Tag Archives: Christianity

Agreeing to Disagree – A guest post by Rev. Peter Benedict

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life convinced that being right and knowing the truth are important. I’ve also often thought I was right about just about everything. Those two sentences would have seemed unrelated to me for a good 20 years, but reading them now I’m stunned at their silliness.

My passion for finding the truth has led to some good stuff in my life. I was the guy in college who’d stay up all night talking with people about anything I cared about, and even if I tried to convince you I was right and even if I knew I you were wrong, I enjoyed hearing other perspectives. I’m glad I’ve always been after the truth, even if I was sure I already had it.

My passion for truth has led to some less good stuff too, especially when it’s been paired with surety in my own perspective. As a teen, for example, I got put in private Christian schools because I was suicidally unhappy in my public school (a story for another day!). While there I was exposed to all kinds of “theology,” and when I became convinced, I felt justified in being a jerk about it… because after all, I was right! I did some terrible stuff, like telling my future sister-in-law that God didn’t want her speaking in church (which I didn’t believe was good, or right, but it was in the Bible and I wanted to be argumentative).

"Oh, for the love of me. . ."

“Oh, for the love of me. . .”

Now I’m 42 years old, or as my teen self would have thought: Nearly dead. And I find myself much less sure, much less concerned with being right, but still passionate about truth. But the truth is different now. Jesus has rolled stuff out in my life, rather than giving me some giant ball of truth-wax in one big glob. I discover over time that I’ve been wrong and that God’s calling me to a new way, and this has happened so many times that I’m now pretty sure of some different truths than I used to believe.

I’m pretty sure that right now I’ve got wrong beliefs about something. I’m pretty sure I have no idea what it is, so I might as well be humble about what I believe.

I’m pretty sure that when I disagree with someone, how we treat each other is more important than who’s right.

"Admit it! Admit that Calvinism is theologically unsound!"

“Admit it! Admit that Calvinism is theologically unsound!”

I’m pretty sure that how I treat people is important even if the other person is doing something terrible, like spitting at me or nailing me to a cross or, even worse… JUDGING ME! I used to put being judgmental on its own special plane in Dante’s Inferno, but now I figure I’ve been sure and judgmental often enough that I should probably just be graceful in the face of it. I’ll probably be judgmental again someday, and when that happens I’d love to be able to say “I’m sorry… could you give me some grace on this one, like you’ve seen me give to others?”

Once upon a time, if I’d started a blog it would have been my goal to tell you, dear reader, what’s right and true. Now I’m writing for a blog because I want to learn from you. When we disagree, I’ll still believe what I believe in the moment… but disagreement is OK, and I hope we do a lot of it here. I hope we do it well.

"I respectfully disagree with your position, vis a vis Calvinism!"

“I respectfully disagree with your position, vis a vis Calvinism!”

On that front… on to the questions!

1. How sure are you of the truth (or The Truth, if you prefer)?

2. How have you treated people when you disagree? How have people treated you?

3. Is there any truth that you’re passionate about? Is there any truth you’ve been so passionate about that you’ve been less kind than you’d hope?

4. Is judgment some kind of special wrong? Is it OK to treat judgmental people badly?

5. Do you have any questions for me, or anything to say that I would benefit from hearing?

Thanks in advance to all who respond. You’re the reason I’m writing, and I hope I learn good things from you.


The Awe of God – A Guest Post by Brant Skogrand

Dan’s Preamble

Wow, have we been guest-blogger-posting fools lately, or what? One of the great things about running a tiny li’l blog like this one is meeting other bloggers. Brant Skogrand is a fine fellow who attends River Heights Vineyard with me, and he has a little something to say. Brant normally blogs here. If you like his post here, why not check out the rest of his stuff?

End Preamble

 

*          *          *

Six years ago, inspired by the awesome experience of hearing God audibly speak to me, I started a blog. Called The Awe of God, I set out to capture and document instances of God speaking to people.

Here’s what I have learned along the way.

