I Just Have to Say…

This will be like my opinion column in which I share with the world what is going on in my head as opposed to my life. Enjoy the ride.

A B-12 Shot of Reality: Why I, A Christian Republican, Dumped Fox News September 28, 2009

Filed under: Politics,Thoughts — Ashley @ 4:28 am
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I remember the moment I realized Fox News was drivel. It was not like I had an immediate epiphany. It was a sentiment that had been building for the last few years. Time after time, I saw Fox acting less and less like a news network and more and more like an attention grabbing, sensationalizing, ratings machine. I was seeing more shoddy and unethical journalism from them than I was seeing from most Tabloid TV shows. This is not even touching on the obvious conservative bias. It’s one thing to have a bias, but it’s another thing to claim to be fair while doing it. CNN was looking better and batter, especially since they looked like they were taking an effort not to have a bias, even if they were not succeeding as well as they could. That being said, even if they do look like they are treating Republicans worse than Democrats, let’s face it, some Republicans have deserved every moment of negative press because of their behavior since Obama has been elected. It did seem that a whole lot of the positive stories about conservatives on Fox looked pretty forced (almost as much as some of the negative stories about Democrats).

However, Despite my growing reservations, I was still watching Fox more than any other news network because, well, that was what Republicans like me did. It had always been an assumption that all square inch of media on the outside was tainted with liberalism, and Fox was the only safe haven. Sensationalism can easily be ignored when a station is giving conservatives a chance to get their point across in a very hostile environment. However, this thinking quickly changed when I was watching the Michael Jackson funeral. I had my moment of clarity.

I was switching channels to see how each of the news networks were covering the funeral. While I think Michael Jackson was by no definition a saint, his funeral at least deserved to be treated like an event. At the same time, the man needed to be treated with respect during that time. The only network I saw that did not follow through on this was Fox News. They did not go five minutes without discussing Jackson’s legal troubles and the tabloid-worthy details of his death. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back in that a switch seemed to turn on in my brain. I finally saw this network for what it was, and I turned off Fox for good. It also allowed my cognitive dissonance to dissolve and help me realize that I had been buying into the victim mentality that has become like a disease among Americans, and have been using Fox as a rallying cry without realizing they were just using me to get ratings. I also forgot that there is a very good sampling of newspapers and radio hosts that have a conservative bias, so Fox is by no means the lone voice. However, despite this, the truth does remain that conservatives seem to be getting a bad rap in the media.

The reason for this, I came to realize, was not that the media was censoring conservative voices, but that conservatives were offering nothing people wanted to hear. As a registered Republican myself, this is hard for me to admit, but it is healthy as well. However, instead of taking the plunge and admitting this hard fact, many conservatives are living in denial. They are using every concievable chink in Obama’s armor as a comfort, and are looking to Fox for the next rallying cry to why the are only oppressed because they are right. Not only are they looking to Fox, but they are looking to commentators on Fox, all of which come from the fringe of the party and make rational people like me cringe.  From my psychology studies, I have learned that staying in denial is probably one of the biggest obstacles to real and lasting change. Once conservatives as a whole start admitting they are doing the wrong things, then they will be able to move on and make real and lasting change within the party. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen anytime soon, particularly when they continue to hail a hackneyed station such as Fox News to be “real news,” and Obama to be the new Lenin.

The saddest thing to me is that many Christian are buying into this as well. They should be the ones harking against Fox news most of all, and yet more evangelicals watch it than any other demographic. What a sad state of affairs we are in. I had had a different revelation a few years ago that told me no particular party has the monopoly on morals. After the 2008 election, I was hoping that Christians were beginning to realize that, particularly after so many Christians voted for Obama. However, based on some of the polls I am looking at and the Christians I am talking to, this is not the case. Personally, I am a Republican for more political reasons than moral ones. I am a horrible cynic when it comes to the government doing the will of God, so I gave up on that and ended up choosing the side where the government is more motivated not to bankrupt it’s people (Bush did sway my faith in this, but most other conservatives help keep it afloat). However, I am sickened by the whole Republican = patriot phase we went through. I was even more sickened by the Christian = patriot movement. Fox News fed this by not only having a good amount of their hateful conservative commentators proclaim faith, but to have their main colors be red, white and blue. The Christianity of the commentators attracted the Christians who felt ignored by the media at large (for the same reason that conservatives did), and helped create a monster. It is not the only and first offender, but considering a good amount of Christians I know listen to people like Sean Hannity religiously (not to mention a good amount of these people’s books can be found in Christian book stores) it appears to be the most widespread, and the most problematic.

I had the false impression that this attitude was beginning to die out, but most of the hatred I see coming from the Christian community is directed at people like me who dare to think outside the box of what their pastors and families tell them and start looking at the words of Jesus. At the same time, we look to people outside of our faith for wisdom; whether it be musical artists or evolutionary scientists. At my Christian university, the Democrats, evolutionists, and other free thinkers were pretty much cast out of the debate. Believing in evolution did give me a taste, but I felt pretty bad for the folks who ascribed to five or six of the imagined taboos of American Christianity. The us vs. them mentality driven by Fox and perpetuated by power-hungry morons have wrecked havoc on the Christians community and I believe we are only just now starting to realize that. However, those who do not are still the loudest and are the only thing standing in the way of us rising from the ashes and being a Christ-like faith.

