A good motto for anyone: “Drop the hate, have a doughnut”

June 18, 2011

We’d all be fat, but happier maybe…

Anyway, that was what Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll offered the Westboro Baptist Church when he found out they’d be picketing at Mars Hill Church’s Federal Way campus in Auburn, Washington. USA Today quotes Driscoll’s invitation to them:

Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts…

The proposed sermon for Sunday will be parable from Luke, explaining:

how God saved a really bad man named Zacchaeus and how the self-righteous, holier-than-thou religious folks who saw Jesus lovingly befriend him stood around complaining and grumbling — or basically picketing the love of God.

Is Driscoll suggesting he aims to play Jesus in this scenario, willing to befriend “the bad man named” Phelps and tut-tut his own “self-righteous, holier-than-thou religious folks” if they get uppity about the Westboro protest? Nope. He won’t be at that service, according to the Christian Post.

Regarding the planned sermon’s content, he’s quoted by USA Today as stating, “In the providence of God, we call that a funny coincidence.” Copies of Doctrine, the book he wrote, will be there, though, to be passed out to every protester. They “can learn what the Bible says about who God actually is” while they outwardly sneer yet secretly enjoy their free caffeine and sugar high.

I know people always want to claim that “turning the other cheek” is “the Christian thing to do” but I’d like to argue here that what it really is is the human thing to do. Retaliating with the same hateful venom tends to make things worse and by doing so those people help them justify their mindset about how everyone but them deserves to be damned. That said, the more their beliefs can be mocked and made to look silly and inconsequential, the less power they’ll have over people in the long run. Fair assessment?


Atheists should never stop attacking prayer (part 2)

April 16, 2011

This was going to be part of part 1 but I changed my mind once I realized how long it would wind up being. The following opinion piece is by Pastor C.A. Cowart, of Winter Haven, Florida.

Recently I was given the opportunity to attend a School Board meeting in which I was pleased to see many citizens of Polk County in favor of prayer and the cause of Christ. It was quite an encouraging feeling to see so many Bibles and passionate people at this meeting.

Much support was given in regard to an on-going battle that has been brewing between the atheist and the Christian community.

What “on-going battle” would that be, I wondered, and a quick Google got me an answer. Atheists of Florida launched a case against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd recently. In an effort to make incarceration less fun, he pulled the basketball hoops out of jails in his County and donated them to churches.

Possible misuse of funds is also an issue on this one but AoF is trying to make the case that he could have just as easily donated them to secular groups instead, and should have. They could even have gone to schools as encouragement to stay and get educated and skilled in the sport. This way he seems to be implying that going to church is the only way to stay out of prison.

“If you want to play basketball,” Judd told reporters, “don’t go to jail.”

Anyway, Cowart uses that issue to launch his own case against atheists. He claims we misunderstand the nature and purpose of prayer. I hardly think that’s true so I’ll refute him as he goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Movie theatre won’t run Jesus Easter ad

March 31, 2011

It’s a short article from the Orange County Register:

ALISO VIEJO – Members of a local church are saying an ad for their Easter service was deemed too controversial to run because it named Jesus.

Pastor Mike Fabarez said Compass Bible Church tried to pay for an ad to run at a local movie theater for its annual Easter service at UC Irvine’s Bren Center, an event that draws about 5,000 people. The church typically advertises its large events, working with local television, print media and even placing ads on bus stop shelters.

This time, the ad was rejected, something Fabarez said he didn’t expect. A spokeswoman for NCM Media Networks, which handles advertising for many local theaters, said in a statement Compass Bible Church chose not to revise the ad to meet content guidelines.

No image of the ad is provided but the church put it on Youtube. It’s a quick watch and nothing overly controversial, just advertising why they believe the resurrection really happened. The answer to that question can only be found at the event on the day, obviously.

The OC Register is polling readers to find out what they think about the ad and comments run the gamut:

Jesus? That’s the guy who mows and blows my lawn every 2 weeks.

I think the production value of the ad is higher than some of the movies I’ve seen lately.

