Archive for April, 2008

29
Apr
08

Pushing Christ

Let’s get one thing straight right now. It’s probably something that was worth saying the first day I posted on this blog. But since I didn’t do it then, now’s as good a time as ever.

This blog won’t save a single soul.

Never.

If it were to run a hundred years and be read by a million people a day, not one damned thing I do or say here will ever, ever save the soul of anyone on this planet.

But then again, no Christian saves any souls. No writings by theologians rescue anyone from the fires of Hell. The Bible itself has no power to redeem anyone. Those words may bring a feeling of dismay to some of the Christians who visit here. Some people will see my words as defeatism. They will think that I have lost my will and given into despair. Those are exactly the people who most need to read today’s post, because they are the ones most confused about what the hell evangelism is supposed to be about.

It isn’t about saving anyone.

It’s about letting them know how they can be saved.

My father-in-law, a pastor, has been very good over the years about chatting up Jesus with people he meets, and letting them know that to not have Jesus is to have death and to have him is to have life. He does this very smoothly, very conversationally. And sometimes, if he has had a really good and productive talk with a some lost soul about the gospel, he will not only encourage that person to seek Jesus, but he will also do something else. He will tell that person that if he or she should embrace Christ, don’t come back to thank him. Don’t even feel obliged to go to the trouble of tracking him down to tell him that they have become born again. And the reason is simple: It’s none of our business at that point.

That isn’t to say that we don’t want to hear about people becoming born again. But it should not be our goal to get a pat on the back or to have people return to us and thank us for saving them. Because that only stokes our egos, and it isn’t even true. No ones soul is saved until that person makes a sincere statement in his or her heart and with his or her mouth that Jesus is lord and savior, and then reaches out through Jesus to God the Father.

Jesus is the bridge, God writes the sins off the books, and the Holy Spirit can then fill the person up. The only mortal person involved in any person being saved is the one who asks for salvation and the forgiveness of their own sins—past, present and future.

I say this because a lot of Christians, particularly those who are really into church-based evangelism ministries, or who are relatively new to their faith, or otherwise very fired up for Christ…they start to think it is their job to push Jesus. They think it is their job to bring people to Christ.

People, we don’t bring anyone to Jesus. We point the way and we show by example why heading for Jesus is the right choice. But if we’re bringing the person to Jesus, that person isn’t likely getting saved. Because we cannot do it for them.

Mrs. Blue was telling me today about a mutual friend and sister in Christ who was describing how she had finally gotten a non-Christian couple she and her husband knew to attend their church. And Mrs. Blue told me how proud this friend of ours was (we’ll call her Mrs. Eager). Mrs. Eager told Mrs. Blue how it was so great to finally get this couple to go to their church and how she and Mr. Eager just had to keep “working on” this couple to get them to Christ.

Working on them? What are we, pushers? Are we trying to hook people on Jesus? Get them a taste and then try to make Christianity a habit?

We don’t need to hammer on people about how great Jesus is. The more we push someone, the less likely it is that the person will make the right choice. Sure, we can get them to come to church and wonder and maybe even fret about their souls, but the more we pressure them, the more we are distracting them from Jesus. Yes, we should share with the the wonder of the gospel. Yes, we should be there to answer their questions if they have any. Yes, we should let the light of Christ shine through our own actions.

But it is not now and should never be our task to herd people into churches thinking that sitting in a pew and hearing a pastor and singing some hymns is the formula for saving anyone.

God don’t need pushers. Jesus don’t need pushers. The Holy Spirit don’t need pushers. They need ambassadors.

28
Apr
08

Tying the same-sex knot – by Big Man

As promised last week, a guest post from Big Man over at Raving Black Lunatic. Because you get enough of the sound of my virtual voice already, I’ll just shut up now and, without further ado, let the man talk… 


My main man Deacon Blue offered me the opportunity to enter his spot and post some of my thoughts on religion, particularly on the topic of homosexuality.

Look, I’m not going to beat folks over the head with a whole bunch of spiritual quotations about how God feels about being gay. Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of the Bible understands that the Big Guy isn’t a fan of same-sex relationships. I also don’t want to hear about shellfish and period sex. If you think pointing out the crazy rules in Leviticus is a good way to win an argument about whether God supports homosexuality then you really need to do a better job of studying your theology. When it comes to homosexuality the rules are the same as they are for fornication; don’t do it. Those are God’s rules, and we as Christians have to deal with them or move on.