Looking back at conservatism, I see a similar damage done. The only problem is that, unlike many Christians, we are unwilling to admit it. When a commentator on CNN says Republicans need an overhaul, hard-line conservatives guffaw about liberal bias and change the channel to Fox News. Like I said before, this is a classic example of denial and it has to stop.

I am going to go into counselor mode and devise a mental checklist for conservatives to go through so they can make their way back to health.

First, they need to admit they have a problem as a cohesive body. I know that several Republicans are admitting this on their own, but they seem like they are being forced. Come together and say it. It won’t kill you.

Second, they need to part ways with the friends that are only feeding into their neurosis. Fox News is the lead contender. Fire and brimstone Christian preachers would probably be a second. Rush Limbaugh the third. I’m sure several other conservative readers can come up with several more.

Third, we need to make peace with our enemies, and approach with a listening ear. Yes, people. I am talking about Obama. The first step to this would be to stop acting like five-year-olds and picking at every little thing he does. I get it, they picked on Bush a lot. GET OVER IT!! If you got past step one, you should have already admitted that Bush deserved a lot of the respectful scrutiny he got. Be the better person in this situation. You will get a lot more done.

Fourth step would be to look to the future. Yes, you CAN be progressive and be a Republican at the same time.

I have one final point to address and I will shut up. Whenever I display my hatred of Fox News to conservatives, they seem to stop that conversation with a “that’s just your opinion.” To me whenever someone says that, particularly with this issue, it is simply a nice way of saying, “Wow, not only are you a moron, but you have been hypnotized by the liberal media. We need to stop talking now so I don’t become saddened by your betrayal of your conservative brethren.”  True, it might be my opinion. Or maybe not. Conservatives having problems and Fox News being journalism at it’s worst is pretty much a consensus by people who are either experts or have no bias to speak of. To me, this constitutes a fact. Facts are facts, no matter which way you slice it. It’s one thing to have an opinion, but it’s another thing to ignore what’s right in front of your face. The sooner we stop accepting this shoddy excuse for a news station, we can finally get it out of the way and make room for fair and honest reporting. Just like the sooner Republicans accept they have issues, the sooner the party will be made great again.

 

Do I Have To Demean Obama to Be a Good Conservative? August 3, 2009

Filed under: Politics,Thoughts — Ashley @ 11:25 pm
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An interesting phenomenon is starting to happen among some liberals online and in person. Bush is becoming their version of “Yo Momma.” For example, when I get into a political discussion with a liberal and I begin to have the upper hand in the debate, I tend to get a response along the lines of, “Oh yeah? Well, Bush!” Of course, it is not literally like that. It usually consists of a general statement about the Bush administration justifying all Republicans being kicked out of the debate. How do you argue with that? It’s not because it’s a good point (many of Bush’s policies can’t really be described as conservative), but because it was made to be the bullwark to further debate, much like “Yo Momma.” I could say “Carter!” in response, but I’m above that. I then walk away and let them have their moment of glory, even though they cheated. The worst part is, a good deal of media I have seen sees this as a legitimate arguement.

As a Republican, these things make me mad. I hate that Bush’s administration is being made out to be something it’s not. He was not a great president, sure, but a good deal of the bad things that happened in his administration could be placed on Congress. Don’t even get me started on the dichotomy that people seem to think he is both an evil genius and an idiot. You are either one or the other; you can’t be both. When people call Bush dumb because of his speaking ability, I feel like it’s a slight against me as well since my public speaking ability is abysmal. Even if he was an awful president, having your ideology dismissed because it leans to the same side is just plain wrong. So is blaming a national attitude on the president in office. I see celebrity after celebrity talk about “the past eight years” as if it were a dark time where people were oppressed. The fact is that Bush did not do anything about this, but it was a national attitude, and not much of one. For example, the homosexual community gained a lot of ground during the Bush years, and were not oppressed any more than they were under Clinton (who signed the Defense of Marriage Act). Everyone does know that oppression makes for more sympathy and better comparisons to the 1960s civil rights movement, so that is likely the reason. The previous attitudes toward homosexuals, as well as other groups “oppressed” under Bush have likely not changed. They are just less vocal. The emerging democracy in Iraq is being overlooked as a factor in the Iranian protests. Instead, Obama’s election is being seen as a major factor, even though I don’t see any reason why. When I hear Bush and my beliefs being treated like this, I feel mad, like I want to push a liberal into a volcano. In my mind’s eye, that liberal usually ends up being President Obama.

I was having this thought process about a month ago when I had an epiphany. I wanted revenge. After all of those years of being treated as second class intellectual by my peers because of my political beliefs, I wanted someone else to suffer for it, and that someone was our new president. I had to step back and look at what I was thinking. Was this right? Of course not. Thinking about pushing liberals into volcanoes is just as bad as actually murdering them, according to Jesus. I was ashamed that I was thinking this way, and resolved to think differently. However, my epiphany did make me think about others who were demeaning the new president on the internet. After Obama was elected, a classmate of mine gave a whole lecture on how this election should not get us down, almost as if America had just resurrected Saddam Hussain and elected him president. When hearing things like this, I could not get my previous revenge thoughts out of my mind, and conceded that this was an understandable way to act after being mistreated by the media and an over-dramatic public. However, did that make it right? The simple answer is no.

