Friday, June 08, 2007

A Response to Brett Keane


Re: His conversation with a “Bible Teacher”

First let me tell you a bit about
Brett Keane. He is or was an atheist on YouTube that I recently discovered. Controversy led him to switch over to LiveVideo but that's not the point. He claims to have been a Christian for fifteen years and I do believe that he was a member of a Christian church for that long. I am left to wonder if he ever actually accepted Christ as his Savior and established a relationship with Jesus (which is the true definition of a Christian) but I digress. It is not for me to judge…just a curiosity. The point is that he had quite a bit of exposure to the Christian faith presumably through the Catholic and Pentecostal denominations. Unlike many atheists you might encounter, Brett knows his stuff. Possibly even more than you do. So I do not recommend challenging him to any kind of debate unless you really know your stuff as well. An awesome Christian brother named ChristopherL takes on that very burden and responds to many of Brett’s questions and challenges. I am not sure that I have any right to get involved with debating Brett either but I feel like I may know a thing or two myself. You also need to know that Brett is a good and honorable man. He has ethics and a sense of conscious that I only wish most Christians would strive for. You need to know that he attacks the idea of Christianity and various other religions but not necessarily the people. For instance, he and Christopher are very kind to one another and are as good of friends as the internet will allow.

So with that out of the way, I want to address a video that he recently put up. I cannot tell if it is one of his older videos that he reposted to LiveVideo or something new. I am also tempted to respond to many of his videos but just want to start this little exercise with the one listed above. Before reading further, please
watch his video and then come back here for my response.

As you can see, Brett is a master manipulator. He calls a church and gets a nursery worker on the phone who is not even qualified to answer deeply theological questions nor teach pupils of any age over one or two. He might argue that any Christian should know their Bible backwards and forwards and I would have to concede that he is right. But we don’t and that is not his fault. However, I think he might have had a completely different conversation if the Pastor had been available to him. Or at least I hope he would have.

He then refers to two different verses in the Bible…one being Psalms 137:8-9 and the other Hosea 13:16. Both describe Israel’s enemies (including women and children or more specifically babies) being killed in violent ways. Not very politically correct in today’s society is it? Of course not...oh wait a minute, it just might be. It seems just a generation or two ago we dropped an atomic bomb on our enemies without regard to the women and children that would suffer from it. While we still share some similar tendencies these days, I do find that it is very difficult for a modern day society to judge ones from the past. They lived in a very different time. And under the Old Covenant, punishments were brutal. Eye for an eye was standard practice. But above and beyond that, this was a Psalm or better put a Hymn that the Jews sang. Most Psalms were written by David, a very sinful man that still seemed to have favor with God because of his desperate desire to always seek Him out. In this Hymn the Jews are just asking God to return the horror that they suffered by the hands of Edomites and Babylonians. They were not assembling armies or even marching toward their lands. They were singing to God in agony and thusly asking for justice (which back then was to repay exactly what was paid to them). Jewish babies were bashed against stones and Jewish women were ripped open when the soldiers of their enemies attacked. So…they sang to God and asked for Him to act accordingly.

But Brett knows all of that. He is counting on us to “not know”. And really, there is no challenge in finding verses in the Bible that fail to be politically correct. Jesus himself bucked the system to such a degree that His enemies felt it necessary to kill him. The Bible is often poorly portrayed as this dainty little book that teaches only peace, harmony, and love. Well folks, its not. Some of that is in there but mostly it is the account of the Old and New Covenants and the people that surround these events of time. There is murder, destruction, death, disease, adultery, betrayal, sex, war, and all kinds of mayhem. We live in a fallen world. For the Bible to only reflect the flowers and roses is for our Scriptures to tell half truths and lies.