Deal with them, or move on.

That seems to a sticking point for a lot of Christians. Now, it’s not my place to tell people whether or not they truly have a relationship with Christ, but I’m going to wager that if you are flagrantly breaking one of God’s commandments with no sense of repentance, well you might have a problem. And if your justification for breaking that commandment is that the Bible shouldn’t be taken literally, well I think we might be practicing a different type of faith.

But, I digress. I laid out those ground rules because I want to talk about a prickly subject for believers and non-believers.

Gay Marriage.

First off, let me just put it out there that despite my early comments on homosexuality I’m actually a supporter of gay marriage. I think any adults in America should have the ability to engage in a legally recognized union and call that union marriage. This marriage should bestow upon them all the rights of any other marriage. That’s where I stand.

Now, for some folks this may seem to be a confusing contradiction given my earlier comments. But, that’s only because those people either have a mistaken viewpoint about how God’s word interacts with American society, or they just like to argue. Either way, let me break it down.

Despite all the religious trappings, marriage in America has become a largely secular practice. We rarely take the whole idea of a ban on pre-marital sex seriously, and the idea that the only suitable reason for divorce is infidelity seems to be a foreign concept to many new couples. Nowadays, marriage means “I agree to live with you until I no longer want to live with you.”

Given these new realities, it seems pretty stupid to me to argue that allowing gay people to engage in this sacred event will somehow endanger the future of marriage for straight folks. Newflash, marriage is already in the crapper and allowing gay folks to join the party won’t have any effect.

Seriously, is anybody going to say “Well, I wanted to live with you forever, but now that gay people can get married, what’s the point?” Really, do we believe that’s what’s going to happen?

Nah, I don’t think that’s what most people believe. What I think is that most people, deep inside, believe that being gay is wrong, but they really don’t want to get into that argument with folks. Actually, I would respect conservative politicians more if they just came out and said they were against gay people instead of engaging in this whole marriage charade. That would be the open and honest way to express their feelings and it would give gay conservatives a real choice to make. Granted, it also might open politicians up to criticism and protests, but that’s the price you pay for speaking your mind.

Instead, politician and their constituents would rather focus their attention on whether gay people should be allowed to get tax benefits along with their lifelong bonds, or if gay people really deserve to call their unions “marriages.” They use the word of God as crutch to support their theories without even actually explaining when it became the American way to force everybody to abide by God’s rules.

After all, I don’t see a similar movement to ban divorce and fornication. Marchers still haven’t take to the streets to fight against lying and covetness. And it’s not because the Bible singled out homosexuality as an abomination, Proverbs lists seven abominations that include pride and gossiping and nobody’s passing a law against them.

No, what we’re really doing is picking on a minority group that most straight people don’t feel any kinship towards. I’ll admit that my actions towards gay people haven’t always been great, and I can’t say I’m totally comfortable with the lifestyle. But, my qualms and my faith do not give me the right to dictate how consenting adults behave in the bedroom or at the altar.

Gay marriage is as American as apple pie, vanilla ice cream and fucking in the backseat. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

25
Apr
08

Musical interlude

I only had three hours of sleep last night, so no deep thoughts from me, as it’s just after 11 p.m. and I need rest badly.

Instead, I’ll let the deep thoughts come from rapper-turned-actor Ice T.

I don’t have much rap in my musical collection (I’m more of an alt-rock kinda guy with some old Southern rock and a smattering of New Age thrown in), but his album O.G. Original Gangster is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned, and I particularly love the song “Mind Over Matter.”

Parts of it remind me of the power of faith and of free will (and free thought).

So, before I pass out, here’s my favorite chunk of lyrics from the song:

My brain’s a handgrenade—catch
I’m a hit you with an over load
Of bottomless thought
Reversin’ all the shit you’re taught
Then throw words at you
Syl-la-ble-at-a-time
Your brain recites the rhyme
No matter what you do
The power’s over you
when you sleep
You’ll be say’n these rhymes too
Cause the brain has the power
To control all
Think positive
You’ll be unable to fall
Brain cells swell
Thought process becomes a trance
Makes you feel posessed to dance
I’ll say I want a million
My mind is so deep
I’ll be bustin’ a check for it next week

God bless…and good night

24
Apr
08

Whips and Chains and Gags…Oh My!