As Obama’s presidency went on, I noticed how conservatives were doing all they could to complain about the new president and demean him in every way. It made me cringe, especially since many of these people were Christians. What made it worse was that this was during a time of national crisis. We needed to come together now more than ever. Instead, we are focused on proving that Obama is not a native citizen and pulling apart every little thing he did. This acting out of vengeful thoughts was getting out of hand. There is really no reason for this other than spite, and it makes us look like fools. This president needs our spiritual and mental support, even if he does not have our political support. Does that mean we let wastful spending policies and stupid comments go? Of course not. But that also does not mean we should treat him like Bush was treated when he clearly does not deserve it. That makes us no better than the jerks who hurled unfair insults at Bush all those years. At least in the latter situation there was a case to be made. With us, there is none (at least for now).

One elephant in the room here is the cult surrounding Obama during the election. That was just as, if not more, wrong than what I have described. It was insanity, and Obama was letting it all happen. Thankfully, the euphoria has died down and people are beginning to realize he is human, but this event still leaves a bad taste in conservatives’ mouths, and provides further justification for these conservatives. The “Church of Obama” left a bad taste in my mouth too, but we have to keep in mind that there is a cult-ish element in the Republican community, too – the conservative church. Many Christians blindly follow the Republican party and all of their policies because of the sole issues of abortion and gay marriage. The thinking is that since this is the party that wants to protect babies and marriage, than all of their thinking must be Godly. No thought was put into the social causes of abortion or if Republican social policies were actually Biblical. The masses just blindly followed. This has led to a church very far off the mark. Bush’s presidency has let us come to our senses a bit, but this is still something we need to fix. The reason I bring all of this up is that we, especially Christian conservatives, should not point out the speck in one party’s eye without addressing the plank in our own.

Personally, I consider myself a moderate leaning Republican. I feel this way because I believe in small government and fiscal responsibility, not just the abortion issue. I also will not cry if socialized medicine is implemented and the death penalty goes away. I was against the Iraq war, but believe it is important to defend ourselves as a country (I think anyone who thinks a country should be all peace all the time is not thinking realistically) and make sure people are not plotting attacks on our soil. This is why I oppose many of Obama’s policies. However, I draw the line at demeaning him as a man. I do not want to say he has an ego or an attitude or is a racist. I do not know him, so those are unfair assertions to make. I am not one to hate presidents. They deserve respect and some form of alleigence, and that is what I’m going to give to Obama. Even if he was some sort of horrible person, I am still supposed to love him and treat him with basic human dignity. This is the love Jesus calls us to. It is a love that is supposed to set Christians apart as a people. It is a love I do not see being expressed among us. I hope it is again someday. Until then, I will say honestly that I will pray for the president and for wisdom on how to get our country out of this awful mess.

In closing, I encourage all of my conservative brothers and sisters to give Obama a courtesy not given to our people. It will certainly cause more waves than if we go the way of the bully. We should fight for our policies to be made law, but we should use rational reasons not rhetoric or lies. This is how we are going to get things done in this new age, and I believe we can do it because we do have a case.

 

Defending the Pledge July 29, 2009

Filed under: Life in the Lord,Thoughts — Ashley @ 6:19 am
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We all remember it. I’m sure at some point most of us (at least if you went to a Christian school or youth group) were approached about making a purity pledge, or buying a purity ring. It was a cool thing when we were younger, but many teenagers did not really understand the moral meaning behind it. The truth is that abstinence education as a whole has failed, and the purity pledges are beginning to fall asunder. The reasons behind this range from raging hormones, media pressures (especially for men), and lack of compelling reasons to wait for marriage. However, many people in more liberal circles are concluding that forcing people to abstain from sex in today’s world is next to impossible and this is the sole reason why abstinence has failed. One idea that is coming up very often is that humans were not made to be monogamous. Of course, this really only applies to men, since they are the ones that are apparently wired to sleep with every woman they can find. Studies show that women want a more stable partner, but if popular media is to be believed, women are finding this desire too unrealistic and are adopting men’s sexual habits. Although this is not the case with all people, the entertainment media is certainly postulating that sex is a right, not a privilege and definitely not something to put off. (more…)

 

Why I Now Think Darwin is Legit May 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley @ 2:51 am

Over the past several months, I have had a radical shift within my belief system. While I am still a strong Christian who believes Jesus is the only way to salvation, I have decided to take a more evolutionary look at the origins of species. I know that many of my Christian friends will not approve of what I have decided, but it has come from a great deal of investigation and prayer. While I am sure that many people will be asking questions as to why I decided to become an evolutionist rather than a creationist, I decided to simply write all of my thoughts down, as well as offer some additional reading for those of you who want to look further into the issue. I do want to clarify, however, that I do acknowledge that evolution is not the be-all-end-all. In other words, it is not the whole story. God did create things, just not through the way we can really grasp. In that way, I am a creationist. I just now think that evolutionary science is legit and not some vast conspiracy made to discredit God. That being said, I want to get on to my reasoning so that people will know that I am not simply jumping on the secular bandwagon. Much of what I will say is not my own, but has been gleaned from such authors as Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, and John Haught. It also comes from conversations I have had with professors, including Paul Copan. So no, I am not just pulling things out of my butt. I love science, and think it is fascinating. I did not love it enough to major in it or pass a class in it, but I love the idea of discovering things about the natural world. The vast discoveries of science should not be ignored just because we cannot grapple with the implications. There is nothing in science that disproves God, and that should be in our minds first and foremost.

