Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review: Why I am an Athiest Who Believes in GOD



I grew up in a fundamental evangelical environment in the 1960s and 1970s, and continued on in that paradigm for years afterwards, doing various types of Christian service and missionary work in many parts of the world. I think that it would be safe to say, that for most evangelical Christians during that time…and even today, the name Francis Schaeffer (along with his wife Edith) conjured up images of some sort of Evangelical Super Hero.  The “liberals and unbelievers” might have their intellectuals, but none of them could stand up to our hero, Francis Schaeffer. He had established a community, called L’Abri,  of like-minded deep thinkers who lived in Switzerland. It was into this socio-religious environment that Frank Schaeffer was born, raised and marinated. 
In the last number of years, my journey has taken me away from much of the evangelical dogma that I held to for so long, and so it was with interest that I read this book by the son of our Super Hero. 
Much of the book is autobiographical in nature with Frank sharing personal glimpses into what it was like to be living as a growing boy with the great Francis and Edith Schaeffer. But it is much more than that…he shows the tenderness he feels for his two young grandchildren that he spends much time with each day. And then there is the thread of the ragged, messy journey that he has been on and how his life has been enriched by the freedom of mystery and paradox.  I will simply leave with some things I highlighted when reading this wonderful book. I doubt that the audience for this book will be mainline evangelicals who are “certain they are correct”, but for anybody who is willing to be honest and ask questions, it is a great read.
“My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I’ve ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty make things simple, gave me an answer to every questions and paid the bills.”
“Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”
“Apophatic theology teaches that the divine is ineffable and recognized only when it’s felt. In contrast to the literalistic evangelicals and Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Muslims and Orthodox Jews, some of the earliest Church Fathers were closer in their thinking to Wettstein.They said that scripture was to be read through an apophatic approach.”
“Science can’t predict what stories my children’s great grandchildren will tell. The ultimate story about the experience of our journey into consciousness is a closed book to theologians and scientists alike, but it is not a book without promise. At this point we’ve barely cracked the introduction, and already smartass scientists and theologians pretend they know not just how the story started but how it ends—and worse—what it means or doesn’t mean.”
“How we treat others is the only proof of truth we have. That proof is not found in any book. It is only found in the expression of unconditional trust we may sometimes see in the eyes of the people who know us best.”
And one more that I am sure will cause the hair on the back of many necks to bristle….
“Those of us raised in the Christian tradition need to choose to either see God in Jesus or to continue to let the Bible define God.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reading List Recommendations: (Category: Fiction)