The time has rolled around again to talk about sex. Y’all know how hard it is to get me talking about the topic because I’m such a straight-laced guy and all. And I was going to be a good boy, this week, really, but Sister Mary Malcontent over there on the left, who made her debut appearance on my Porn Again Threat Assessment post (Her image was quite popular to click on for many days after I posted…you bunch of pervs), had informed me that I need to address one of the more popular areas of kink this week—and explain how it does, or doesn’t, fit in with a Christian outlook. And I certainly don’t want to cross the bad sister, because if I end up over her knee, I’ll have a lot of explaining to do to Mrs. Blue.

I’ll add a little disclaimer here: Everything I’m talking about here applies to married Christians. I’ll refer you to my post Between the Sheets from February for how I see the fornication vs. married sex issue. So, one of the more popular semi-mainstream kinks (if any kinky stuff can be considered mainstream) is the whole BDSM thing. For those of you with sheltered upbringing, that’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism. BDSM sounds nicer though, and rolls off the tongue better.

Leather/PVC/latex outfits are nothing new. Hell, one of Britney Spears’ biggest videos in her pre-breakdown pop career had her in a skintight red rubber bodysuit, and Madonna, Janet Jackson and others have donned such elegant apparel themselves more than once. Whips and handcuffs and riding crops and high-heeled boots are nothing new. A trip past the front window of any sex toy/adult novelty shop will show you that. Gagging or tying up someone to the bedposts is pretty old-school too.

But the BDSM thing goes beyond mere posing and props. Some people really get off on being tied up or being humiliated or getting into a submissive-dominant thing or getting their asses spanked or whatever. BDSM covers a broad swath of sexual interests that are loosely bound to each other. The question is, can you be into one or more aspects of BDSM and still be OK, sex-wise, within the strictures of the Christian faith? Does the “pretty much anything goes” in the marriage bed philosophy I discussed in “Between the Sheets” apply here as well?

Well, if you’re into it, crack that whip, I say!

But let’s not crack it too hard.

C’mon, you had to know that if I called out this area of sex specifically, I would have some caveats. I’m not handing y’all a blank check on kink. But mostly, you’re OK. As with so many things in the faith walk, though, you have to make sure you don’t take things too far. Here are a few of my thoughts on various specific areas of BDSM…

No pain, no gain?

OK, first, the S&M subset. The people who like to get hurt and deal out the hurt. This is the most obviously questionable area, as full-out masochism is a pathological issue and so is true sadism. If you are really into being hurt or hurting someone else, I don’t really know that having love between you is enough of a buffer or enough of a justification. “But,” you retort, “the Bible says a spouse should treat the other spouse with the same mental and physical respect you reserve for yourself. So it should be OK.”

Is it really? Are you truly willing to endure the same kind of pain you deal out? And even if you really are a “switch” couple, where each spouse is equally eager to play the sadism or masochism role, we must remember that moderation is key. Alcohol is a good analogy here. God doesn’t deny us the ability to enjoy it, but we are urged to avoid getting drunk. A few smacks with a riding crop that leave some minor welts and do no real harm…well, OK. But if you’re drawing real blood and leaving scars, not so sure about that. If you’re into the kind of hurt that can really injure someone, physically or psychologically, you’ve gone too far. You aren’t respecting your spouse or you aren’t respecting yourself—or both.

I’m a bit tied up just now

B&D, aka bondage and discipline, is the gentler cousin to S&M. First, for the B-word: I don’t particularly see anything wrong with getting tied up. Have I done it myself? Well, as with any kink I’m likely to talk about around here, you don’t need to know—and my teenaged son, who reads this blog, almost certainly doesn’t want to know. It’s traumatic enough for him to know someone of my middle age is even still having sex. Bondage is certainly a nice change of pace for a lot of couples. The idea of one person being in control of the situation and the other passively receiving adds a certain spice. Just be wise about things. Don’t leave someone tied up and alone, especially if you’re doing something extra special like using gags, because having your spouse choke to death while handcuffed to the bed is going to be a hard one to explain to the family.

As for the D-word? Yeesh, if I gave a pass to some light whipping as I did with the S&M stuff, certainly you don’t think I’m going to slam a little spanking or having your spouse lick your boot or something? Except…

Who’s in charge here?

