step further.  Today, I want to suggest that it might be a good thing not only that fewer people claim to believe in God, but even that fewer do believe in God.

How could this be a good thing?

A couple of months ago, I visited the Sikh place of worship here in Euless.  This was a couple of weeks after the massacre in Wisconsin, and I felt it important to connect in some way to this particular group of my neighbors.  I had not heard of religion being the motivation of that shooting.

I was greeted very warmly; I was even invited to address the congregation.  In many ways, I was reminded of my own congregation; people of all ages gathered for common purpose.  smaller children move back and forth between parents or other significant adults.  I was blessed to have been able to share the experience.

Their road sign proclaims in bold letters, and larger letters than any other words on the sign, that “God is one.”  We Christians believe, too, that God is one (though other ‘monotheistic’ groups doubt our resolve as soon as we try to explain the Trinity).  There are quite a few religious groups that claim that God is one.

Does this mean that we are all talking about, worshiping, the same God?

I’m not sure.

And I say I am not sure intentionally as a middle way.  In some cases, I am rather sure we are not talking about the same God.  On the other hand, I understand, interact with, and relate to God differently now than I did 20 years ago.  I expect, no, I hope, that my understanding of and relationship with God will continue to grow in the future.

Because my understanding and knowledge of God are not all-encompassing, I am slow to say EITHER we all mean the same thing when we refer to “God,” OR that we don’t.

How are we to know?

This is where, actually, it gets easy. We Christians go biblical.  Not in the sense of shooting other people down with claims about God that are based in the bible but by sharing the stories from the bible by which we know who our God is.

As we (increasingly) cross paths and build relationships with people of other faiths, religions, or none-of-the-above, we then can share stories with one another that help each understand what we mean by the word “god.”

If the stories we tell about the god or God we know overlap or correspond, perhaps we do refer to the same god.

So, for starters, if you believe in god, what god is it you believe in?  Does the way you live your life conform to this God in whom you claim to believe?

I believe these things can make for great conversation and relationship. Especially now that we don’t all expect everyone else believes in the same god as we do.

Belief in God overblown?

When belief in God isn’t necessarily a good thing

I began watching Chris Yaw’s interview with Diana Butler Bass on last week. I found it intriguing (though I still have not listened to the conclusion).

Early in the conversation, Dr. Bass noted that the percentage of Americans who claim a belief in God is down and dropping further.  She cited a study that reported this amazing (to me) point: the percentage of Americans under 40 who claim a belief in God is below 50%.

My first response was that this could be a good thing.

In polls past, belief in God always rated north of 99%, according to my memory.  For the 30 years I have been attempting to follow Jesus, this has always struck me as misleading.  It turns my attention to James, who wrote that “even the demons believe.” (James 2:19)

In other words, belief that there is a God and $3 will get you a cup of coffee.

How many of the 99% who claimed (in the past) to believe in God would have claimed that such belief made any difference in their lives?  Of those who did, would their friends and neighbors have concurred?

For years, claiming belief in God has been, in the US, a cultural thing to do.  Whether or not said God was worshiped, sought after prayed to, or otherwise taken notice of was irrelevant to the questions – or at least to the answerer.

If less people are (now) claiming to believe in God, perhaps they are, at least in this way, being more honest with themselves and with us.

I happen to believe that people being honest with themselves is a good thing, across the board.

Could a decrease in belief in God be a good thing for reasons other than increased honesty with oneself?  I think so, and will tackle that tomorrow.


When belief in God isn’t necessarily a good thing