First of all, I wanted to give a big picture realization that I had. Evolution is not a conspiracy. It never has been, and never will be. Science does not work like that. While there are many people in the scientific community who are genuine atheists and would love to explain away God, there has been no indication that I have seen that evolution is a sham. First of all, I have to clarify what the word “theory” means, since there are many people who misunderstand that. A theory in science is developed over a long period of time after a hypothesis has been tested and retested time and time again. In short, a theory is a short step away from certainty. If it could be outright observed, it would be a law. The only thing that makes evolution not a law is the inability to observe it on a large scale. It can be observed in a small scale, however. The MRSA bacterium comes from bacteria with a genetic mutation to resist antibiotics reproducing to produce a super-bug. The finches Darwin observed in the Galapagos had longer beaks because the ones with shorter beaks failed to survive. Many other cases of natural selection can be observed, but this is on a much smaller scale than the vast picture. This is where the fossil record comes in. Many different dating instruments are in agreement than the Earth is at least 13 billion years old, and the fossil record has supported that. The inferences scientists make from fossils are not just made up. They come from somewhere, and the observations of thousands of paleontologists, biologists, and archeologists agree.

Another more general reason I came to believe in evolution was the quality of the creation science available. If the science being used were based on legitimate, peer-reviewed experiments, then they would be embraced by more scientists. You would think that scientists who are Christians would embrace these scientists and become one of them because of their findings. However, this has not been the case. In all of my readings and book searches, I am hard pressed to find more than three or four actual scientists who have been convinced that evolution is not true. The rest of the defenders of creationism are theologians and Christian apologists, and these people are hardly qualified to give a biological theory. What I did see an abundance of, however, was Christians who believed in creation at one point become convinced of evolution once they furthered their study in science. The scientists like Alister McGrath who became Christians later on in life did not turn their backs on evolution once they became Christians. In fact, they are more ambivalent about ID science now than they have ever been. I do not want to advertise that I depend on other people for my opinions, because I don’t (at least no more than other do). I simply like to seek council from those who are more educated than I will ever be. Now you could say that they were brainwashed by a secular university, but I find this to be a bit of a cop out. While I do believe there is an anti-God bias in secular universities, I think that if someone loves God enough, they can see through the lies that are being told and prevail. The fact that there was enough hard evidence to convince these people is telling. Also, I felt I should mention that about 40% of mainstream scientists say they believe in a personal God. However, only a fraction of a percent claim not to believe in evolution. In a court of law, that would be a verdict. That being said, I have noticed there are some scientists who claim that the universe begs for a designer that have been dismissed from academic circles. There have also been a great number of atheist evolutionists who cannot account for how complicated and perfect the universe is. The question of the first life and the Cambrian Explosion also comes into play. That being said, many of these same people are evolutionists and maintain that the earth is 13 billion years old. While design is definitely in the picture, there is no doubt evolution played a part.

Another reason I came to believe in evolution is because I realized all of the anti-evolution arguments that I was given were severely outdated. The first that I heard often was that there was a lack of transitional fossils in the record. This was false. There are actually many transitional fossils that have been found. I saw a picture of the transition between lizard and bird, and another between fish and amphibian. There are also fossils of a manatee with hooves, and a dolphin with paws. There are many more where that came from. This is definitely enough that anyone of integrity would be convinced, but there is more. I have heard a great deal about the unreliability of carbon dating. While there may be problems with it, this is often the same dating that is used on all the Biblical artifacts we rely on. Why do we acknowledge the legitimacy of carbon dating in these situations, but not when they are dating fossils. Also, carbon dating is not the only method of dating used in measuring age. From what I have seen all of these methods of dating produce the same results when it comes to dating the same things. The scientists who use it often use several types of dating on the same fossil to confirm its age. Also, I have heard that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not compute with evolution. After looking at the law, I think this is a huge leap, and has nothing to do with the process of evolution. The second law says that the entropy of the universe always increases. Entropy is the disorganization of molecules. An example of high entropy would be in a gas, and an example of low entropy would be in a crystal (one of the most molecularly organized structures on Earth). This is caused by heat, and the normal pattern of heat is that it flows from a hotter object to a cooler object, thereby creating entropy in the cooler object. I do not see how this has anything to do with evolution, particularly because evolution runs on an entirely different plane.

All of this is just scratching the surface of the evidence I have been looking at over the past few months. Despite this vast array of knowledge, though, about half of the nation does not believe in evolution. I am a little confused by this, but I also understand it. One thing I have noticed about Americans is that they like things to be very neat and tidy with no questions asked. New atheists like Richard Dawkins (yes, I know he’s not an American, but he’s an example) try and play up how evil and irrational religion is so there is a clear picture of it as the bad guy. If all of the good things religion has done for people is brought up, or the bleak outlook for a world without God, then the issue becomes much more complicated. It is much easier to plead your case if your opponent is so obviously the wrong choice. For Christians, evolution is the issue in which they are arguing against. As I have pointed out before, many of the objections against evolution can be easily refuted by a biologist who knows what they are talking about. However, if evolution is true, than this brings up many legitimate questions. What about the first chapter of Genesis? Why would a loving God work through such a cruel process? Was Adam a real person? These are questions I am grappling with myself, and I doubt the multitude of questions will be answered in our lifetime. For now, I look to those Christians who have looked into this issue and glean from their understanding of both science and faith. The one thing I know is that I am simply not willing to sacrifice my brain and my integrity in order to make my questions easier to answer. There are many good reasons to believe in God, and the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels is hard to ignore. Unlike creation science, even the secular side of the argument can acknowledge the evidence to be striking. Most historians to acknowledge that Jesus was real, he preformed miracles, He was crucified, and that His tomb was empty. This is the outline of the Gospels, pretty much. This is the cornerstone of our faith, not evolution. Not to mention, since science is a study of the natural world, theology and mysticism is to be our study of the supernatural world. This is why we must continue to have a relationship with God and get to know Him better through the beauty of His creation, and through His work in our lives.