  1. God connects with each of us uniquely. For some of us, God speaks audibly. For others, it’s through scripture. Visions have been reported. In numerous instances, God speaks through the people around us. Other times, it’s a still small voice inside.
  2. God has a plan for our lives. Whether it’s showing a woman that she has breast cancer in order to educate others or saving a man from suicide, God will speak to us in order ensure that His will be fulfilled.
  3. By following God, things could happen that we never would have imagined. Like Alfonso Fernandez, who followed God to become the Spanish radio voice of the Minnesota Vikings. Or Jennifer Henderson, who left her $100,000-a-year job at a Toyota plant to open a Christian bookstore.
  4. While many people may be reluctant to admit it, they have heard God’s voice. Sometimes people don’t want to disclose that God talked to them for fear of appearing haughty (especially here in Minnesota) or seeming too religious. However, covered by the anonymity of a survey, 20 percent of Americans admitted to USA Today that they had heard the voice of God. Sometimes what God says to us is just extremely personal, and we don’t feel like sharing that with others.
  5. God’s presence is fleeting. I guess that He doesn’t want to overstay his welcome. Or it could be that He just wants to make a short yet powerful statement, such as the time when a grandmother heard of a chorus of harps as she was comforting her dying grandson.
  6. God has a sense of humor. Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic strip “B.C.,” felt that God wanted him to do the comic strip as a way to share God’s humorous inspiration. Author John Eldredge shares God’s sense of humor in his book “Beautiful Outlaw” when, asking God why He doesn’t give John hearts anymore, God responds by having John come upon a dried piece of cow manure – in the perfect shape of a heart.

Thank you, God, for your amazing presence. I am still in awe.


I love Pat Robertson so goddamn much – A WTFaith Quickie

Every time Pat Robertson talks, it’s my birthday.

The above link is a CNN religion blog article about Patty Rob’s “Top 10” most controversial quotes. While I remember this one from my mis-spent pagan youth. . .

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

. . . I got great joy out of some of the gems I was exposed to for the first time.

Like this one!

“Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists. Many were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”

Clealry this man is a master of social science. He has more facts that Xerox.

Read the article, then comment with your favorite Patty Rob quote, and why! And if you actually, non-sarchastically love Pat Robertson, could you. . . maybe. . . maybe explain that to me, a little?

Kisses!


God is not dumb.

This morning I was praying casually, as I was feeling my way through the still-dark house, trying not to wake anyone up. I didn’t have a keyboard handy so I was praying in that distracted silent way that I do when I have to pray “in the rough”, and I noticed that at some point, I’d stopped “talking to God” and  started giving God this laundry list of wants/needs. What I call a “Father Christmas” prayer. I stopped myself because that’s not generally something that I do. I try not to ask God for for things I need, much less things I want, because I feel like He is much smarter than I am, and His perfect plan is not something that my tiny brain will ever be able to grasp. The things I perceive as needs might not even be good for me, much less an actual need. I generally feel like God knows what I need. He knows me better than I do, so He definitely knows what will make me happy. I feel like asking for needs and wants that fit my perception of reality is redundant, and also kind of childish.

I think its fitting that I should chose the word childish, there, since that’s how I feel a lot of times in my interactions with God. Sometimes God is a friend of mine hanging out with me in my office, and we’re having this conversation about shit in my life and I’m asking for advice, or I’m asking what He’s up to and being amazed. More often though, My interaction with God is more reminiscent of my kids clumsily trying to fit into a grown up world and impress me, making adorable (and sometimes tremendous and disastrous) mistakes as they do.

 

"Whelp, ma'am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip is necessary, but traditional."

“Whelp, ma’am, I think we can agree this job was done even faster than our estimate. A tip isn’t necessary, but traditional.”

 

So I stopped myself from praying that way, but it got me thinking.

I said, “I don’t pray that way”. 