Recently there have been various challenges between friends on social media. The famous “ice bucket” challenge in August and September sought to raise awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Scelorisis (ALS), or commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Although there were critics that said too much water was being wasted, the net effect was that the public became more aware of this devastating illness, and millions of dollars were raised for further research into treatment and a cure for ALS. If you have ever cared for someone with this condition, you will know that this is great news.
One of the other different challenges involves people asking friends to list some (top 10?) most influential books in their lives.  This can be very revealing and kind of helps to see some of the thought processes that a person has gone through in their personal lives bringing them to where they are today. 
This is not a response to any challenge, but I want to list some of the fiction works that I have enjoyed over the last several months and few years. Some I have read in print, but many I have listened to in audio format with excellent narrators while working out or out running many miles. Even fiction writing has a tendency to help frame one’s mindset and paradigm of the world, and that has been the case with me as well. So, for what it is worth, here are some works of fiction that I have enjoyed and would recommend to anyone looking for great reading experiences. There is no particular order of ranking of these books as they appear below.
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tart:  If you love art and old furniture restoration, this will be an especially good book to read. Some have noted a similarity to the story line in “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. I can see where this can be true, but the setting is modern USA, and the story line and character development is excellent…the audio version had an excellent narrator.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak: Many have seen the movie (I have not), but the book is a piece of literary fiction that moves one deeply. Set in Nazi Germany during WWII, a story of a family and an orphan girl who struggle to survive and help a helpless Jewish man. Somewhat dark at times, but the story has the potential to move your soul in the right direction…in my opinion.
“The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy: This is an older book and, again a movie has been made from the story (I have not seen this movie either). Great character development that centers around a very dysfunctional family from the South, and does an excellent job of showing the deep flaws of each of us as we live out this journey of humanity. And yet, through the brokenness of the world and the flaws in each of us, there is beauty and something of grandeur to behold.
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini: This, in my opinion, is great literary fiction. It probes deep into our hearts for who we are, not for who we think we should be, and finds many questions. All questions don’t have answers, however. If you have any link to Afghanistan, or to that part of the world or its culture, this is a good book to read.
“Breakfast with Buddha” by Roland Merullo ….and the follow up sequel “Lunch with Buddha”: A story of a successful, upper middle class professional and his family who are touched by crisis. Laughing at times and crying at others is what I would expect the response to reading these two books. These really helped me to break out in my thinking about many of the assumed dogmas that I have held on to in my life.
“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts: This book is so awesomely good that I read the print version one time and listened (over 43 hours!) to the audio version a couple of years later!! The story is about a man who escapes prison in Australia and is on the run living in Bombay , India. Greatly entertaining while weaving different philosophical views of life into the storyline. Highly recommended!
“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel: The movie (yes, I saw this one!) did a fairly good representation of the book, however, the character and story development was much more thorough in the book. No need to give a summary since everyone has heard about this movie.
“Slumdog Millionaire” by Vikas Swarup: Again, the movie is well known, so no need to give a summary statement. Great book….audio narration was superb!
“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen: This is the story of an elderly gentleman in a nursing home as he recalls his life as a veterinarian for a circus. It is told in the first person, but two voices…that of the young man, and that of the old man in the nursing home. This touched a tender spot in my heart since I had seen both my mother and father live for years in a nursing home at the end of their lives.
“11-22-63” by Stephen King: Well know author, who takes on a slightly different story line. Greatly to be enjoyed by anyone who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. How life has changed. The twist of the story involves time travel and what would it mean if one could change one of the most devastating assassinations of the 20th century? 
“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter: Just a beautiful story of life in coastal Italy where love was found and then lost. The character development by Jess Walter is stunning and a thing of beauty. 
“A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving: This is a classic and should be read by everybody! At first I thought it was a bit slow starting out, but following these characters through their lives was enchanting and very impressionable.
“The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young: Not much needs to be said about this book. Many have weighed in with praise and deep seated scorn. I found it to be refreshing and insightful to the nature of God and how we live in relationship with a Deity of pure love.
“The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End” by Ken Follet: If you have ever wondered about how life was back in England and Europe in the 9th and 10th Centuries…and how those huge gothic cathedrals got built without the aid of modern technology, this book is very insightful. Follet follows families and individuals through the perils and drudgery of life back then, with a spellbinding storyline that is sure to keep you reading.
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follet: “Fall of Giants”, “Winter of the World” and “Edge of Eternity”.In this trilogy, Follet starts off in book 1 around the year 1916, and begins to follow a few families in different parts of the world: Great Britain, Germany, Russia, USA. The story line incorporates excellent historical facts of the events that have made the 20th century so significant. In each successive book, the children, grandchildren etc. of the original families remain the main characters. Throughout the span of nearly 100 years, not only is there a spell binding story told, but a lot of history to be learned.  The final book: “Edge of Eternity” has only recently come out, so I am still not finished with it yet, but I am already     captivated by it!
“The Way of Kings” and “Words of Radiance” by Brandon Sanderson: These books are the beginning of an epic fantasy series called The Stormlight Archive.  I know that not everyone enjoys this genre, but I found the story and character development to be insightful and greatly enjoyable.
“The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd: Literary fiction in the setting of the South in the 1960s. This is a beautiful story of a girl who runs away from an abusive father and finds a refuge and home in the home of three African American sisters. There are themes of prejudice, guilt, shame and love woven throughout this charming story.
Lest I go on endlessly, I will list some honorable mention books and authors without commentary except to say here that I found, even these books to be highly entertaining, enjoyable and containing nuggets of wisdom and insight.
Let me list some by Author’s name first:
James Lee Burke: “Wayfaring Stranger”, “Feast Day of Fools”, “Rain Gods”, and “Lay Down my Sword and Shield” . Okay, one more comment…Burke probably has more insight into the dark side of human nature and the evils of society than most of us do. And he is able to express this in his writings so vividly. Great author.
Stieg Larsson: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, and “The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest.”
Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy: “The Hunger Games”, “Catching Fire”, and “Mocking Jay”. 
Cormac McCarthy: “No Country for Old Men”
Nelson DeMille: “Plum Island”, “The Gold Coast”, and “The Gate House”.
Dan Brown: “Angels and Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code”
John Lescroart: “A Plague of Secrets”
Steve Berry: “The Paris Vendetta”
Sue Grafton: “V is for Vengence”
Jo Nesbo (translated by Don Bartlett): “The Leopard”
Wm. Paul Young: “Cross Roads”
Jason Matthews: “Red Sparrow”
Michael Connelly: “The Poet”
So that pretty much covers it for now…If you want more information on any of these books feel free to contact me!
I hope to do a Reading List: Non-Fiction sometime in the near future.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Thinking Outside of the Box