Obviously, I have more to say on this subject, but that is for a later blog. Feel free to tell my I’m wrong or ask me questions about what I’ve said. This was not an easy decision, and I hope to at least make Christians think before they put their faith is creationism or ID. All of the evidence should be considered, and the best option selected. I also encourage people to read Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, and John Haught whenever you get the chance. Also, I’m sure there are other books which talk about this issue, and they should be explored as well. I also wanted to say that I am not ruling out a change of attitude in the future. I also do not want to demean anybody who does believe in creation. I simply wanted to give my view and what I have done with the evidence presented to me. I also wanted to make sure people know exactly what they are opposing rather than the Christian version of it. This is only an outline of what there is to consider. I hope everyone is well. J

 

Defending Rick Warren December 20, 2008

There was a recent decision by President-elect Barack Obama to have Rick Warren lead the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama. I was very happy with the decision, but many people are not, particularly because of his stance on homosexuality. Does he lean too far toward the religious right? Yes. Is he to the point where I lose all respect of him? No. Rick went to seminary and was taught in the school of the religious right, and it is probably very hard to escape that. However, he has, to a great degree.

For a long time, American Christians have been on the forefront of wrong thinking. It has followed the lead of the churches from Nazi Germany and bowed to the will of their country. There have been a few Dietrich Bonheoffer’s along the way, but their voices were soft compared to the blaring voice of the Fundamentalist Christians. At the same time, it has attempted to take the country for God through the voting booth rather than through the Gospel. At the same time, the Gospel of Christ has been, in the words of Tony Compolo, “neutered.” Derek Webb said while introducing his song “Wedding Dress” that you can’t preach the Gospel and not get in trouble. He brought up C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and the description within of Aslan the Lion. In it, he is described as not being a tame lion. However, he is good, and he is the king. As we all know, Aslan was the Christ figure, describing Jesus. You can’t contain Jesus, but there have been people who have tried, a majority of whom are Christians. This had led to a Gospel not worth following, and one that has changed no one because of it being stripped of either its beauty or its offensiveness. This has led religious leaders to believe the culture had been taking away their followers, even though it had been them all along. Around the Reagan era, they became empowered to grow into a movement and take back the country. They sided with the Republican party, and made a vast majority of Christians come to their side. Today, we have a Church body who believes that if they advocate for two issues (most of you know what those are) then they are being good Christians. They also believe that if a Christian is in office, everything will be okay. Biblically, this is crap, and if we look at the past eight years, we can say this is practically crap, too (some might say the Old Testament makes this statement false, but that is not necessarily true, but that’s another conversation). Jesus called us to live more devoted lives than this, but we have decided to follow “lovers less wild.” Even in our Christian majority, those who are truly born-gain are a minority, and that has always been the case. Once politics touches Christianity, things go sour. If you compare the Christians in the first and second centuries to the Christians of the fourth century (after the Roman government mandated Christianity) there is a vast difference. This is why I am not a fan of Christians being involved in politics. Rick Warren, however, has changed my mind.

I recently read a book called Just Peacemaking by Glen Stassen. He said that Christians have been against human rights generally because it was a concept that had secular roots. If you look at the Gospels, as well as early Mennonite writings, you see human rights have a far different origin, but still the perception is there. Also, man has sinful tendencies. That is how we are born. We are infused with the desire to disobey God, and this includes the desire for power. When a church puts man as part of its authority, bad things are bound to happen. Human rights suffered because of this. However, the church in modern times is beginning to get its act together in the human rights department. They are finally starting to see the words of Jesus and realize that it is possible to love people without accepting their points of view as correct or their sin as okay. Jesus said to an adulterous woman “go and sin no more” right after he told the religious leaders “whomever is without sin, cast the first stone.” We are all loved by God. That is why He sent His son in the first place, to save those He loved. Even those who hate Him, He loves. As His representatives on earth, Jesus asks us to do likewise, while at the same time being discerning.

Rick Warren has been a leading proponent on this point of view. He has led AIDS summits all around the country and has been a leading force in the fight to end poverty. He has given about 90% of the revenue from The Purpose Driven Life to charity. I have a very specific example that I heard from a podcast I listen to. Cameron Strang, son of Christian publishing mogul Steve Strang and owner of RELEVANT magazine (fantastic magazine by the way, so go subscribe now), was invited to a summit headed by Saddleback Church and Rick Warren in Rwanda. While there, he heard of an organization called PEPFAR which is empowering young people to take control of their country and make it better. This is a vast improvement on previous attitudes toward Africa, which has been focus on giving money to the country. Over the years, over a trillion dollars has been given to Africa, and yet the standard of living has gone down. This is because African dictators and militia armies take all the money for themselves. PEPFAR takes aid in a different direction. They teach people to fend for themselves and bring their country into the 21st century. President Bush actually tripled the aid to this organization, an act he deserves a huge pat on the back for. This is how Africa will be shaped to be a really player in the world economy. It also calls the American people to give something they cannot seem to give up: their time. Writing a check is easy. REALLY making an effort is hard. That is why an organization like this is so new. We seem to be just figuring this out. This is partially thanks to evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, who tout this organization.