The next point of contention I have is Brett’s statement about this lady being a Bible Teacher. She’s not. Most Christians can tell Bible stories to children with little training. Do we tell the kids about Goliaths head being cut off? No. That would be something for a more mature pallet. I dare say that Brett does not share all of the world’s atrocities with his two kids. I dare say that Brett probably allows his kids to expect Santa Claus in December or the Tooth Fairy when teeth fall out (pardon me if I am wrong about that). But Brett knows that there is an appropriate time to let children discover the meat of these stories in full detail. To show the graphic nature of David and Goliath to one year olds is preposterous and it also fails to demonstrate the lessons from that story. The lesson was that a faithful Jewish boy with astounding faith in God met up against a ten foot giant warrior. And with God on David’s side, he was able to take the giant down with a mere slingshot. The lesson is…with God, all things are possible. Teaching the meaning of Scripture to kids is much more important than the gory details. They have the rest of their lives to stare reality dead in the face and come to grips with it.

To recap:

1. Brett got in touch with a Christian nursery worker who was not qualified to answer deeply theological questions about the Bible.
2. And even if she could, she would need to have access to the Scripture he quoted and have the opportunity to see it in context. We don't all have Brett's photographic memory.
3. He claimed that this lady was a Bible teacher because she shares Bible stories with kids…quite the stretch.
4. He implies that the verses are inappropriate without giving the back story about the Jews suffering atrocities at the hand of their enemies.
5. He implies that we are not being honest with our kids if we do not share the entire Word of God with them rather than just the meaning behind it. Age appropriate details are taught. There will come a time for little ones to learn what Paul Harvey calls...the rest of the story.

Let me end on a Bible reading tip. Do not read the Bible cold. What I mean by that is don’t just read Scripture and hope to discern it properly without help. There are numerous references, study notes, and commentaries by scholars that spent their entire lives pouring over manuscripts, various versions and languages that came to conclusions about meanings, historical records, and explanations of verses. These are available to you at book stores, online, and even in study Bibles in many cases. Dive deeper into seemingly controversial texts like the one Brett quotes before letting yourself be deceived and disappointed.

I personally am encouraged that our Bible does not censor History. I am encouraged that the Scriptures of filled with sinful people and real world examples. That is what keeps it from being just another fairy tale! That is what gives me hope even knowing that I too am a wretch. Christ himself chose sinful men to be His Apostles. He ate with tax collectors, associated with prostitutes, and touched the lepers. He didn’t just hang out with the prim and proper crowd. He came to heal the sick and take care of the needy. I think I qualify as both sick and needy.

I appreciate any commentary you may have…albeit supportive or contradictory.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Christ Progression

An interesting thing occurred to me in one of my many introspective moments. My perspective of Jesus has changed throughout life. He hasn’t but obviously, I have. As such I tend to see Him through maturing eyes and have the benefit of hindsight. I’m still working on the foresight thing but that is a difficult task. For what it’s worth…here is the Jesus I knew during the various points of my life:

Super Jesus – With Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, and a wide variety of fictional Super Heroes to choose from, it is only natural for young boys to adopt a similar view of Christ. Not yet knowing that the rest of the bunch are indeed fictional, we are left to see Christ as this amazing miracle man who saved the planet. All completely true facts mind you but somewhat lost in the mix of other characters dominating our lives. You could get me just as excited about Optimus Prime as you could with the mention of Jesus.

Rebel Jesus – Ah…the teenage years. I now know everything, right? Well at least at this point I have sifted through the fictional characters and just have Jesus and Superman left standing…so that’s good. Like most adolescents trying to figure out who they are and what God means in their lives, I now choose to see Christ through a rebellious lens. Not so much because I was one but maybe because I wanted to be. Christ became the hippie. He was a sandal wearing, authority challenging, knock-over-the-temple-merchant tables kind of guy. He lived off the land, had no interest in things or stuff and at every turn he told The Man where to shove it. This view actually lasted into college but aren’t we just grown teenagers at that point anyway?

Savior Christ – I’ve alluded to it in past posts and do not feel like rehashing much in this one. It’s safe to say though that I somehow made it to my early 20’s without truly understanding the salvation message. I have been blaming my former denomination for failing me in this arena but am starting to consider my role in the game. I am certain that all of the information was there. So it was either presented improperly or I am a dolt with very little understanding of the message. One key element I think most believers really need in order to understand Savior Christ is…get ready…the need to be saved. Sure I had a wake of sins in my life prior to turning twenty but I never understood what a wretch I am. My explorations took me to many crazy books and places but thankfully my heart was open to truth. I found Christ again and He was a brand new being. He sacrificed himself that I may enter the gates, unworthy though I am.

