Sunday, April 23, 2006

Learning from an atheist

"I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse."

- Isaac Asimov, Science-Fiction novelist

Sometimes I wonder if there's some truth to this guy's thinking; at least as it relates to the whole Heaven vs. Hell thing. I remember mentioning several times in my Sunday School class that the traditional views of heaven -- sitting around on clouds singing for all eternity -- seemed rather boring to me. I can only imagine how insipid this sounds to non-believers. I often wonder how many people like Asimov were turned away from God, faith, and the pursuit of Heaven by these pretty deficient views of God and His kingdom that we share with others.

For too long, we Christians have viewed our faith as a some sort of private vocation which, if practiced correctly, would get us to Heaven, some magical place that allows us to ignore the suffering and injustice going on in the world. Rather than trying to attract people to Christ through our daily living and how we treat one another, we try to use the lure of a magical fairy land to turn people on to God. "If you worship God, you get to live with Him in Heaven forever..." is what we tell people. So, to that end, I can understand why people like Mr. Asimov could be completely turned off by Heaven and, more importantly, our God in Heaven. I only wish that atheists would encountered a more robust view of God and the kingdom.

In his last autobiographical sketch, Asimov also said:

"If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."

Wow! He really hit on the head. Not bad for a person who doesn't even believe in God. Granted, Mr. Asimov missed the idea of being saved by grace (ensuring our salvation even after we mess up). Nevertheless, he makes a great point. I think that Asimov was definitely on to something. I only hope that his insight led him to truly seek Christ...not in the way that so-called Christians tell us we need to.

I think that, if used properly, Mr. Asimov's thoughts can stimulate us to think more clearly about the God we serve and about His kingdom. Instead of using God's word to beat people's brains out, collect a whole bunch of money, and create a classist society, we could use God's word to heal people's heart and share the love of Christ.

Maybe we really can learn more about God from an atheist.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lost priorities

According to an article, two Iraqi teachers were beheaded in front of their students by terrorists. Let me repeat: they were beheaded. If anyone is having a hard time understanding this, let's put it another way: they had their heads cut off; right in front of their students. This incident only represents the much larger string of brutal, violent, and vicious attacks that have plagued Iraq; even after our "intervention". So much for "freedom on the march"...

Also in the news: As the genocide in Darfur extends all throughout the Sudan, Chad, and most of Central Africa, an estimated 13,000 people a day are being killed, raped, and tortured. Over a million people, driven from their homes, now face death from starvation and disease as the Sudanese government and militias attempt to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching them. The same forces have destroyed the people of Darfur's villages and crops, and poisoned their water supplies, and they continue to murder, rape and terrorize.

In an unrelated story: We have something to celebrate. Molly the Cat has been freed from her own personal Hell. For 13 full days, she was trapped in a brick building. But, after the concerted efforts of dozens of rescue workers (including a "cat therapist". Uh...), vigils from hundreds of activists and supporters, and (apparently) lots of media coverage, we can all rest knowing that Molly the Cat is OK.

People are dying all over the world. But, at least the cat's alive.

If you can't pick up on the scathing sarcasm of my post, I'm scared for you.

Now, I respect animals as much as the next person, but can someone please explain to me how a cat can capture so much human attention, energy, and emotion while innocent people's deaths are casually dismissed? How have we gotten so lost in our priorities?!


Monday, April 17, 2006

Jesus 2006

Another Resurrection Day has come and gone.

While I take pleasure in celebrating the fact that Jesus overcame the sting of death by raising from the dead, sometimes I wish that rising from the dead was the only thing He did. Sometimes I wish that, rather than ascending back to Heaven, He'd stay right here with us. Now, I know that He sent the Holy Spirit as a comforter for us...but, wouldn't it be cool if He stayed here? I wonder how the world would be right now. What would Jesus 2006 be like?

I think it would be interesting to see how Jesus' ministry would be shaped out in today's world. I'd be especially interested to see who He would chose as His disciples. But if history serves as an indicator, I personally don’t think that Jesus would've selected “church leaders” and religious folks of the time. Rather, I think that Jesus would probably choose the guy working the dead end job at the supermarket. He’d choose the Cuban housekeeper who vacuumed His motel room. He’d select the busboy from the diner who just cleaned His table. Maybe He’d go with the recently divorced taxi driver who gave Him a ride at 2 o'clock in the morning. I think He’d choose the broken-hearted waitress trying to earn enough money to move away from her abusive boyfriend. Perhaps the overworked social worker or the ex-cop who now has a major drug habit would be invited to come along. I imagine that the garbage collector, whose wife, a low-payed school teacher, is at home recovering from a miscarriage would be a part of Jesus’ group. How about the dirty mechanic who changed the oil in Jesus' beat up jalopy free of charge? In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the used up prostitute who propositioned Him, along with her pimp would become two of His closet companions.