Taking a step back, that seemed a little bit of a superior stance to take, so I examined it. I trust that God is gonna work things out for me one way or another. I’ve seen him do it a lot of the times, but I’ve also sort of been taught my whole life, “Be careful what you pray for.”  I wondered if there wasn’t a part of that in there. Was I not asking for those things because I was afraid God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, grant it – and I didn’t want to be disappointed? Did I think, worse, that I was so dumb that I would ask for something disastrous (which, to be fair, I might) and that God really might be like some sort of jackpot genie, that gave it to me and ruined my whole life to teach me some kind of monkey’s paw lesson?

Sometimes, I think, we have these perceptions of things that are so deep-rooted in our culture that we don’t even recognize where we’ve set specific boundaries, and definitions, and labels that God never intended to set. With a proper lowering of expectations, we can prevent ourselves to seeing the magic God can work. I’m sort of terrified of that, so I try to shine light on those cultural perceptions and weigh them for more value than, “I always heard that” or “They always said this”. These things I keep, or throw away, as needed.

 

"Jesus Christ, there's a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?"

“Jesus Christ, there’s a BABY in this bathwater! What the hell is this tub good for now?”

 

This morning was one of those times. As I started asking myself these questions I realized that no, I didn’t believe any of those things would happen. God is infinite, and I am a child. I’m a blip on the radar, whose name He happens to know. A blip that for some reason, this infinite being loves. How could I really think that he would deny me good things, or give me hurtful things, to teach me a lesson? Even subconsciously, how could I really think that? So out it got thrown – hopefully for good.

I still believe that it’s unnecessary to ask God for the things that I need and want, because He knows, and will give them or not on his own time and terms. But I wonder, is it wrong to pray certain kinds of ways? I mean, I recognize that I am dumb, and that I’m always gonna be like a million steps away from “getting it” but I kind of turned that over in my mind. When Jesus gave us the template in the Lord’s Prayer, he even threw in a “give us our daily bread” section. Should it stop at saying, “Lord meet my needs today” or can that get into specifics? God is the ultimate filter for our prayer, in the same way we are to our kids’ requests for things we know they shouldn’t have. Just because they ask me for 532 things in a given day, from candy to ice-cream to some random thing they just saw a commercial for (wtf, Dreamlight? anyone?) that doesn’t mean they’re going to get all of it, or even any of it. I think my kids get like .02% of what they ask for. I mean, unless you’re spoiling the crap out of your kids, you tell them no when what they want isn’t going to do more than give them instant/temporary pleasure. Sometimes you will say yes, that’s a treat, but you know they don’t really need that toy or those shoes or whatever. So if God is our ultimate filter, did I have a right to be taking a superior stance of, “I don’t pray that way”? Or should I just trust that he is smart enough to see me, dirty faced and tugging on his pant leg asking for something ridiculous and know better than to give it to me?

 

"Look at 'em down there - daddy's adorable little idiots."

“Look at ’em down there – daddy’s adorable little idiots.”

 

What about you guys? Anything that you don’t pray for, or ways you don’t like to pray? Why do you do that?


The Exodus example.

You might have heard about it on Facebook. Or maybe you ran across Rachel Held Evans blogging about it.

Or maybe you read it here.

Or here.

It’s been lots of places, is what I’m trying to say.

When Brandi heard about this, she said, “This is it, Daniel. The people who lead by hate are going to lose.”

But that didn’t sound right to me.

“No, they’re not,” I replied. “They aren’t going to lose because it’s not about winning or losing. They’re going to be healed.”

I didn’t say that to mean that people only take a hard stance against homosexuality because they are broken – I am saying that we’re all broken. For some people, their hatred against the LGBT community was a defining character trait. For others, it was just a part of their human makeup, which by definition includes both the light of the Creator and the stagnant, filthy muck that we get from living in a war zone. I’m not saying that “affirming” churches are right but “biblical” churches are wrong. What I’m saying is that all of us our sometimes wrong, in ways big or small – and very few of us ever have the courage to repent, to apologize, to come clean, and to make ourselves vulnerable to those we have hurt.