The Groom – Dan Brown and James Cameron might have you believe that Christ was married to Mary Magdeline. But the Bible only supports one Bride and we all know he was not an adulterer. The Body of Christ (his believers) is his bride and the significance for me as a newly married man was not lost. While He did speak with authority, his message was one of love. He was so serious about the subject that he sacrificed his own life for His bride. And while He did not come here to put on a Power Point presentation on marriage, His example is all a man needs to truly provide and care for a spouse.

The Father – This is where I currently stand in life and how I am now seeing Christ. All of the former examples are true and worthy of inspection. But this is a new layer to the onion and one that really sheds light on my relationship with Jesus. To paraphrase the Bible a bit, “If we who are wicked give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father provide?” Translation: You think you love your kids? How much more does Christ love them when you are this imperfect, sinful being and He is perfection? Love for children is so intense. I cannot look into their eyes without my heart fluttering and a smile on my face. I cannot kiss a bobo or dry a tear without my own soul crying out for their pain. I cannot see them vulnerable without becoming vulnerable. Their joy is mine. Their pain is mine. It is easy for me to understand that God would feel the same way about my kids but I am often reminded…He also feels that way about me! Amazing.

I’ve been on this journey long enough now to have SOME foresight. My perspective will change again. And again, it will be valid and true.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Reluctant Worship

I apologize to my readership that is not involved in the Church. This post might fall flat or at the very least fail to incite interest as I will be discussing a universally known issue in Christian Worship. Without a reference point it might be hard to relate.

Apologies and warnings aside, I have made mental notes on and off throughout my churchgoing days that now have me staring at one particular issue squarely. In most churches that I’ve attended we suffer from something called Reluctant Worship. Worship is supposed to be many things but at its bare bones, it is our response to the blessings of Christ. It is our way of honoring God and preparing our hearts properly for what will hopefully be an amazing message from the Pastor.

Lots of new improvements have been made in modern-day worship. Out with the hymnals and in with the movie screens. Out with the tired organ and in with the rock bands. Out with the tired old songs and in with some contemporary beats. What hasn’t changed? Our worship behavior. I cannot speak for all faiths or creeds so I may be way off with some of you. But I suspect you and/or others around you are Reluctant Worshipers.

It is amazing to me that we are ‘responding’ to the Good News with supposed hearts of joy and overwhelming thanks but it takes an act of God (literally) to get us to clap to the beat or raise our hands in the air or just move two inches one way or the other. I am amongst you, don’t worry. As outgoing and crazy as I can be…I am a fuddy-dud during worship. I see that random hand go up in the front isle and have envious thoughts…yet my hands dare not move. Ironically part of my fears stem from not wanting others to question my sincerity or making a spectacle of myself. Yet I stare at those very few that have such courage and judge them not. I suspect I could get out of my self created shell and have similar results.

Maybe it was how I was raised. Maybe it is the long entrenched roots that Protestant churches have in Catholicism. Maybe it is out of fear of what others might think. Whatever the root cause, many of us are guilty of a piss-poor worship response. We may or may not belt out the songs. We may not even concentrate or think about God and the message to come. I catch many looking over the bulletin and writing out checks during the most passion-felt of songs. Whatever the problem is…it needs remedy in a bad way.

If I was on my death bed and along came a guy that gave me a transfusion that saved my life, would I just casually shake his hand and nod in his general direction as thanks? No. I’d jump around, laugh, smile, and offer my eternal servitude. Yet Christ did more than save me from a fleshly death and there I stand/sit barely mouthing the words.

I am not proposing an all out charismatic movement. Part of my deep rooted fears are from watching such spectacles. You see them all of the time on TV. I have even been to such churches and feel no more comfortable with that style than I do my humdrum habit. But something needs to change. Something will change. At least for me.

I invite you to dance a small jig in your pew next week and think of TheEdge doing the same in Double Oak, TX. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jesus...My bro

You might find that I have a strange side to me. The following is evidence to that. Please don't use this against me in a court of law!

Jesus: Sup dude?

Me: Nuthin. You?

Jesus: Everything.

Me: Oh yeah. Forgot about that.