I was speaking to someone this week and they made the point, with pride, that they like to “think outside of the box”. Now, this was in the context of religion and spirituality. This is a pretty common thing to hear because we don’t like to be thought of as stuck in a rut of our own paradigm…closed to new ideas and concepts. In the realm of evangelical Christianity, I remember, sitting in church services where it was stated or prayed asking the Holy Spirit to lead us wherever he would want, and to do whatever he would want to in our lives…we were open to his direction no matter what. This sounds good…taking the restrictions away from our thinking and being open to new things that we haven’t considered…a way of thinking and being willing to be “outside of the box”.

The problem of the matter is, however, that there almost definitely is a box that is slightly larger than the one we refer to when we speak like this…and this, slightly larger box that contains the smaller box is not one that we are open to living or thinking outside of at all. There are things that we all hold tightly to in life….paradigms of politics, religion, spirituality or even  culture. These are the structures of living that have worked for us and allow us to function in a life and world that is anything but certain. And so we fiercely guard these paradigms as if our lives depend upon them…and to a degree our lives do depend on seeing the world through these lenses. Most of the time, most of us are willing to “negotiate” some paradigm shifts that would alter our views and behaviors, but only to a limited degree. We cannot tolerate a complete abandonment of life paradigms that have worked for us and for which we have invested so much of our time and energy. For some, guarding and promoting these paradigms is a practical way of earning an income, and so there is a vested interest in not being open to new ideas.

A very basic way of looking at this would be something like this: I have successfully lived seeing the world as blue. I am in my late middle age years and seeing everything through blue lenses has been quite successful…for the most part. But I am not closed minded…I realize that blue may not be the only way of seeing the world, and so I relish seeing the world differently and even getting a new prescription for my lenses. In fact, I told my lens professional that on my new set of lenses I want the edges to fade into a lighter shade of blue at the bottom, a darker shade at the top and even the sides to be a type of blue/green, or turquoise shade. He was taken aback by this but agreed to do it. When we got talking about this, he said that one of his customers who used blue lenses had come in and wanted to switch to red lenses! “Wow!” I replied. “I would never even consider doing that because, as we all know, seeing the world through blue lenses is the way to see it accurately.” And he agreed.