In the Vineyard, they talk about the Kingdom of God in terms of the “now”, and the “not yet.” By that they mean that Jesus brought the Kingdom to earth, but that until he returns, it isn’t yet fully realized. This is an important stance to take if you want to teach people that they have a responsibility to help bring the Kingdom closer. It isn’t just that God is going to move the needle closer to the “now” position until, one day, there’s no where else for the needle to go – we are acting in partnership with the creator, with the duty to participate in the rebuilding of the world and the privilege of being part of something that God himself is directing.

Call me a sentimental fool with girly feelings, but I think we just helped move the needle. And today, I’m proud to call myself a Christian.


When being Christian is the opposite of lame.

Daniel made a very valid point in a recent quickie that we here at Wtfaith headquarters can sometimes be, shall I say, somewhat hostile people? And that, perhaps, in our zealous attempts to right the wrongs that we see in and among Christians (at least as they’re perceived by other people) we may come across as distinctly confrontational and sometimes, dare I say it, even anti-Christian.

We make a very serious attempt at honesty on these pages, and in these posts, so if we’re struggling with some concept of our toddler-level faith, or if we disagree with some primary Christian concept, tenant or action, we say so. Sometimes we say so in brutally honest ways. Sometimes we can be a little bit. . . harsh.

 

We don't REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have very poor impulse control.

We don’t REALLY think that Jesus hates people, we just have poor impulse control and notoriously bad taste.

 

When Daniel said that he wanted to take a moment to talk about the things about being a Christian that were kind of cool, it made me stop and think. I realized that I do tend to focus on the stuff I don’t like with a real “Kill it with fire forever” mentality. I’m a bit more internalized with things that I like. I’m not sure why, but it’s easier for me to bitch than to praise. One of those choices feels more natural to me, which is a sign of how unhealthy a place my mental state can degrade to when left to my own devices.

There are two things to me that really stand out when I think of what it is about Christianity that I find to be super awesome. Both of them are from personal experience and I guess, in a way, stem from my own personal testimony. I’d like to share them with you. I know what I’m about to say is going to sound old hat to my Christian peeps, and completely crazy to my non-Christian peeps. I know it, and I’m sorry. Sometimes I genuinely wish I could say anything else here with honesty. But crazy or not, old-hat or not, it’s the truth. Maybe it’s an experiential truth, but even so, that doesn’t invalidate it for me.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of what I like about being a christian is that being Christian has helped me talk to God. It sounds crazy, I know.  The second thing is that being Christian has made me both feel and be better, all around.

Let me back up a bit. Throughout my faith journey I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve tried out a lot of different religions, ideologies and philosophies. Generally speaking I only tried out things that seemed to make a certain amount of sense. I’m not the logical thinker that Daniel is so the things I tried didn’t have to hold up under merciless logical scrutiny. I’ll be honest with you, I would have gotten bored with being that mercilessly logical like five minutes in and gone and played Mass Effect or something. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Logical or not, the things I tried out did have to make me feel a certain kind of way, though. I wanted something real. If magic had been real, I’d still be a witch. If philosophy had changed my life in more than just brief epiphanies, which were exciting but ultimately not very deeply rooted, I’d probably be one of those thinker types. I grew up in a really fundamentalist church. It’s not like I was forced into the lifestyle, mind you. I started attending church with my parents at the tender age of 2, and while I didn’t “Give my life to Jesus” (as if you could give something that’s already His) right away, I waited until I was old enough to be accountable for my actions. In other words, I waited until I was about 5.

 

"I'm pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision."

“I’m pretty sure I can be trusted to make this decision.”

 

Once I’d “prayed the sinner’s prayer” I enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid with everything I had in me. I’d gone to church twice every Sunday and even once on Wednesday nights as far back as I could remember, but it wasn’t long after my “getting saved” that I threw myself whole-heartedly into Christianity and serving within the church. I did everything right, man. From the age of 5 to the age of about 14, I was a total Jesus-Freak. I lifted my hands super high during song service, I closed my eyes and prayed fervently during the raucous breaks in between songs that I assume were for prayer. They were kind of loud and chaotic, so I’m not sure.