Jesus: You usually do. But no worries man. It’s cool.

Me: You’re very forgiving.

Jesus: So I’ve been told.

Me: Hey…how about showing me some miracles.

Jesus: Not in the mood bro. I’m not a Jeanie with three wishes or anything. Why people gotta front like that?

Me: It’s cool. Just conversing. (Grumbles) It’s not like 2000 years haven’t passed since your last magic trick.

Jesus: What’s that?

Me: Oh nothing.

Jesus: Liar. (long pause) Good thing I died for you.

Me: Yeah. Meant to thank you for that. (Changes subject) Hey. Wanna beer?

Jesus: I prefer wine. Got any Merlot 30AD

Me: Uhh…no. Just Franzia boxed wine.

Jesus: Holy me! You’re cheap.

Me: Did you just take your own name in vain?

Jesus: I can do that. You can’t. Stop trying to catch me in a sin.

Me: Well. It’s pretty intimidating to be pals with PERFECTION.

Jesus: Be angry but do not sin.

Me: Good one. You’re full of the jokes today. Something got the robes in a wad?

Jesus: Well, I’m still planning the “Come Back Tour” ya know.

Me: Yea. How’s that coming?

Jesus: Stressful. Catering a party that big takes a ton of planning. Father is willing to shell out the bucks but doesn’t have the time to help out. Spirit is Earthside with His hands full taking care of the flock. Michael tries to lend a hand now and then but always ends up getting called to Battle.

Me: Sucks dude. Sorry.

Jesus: Forget about it. Anything good on TV?

Me: Nothing you’d like…now that Football Season is over. Any chance you might help the Cowboys out next season?

Jesus: Impossible. Though I’d love to.

Me: Why?

Jesus: Jerry Jones.

Me: That didn’t stop you during the Aikman era.

Jesus: Wasn’t me.

Me: No? Then how did…?

Jesus: Satan.

Me: Sneaky devil!

Jesus: You ain’t kidding.

Me: (long pause) We can always go fishing.

Jesus: Now who’s full of jokes?

Me: Just thought I’d try.

[Beeping Sound]

Me: Pager?

Jesus: Yeah, sorry. Gotta take this one.

Me: No problem homes. Do your thang.

Jesus: Peace be with you.

Me: And also with…Hey what did we talk about?

Jesus: Right. I forgot. Peace out bro.

Me: Peace!

[Jesus fades out and then fades back in briefly]

Jesus: Yo, snoop.

Me: Yes my Savizzle?

Jesus: Go look at the Ozarka bottles in your fridge. Water into wine and all that. Don’t say I never did a magic trick for ya’s. Franzia! Pfft.

[Fades again]

End

Friday, January 19, 2007

Battle

At times I try my hand with works of fiction. This is an idea that was spurred from my memories of "the moster in the closet" as a child. Being a dad now, I imagined how I might respond if one of my lil ones needed rescuing from such wild imaginations!


The creaking of the closet door was sobering as James peaked in. He was prepared for battle this time with a renewed confidence of age and experience. This foe was a familiar one to him but they had not met since the early 80’s when he was just a mere child. Back then, James would cower under the covers or even run, screaming down the hall to his parent’s room for protection and solace. Those were comforting days but childhood was over for him and it was time to meet Skayleon without anyone’s help.

He turned and whispered into the room, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back soon and everything will be alright”

James shut the door and faced the darkness alone. At first there was nothing but deafening silence slightly interrupted by the beating of his own heart. But then the darkness took shape and the hissing noise was audible. Tired of waiting for theatrics, James boldly shouted, “Come out…you COWARD.”

“Ssssooo, we meet again Jamesssss. And I ssssuppossse you think thisss time will be different.” Skayleon had many forms but his favorite was a long serpent-like body, gleaming with dark, metallic scales, razor sharp teeth, flickering tongue, and a dragon type of head…nostrils constantly puffing a foul, green cloud of sickness. His eyes were a glowing yellow. As piercing and scary as they were, it was also the only source of light available, growing every brighter as his rage would intensify.

“That’s right my old friend…things will be different. I’ve had many years of training since we last met.”

“Sssso daddy isssn’t here to ressscue you thisss time?”