And so it is with ourselves and others. When changes in our paradigms do occur, they are usually incremental in nature. And the impetus for change is usually not someone else convincing us of their great insight. Change is embraced when we discover something true for ourselves, and this often takes a crisis in our lives to help us along the path of walking in the truth.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We All Want To Be Winners

We all want to be winners.  Nobody intentionally wants to be a loser. It is in our genes to be the best… to be superior. All of this is relative, of course. Being a winner.  Being a success. It is all a matter of comparison…and we use others as our standard of comparison. In a foot race, there is only one actual winner…and that is because, compared to the other runners, the winner came in first. The second place runner can brag about beating the third place runner.  We all want to be “better than” or superior in some way to someone else. Even, the most down and out, lazy, drunken bum will still come up with a comparison that makes him look superior: “Well, at least I don’t beat my wife like Joe does!”

I am not really sure if this hunt for superiority is always bad. Some would classify it as a drive for excellence in life…a search for significance. I won’t disagree with those arguments. All I know is that it is there inside each one of us. I suppose that it is a drive…like many others that can be harnessed for good or for bad.
And there are so many arenas in life where we can play this game. Obviously, no one person can be the “best” in every area of life…and so we choose our areas of specialty. Academia, finances, athletics, words…spoken and written, sexual exploits, business, politics, religion and many other related areas that involve power and influence.
You see, the thing about being a “winner” is that it gives us some sense of security that, at least in some area of life, we have “got our act together”.  We feel some degree of control.
One of my favorite quotes I heard from a preacher was this: “As I get older, it is more and more important for me to have all of my ducks in a row”. In other words, “As I get closer to my inevitable departure from this earthly existence, I want to make sure that I am a winner at this game called life.”  I say that it is one of my favorite quotes, not because I agree with it, but because it illustrates just the opposite of what Jesus taught.
He taught that all of us will lose. We are all destined for physical death…and that, in a sense, is where we all become the ultimate losers. No matter how much we have won in the various arenas of life, we all will die and none of it will matter even a little bit. Some who have messed up their earthly lives pretty badly and have “hit bottom” probably experience this sense of being a loser long before physical death takes them. But in the end, we all relinquish a perceived sense of control that we never had and yield to the inevitable.
And it is here…in death…in being a loser… that Jesus meets us and gives us life. The fact is that he has already won the victory and given us an indescribable life of immense joy with God. This is truly good news. The not so good news is that we prevent ourselves from enjoying this life…from really entering into it by clinging to our notions of being a winner…of having all of our ducks in a row.  For all of our verbalized statements that we agree with Jesus that “the first shall be last, and the last first” or that to be a success in the kingdom of God you have to be a slave of others…for all of these protestations of faith, we still strive all the harder to be winners and to be masters and leaders.  Jesus’ story of the rat-bag swindler and the upright religious leader where God considers the crook the “winner” drive us nuts. We have to do some high level religious gymnastics to justify ourselves after reading that one. Or the story of the workers in the vineyard…the scumbags who were lazy and not even out of bed in the morning or even into the afternoon, yet when they went out to “work” for one hour they were given the same as the ones who had worked hard all day. Why do the losers win in God’s eyes?
This is hard core grace…it is a scandal. And the only way we can enjoy this grace is to acknowledge that we haven’t got it together…we are losers. As Robert Farrar Capon says: It is only the last, the lost, the least, the little and the dead that will be embraced by this life of grace in Christ. Again, the good news is that sooner or later, we will all acknowledge that “we lose” and will be flooded with the life of God in Jesus.
And yet…as long as we are able, we will continue on in our striving to be winners.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

What Does It Mean To Be An Evangelical Christian?