Here’s the “but” for the discipline thing, which segues into the topic of submission and dominance, an area for which I have a cautionary note. I do believe that the husband is the spiritual head of household. And that being the case, couples need to be careful that the husband is not ceding too much power to the wife. If the husband is a lifestyle submissive—that is, he is almost always subservient to the wife in all things, sexual or otherwise, we have a problem, folks.

That being said, I’m not that keen on wives being sex slaves, either. Yes, I believe the man is spiritual head of household and the ultimate authority, but marriage should ultimately be a partnership. Men don’t rule over their wives. They may have the final say, but to be a tyrant or even just to overuse the “veto power” in the family is just idiotic. And disrespectful. And a nice way to undermine any real love and depth in the marriage.

So, in submissive-dominant roleplaying, keep it in the bedroom and make sure it’s the fun exception to your life, not the rule.

That should about cover the sexual itch of my readers and lure a few people here under the assumption that they might have seen pictures of naked, sweaty fetish sex by now. (Sorry, not gonna happen. I do have some standards.)

Now, pardon me while I figure out how to remove the ball gag Sister Mary Malcontent put on me to keep me focused on typing. That’s better…Oh, there’s the wife. Really, honey, the bad sister and I have a purely professional relationship…No, not that kind of professional relationship! Ow!

(Just a little teaser for y’all: We’ll have a guest blog post soon from one of my favorite bloggers, Big Man of Raving Black Lunatic…just as soon as we overcome the communication problems that are preventing his text from arriving in my inbox. And for another point of view on bondage and Christians over at Sex in Christ, click here….it’s interesting reading even if I don’t agree 100% with all the thoughts.)

22
Apr
08

Screw the planet!

So, while I was out at the park today with my lovely little girl, my wife was visited at home by one of those nicely dressed Bible-and-magazine toting door-to-door evangelists.

No, no…not the Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons).

The other ones…the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Nothing new there. I’ve had dozens of such visits in my lifetime from them (and from the LDS church too), both before and after I became born again. The nice thing now is that I can tell them, “I already know Jesus. Thank you.” and send them on their way without guilt. It sure feels nicer than slamming the door in their faces after flipping them the bird or telling them to get the f**k off my porch.

But what was special (read: annoying) about this visit was that the Jehovah’s Witness to whom my wife opened the front door was apparently operating on an Earth Day theme (or, rather, anti-Earth Day). That is, she gleefully informed Mrs. Blue that we don’t have to worry about tending to the planet or being environmentally aware/concerned or celebrate Earth Day or anything like that.

Because the Bible says that the Earth is forever and is in no danger.

Hmmmm. Missed that in my Bible. She did tell my wife to take comfort in Psalm 104 as the source of this bit of wisdom. I can only guess that she must have meant this bit from the fifth verse of that psalm:

Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

Does anyone else think that’s kind of—oh, I don’t know—flimsy? This particular psalm takes a lot of time to revel in the glory of God as expressed in nature. Beautiful stuff, really. But as a way to support irresponsible treatment of our planet? I think not. In fact, the Bible states in many places that we are to be wise stewards of what God blesses us with, and that would certainly include the earthly resources we enjoy. I won’t go into all the various passages that talk about more environmentally specific stewardship, but an article at a site called Tomorrow’s World breaks it down nicely. (I don’t agree with everything in that article, by the way, but it does do a good job of gathering together passages that speak to our need to treat the planet well.)

The fact is that our resources are not all renewable and they aren’t limitless. And piling up garbage in ever-higher mountains of filth doesn’t seem very godly. Not to mention all the toxins we let go into the ground and the water that poison not only our neighbors but also the animals and plants.

Fact is, there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth one day, after Jesus returns. I’m sure God will fix our damage then. But, ummmm, that could be a ways off. We are told in the Bible that no one but God knows when the end of days is coming. Not even Jesus is in on that secret; he’s busy in Heaven tending to his duties and wishing he could come down here and give Satan the final kick in the ass that he’s so been deserving all these eons.

So, for all I know, this sick old world could putter on for a few hundred or few thousand or tens of thousands of years before God pulls the plug on the old Earth and settles all the accounts temporally and spiritually. So, given that, do I really want to mess up this planet that my kids and grandkids and so on will inherit? Not really. I know a lot of people want to believe that global warming and similar concerns are just overblown paranoia, but I’m telling you, we’re wearing this planet out. And if we don’t watch out, we’ll be ringing in the end of days wearing animal pelts and living in caves again. Though I’m sure we’ll find some way to keep reality TV going in spite of that.