Laughing at the irony of that question, James exclaimed, “In certain terms, you are correct. My dad won’t interfere…that I promise.”

“Enough of thisss folissshnesssss. Let’s finissssh it!”

As usual, Skayleon pulled a fast one, lurching with mouth wide open before completing his sentence, slightly catching James off-guard. Just as his fangs were about to snap shut around James’s head, a bright force-field surrounded his body.

CLANG!

Skayleon lit up the room with his rage, having chomped down unexpectedly on the most solid of shields he’d ever encountered. With bones still reverberating in pain from his mistake, he coiled back into the corner of the room putting some distance between he and his newly energized foe.

“Nice trick, Jimmy Boy. Where’d you learn that one?”

“It’s one of many, Slime Ball!”

Skayleon lurched again but this time with talons poised for piercing. He hit the force-field with magnificent force, each claw actually breaking through the glass-like barrier. James stood, bracing his right leg behind him, with arms extended outward, trying ever so hard to keep the energy field in tact. The talons were so powerful that his barrier began to crack under the pressure. Knowing that it would be just a matter of seconds, James switched from a defensive strategy to the offense. Intentionally allowing the field to turn off, James jumped fifty feet into the air with a blazing sword whipping around furiously in circles. He landed with a thud and stared down his enemy. For the first time, he saw fear in Skayleon’s eyes. Taking inventory of his wounds, the old serpent was in shock, clawing at the huge gash in his side.

“Imposssssible. You are just a human!” he snorted in pain.

“I learned from the best…you know.”

“But…but…your father is long gone now, a faded memory. It took me ssssoo long to return from the Abysssss. It wasssn’t until he passsssed, that my powersss became sssstrong again. I’ve only jusssst returned and WILL NOT GO BACK.”

Sensing another burst of energy from Skayleon, James prepared for the full-on attack. He flipped backwards as a scaly tail cracked the ground beneath his former standing point. Soon the two were wrapped up in a whirlwind of motion, nothing visible to the naked eye but a flashes and blurs. Grunts, clanging, snorts, and growls soon filled the air as the two gave it their all. Every talon swipe, blocked. Every fireball, extinguished. Every chomp of his teeth, dodged. In a last-ditch effort to crush his enemy Skayleon broke free soaring high over head. James could just make out the faint outline of his body and wondered what was to come of this move. Then…with a flurry unlike anything previously seen from the old demonic monster, Skayleon shot downward with the momentum of a bullet. His target acquired, he met with success as his body slammed down on top of James’s head, forcing both of them through the floor. They fell an immeasurable distance, landing with a thud. Jamess body lay limp under the large heap of Skayleon’s form.

The Old Serpent was gleeful as he let out an evil-sounding cackle. “Ssssso sssssorry, my friend. All thingssss musssst come to an end.”

Suddenly his yellow eyes narrowed and his mouth fell agape with surprise. He looked down, only to see James, crouched in kneeling positon, gleaming saber half buried into his belly. Green ooze trickled from his wound emitting a most foul odor. Hanging onto life ever-so-fleetingly, Skayleon whispered into James’s ear, “But how? How have you become sssso ssstrong?”

“You were right. My dad is long since gone. But you failed to realize one thing.”

“What’ssss that?” he said even more hushed and strained than before.

“I. AM. A. DADDY. NOW!”

With each word, James thrust his sword ever deeper into Skayleon’s gut until the giant slumped over his shoulder and sighed one final breath. James pushed the beast to the side allowing the now hollow shell hit the ground. He watched as the demonic form evaporated into a green mist and disappeared. Climbing back up through the depths and into the closet again, James turned the handle and stepped back into the room. Somewhat out of breath and weary he approached the bed and pulled the sheet down, exposing a little boy outfitted in Super Man PJ’s.


“Is he gone daddy?” Catching his breath, he whispered, “Yes sweet-heart…he is. Sweet dreams Michael. Sweet dreams.”

Monday, January 15, 2007

Target Cashier



"What happened to my life?" she questions internally.