These next few paragraphs might be offensive to some, and I hope that is not the case. I do not mean any harm, I am just stating the way things are. At the same time, I am attempting not to make a judgment call on it until the end. It might seem cruel in some spots, but I assure you , I do not mean it to be that way. I urge you to read all the way through, because I am leading up to a point.

Homosexuality is a touchy issue for Christians. Not everyone knows how to deal with it, so they just go crazy and reject it completely. The simple facts are that man and woman are made a certain way, and reproduce in a certain way. This is a simple fact of biology. From an evolutionary standpoint, this means that a species survives based on reproduction, and anything that does not promote this is only contributing to the species’ downfall (this is NOT a view I ascribe to, by the way). This is a good case for why some of the “less civilized” people try and go after homosexuals and oppress them. I’m not saying its right, but this has been an explanation for why this happens. Under the Christian view, homosexuality is a deviation from what God says is his will (one man and one woman together and being fruitful and multiplying). I actually read a book called Like Father Like Son which makes the case that the Trinity is imaged in various aspects of our humanity, including the sexual relationship (Man=Father, Woman=Son, Child=Holy Spirit). This is made clear in the Bible, but not crystal clear. Jesus did not really have to deal with this issue, mostly because the Jews already knew homosexuality was wrong. The fact that Jesus did not correct them on that is telling. In fact, Jesus did not say that anything in their law was incorrect (with the exception of divorce and “eye for an eye”). Paul did deal with this because of the homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world where he was ministering. Contrary to popular belief, the Romans had a similar view of homosexuality as we do today (at least according to several historians I have read; I cannot remember their names I’m afraid; this is a blog entry, not a research paper). This puts the verses in the New Testament which decry homosexuality in a far different context than some people are putting them in, but this is another conversation. The only view in which homosexuality makes practical sense is the humanistic view, which gained prominence in the sixties. This is the view that humans should reach fulfillment in any way possible, and that they should be who they are and do whatever makes them happy. In this context, there is no reason for homosexuals to be oppressed. After all, they can’t help it. They are not hurting anybody. They should be able to pursue their own destiny. This is a very Western view. A version of this view is prominent today, which is where the gay rights debate comes from.

This brings us to the $6 million question: Can homosexuals help it? The research says yes and no. The APA has recently amended their stance on homosexuality and said that it comes from a variety of sources. This conclusion comes from a vast array of research that indicates homosexuality stems from aspects of both nature and nurture. There is no way I can get into this research now. A pithy sum of the research can be found at www.homosexuality101.com. The woman in the video is a professor at my school named Dr. Julie Harren-Hamilton, and she has been hailed as one of the leading experts on this issue. She leads a chapel once a semester about homosexuality and always urges us, first and foremost, to treat this population with love. She also advocates that it is possible for homosexuals to seek therapy BUT ONLY IF THEIR URGES ARE UNWANTED!!! In other words, happy homosexuals need not apply. I was at first skeptical of her claims, but her stance is well-founded. In fact, she is the president of an organization (again, I forget the name) that submitted an 800-page document of research saying that homosexuality is not only multi-faceted in its cause, but also able to be addressed in therapy. This has been seen as one factor in the change of wording from the APA. One person that the homosexual community clings to as a counter to this is Kinsey and his research. While he was revolutionary, his research was flawed and has never been duplicated. This entire spiel basically means that any denial of this research and the conclusions it brings would be as bad as Christians completely throwing out the theory of evolution because it does not fit into their worldview. It also means that denying the genetic nature of homosexuality is not bigotry. It’s speaking the truth. This is the view, at least to my understanding, that Rick Warren believes.

People I have talked to are reluctant to accept this view, both Christians and homosexuals alike. Christians hate that homosexuality is not choice, and the gay community does not like that it is not genetic. The research does not put homosexuality in the same category as being, for example, African American. In fact, it’s cause is identical to many psychological disorders in the DSM (by the way, I do NOT believe that homosexuality is a psychological disorder; I do believe the gay rights debate has no place alongside the civil rights movement, but that’s a conversation for another time). This also makes Christians mad because they do feel their entire Biblical worldview is being thwarted. This is actually more illusion than fact, but they have had the concept of homosexuality being a choice drilled into their head for so long, that they are regarding it as equal to the Gospel. If anything, this development gives us more a reason to act out of love than any other. However, it also gives homosexual people a choice. All of the inspirational messages we hear about humans being able to choose their own destiny are now extended to homosexuals (whom pop culture is constantly saying is trapped in what they are). Some will take this choice, and some will not. God convicts different people of different things. There are Christians out there who are stuck in far worse sins. I believe there will be homosexuals in heaven, even though I also believe that God will set them straight (no pun intended; Jesus said there will be NO sex in heaven) when they get there.