Bottom line: The Bible tells us to treat the world with respect. Don’t let a confused young Jehovah’s Witness or George W. Bush or Rush Limbaugh or anyone else tell you differently.

Happy Earth Day. Now throw the damn bottle in the recycling bin.

21
Apr
08

Gospel of Starfleet by Miz Pink

I have a really good reason for bailing on the old Deacon for a few days here, really. And Deke, I’ll tell you and everyone else about it later. Honest. Okay, now to give Deke a little time off so that I can tell you about how Star Trek will explain God’s hands-off approach. Or maybe not. Anyhoo, it will make my little brother happy, since he’s a huge Trekkie or Trekker or whatever the politically correct term is. He watched the shows incessantly, every dang series Roddenberry and gang put out.

So, what’s Spock and Kirk and McCoy and Picard and Data and all them have to do with God? Well not much in the shows themselves but there is an interesting little element that crops up in many episodes called the Prime Directive. Basically, it’s a law that says folks in Starfleet are supposed to leave folks alone until their technology and cultural maturity are high enough that they can handle being exposed to folks with warp drives and tricorders and phasers. Until then, it’s a watch but don’t let them know you’re watching system.

I was reminded of this concept when I saw someone make the case the other day that the seeming intelligent design behind our genetics and the whole missing link thing and all that could be explained better by the idea of some alien race mucking around with our planet a bit than it could by an “invisible man” up in the sky who wants us to follow a set of ten laws carved on some rocks.

Okay then. So, why haven’t we met these little green men or big gray men or slightly pudgy violet men or Silons or whatever yet? Well of course the answer is clear. They don’t want to set us back by making contact before we’re mature enough. They have a Prime Directive just like Starfleet.

Now I know a lot of people will think that theory is whacked too and just as much as the idea of God as creator. But I also know there are plenty of folks who will say, “Hey that makes sense” who would never consider God a viable alternative theory.

But why is it so hard to imagine that God has a Prime Directive?

The reason God doesn’t just plop down on an easy chair in your living room and tell you you need to listen to him or risk hell is because, well, as Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men  — You can’t handle the truth! We are immature, self-centered and altogether not ready to experience God in person. And he remains invisible and makes us rely on faith to find him because to do otherwise would be to screw up our development. We need to find him because we are ready to. not because he tells us to.

I know these are some random, wobbly thoughts, but I just found it interesting that we can imagine aliens tinkering with genetics here and then moving on and we can watch Star Trek: The Upteenth Generation and see a future that seems plausible to us, but somehow, many of us just cannot credit the possible existence of God. People who can imagine all sorts of sciience fictiony possibilities will write off Christians as a bunch of folks who are stuck in super-old superstition and unable to come to grips with reality. And on this matter, really, I take issue with some people that I know Deke likes to visit the blogs of, like the Deus ex malcontent guy.

The universe is a big place. If Star Trek can take us on an enjoyable ride, why can’t we let God do the same for us sometimes?

(Okay now that you’ve seen the image for this post, you know my secret I’ve been keeping all this time. I’m really Halle Berry. ………..Don’t I (and my husband) wish……..)

20
Apr
08

Tongues twisted, part 2

So, for those folks who are still with me after Tongues Tied and Tongues Twisted, Part 1, I’ll slip you a little tongues one more time and then leave the topic alone for a while. It should be clear now that I think anyone who is angling for more Christians to speak in tongues or who thinks we should be doing it wherever, whenever, whyever—well, they’re mostly nuts.

OK, that was uncharitable and judgmental of me. They are nuts or they are confused or they’ve let themselves be told what tongues is all about without really reading what the Bible has to say about it.

But like many fanatics of any religious or political stripe, I have to give the tongues-shovers credit for doing a great job of spinning things and taking stuff out of context. Hell, it worked great for FOX News to make Rev. Jeremiah Wright and any number of Democrats they’ve talked to over the years look bad. Just take comments out of context, or edit interviews to spin a person’s meaning away from the true intent, rinse and repeat.

I recently ran across a Web page that says Christians should speak in tongues, and most of the crap there is so played up and so out of context that it makes my blood boil. So let me do my best to shred the nonsense and inject some logic into this argument (Yes, Virginia, logic and faith sometimes do go together). Blockquotes are the passages the author of that page singled out along with his or her commentary.