Over the last number of years my thinking and beliefs about God and Jesus have expanded and evolved to include people and things that I once never would have even considered. Our ego driven selves want to always present "original" thinking and conclusions. However, this is rarely how we learn or come to conclusions. We read books and blogs by others. We sit around and drink coffee while discussing life with friends. And through this interaction and discourse our minds and hearts lead us to some of what become our "own" conclusions about life. So, I will be using this space to share some of the thoughts of others that I see in a positive light and have had a beneficial influence in my thinking. One recent addition to this roster of thinkers is a young man named Tylor Standley. Here is a recent blog post of his:



6 PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE BANNED FROM EVANGELICALISM (OR, A LESSON IN CONSISTENCY)


6593922893What does it mean to be “evangelical”?
What must you believe?
What must you reject?
Can you be an evangelical Christian and believe…
…in evolution?
…that Hell is only temporary?
…that all people, even those in Hell can/will eventually be saved?
…that people from other religions can be saved without even knowing it?
…that the atonement is not about God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus in our place?
…that Scripture is errant?
I think many evangelicals would say “no” to most—maybe even all—of these. That’s why, in an attempt to protect the name of evangelicalism (or, more accurately, to keep certain ideologies in power), some of the most prominent leaders within evangelicalism have made it their responsibility to publicly denounce those with whom they disagree on issues like these.
To be clear, I have no problem with publicly denouncing ideologies (that is, after all, what I’m doing right now). I also believe it is, at times, necessary to publicly call out false teachers. However, one must fully consider whether they promote a different gospel before coming forward with such a bold claim.
But, I’m not talking about denouncing ideas or exposing real false teachers. I’m talking about needless schisms and inconsistent, prideful exclusivism.
Self-appointed gatekeepers of evangelicalism tear apart what could be a noble, diverse movement of the Spirit. In what critics have affectionately named, “excommunitweets,”these gatekeepers take it upon themselves to pronounce who is “in” and who is “out” of orthodox Christianity.
In a previous post I’ve listed a few of the people tossed out of the evangelical community for their slightly-divergent-yet-still-completely-orthodox beliefs. As a moderate evangelical, I’ve found myself on a few occasions, directly or indirectly, accused of not following Christ and even heresy.
By the standards of these gatekeepers, the definition of “evangelical” is becoming so narrow that it really doesn’t describe anyone but themselves. As I’ve said before, evangelicalism is shrinking, and pretty soon even the gatekeepers will have to bid themselves “farewell” due to their inability to meet their own standards.
That, or they will continue to reshape the definition so that it will describe exactly (and only) what they believe.
(Probably the latter.)
So, if we are going to be consistent, then I think it’s time to weed out all of the heretics—especially those who have the most influence—not just Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, or World Vision.
For starters, I suggest these 6:

1. C.S. Lewis: Guilty of Inclusivism and rejecting the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory

12877851623Perhaps the most celebrated Christian writer of the last century, C.S. Lewis is respected by most Christians, no matter what theological corner they occupy. And that’s what confuses me. Lewis was no evangelical by the standards of modern evangelical spokespersons. Lewis’ seven-volume, fictional masterpiece, The Chronicles of Narnia, reveals Lewis’ belief that it is possible for people in other religions to inherit the Kingdom of God without knowing it.1
Lewis also rejects the Penal Substitutionary theory of the atonement, which states that Christ “diverted” God’s wrath toward us and took it upon himself. Instead, in part three of Chronicles, Lewis describes what is called the “Christus Victor” view of the atonement, which holds that the cross is not an image of God’s wrath against us, diverted to his son, but it was the defeat of evil through an act of selfless love. Here is a video of Greg Boyd giving a good description of that view using Lewis’ imagery.

2. Martin Luther: Guilty of rejecting biblical inerrancy

Lucas_Cranach_d.Ä._-_Martin_Luther,_1528_(Veste_Coburg)Where would evangelicalism be without Martin Luther? He is the father of the Reformation and the champion ofSola Scriptura.
According to one evangelical leader, inerrancy, “…is the only position that is fully compatible with the claim that every word of Scripture is fully inspired and thus fully true and trustworthy.” To the dismay of every evangelical Calvinist (including the one who made the above statement), I fear I must be the bearer of bad news that Martin Luther apparently didn’t believe the Bible is fully inspired, true, or trustworthy.
Speaking of inaccuracies in the books of Chronicles, he states,
“When one often reads that great numbers of people were slain—for example, eighty thousand—I believe that hardly one thousand were actually killed.”2
With that in mind, maybe it’s time we vote Mr. Luther off of the evangelical island.