Now we are back to Rick Warren. I do believe he does love on gay people. I have seen evidence of it. He loves on everybody else after all, including those with AIDS. Also, Obama would not have picked him for this speech if he were an overt homophobe (by the way, someone who is homophobic is one who hate, disrespects, or looks down on gay people; or is afraid of being perceived as gay; the above view I presented is NOT homophobia or bigotry). As far as I know, Warren supports civil unions (which I also support) which would make the only real civil rights issue a change in wording from domestic partnership to marriage. It is the denial of civil unions which is the true showing of bigotry (the love shown between homosexuals is, without a doubt, genuine, which is why they deserve these legal rights; it is, however, human love, but that is a different issue). From this perspective, being against gay marriage is a non-issue (at least compared to other civil rights issues). Calling Warren a bigot and decrying Obama for this is absurd, especially if you consider all of the good things Warren has done for the Christians community, the country, and the world. I was watching Rachel Maddow’s show last night, and she had San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom on. In the latter part of the interview, Newsom said he admired Warren as a person and listed off about ten things Warren had done in the humanitarian world, but then he went on to say he should not pray at the inaugural because he was “against homosexuality”. It is for this one issue that he is being demeaned and torn apart in internet communities. This is unfair, and the people perpetuating this should take a good long look at their own lives. To say that Rick Warren has a “lesser” opinion is wrong and defeats the purpose of the open-minded liberalism that Democrats are portraying. People justify this by comparing his views to racism, but this is not the case. Racists believe that those who are not white are lesser human beings. They supported the segregation in the sixties that inflicted horrible oppression onto the African American community, far worse things than denial of marriage. To compare the two issues is like comparing a gecko and a dinosaur. This is not even including the difference between race and sexuality. Should hate crime legislation be extended to homosexuals? Absolutely. I am not sure of Warren’s stance on this. If he was against this, though, I could forgive him because of all of the good things he has done.

The beautiful thing about America is that we have many different points of view. That’s what makes us diverse. The Christian community is very diverse, even though it does not look like it sometimes. People disagree on this issue, and that’s okay. It would be suspect if we all agreed on everything. This is why I do not deny Obama’s Christianity (at least at this juncture), and why I am glad he is reaching out to all points of view. I have never doubted Obama would reach out to us, and that makes me glad. We have as much say in the country’s future as anybody else. That being said, I am very glad Obama is welcoming other opinions as well. I do not agree with his politics or theology at all, but I do respect him. That is a pretty bold proclamation for a moderate conservative, but I am going to make it. I do have several friends who are gay, and I am semi-obsessed with the DIS Unplugged podcast (a crew with several gay folks). I am actually very eager to meet them because they seem like great people to get to know. That said, I have not changed my view. These people I love just like everybody else because they are God’s children. Those people who say “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not good enough are misguided. This is the attitude Jesus took. His main dining companions were sinners, and his main victims were the religious establishment. However, to the woman at the well (a member of a cult) he said that “salvation comes from the Jews.” To the paralyzed man, he said “you sins are forgiven.” I already told you the story of the woman caught in adultery earlier in the entry. These were people he treated with love rather than contempt. However, as evidenced by the Sermon on the Mount, the Rich Young Ruler story, and his tale of giving pearls to swine, that we must also exercise discernment and a life of godliness. This is the unsafe side of Jesus. He asks us to give up a great deal to follow him. This is something he helps us do when we become Christians, and a decision that we must make, not one that should be made for others. This is why neither side of the debate should feel like they should legislate morality. Whatever happens happens. One thing Christians need to understand is that we have never been the minority, but that should not mean anything. Our citizenship is in heaven.

The moral of the story? Let Warren speak at the inauguration. After all, he isn’t hurting anybody either.

 

Joe Schmoe is God, Apparently September 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley @ 5:24 pm

I have been reading the book The Universe Next Door for one of my classes and I have discovered it is one of the best books I’ve read since Blue Like Jazz. I’m saying that after reading it at the same time as Twilight. Yes, I am a dork. No, I am not trying to suck up to my professors.

My life has been one long thought process. I cannot stop thinking, and there are times I wish I could. That being said, there are times in which I’m glad I think so much, because it has prevented me from being a follower of blind and mindless media movements. It also shields me from the criticism that so many lovely non-believers love to rant about on the Internet toward Christians, which is that we’re ignorant. Well, I’m sure they would like to believe that so that they can tell themselves that belief in God is no better than belief in Santa Claus. However, considering many Christians hold masters and doctorates, and most of my Christian friends are some of the most introspective people I know, that belief is ignorant in itself. I thank God every day that my thinking has not brought me to the worldviews of naturalism or nihilism. I would probably end up drilling a hole in my skull under the pressure of the meaninglessness of it all. The Universe Next Door has given names to all of the views in which I have been blessed to be spared from thanks to my upbringing in a Christian home. I probably would have meant more if I had come from one worldview to the truth, but that was not the case. Frankly, I’m okay with that.

The longest chapter (50 pages!!) of the book is about the New Age movement. Now, I had just read it last night and I remember thinking that this was more of a moot point now. The last time I had thought about the movement was when I was in high school and learning about the worldview in my Humanities class. Before that, I had read about it in Frank Peretti’s The Present Darkness series. Now, it was back in my consciousness, and I had began to think that the New Age movement was on its way out. Such a turn of events makes sense, since the world is actually getting worse rather than better. New Agers say it should be going the other way around. This is probably why so many New Age celebrities like Obama, because they think he will be the one to help bring this about. Yeesh. They actually call Christians ignorant! Even if you take George Bush out of the equation, the world would still be going to hell. Iran and North Korea would still be making nukes. Jews and Muslims would still want to kill each other. Terrorists would still want to kill us! China would still be working its way toward the former power of the Soviets. Russia would still have invaded Georgia. Go on and on, things would still be going the same way. Obama will not step into the White House and make things better, and the human race will not make the world better.