Acts of the Apostles 2:4, which reads: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” — In the New Testament we have no record of any believer failing to receive the Holy Spirit and speak with tongues. No scripture says it should be different with us today. Every believer should speak in tongues.

Hello? The New Testament does not say that all believers spoke in tongues. There is, in fact, no record of all or even most believers speaking in tongues. The only specifically recorded instance was at Pentecost, and that was not the “spiritual language” form of tongues but the form in which people are enabled to speak earthly languages that they don’t know. In fact, Paul lists the speaking of tongues as the last and least important of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Bible is clear that almost no one receives all of the gifts of the spirit and none of us should specifically seek after any one of them. They are gifts, given to us as God wishes. Not something we are supposed to chase after or ask for.

1 Corinthians 14:5, which reads “I wish you all spoke with tongues…” and 1 Corinthians 14:18, which reads “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;” — I can understand why he did it so much. It is such a great help and benefit. Speaking in tongues will not make you better than someone else — but it will help you.

Well, I’m glad the author at least acknowledges that speaking in tongues doesn’t make you superior, but in promoting the speaking of tongues, he or she very conveniently snips off parts of the above two passages.

Let’s start with First Corinthians 14:5 and let me give you the whole verse: I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Kind of a big omission on the part of our tongues cheerleader, don’t you think? Paul is saying that it would be nice if everyone spoke in tongues, but that’s not the way God wants it. By way of analogy, it would be nice if everyone was rich, but the world doesn’t work that way, now does it?

And verse 18…well, the author didn’t cut that one off halfway though…oh, unless you take into account that little semicolon at the end of the line, which means the thought is continued into verse 19. And what does verse 19 say? Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

So, put 18 and 19 together and what do you have? Paul saying he feels blessed to be able to speak in tongues, but it is so very much more important to be understood. Tongues, when used without wisdom or restraint, can cause much more confusion than anything else. And that’s why verses 20 through 33 in that chapter spell out very specific rules for speaking in tongues that it seems, sadly, most churches that encourage tongues today don’t follow at all. (If you click on my link to verse 19 above, you’ll see a little scrolling window with the whole chapter, should you want to read up on those rules.)

Oh, and how about this nifty one:

Gospel of Mark 16:17, which reads: “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;” (and the author using this as an example of this being Jesus telling us that we as believers will all speak in tongues)

Oh, hey, another semicolon. Gee, what does verse 18 say to finish off that thought? they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Hey, any believers want to join me in whipping some angry rattlesnakes around, drinking some bleach with an antifreeze chaser, and going to the cancer wards telling the patients that we can cure them because we know Jesus?

Didn’t think so.

I’m not saying these things aren’t possible through the grace of God and strong enough faith, but the Bible (and Jesus) didn’t say these signs will follow each and every single believer. They are general signs; not signs that you use for each believer to test whether they are the real thing in terms of being born again. They also mostly were signs for a time when overt, obvious miracles were necessary as a way to get the ball rolling on spreading the gospel. Miracles can and do occur in the modern day, but they tend to be way more subtle and the focus is on us to show God’s grace and love and bring people to Jesus by letting the light of Heaven shine through us and our actions.

No one is going to be illuminated by rampant speaking in tongues. A bunch of people spouting what sounds like (and often is) mere gibberish is only going to drive people away from the gospel. Letting the light of Jesus shine through us is good. Shining an obnoxious floodlamp directly into people’s eyes to make them squirm is bad.

Man, I’ve got to stop. There is more on that page I could refute, but I’m probably boring you already. And there’s a feeble FAQ page linked to from the bottom of that Believers.org Web page that tries to defend rampant speaking of tongues against various attacks like mine. I think I’ve made enough of my point already though.

Believers and non-believers already have enough of a gulf between them. Bridging that gap and encouraging non-believers to at least consider and explore surrendering themselves to God is not going to happen if we shout “shamma lamma ding dong ooogie boogie wah wah rumba doo” across the chasm.

Tongues is these days a thing to be done in private. Between you and God. For the most part (the vast majority of the time) keep your tongues out of other people’s ears.