3. St. Augustine: Guilty of rejecting a literal reading of the Creation Story

In his work, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Augustine (to put it bluntly) thought Christians who took the Creation Story literally were a laughingstock and looked like idiots among non-Christians because they denied science and reason. This is Augustine, people…the one to whom we can give credit for the doctrines of original sin and Hell as eternal conscious torment (which are at the core of reformed theology).
Augustine_LateranHere is his statement:
“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth…may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (emphasis mine).3
Few are the pulpits he would be allowed to fill among conservative churches in our day.

4. William Barclay: Guilty of Universalism

I’ve seen William Barclay’s iconic little blue commentaries on the shelves of many pastors. I find it odd, however, that Rob Bell would be utterly rejected for holding essentially the same belief as this celebrated theologian.
Barclay writes,
“I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God…the choice is whether we accept God’s offer and invitation willingly, or take the long and terrible way round through ages of purification.”4
In that work, Barclay also lists early church fathers, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, as two other Christian Universalists.

5. John Stott: Guilty of Annihilationism

8658113460John Stott is one of the great evangelical Christian thinkers of the last generation. Stott rejected the view that Hell is eternal conscious torment of the wicked and suggested, instead, that the unrepentant cease to exist after enduring the penalty for their sins.
He wrote,
“I believe that the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”5

6. Billy Graham: Guilty of Inclusivism

Billy Graham is, perhaps, the epitome of the evangelical identity.
Or, so we thought…
Like C.S. Lewis, Graham believes that those who do not hear of Christ may, indeed, be saved without explicitly confessing him as Lord.
In a 1997 interview with Robert Schuller, Graham said,
Billy Graham“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ. . . . [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (This statement starts at 1:18 in this video)
#####
After we finish with these most important aspects of what it means to be evangelical, we can focus on weeding out people for less important things, such as their immorality: George Whitefield’s lobbying for slavery, Martin Luther’s hatred of Jews, John Calvin’s approval of burning heretics at the stake, etc. etc.
Now, I’m sure you, as well as I, find it ridiculous to reject these great and godly people. Which is why it’s amazing to me, the things we ignore in order to protect ourselves from the truth. We want our “heroes of the faith” to be perfect in theology and conduct, so we ignore or justify the parts we don’t like.
We all do it.
So, maybe it’s time to extend a bit more loving kindness to the evolutionists, to those who reject inerrancy, to those who take the Bible literally when it says that God will redeem all people to himself, to the Rob Bells and the World Visions.
For those of us on the moderate-progressive side: maybe we can find it in ourselves to turn the other cheek and forgive those who wish us gone. Then, when we find someone who will accept us–”heresy” and all, let’s embrace and learn from them.


  1. See the conversation between Emeth and Aslan in “The Last Battle” in The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperTrophy, 1984), 204-206. 
  2. As quoted in Marcel Sarot, “Christian Fundamentalism as a Reaction to the Enlightenment as Illustrated by the Case of Biblical Inerrancy”  (2011), http://www.academia.edu/4006242/Sarot_M.2011._Christian_fundamentalism_as_a_reaction_to_the_Enlightenment (Accessed April 16, 2014), 5. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pulling the Levers