She fumbles with her chair creating a loud noise and unwanted attention from otherwise inattentive, fellow coffee drinkers. Finally seated and waiting for her mocha, her head meets the comfortable resting place of her two hands, allowing a detailed look at the table's lacquer finish. It would be safe to assume that she is just hiding from embarrassment but the honest truth is that Mary spends much of life in this position. Head ducked down...depressed. And while she did take a brief moment to study the table-top finish with its glossy sheen, her gaze shot through the table distorting the details into a blur.

The images that entered her mind were no longer tangible pieces of the 'here and now' but rather on her frustrations and circumstance. So as to downplay her obvious discomfort, she slides her body into a more laid back position and pretends to read a flyer left by a previous customer. Silent suffering was her mantra. Never intent on the spot light, her sadness would just intensify if she knew she was on display for judgmental gazers.

She no longer asked herself the Big Picture questions, like "what would my life have become only if...?" Instead, she occupies her brain with the trivial such as, "how long does it take to make a mocha grande?" Ever wearing emotions like clothing, that thought was betrayed by an angry glance at the girls behind the counter.

She wasn't always unhappy and lost. She's not even completely certain why she lacks joy now. Sure her marriage of twenty years is over, forcing employment here at Target for $7.00 per hour. Those are indeed reasons to be mournful but this was deeper and less definable. Getting hot under the collar Mary starts to squirm and fight the urge to remove her coat, wanting at least for a few minutes before work, to blend with the general public and cloak her uniform underneath.

It doesn't help that the girl behind the counter finally delivers the much-needed-caffeinated-beverage with cheery glee saying, "Here is your mocha Mary...employee discount included!"

Rolling her eyes but careful to be thankful, Mary takes her first warm sip while scanning the room. She carefully takes inventory of who might have noticed the comments revealing her true identity. If anyone had been staring, they gave her the generous gift of averting her gaze. All of them busy with crossword puzzles, cell phones, shopping lists, and meaningless conversation. It was little moments like this that gave her some hope. It seems silly, since ten minutes from now she would be working the register, possibly even checking out some of the fellow patrons of the built-in Starbucks. But even ten minutes of being a "regular consumer" seemed to brighten her day.

"Tomorrow, I am going to go just a bit out of my way to the Starbucks on Morris," she thought. "Who cares about a 10% discount anyway?" This innocent thought became an intense day-dream of what tomorrow might hold for her. Her trance made ten minutes and 10 oz. of coffee fly by in the blink of an eye. Had it not been for a clumsy co-worker crashing carts into the holding bay, she might have sat for hours wrapped in the safe cocoon of her dream world.

Sliding the empty cup across the table, Mary stood upright, collecting her lunch cooler and gloves. Once again she created that wretched squeal as she pushed the chair back into place. This time, it didn't matter. It was time to reveal her proud Target uniform and nametag. Her ex-husband Marty didn't matter anymore. Her pregnant 18 year-old daughter and 22 year-old, pot smoking son became a distant concern as she carefully folded her coat into the crook of her arm.

"Mary Oswald" was etched into a rectangular badge, mounted above her left bosom. The training sticker would finally come off after today and she was glad for it. There was something even less noble about being in retail at the age of 46 with a sticker revealing her rookie status.

As she passes me, I intentionally catch her gaze causing her to flinch a bit. I am tempted to do as so many others had and give her the reprieve of looking away. But I can't. I let the uncomfortable nature of the moment hold as I widen my grin as far as my face will allow. I have a mission. This woman must know that there are other caring souls in the world.

Success. She smiles back almost with a chuckle. Her furrowed brow and intense focus drop ever-so-briefly, proving that her walls hadn't built up so high that they were impenetrable.

"Have a great day," I say as she passes by.

Even more cheerful than before, she exclaims..."You do the same."

I was careful in my exchange not to reveal my intrusion on her life. Who really knows if she is divorced or if she questions her life and the results of her decisions? These are just the thoughts that passed through my mind as I naturally but inadvertently "people watch". There were
clues that led me to the backstory, so I might have been spot on with my observations as I seem to have a talent for doing. But I might be very far off. Who cares?

I took a moment from my coffee, newspaper, email, and virtual world...to engage a real, breathing person, in a tangible exchange. One that will likely have both us of feeling better for it.


At least...for a little while.