(Image is from a painting by Emilio Mogilner)

19
Apr
08

Tongues twisted, part 1

Finally, a follow-up to my Tongues Tied post a little while back. Not exactly what I had been planning, but I’ll save my originally intended comments for part 2 of today’s post, which I expect to post tomorrow or Monday. Even though I’m finally getting to this topic, Miz Pink or Big Man can feel free to come to my aid with topics to post soon anyway. 😉

So, to start this off, I’m going to focus on just one passage of scripture that I personally have witnessed misused to support the gibberish-y speaking in tongues that we all know and most of us make fun of (click the link to my Tongues Tied post above if you need to catch up on what I’m talking about). And that passage is in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, verse 4:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Going back to my previous post on speaking in tongues, that passage refers to the apostles speaking earthly languages that they didn’t know. Pretty miraculous stuff. I’m sure it impressed the hell out of folks that were listening to them and probably did a lot to jumpstart the effort to spread the gospel and to turn more people to God.

So, what’s my problem? Well, there was a church my wife and I were going to for a while not so long ago (the same one I mentioned in the post titled The Shit List back in March, in the “Word of Faith” segment) and the pastor actually used that passage from Acts to suggest that if you don’t speak in tongues, you must not really be born again. You must not really be right with God.

Now, I don’t want to repeat my Tongues Tied post here, but as I mentioned there, the gift of tongues isn’t given to everyone…not even to most believers…not even to a large number of them…and the Bible is clear on that. So right there, saying that tongues is a prerequisite to being born again is already on the shakiest ground possible.

But here’s what is worst: In his sermon, despite reading from the Bible, the pastor in question altered the passage from Acts to say:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began by speaking with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

By changing the words “to speak” to “by speaking,” this pastor set up an argument that the Bible tells us our journey to being born again begins when we speak in tongues. That we must begin with tongues as our first step in faith.

Now, that’s some twisted mess. Even with the words “began by speaking” that assertion is a stretch, but the fact that those aren’t even the original words in the Bible makes it all the worse. Speaking in tongues is neither a sure indicator of salvation nor is it a necessary step toward salvation. There is enough reason for people to doubt the validity of Christianity without pastors making up new rules and lying to people about what the Bible says. Bald-faced deception. It’s one of the things that made us start to wonder if that church was actually a little cult in the making.

For more on the topic of speaking in tongues, there’s a great post on the topic at Bible.org that I recommend. I do differ with the author on one point. He says that there is only one kind of speaking in tongues, the one that is depicted in Acts…and that there is no “heavenly language” version of tongues. I understand his reasoning, but I question it on one basis. Why would Paul have said one shouldn’t speak in tongues in front of others unless someone else is gifted with the ability to translate tongues? If the people are only speaking an existing language when they speak in tongues, you don’t need someone with a spiritual gift to translate…only a person that already knows that existing language. Anyway, food for thought.

In part two, I really go to town on some outlandish ways that speaking in tongues is promoted as something that all believers should be doing.

No, I’m not going to end this post with some witty and/or punny spin on the word “tongue.” No, I won’t. My readers deserve more. Stop it. I’m not listening to you. Oh, damn, OK.

You’ll just have to wait until next time for me to give you some more tongues.

Arrrgggh…

18
Apr
08

What really separates us

*Sigh* Well, the Spirit moved me to find some images that might potentially be useful for running with my next post on speaking in tongues…but sadly, once again, I have been moved in a direction other than writing that post today.

Today, I want to get us clear of what I think is one of the most ignorant comments about any religion, Christianity included: Religion is responsible for most of the atrocities that have ever been committed.

You get a lot of variations on this theme. People say that religion has precipitated more wars than anything else. That abuses in society have often been justified with religion. Or they say that religion does more to divide us than to bring us together.

While this sounds really cathartic to say, especially if you’re an atheist or an agnostic who really, really dislikes organized religion (and hey, I have my own beefs with a lot of churches and denominations)…it really isn’t true.

Religion isn’t the problem.

People are the problem.

If we were to remove religion from the picture, do you seriously think we’d all just get along? That’s a very Pollyanna-ish and naive view of the world and of human nature. Sure, a lot of wars were waged around religious issues. But do you think the believers en masse wanted to go fight other religious believers? No, it was the people in charge, the leaders of society, who made that choice. And most of the time, the motivations are not to glorify God (or a god or goddess) but rather to achieve their own ends.

Power. Influence. Hoping to impress God for selfish reasons. Money. Land. Love. Lust.

Those are the motivators. Not religion.

Religion divides us no more than do race or culture. Eliminating religion won’t eliminate racism. People can use religious text (often out of context) to justify their racism, but they don’t feel racism because of their religious beliefs. Feelings of cultural or political superiority can be justified or bolstered with religion, but they don’t come from a religious source. They come from pride. From arrogance. From pettiness.