I doubt that He’d tell any of them how horrible He thought they were. Instead, He’d show them just how precious they were in God’s eyes. Just like the men who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof, Jesus would see their faith and forgive them. His love, kindness, and touch would heal them. These are the folks who would ultimately carry His message out into the world. Perhaps the busboy I mentioned earlier would go on to be the rock on which Jesus built His church. Hmmm...

I think that Jesus would have chosen people who were on the fringe of society because they really don't have much to lose. Maybe people like this are the only ones who can really grasp His message of love, acceptance, mercy, forgiveness, and grace…simply because they're the ones who need these things the most. I'm afraid that most of us have too much to lose when it comes to following Jesus. I mean, we’d have to give up too many of our possessions or those things that possess us. So rather than helping Jesus promote His message to the world, we’d be busy sitting on the sidelines playing “armchair quarterback”; while waiting for Him to screw up, fail, or get arrested.

I bet that a huge segment of the church (and America, for that matter) really wouldn’t like Jesus that much. They’d consider His teachings radical, unconventional, and…who knows…maybe even blasphemous. He'd show up at various church functions and make some of the members nervous. Some of the deacons and ministers would probably even get jealous of His popularity. I think that most of the congregation would be appalled by His message of love, inclusion, mercy and justice saying that He’s not doing things “decent and in order”.

On the other hand, kids would absolutely cling to Him. Women would feel safe and secure, important, and recognized. Some members would be genuinely captivated by His knowledge of God's word and, more important, by His actions. Others, however, would try to argue and debate with Him over interpretation of the Scripture. When Jesus would try to explain to them that He was the Word, I can imagine some church folks having the nerve to challenge Him on it. Furthermore, can you imagine how funny it would be to see Jesus snatch the sheets off of the church and expose their nakedness through His sermons?

I can imagine Jesus moving His ministry outside of the church as well. During a speech He'd give in Washington during an anti-war rally, He’d probably be arrested, mocked, and unfairly tried by the Supreme Court. After finding Him guilty of trumped up charges like conspiracy and treason, the cops would then beat the crap out of Him and toss Him in a jail cell with two criminals on death row. I wonder who would be cheering, "Crucify! Him!” (actually, since we now use the electric chair, I guess it would be more like “Cruci-FRY Him!”). Would I be in the group cheering for His death or would I be one of the guys who claimed to support Him but ran away and hid when things got sticky? Would I be one of the guys who completely denied knowing Jesus?! Would I sit back and do nothing as my Savior was being persecuted?

What if Jesus 2006 walked among us?


Green eyed bandits

This is for my new Blogger chap, The Green-eyed Girl on Planet Earth:

I guess this means I should rename my blog "The Green-eyed Guy on Planet Earth"...


Friday, April 14, 2006

Who killed Jesus?

I've always loved this picture. In a way, it gives me chills. It almost makes my body cringe as I wait for the hammer to strike that nail. It's pretty odd...


Take a good look at this picture. Who do you think that is nailing Jesus to the cross? Keep reading and you'll find out..

I remember during the release of Mel Gibson’s movie "The Passion of Christ", there was a ton of controversy brewing about the anti-Semitic overtones aroused by the movie, particularly with the idea that Jews killed Jesus. The question still circulates today: Who was responsible for the death of Jesus? Was it Judas Iscariot, the traitor who turned Jesus over for money? Nope. How about the Jewish leaders who brought Him to trial? Sorry. Try again. Was it the blood thirsty crowd who preferred to release a murderer than to let Jesus live? Well, while it was pretty ironic that they freed a criminal bearing the same name as Jesus, that's not it either. Should we blame Pilate for giving in the crowd for political purposes? I'm sorry, but he's not the red-herring here.

I believe that, while the Jewish leaders, Judas, the angry crowd, and Pilate all served as key players in fulfilling God’s plan of Jesus’ death, they were not at all responsible for His dying.

The truth is: we are responsible for Jesus’ death. You and me. Jesus died for my sins as well as yours. It was only through His death that we would have the chance to procure salvation. As the Bible reminds us in Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood, [there] is no remission of sin.” So, Jesus had to sacrifice Himself to deliver us from our sins.