       
As I proceed in life, I am finding more and more that people that, in the past,  I found “powerful” and even intimidating, are for the most part like the Wizard of Oz. They are nothing more than weak, fearful men and women behind a curtain of obscurity pulling levers and turning knobs to control an image. An image which they want others to think represents them in reality. However, this image falls far short of who they really are in truth. The problem is that this “image” is something that they themselves have come to believe is true as well.
Lest you think that I am pointing my finger exclusively at others, I am keenly aware that when I do point my finger, there are 3 fingers pointing back at myself. None of us…especially myself…is immune from this projection of image to others and, most of all, toward ourselves. In all fairness, this may be a coping mechanism that we almost seem to need in life. How can one survive in the day to day life of business, academics and society etc. while projecting our true selves? Certainly, if we were to present ourselves in our naked vulnerable truth, we would be eaten alive by all of the stronger dogs.
This, however, is one of the foundations of true spiritual growth: Honesty with others and self. Again, though, a problem arises. Most people don’t want us to be honest with them about who we really are on the inside. It causes them to be uncomfortable…maybe because it exposes things in themselves that they would rather remain hidden and buried.
So, I think that the other side of this coin of “Self Honesty”  is the another spiritual component we call “grace”. Saint Paul said that we should “Speak the truth in love” with each other…and even with ourselves. This means, not denying our shadow selves, but embracing ourselves and others exactly for who we, and they, are in the totality of personhood.  Light and darkness, good and bad, holy and evil. We all are a complex mixture of these ingredients.  And loving ourselves and others unconditionally as God does, means allowing for darkness and even variations of light  to co-exist.
It is not my job to “expose” others for who they really are. It is not my job to tear down the curtain so that others can see that the Wizard is a fraud. I have been called to a radical honesty filled with grace. My calling in life is to abide deeply in Love. Learning what that means will take more than a lifetime.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SNAP

The Power of Love and Honesty

“Odd, because as a family they never discussed their faith on a personal level that involved doubt in any way.” ~SNAP

Mick Mooney spins an emotional tale of a Christian family that is in a state of dysfunction primarily caused by the powers of the institutional church. These powers, of course are the showmanship of Hollywood, the manipulative techniques of Madison Avenue, mixed with the deadly, cut-throat politics of governments everywhere.

However, this is brought to us “up-front and personal” as we enter the lives of Senior Pastor Richard and his family and his brother Ted.  Even though this is a relatively brief book, it draws the reader in very quickly and it is difficult to put down until the end…and then there is the disappointment that there are no more pages! Fortunately, this is the first in a series of four books centered on the same family and characters.

I refuse to give any hint of spoilers here, (you can read the publisher's plot sketch below) but I must say that this book spoke to my heart in a number of ways. Maybe it is because I can personally relate to the destructive forces of  “organized Christianity”

Lest I give the impression that this  book is just full of negatives and criticisms, the primary, and overwhelming emphasis is the preeminence and power of love, and the beauty and peace of life that is available in Jesus for all of us.  And that is where this story moved my heart at a pretty deep level. I put the book down after the last page, encouraged to live a life of pure love for everyone and everything in my life and to embrace the spiritual union that is mystically present in the person of Jesus.

I can only encourage others, as I have already done, to get this book and read it for themselves…there will be no disappointment!

Publisher's Description
Pastor Richard has everything: Perfect house. Perfect car. Perfect appearance. Perfect wife. As the Senior Pastor of Faith First Church, perfection was expected of him, but when his son, Frank, informs him that he no longer wants to be part of Christianity, the cracks begin to show.

Richard's older brother, Ted, who was also once the Senior Pastor of Faith First before his abrupt resignation a decade ago, has been talking with Frank about living a life of faith outside of organized religion for some time. At first Richard doesn't think this is of any serious consequence. However, when Frank is mysteriously scheduled to preach one Sunday evening, his message challenges Richard's church-growth vision so directly it has the potential to blow his perfect facade sky high.

With Henry, the ambitious Associate Pastor, now determined to take matters into his own hands, Richard suddenly has everyone against him: His brother, his son, his wife, his Associate Pastor, and the elders. Despite the pressure, Richard is determined to overcome and maintain his perfect appearance—but everyone has a breaking point, even the Mighty Pastor Richard.