I would argue that democracy and capitalism have both been using as rallying cries for a lot of abuses against individuals, nations and the planet. For that matter, communist beliefs (being both political and economic) have been used the same way.

Six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust not because of religion (not even over them practicing a religion that wasn’t in favor) but because they were scapegoats for an economic downturn and because Hitler thought his people were genetically superior.

The Crusades were not about lifting up God or even fighting for him, but about forming or expanding or maintaining power and/or empires. The Inquisition was not about religion but about control.

People can and will twist any philosophy, economic system or political movement when they think it is necessary to achieve their own agenda—whether it’s a personal agenda, societal agenda or both. Blaming religion for any ills of the world is wrong.

It’s a form of discrimination and a diseased form of elitism that is every bit as bad as that spouted by any pompous ass who waves around a cross or crescent or six-pointed star. Because you can just as easily replace that religious symbol with a flag.

(Miz Pink, where are you? I think I need you to post something soon so that I will get out of here for a day or so and finally finish talking about speaking in tongues…)

17
Apr
08

Locked up tight

For some reason, God just ain’t letting me finish up my rant about misuse of speaking in tongues just now. Ever since my post on April 8, I keep getting ready to sit down and address and refute some of the crazy and erroneous stuff I’ve found in researching the topic, but the Holy Spirit keeps popping some other idea into my head instead of that. Once again, maybe tomorrow.

Instead, I have a topic inspired by a post on religion over at The Field Negro. There’s a lot of good stuff not only in the post itself by especially in the comments, which are coming from a wide range of believers, agnostics and atheists. (One person even echoed my assertion on March 28 that atheism itself is a religion—boy I could have used him or her around here back then for backup. 😉 Ah, well.)

What Field’s post got me thinking about was why we close ourselves off to God so often in this world. Note, I said we. I did it before I became born again by ignoring Jesus and treating God like an afterthought. And even though I’m secure in my soul’s salvation now, I still close myself off at times by not going in the directions God sometimes nudges me. Hell, if I had paid more attention to what God wanted of me, I would have started this blog a year or two ago (at least) instead of only being in my third month of this.

We humans do a really good job of locking our spiritual side up. Sure, lots of people say “I’m spiritual,” but it’s just talk in most cases. As humans, we’re full of a whole heaping load of bullshit, and we sling it so well that we convince ourselves we really mean it. But most people aren’t spiritual at all—or aren’t nearly as spiritual as they need to be.

Why is that? Why do we shove our spirits, our souls, into a vault and slam the door? Why won’t we let someone like God inside? Why won’t we even open the vault door more than a crack every once in a while to see for ourselves what’s going on in there?

Because we’re afraid.

We’re afraid of what we’ll find if we explore our spiritual side too much. We’re afraid of what might have to change in our lives, not the least of which is how we view what we do and whether we can do it with a clean conscience anymore. We’re also afraid of what we might have to give up, never considering how much more we might gain in the process. We’re afraid of being held accountable. Of having expectations placed upon us.

It’s like the way we sometimes lock up our hearts. But our hearts are too deeply intertwined with our hormones to be kept locked up. For the vast majority of people, the heart cannot be caged. It is the ultimate jailbreaker. It’s the master safecracker. No lock can keep it back and no cell can hold it. At least not forever.

But the spirit…the soul…that’s another matter entirely. We can lock it up tight and ignore it. It’s the ultimate power of choice—of free will—that God gave to us. He lets us make the choice of whether to lock up our souls and possibly pay a horrendous price, or unlock the door and free our spiritual side. He also gives us the choice to take spiritual paths that are not good for us. And that is the tricky part of faith—accepting that there is something more than just the physical world but also acknowledging that not all faiths are correct. They can’t be. Some are in direct conflict and not all of them address what is wrong in humans and how (and why) it needs to be fixed. And so even in opening the door there is confusion, uncertainty and fear.

But much like love—no, more so—we need that uncomfortable period. Just as love can sometimes get messy before it becomes something deep and meaningful, so too is our soul’s journey something very heavy indeed. It is no small task to open the vault, and no small task to do what we need to with our spiritual side once we unfetter it.

Is anything worth doing easy though? I have yet to see anything of true value be easy. And nothing is more valuable than our souls and our salvation.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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