Essentially, Jesus was born so that He could die. He died so that we could live. He rose from the dead so that we could be with Him forever. End of story. He paid a debt that He did not owe to free us of a debt that we could never pay. Jesus Himself came to the understanding that He had to endure the agony of death in order to take away the sins of the world. Otherwise, we could have received salvation through our works…which would have made Jesus’ death pointless (Galatians 2:21).

With all of this to consider, let me repeat the question that I asked you at the beginning of this post: Who is that person nailing Jesus to the cross? For the answer to this question, take a look -- a good look -- at the person in the mirror. There's your culprit. That’s the person for whom Jesus gave His life.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Passion of Tom Delay

According to this column from The Nation, supporters of former House Leader Tom Delay (who was recently indicted for fraud and conspiracy) have likened him and his legal battles to Jesus during His cruxifiction. Perhaps even more hilarious is that -- rather than admitting his wrongdoing -- Delay actually embraces the sentiments of his supports. According to Delay:

"We have been chosen to live as Christians at a time when our culture is being poisoned and our world is being threatened. The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won."

Nevermind the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion in our culture and that the laws of this land are geared toward securing Christian "values". Nevermind the fact that Conservatives have control of each of the three federal branches. Nevermind the fact that Jesus really was innocent. We should all somehow feel sorry for Tom Delay.

And you wonder why I think Christianity -- as we know it -- is starting to get watered down.


Fighting the Great Divide?

According to an article, former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin is working with Democrats to launch an effort to identify the sources of national economic inequality and to confront those imbalances. After years of minimal improvement of the economic gap, coupled with all sorts of fiscal irresponsibility from the current administration, this probe into the economy has been long overdue.

However, there are a couple of burning questions that I have:

(1) What took them so f***ing long?! I mean, you don't have to look overseas to recognize that there is a huge divide between the rich and the poor. Hello?! Ever been to New York?! Have you ever watched E! Entertainment?!

(2) Is this the Democrats' way of maintaining their position with the poor and underclassed? If so, why haven't the Republicans followed suit?

(3) Does it take massive fiscal screw-ups like the ones conducted under Bush for us to realize how serious this problem is?

I don't presume to know the answers to any of these questions. But one thing's for sure: it'll be interesting to see where this all goes...


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Solution to Immigration

Initially, I thought that I was going to put together a long and drawn out explanation for what I think needs to happen with this whole Immigration Amnesty Debate. But, since this whole issue is primarily about political agenda (Dems and GOP are both rallying for the Hispanic vote) and economics, I'd like to propose a simple solution to the Immigration "problems":

Congress should fine corporations $50,000 a day for each illegal immigrant they employ.

That should make for some interesting immigration reform...


Federal counterfeiting?

Yesterday, I attended a lecture here on campus about money matters. During this lecture, there was an interesting point raised about the serious decline of the U.S. dollar, coupled with the government's attempts to divert our attention away from the dollar's collapse. While most of the media is concentrated on Iraq (well, sort of anyway...), immigration (I'll be writing on this one soon), and missing white girls, the feds are involved in a widespread (damn near 24/7) printing operation. This is disturbing to me because a massive wave of currency printings like this will only lead to a significant devaluation of the U.S. Dollar. According to analysts, the Federal Reserve has ordered approximately $2 trillion of currency to be printed. If this is true, then our government is committed illegal counterfeiting. That in mind, I suppose that it's really no wonder why missing white girls are still making headlines all across the nation. Since I think that the government seems to always have a hidden agenda, I wouldn't be suprised if the information shared in this lecture was true.

Tthe speaker went on to say that, six months ago, the Federal Reserve quietly announced that as of March 23, 2006, they would no longer publicly disseminate any information regarding "M3" statistics. "M3" data is the amount of cash that the government prints and puts into circulation (through large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements, and Eurodollars). M3 is used most to prop up the U.S. economy; especially when valuing the dollar against the gold and silver deposits around the world. This decision to print more money is a pretty unsettling move by the government, especially since it's now becoming harder to determine the true value of the "dollar".

On a hunch, I did a Google search on "M3" and, sure enough, the federal government is discontinuing this practice. According to information compiled at Wikipedia, Congressman Ron Paul introduced a bill, H.R. 4892, in an effort to reverse this change and force the government to continue publishing M3 statistics on a weekly basis. I wonder what type of congressional support this bill will receieve. Perhaps the bigger question is: Why would Congressman Paul go through all this trouble to produce this bill if M3 doesn't really convey any additional information about economic activity that isn't already included in M2 (as the Federal Reserve continues to tell us)?