There was a point around age ten through fourteen where I was quite literally attending church – or a church sponsored function -every day of the week. This included, to my shame, street preaching. Apparently everyone thought the skinny pre-teen with a thick Tucson accent was really cute when she was screaming at them unintelligibly about hell through a bullhorn.

 Thinking back it seems to have been a lot of show, but I was a kid, so I joined right in. I enthusiastically evangelized at my schools, single handedly starting bible studies and “prayer at the flag pole”. Why did I do all this? Well, besides a massive case of indoctrination, I saw people who were claiming to have been so moved, so touched, so change by this Jesus guy, as to have completely reconstructed their entire lives.

None of the following is exaggerated:

I’ve known people who claimed to have been seriously long time addicts (pick your poisonous addiction, it doesn’t matter) who prayed and God moved and they dumped out all their beer, flushed all their weed, threw out their crack pipes or stepped on all their cigarettes and 20 years later have never looked back.

I’ve known people who claim to have been severely mentally sick, sometimes undergoing treatments, or on constantly monitored medications to keep the voices quiet, or keep them stabilized, or help them not try to murder themselves. Whatever the case was, their interactions with God had been so miraculously moving they not only no longer needed their medication but were now perfectly stable human beings!

I’ve known people who had some sort of physical malady, ranging from mild to severe, which prayer and faith seem to have healed entirely.

I’ve known people moved to tears for the simplest motion of the “spirit” in the church.

 

"Oh man, did someone say 'Jesus'? Someone said 'Jesus', didn't they? Here comes the works!"

“Oh man, did someone say ‘Jesus’? Someone said ‘Jesus’, didn’t they? Here comes the works!”

 

 

I watched all these people, decent people at their core (aka: not people I would call liars), seemingly really moved and changed by this “spirit”. I wanted that. I fought for it, I did ALL the somatic components to the “Summon Holy Spirit” ritual, and you know what I felt? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact, I eventually left the church in my teenage years for just that reason. The lack of follow-through after I had intentionally allowed myself to be completely taken in by the game and ritual led me on my journey through all the other religions I played around with just desperately trying to find something real.

In the midst of all this, and this is where it gets cool, there were times when God interacted with me. There were times when I felt that overwhelming presence in my life that moves me, a salty little scrapper, to tears for the simplest of reasons. It didn’t seem to matter what religion I was following or trying out at the time. Religion is a man-made institution designed to give us some understanding and ability to relate to an infinite being who our tiny little finite minds can’t even really grasp. Every ideology in the world is gonna have its places where it seems to conflict with itself, or not make much sense. I was looking for something bigger than the answers. I trusted the answers would come. I wanted something bigger than that. This was always so much bigger than that, and while it generally lasted for a short while, for that small amount of time, I really did feel something special.Something that was very close to real magic was happening in my heart. Of course at the time I didn’t understand what that was, but every glimpse, every touch made me want more and more. So I looked more and more.

Now I’m a Christian, and I guess I should embrace it even though I have a lot of damage from the church of my early years. I’m a Christian because I never stopped looking for that something real, but eventually I put aside the ritual and just started being something real while I was looking. Sure enough, I started to be able to interact more and more with this entity I’ve come to lovingly refer to as God.

It started with the God-Experiment, as Daniel and I call it, which was us reaching out to God from a place full of honesty and devoid of any religious trappings of any sort. That led us to make a huge life change – moving to Duluth – where we were eventually led, through trial and error, to hillside church. Sometimes, our interactions with God would seem to be one sided, but more often there would be these little inexplicable signs, little things that would happen in the people around us that would confirm everything we thought we were being told.

With that comes a sort of comfort, at least for me, that even when I’m not hearing God, he’s clearly there. I’ve never been great at faith, and too many things have happened for me to be able to have the faith that those things are mere coincidence.