It’s obnoxious that a theater won’t take money to display the name of Jesus, the central figure of beliefs shared by 2.2 of the 6.8 billion people on the planet, while theaters have no problem charging a total of $540 million worldwide to show a film whose main premise is that Jesus was married and had children whose decedents still live today.

On easter, at our home, we worship a 75$ honey baked ham.

There’s more, of course. And the few comments placed by admitted atheists have gotten the most replies, all of which pull the topic off the ad completely. Nobody can let what an atheist says rest unchallenged. Especially if there’s still a chance to save him…

WICKEDWHITE makes a good point to end with:

Rejection and Banned have two completely different meanings

The church is calling it a “banned commercial” since that’s how they want to present their side of this but theatres should have the right to reject any advertisements they want. I can see why a theatre wouldn’t want to look like it promotes a belief system. Promoting Coke or Pepsi, sure; they’re selling drinks at the concession. They want you to think about buying a drink. They don’t want you to think about buying a religion just before the credits roll on the latest kill-fest to hit the big screen. Jesus died for your sins, now sit there and enjoy some sinning!

This really seems like a waste of time and energy to kick up a fuss over but I expect the service will still see a better turnout because of it. Any press is good press, right?

“houses of worship are subject to the same laws of economics as secular real estate”

January 31, 2011

That’s a direct quote from an NPR article about church foreclosures in the States.

For Dan Burr, the road to losing his church last year began with the greatest of hopes. Twelve years ago, Burr and his wife started to worship with a few friends in their son’s house in Fontana, Calif., a community about 80 miles East of Los Angeles. Neighbors began to come to the service. They brought their kids.

“And it began to grow, and before we knew it we had a little viable church,” Burr recalls.

Eventually Crossroads Community Church bought a building of its own — a dilapidated Boy’s Club that church members fixed up themselves. Those were the glory days. Fontana was one of the fastest growing cities in the country, church attendance was booming and Burr began to make big plans.

Their dreams clashed with the reality of job loss and financial strains not long after, as several of their members found themselves without work and without money to feed their own families, let alone Crossroads’ coffer.

Chris Macke, a senior strategist at CoStar Group, has looked into the rising number of church forclosures. He’s seen that churches (and other businesses for that matter) tend to assume good times will keep on rolling and make grandiose future plans that inevitably flop when the other shoe drops.

What made the problem more acute this time, says Scott Rolfs at Ziegler, an investment banking firm that does church financing, was the easy credit in the mid-2000s.

“There was a lot of money out there,” he says, “and just as some home borrowers obtained mortgages that they probably shouldn’t have gotten and wouldn’t have qualified for under historical standards, you had a few churches with some overzealous lenders that ended up in that situation as well.”

That’s not to say churches are going the way of the dodo. There are at least 300,000 other places of worship across the US, according to the article. The dodo just lost a few feathers off a wing or something, but they’ll grow back – other people will be able to buy those foreclosed churches on the cheap and start new ones.

edit 6:27 am — just found an article from the Ottawa Citizen: Churches Gambling with Real Estate.

Do faith organizations have a responsibility to ensure the future use of their property reflects their core values? Does it matter if Canadian Tire builds in God’s vacated backyard?

Indeed, for a religious order committed to vows of poverty, is it not somewhat jarring to enter into the shark tank of multi-million-dollar real estate deals?

Soeurs de la Visitation, an enclave nuns used for at least a hundred years has been sold to developers for $12 million. Other nun-owned property near Ottawa might be sold in the near future.

The early planning is looking at as many as 1,300 homes, divided between townhouses and apartments. Retail and commercial would be worked into what is being called a “model” community.

In this case, the Oblates are reportedly keen to work with planners to ensure they end up both with good neighbours and a design that doesn’t clash with their values, however that is interpreted.


By no surprise, Crystal Cathedral files for bankruptcy

October 20, 2010

It’s not a surprise to me that Crystal Catherdral is still having money problems. It was too big, family infighting was tearing it apart and the whole church market is glutted anyway and fighting for scraps.