Despite this glaring reality, New Age is apparently alive and well. I just Googled the words “Oprah Church” and reached a goldmine of information. Most of it made me sad. Oprah touted this book about New Age, saying it changed her life. Now the book has 2,000,000 followers. It has gained the nickname “The Church of Oprah,” which is sad in itself. I mean, I will not even talk about the fact that the word “church” should not be used outside of a Christian context. The fact that 2,000,000 people are following this junk means that a good portion of the American population are still interested in the New Age life. I mean, it is pretty cool. Apparently, you get to see angels and call upon the dead when you get deep into the New Age movement. You even get to take drugs! They’re not forbidden! Fun stuff. However, when I look at New Age, I see more evidence that people are desperate to fill the God-shaped hole. According to naturalists, we are moving away from following any Godor spirituality. If that is the case, then why are we still seeing all of these ridiculous religions come up? We’re a desperate people. If we really were just monkeys, we would not care, but we do. People reject the church because of the American and Catholic churches’ self-righteous tactics and focus on meaningless ritual, and rightly so, considering some of the horrible things we have done. Unfortunately, they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and rejecting the good and loving God of the Bible. When that happens, something else has to take its place. What the New Age movement shows is that these new things that come up, particularly in America, will consist of the love of self.

The most interesting part of the worldview I saw was that man is each his own god, and has his own universe. Why do I think it’s interesting? Partially, because it proves my point (what can I say?), but also because it is so utterly ridiculous, it is almost comical. I have a sadistic and completely un-Christian pleasure in the failings of worldviews such as the New Age movement. It’s not because it’s not my worldview, but because it makes no sense. Islam, naturalism, Judaism, and a few others are views I completely respect because they have some thoughtful basis. I do not agree with them, but I respect them. Things like Kaballah and Scientology, on the other hand, are much harder for me to take seriously. Basically the idea any man can become one with God or can become is it not worth my respect. Considering all man has done to this world, and what we do to each other, how can we possibly believe we are god-like creatures. That evidence is right in front of our face, and should prove that man is in no place to be worshipped (just like the impossible complexity of the world and the existence of a moral code prove to us that God exists). Even “good” people like Gandhi and Mother Theresa have had their failings.

Books like these are needed for Christians like me. So many are uninformed and therefore are not prepared to defend the faith to those who defend theirs. There will always be the nutjobs who get on us for not “turning the other cheek” when we back up the life we hold most dear. They have heard so many people who recite what their pastors tell them, that they think the intelligent one is the odd man out. The media certainly does not help in the promotion of this. Things like this will NEVER be eradicated, but they can be brought to the light for what they are. Ignorance in the purest form.

For those who say the church is on the outs, you could not be more wrong. The recent political conventions are more proof than ever. If the church dies in one place (like Europe) it begins to come alive in another (like China). I have confidence that despite human stupidity, we will prevail until the end of days.

 

Two Weeks To Go July 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ashley @ 10:18 pm

I will never understand how time can pass on two different planes. My time here at Snow Mountain Ranch seems to be taking on multiple personalities in my mind. For one thing, it feels like an eternity since I arrived here on May 11th. I do not blame myself for thinking that since it was a completely different place when I first got here. The place was devoid of bother workers and guests. There were patches of snow on the ground. It was chilly 24 hours a day. There was also no one here I could talk to. Now, this place is a hub of activity. I work with over a dozen people, and the weather is hot and stormy during the day, and nippy at night. It has certainly been quite a summer in that my environment actually took on a drastic change. I am sure this is the first time such a thing has happened.

Despite it feeling like an eternity since I have been here, time seems to be going in hyper-drive. I now have two and a half weeks left unti8l I go back to Denver to go home. I will be losing 9000 feet of elevation and going back to the land of sandy beaches and palm trees and hurricanes. It has been so nice to have a change of scenery, but I miss my family and friends, and I am ready to go back to what is familiar. I would not trade my experience here for anything, but, as the book of Ecclesiastes said, for everything there is a season. My season here at Snow Mountain Ranch is about ready to come to an end.

It is quite sad when I think about it. I did not do half of the things that I wanted to do. I did to quite a bit, though. I climbed a mountain. I rode horses. I walked through the woods on more occasions then I can remember. I have had several close encounters with wildlife I had never seen before, including bats, chipmunks, and wildflowers. Most of all, I was placed in a completely different world. The mountains and Florida are similar in so many ways, and yet they are very different. The afternoon storms are nothing new, but the May snow was certainly a change. Being away from civilization has been refreshing. It was a little annoying at first, but then I realized I did have everything I needed nearby. Two grocery stores were all I needed. It is all anyone needs really. Like I said before, though, I am ready to go back to Olive Garden.

I got my final schedule yesterday, which was when it finally hit me that I am going to need to make some preparations for my journey home. I need to ship back all of the things that I will not be able to fit in my suitcase. I have to find out when we have to report back for Fish week. There are so many other things that if I think about them, I will get stressed out. I want to take some time and spend it with my friends, but I do not think I will. However, I know that once I get home, I will be able to go out with my friends back home and finally spend time with them.

Long story short, I am mixed about leaving. I There is a part of me that does want to stay, but home calls. I am hoping to come back next summer, but we will see. For now, I am going to try and live up my last couple of weeks here as much as I possibly can.