There is so much misinformation and deception out there, I have no idea where the truth lies. One thing's for sure, nothing is ever what it appears to be.

Does all of this nonsense mean that the U.S. Dollar is falling against all major world currencies as this lecturer suggested?

Your thoughts?


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dedicated to a friend

Last night, my best friend and I had a pretty good time out together. For the record, this wasn't the first time that we've enjoyed each other's company and it certainly won't be the last time. So, the evening itself wasn't that big of a deal. But, it wasn't until I dropped her off at home that I really took inventory on what the night really signified.

On my way home, I whispered a quick prayer to God. I said two simple words, "Thank you". With those two words, I was thanking God for my family, my health, my blessings, my salvation, the incredible seats we got at the Pistons game, being able to avoid getting pulled over by that cop on the side of the road, etc. But, I was also thanking God for blessing me with my friend.

You see, this friend is one of the types of people that we all need in our lives, but only a few of us actually have. Once we actually do gain a friend like this, I think it's important for us to recognize them as often as we can. A "thank you" here; a hug there; a blog entry every once in a while.

There are so many things about her that I can talk about. But I can sum it all up in a nutshell. She's the type of friend...

...who is a fighter. I really admire that she has enough courage to dream big and to fight for her dreams; even when the rest of the world is against her.

...who can find something to smile about, even on her worse days.

...who convicts me when I'm wrong; but does so in a way where it doesn't feel like conviction.

...who patiently deals with me and my incessant issues.

...who can make me laugh, get angry, and laugh again in the same breath.

...who can actually make me feel guilty for not serving on the Finance Ministry (inside joke).

...who can impart spiritual insight on me without ever cracking open her Bible.

...who can educate me as much a college professor.

...who can Instant Message me while talking to me on the phone.

...who -- even when I've dissed her thousands of times before (sometimes for other people) -- has never given on me.

...who reminds me of how great I am, even when I don't feel it.

...who tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.

...who opens my eyes to the blind and misguided truths that I've created about my past relationships.

... who can take one of my small and simple accomplishments and turn it into a milestone.

...who has a heart as pure as gold and integrity as solid as oak.

Simply put: She's the type of friend who challenges me to become a better me.

I dare any of you out there to say that they've got a better friend than I have. You'll be disappointed to find out that you don't...


Monday, April 03, 2006

Is this yours?

"If your name's not on it, don’t pick it up."

I keep a little sign in my office with this saying. It reminds me not to “pick up” things that don’t belong to me. In other words, I don’t need to take on other people’s concerns. Instead, I need to focus on taking care of my own issues.

Of all the annoying things that people do, perhaps the most irksome -- to me -- is when people offer their unsolicited opinions/advice about things in my life. It's almost like barging into someone else's house and arranging it the way they think it should be. It drives me crazy when people do stuff like this to me. Why, then, would I do this to someone else? Why should I waste my time and energy providing unrequested advice and opinions to people who wouldn't care otherwise?

The truth is when I butt in to other people’s lives by offering unsolicited advice, I’m trying to save them from what I think are their problems. But in reality, it really isn’t about helping them; it's more about satisfying my ego and making myself feel better. I feel like I'm being a decent person by offering my services. But, as I'm learning, it's time for me to stop that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that I will completely turn my back to someone in need. In fact, I pride myself in being a person to lean on when times are difficult. I just don’t want to create this legacy of butting in where I’m not invited. There’s a huge difference. When I only deal with what’s on my own plate, I think that I'll find a greater sense of peace and content with myself. Even when I still have things that I need to face, at least I don’t have to compound my problems by attempting to solve everyone else’s too – especially if I’m not asked to.

There is a God who can fix problems and I’m not it. God has the power and the will to handle other people’s problems just as He does mine. I believe that everyone is on their own journey with God – whether they accept it or not. That said, I don't need to get in the way of what God is doing by "picking-up" something that does not have my name on it.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Momument to Pro-Life

For April Fool's Day, I had the perfect prank to play on you all. I was going to tell you that there was some sculpture out there depicting Britney Spears giving birth. I worked long and hard to come up with this gag. It was going to be an instant classic!

But, unfortunately for me, reality got a hold of this story first...

According to an article, sculptor Daniel Edwards recently unveiled his art (?), "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston", a piece dedicated to highly publicized (and talent deficient) pop star and her newborn son. This art (again, ?) has been displayed at art studios in Connecticut and will be moved to an art gallery in New York next week. I guess that this art (for the last time, ?) is an affirmation of the Pro-Life ideology.

I wish that I could yell out "April Fool's!" at this point. But sadly, I can't...