Does that mean I never feel alone? Does it mean I never feel like I’m praying for no reason at all? Does it mean all my prayers are answered? No, not at all. But you know what it does mean? It means that occasionally, when I need it the most, God is there in very physical and undeniable ways. That God, the creator of everything, this crazy, infinite being I can’t even wrap my brain around, takes time to interact with me. . . . That is so amazingly cool to me. . .  It’s precisely the something real I’ve been looking for.

In the spirit of perfect candidness, I did say God talked to and interacted with me while I was pagan, Buddhist, agnostic and just confused. That’s true. The difference is, he interacts with me much more now. Maybe that’s a result of me reaching out more from a place of honesty without all the trappings and ritual, and maybe it’s a result of the fact that I’m in a Christian church (though one could hardly say I emulate all the Christian beliefs or even follow all their rules). Either way, coincidence or not, I’ve noticed an increase since becoming “Christian”. I think it’s awesome, so I’ll take it.

The second thing that i think is an awesome byproduct of interacting with God through Jesus, is the general improvement of my mental state and character. Now I didn’t start following Jesus and lose my ability to reason about my fellow man. I’m still pro-choice, and for marriage equality, and the equal rights of gays and women. Its just that being Christian, directly interacting with God, has made me feel better and has gently encouraged me to stop doing things like complaining about my lot in life and being an asshole to my family. Why spendi time doing those things that make me feel like shit when I could  help, love or give to someone because that makes me feel algebraic! The fact is I’ve always been pessimistic at best and tending toward a black hole of depression and self-loathing at worst. I once asked our pastor friend PB how one was supposed to interpret Jesus instruction to “Love your neighbor as yourself” if one hated oneself. Pete’s response was “You know, most people don’t REALLY hate themselves.” And he went on to give me some valid examples to back up that statement, which I may talk about in greater detail in some other future blog post. At the time when he told me this, I was being particularly angsty and emo, and I kind of shrugged and was like, “Whatever you say dude. You don’t know my pain. Life is darkness”. Or something like that, I’m paraphrasing. The point is, I didn’t get it then.

 

"You'll never understand my pain. . .my beautiful, glamorous pain. . ."

“You’ll never understand my pain, Pete. . . my beautiful, glamorous pain. . .”

 

Since then, since my relationship with God has grown, since I’ve found ways to answer, or at least try to be at peace with my questions, I’ve noticed something else. I feel better. I genuinely feel better! For a while my issue was so severe there were times I couldn’t even summon the strength to get out of bed. For a while, right after moving here, I was so unstable in my struggle with depression that I was medicated for it. I took Zoloft every day just to be able to face my day, my life, my family. I hated everything about myself. I don’t feel that way anymore. And while I’m not sure that I love myself yet, I think I have a better idea of what Pete was talking about, when he said that. Having God show you exactly what to scrape away to get to the person worth loving underneath is pretty fucking epic, too.  

There’s tons more to say on the subject of the things about Christianity that I think are cool. Today I focused on the things I personally have experienced, and picked two of my favorite bennies of being a Christian. Even though this post is longer than some stories I’ve written, there’s still more to say. I’d be happy to chat your ear off about it if you ask, but I’m done focusing on me and my experiences for a while.

What about you peeps? I would love some stories about what your favorite benefits to being a Christian are! Do you have any wicked-rad moments as a Christian that you mark down on your spiritual timeline? Are there things you’ve seen God do in someone else’s life? Maybe just a feature, like that peace without understanding that Daniel mentioned? Let’s hear your stories!


Debate this for my amusement! A What the Faith Quickie

Alright, folks, I’m on a break at work and I have five minutes so OHMYGODREADTHISARTICLEVERYFAST!

Hurry!

Hurryhurryhurry!

Okay, now pause. Catch your breath. You did well, padawans.

Is a Christian’s spoken/written opposition to homosexuality, based on their interpretation of the bible, reason enough to accuse them of hate speech?

GO!