The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the “Hour of Power” and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year’s “Glory of Easter” pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.

I wrote about that.

Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.

Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church’s “Glory of Christmas” manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed.

“The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, ‘You can’t tell us how to run our business,”‘ Oliver said.

“I’m upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table.”

They ran the place into the ground. They made a lot of bad decisions, not the least of which must have been pretending everything was hunky-dory and going full speed ahead on expensive church activities even when it was getting obvious that money would be a problem. Seriously, $57,000 for animals? Here’s what they advertise having on display for their 2009 Christmas event:

sheep, goats, camels, horses, a yak, a llama, a baby water buffalo

At which point I see why the cost is astronomical. A water buffalo? Really? What the hell does that have to do with Jesus? I wonder how many Australians actually paid to attend that. Wasting money makes Baby Jesus cry, you know…

The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn’t slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the “Hour of Power.”

Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors’ committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.

Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.

What we’re doing now is we’re trying to walk what we preach, we’re paying cash for things as we go,” he said.

Better to try that before you’re millions in debt, but whatever. Now they’ll walk what they preach. They were hypocrites before but now they really know how their parishioners feel about being asked to give more than they can realistically afford. I hope all the vendors who rely on that money for their own bills can get most of it back. I hope the people who rely on that monstrosity for work don’t find themselves out of a job at a time when finding a new one might be quite hard. And I hope Schuller and company learn from this and change they way they think and operate or shut down all together.

Quotable letter to the editor

September 10, 2010

I don’t tend to read our local paper, but the other night at the atheism lecture, someone from the audience mentioned a letter that had been printed by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that was sure to get seen and talked about. It’s about the new cathedral being built in town but doesn’t stop there.

While the faithful bask in the glory of the new Roman Catholic cathedral, they see hope, comfort and a deep and personal connection to God.

What I see is yet another monument to a 1,500-year-old criminal organization.

In 1962 the church issued Crimen sollicitationis.

In case your Latin is as bad as mine, that means the crime of soliciting.

Catholics should ask themselves how they feel knowing that a portion of their donations went to ensure the relocation and sanctuary of child rapists for the past 50 years, or to silence or compensate the victims (the ones who weren’t excommunicated)?

How do they accept the fact that the Pope lies to an entire continent, telling them that use of condoms increase the chances of getting AIDS? How do they feel when their infallible moral leader says that ordaining women is “grave” a sin as sex abuse?

I think it’s called “compartmentalizing” and everybody does it to some extent. At that philosophy lecture it got mentioned that munitions workers who are making stuff that will eventually blow up a lot of innocent people, including children, can still go home and make love to their wives and hug their kids. They manage to separate those parts of themselves so work never interferes with the home zone and vice-versa. I think Catholics are probably adept at doing the same thing. They won’t believe in zombies but they’ll accept the risen Christ, after all. They may protest against unfair treatment of women in other venues, but under god’s roof, god’s word is still law for those who believe strongly. They can ignore the paradox of that, I guess, where the rest of us wind up shaking our heads.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church acts like a band of misogynist, homophobic, sexually repressed adolescents. The fallacy that they provide any form of moral guidance is laughably absurd. This organization has proved repeatedly that it has no moral authority.

It could easily be argued that nobody should have been looking at institutionalized religions as moral compasses in the first place, but it’s been a habit to do so hundreds of years, allowing them to have so power over states and laws and humanity. It’s a hard habit to kick, too, even though it needs kicking. One good quote I copied off the presentation the other night was one from Voltaire: “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” Clearly the Catholic church has that power.

When will there be enough palaces? This thing will cost $28 million? Build a small non-faith school, build a homeless shelter, or expand the size of the food bank.

That’s a good point. Weblocal lists 200 churches for Saskatoon and it might even be missing some. There are all kinds of places of worship already available. Why do we need another when there are so many better ways that money could have been spent to improve social conditions in this city? Are there really so many Catholics in this city and area that they’ll even manage to fill every pew? And then what happens to all the other Catholic churches in town if most of their congregations migrate to this monstrosity?

Many of us are tired of having all this faith on display in our open, multicultural, multi-faith society.You can worship God from home.

Brent Pollard

People can worship their gods at home but I don’t begrudge them their desire for community connection while they do that instead. They may as well be in the churches than let them all sit empty and ripe for vandalism. I don’t care about the fact that there are churches. I don’t care if people want to spend their days and nights and weekends worshiping in churches. I only start to care when those same people try to make everyone do it or try to influence governments into catering to their whims like they are somehow more worthy of money or dominance or rights than any other group. That is why the push for a secular society is so important. It is more fair to everyone and a good compromise in a multicultural, multi-faith city like this one. Nobody should be above anyone else in terms of what ideologies are most worthy.

One good thing about Christianity

August 30, 2010

Just a note ahead of this – now that the sun is up later and later every day, I’m finding it harder and harder to drag my butt out of bed early enough to do a day’s worth of posts before work. I’ll have to get into the habit of writing for the next day after work instead, I think. Otherwise posts will be few and far between.

Anyway, onto this one. Alternet has an article up about hipsters and church attendance and whether hipping up a church is worth the effort to keep them interested. The weird thing is the question posed: will hipsters ruin Christianity?

Isn’t that a laugh and a half?

While McCracken does leave a small window of potential for a “positive, proactive” Christian version of hip, he ultimately views all that is “cool” as a threat to Christianity and misunderstands the movement’s desire for relevance as vain, self-absorbed, and insincere. A closer look at one community in the “hipster Mecca” of Williamsburg, Brooklyn reveals the complexity of the relationship between church and cool, individual and community, faith and rebellion, authenticity and imitation, truth and relevance.

One of the most impressive things about Christianity is its adaptability. It is very much whatever people want it to be – if enough people want the same thing, a church is built. If enough churches want the same thing, the schism becomes an official version of the faith. Catholic, Protestant, whatever flavour of Protestant within there, or whatever newfangled thing gets invented to rework the old ideas – it’s remarkable, really. This adaptability is what helps keep it from buckling under, too. For all the old, unchanging, traditional ways to view that religion, new groups keep popping up all the time to challenge that, to rewrite it for people today, to make it as relevant as possible for people today. That churches even want to attempt to lure the hipsters in by becoming as hip as they can – I think that’s a big deal. The willingness to change, to be what the people need, to anticipate what people are going to want — that’s power. That’s savvy ingenuity. That’s how butts hit seats.

Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye, runs one of these hipster church organizations, called Revolution.

Revolution’s motto is “Religion Kills,” and the church has offered a telling apology on stickers and in online advertisements: “As Christians, we are sorry for being self-righteous judgmental bastards. Revolution NYC: A church for people who have given up on church.” To Bakker, religion is dangerous because of its rules and regulations and lack of emphasis on personal belief. “It’s like going to work,” he told me several years ago. “We need to agree to disagree because right now there’s a war within the church and innocent bystanders are falling victim. Grace provides freedom from that.”

Bakker is something of a visionary, here. He’s looking at the bigger picture and he sees a need to open things up, I guess would be a way to put it.

“We take the secular avenue instead of the Christian one,” Bakker says, explaining that his method is to form real relationships, be normal, become part of the community, inspire people to make change happen. The days of fire and brimstone are a thing of the past to such groups because, as the director of a Manhattan-based artist ministry says, “that just wouldn’t fly in a post-Christian city like New York.”

More groups should be taking this road. These are the people who are going to change how people view Christians. The Jerry Falwels and Westboros of the religious world will never appeal to everyone and hopefully groups like this would be willing to stand with atheists and denounce those buggers as the shit-disturbers they really are. They do nothing good for anyone. All they do is divide us.

I don’t have a problem with Christianity, per se. I have a problem with what people do as Christians in terms of behaviour and ideology against groups of people they don’t approve of. Be Christian, but be Christian for yourself, not so you can lord it over those whose lives go another way, you know? That’s where I’m at these days, at least. Other days I’d like to see religions go the way of the dodo. Today I’m magnanimous.