I am a 60ish-year-old single mother of young men, living in Houston, Texas. I hold degrees in journalism from Texas Tech University and engineering from the University of Texas-Austin and I have recently completed my Masters in Liberal Studies at Rice University.
I am amazed at the lengths to which some people will go to justify their pomposity and entitlement as so-called “christian” leaders who exploit their congregants to service their self-aggrandizing egos.
Self-professed evangelical minister Jesse Duplantis carried on a conversation with Kenneth Copeland on the Believer’s Voice of Victory Network back in December 2015 about hearing voices–of Jesus (of course)–while flying on their private planes. They have so many places to be…so many people to convert all over the country, that Delta Airlines could not possibly get them to the needy people longing to hear the word of the lord. Yes, god gave Jesse a private airplane to criss-cross the country and bring you heathens to JEEEEEsus.
Besides, who wants to sit in coach in that “long tube with a bunch of demons?”
Here, have a listen, courtesy of YouTube:
If I had not heard and seen this clip with my own eyes and ears I don’t know that I would have believed it.
Look, believe your mythology if you want. It’s no skin off my nose. But if you are going to give your social security check to these clowns, just know that they are laughing all the way to the pulpit–and to the Fixed Base Operation (FBO) at the private airport where Jesus’ Falcon 50 is kept in a private hanger out of the sun and rain on your nickel.
Through much of the history of mankind, the quest for answers takes a circuitous path through the divine.
I took this photo at the Noravank Monastery, roughly 100 miles southeast of the Armenian capital of Yerevan. I found this small carving on a built-in altar in a small side chapel at the monastery complex, called Sub Grigor Chapel, named after one of the most important figures in the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Although this small chapel was built as a tomb for members of the influential Orbelian family in 1275, this face caught my eye.
While adorning this small altar, the face would have been carved after the initial altar installation. It appears to take advantage of the natural curve of the side of the altar. Was it added merely as embellishment, as an afterthought or was its image planned?
Does it represent the quest for the divine or the quest for the divine in each of us? Is it a god looking down on us, or us looking up for god? We are left with only questions and suppositions. Ultimately, we are on a quest to seek the answers…to the quest.
Unfortunately, his words still ring true and continue to resonate in the face of intractable opinion, masked in modern culture, rooted in religion, dogma and delusional thoughts of superiority.
In the company of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Paul Graham gives us a roadmap on how to effectively argue your point. It does not mean that you will always win. In fact, it guarantees that if you do not have your facts and examples lined up to present, you can be outclassed with as little as name calling and ad hominem retorts.
Most of what I hear today in religion, civil war and politics rarely moves above the point of Contradiction on Graham’s scale. The art of disagreement comes with intelligence, empathy and knowledge.
Secularism, and, shall we say, REALITY continues to rear it’s rationally religious-rebuking ugly head more and more in the United States. Across the board, the fire-and-brimstone teachings of the past no longer resonate with people. Religion’s ability to scare individuals into believing has simply lost its strangle-hold on our conscience.
No organization knows this better than PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-profit group of highly-regarded researchers who’ve been reporting on the state of religion in America since 2009. For those god-loving peeps, the news is not good. The latest research paper from PRRI, published two days ago, is Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back. It seems that many of us are sick of hearing that our fellow LGBTQ friends and family are going to hell for their “lifestyles.” That we need to “love the sinner; hate the sin.” That we need to believe in miracles that are simply impossible on this earth: stigmata, virgin birth, raising from the dead, coming back to life…the same old diatribe designed to win you over emotionally, but asks you to surrender reality.
That being said, let’s get back to Reverend Billy and his Christian friend/Atheist friend scenario as brought to us by Kevin Davis. Growing up in the 1970s in Texas I was constantly told that I was going to hell because I was not a Southern Baptist. Never mind whether I had gone through the same giving up my life to Christ as a Methodist–that made no difference. It had to be done on the terms of the Southern Baptist Convention: you know, Billy’s group. So when I realized that we were suppose to believe in the same thing–that we were playing on the same team, but that my team was not good enough, well, that’s when I started questioning the whole situation. That’s right. Billy Graham’s team, the Southern Baptists, help me to decide that religion was really just a mythological scare tactic to keep me invested, and investing, in their cause.
Now we see that Billy is going soft on the atheists. Rather than attempting to pound us into submission, they can use the passive-aggressive move to pray for us and, perhaps occasionally interject that we will have no life after death and that no one can help us when things get bad, except praying to Jeeeeeesus. Number one: we Atheists don’t believe in heaven or the pearly gates or Dante’s nine circles of hell. There’s no proof. You either believe it or you don’t. I don’t. Number two: things will get bad and they do get bad. If you think that turning to religion is the only way to turn your life around, then you don’t get out enough. For those of us who are highly educated, travel extensively and know people from many different cultures, the narrow dogma of “you have to do what we say or all is lost”–well, that just doesn’t hold water. It never did and it never will.
So this was the original question on Billy Graham’s website:
My best friend and I enjoy each other’s company, but I’m a Christian and he says he’s an atheist. I’ve tried to argue with him, but he just laughs and says I ought to grow up and forget about God. How can I win him over?
The Reverend’s initial answer to the question is:
You can point him in the right direction—but to be honest, you can’t win him over by yourself (as you’ve discovered). He’s convinced that he is right—and even if he has secret doubts, his pride probably gets in the way.
The atheist is convinced that he is right because all evidence points him to the actual reality of life: not giving in to impossible, mythological beliefs inherent in all religion. What if you are wrong, Billy? Your pride must be equally great to not be able to see the ridiculous dogma of your beliefs.
I like Kevin’s answer to all of this pray-the-atheism-away: he suggests, “focus on enjoying the friendship and camaraderie you have with your atheist friend. Most of my friends and family are believers and don’t try to convince me to believe their dogma, just as I don’t try to burst their Bronze Age ideological bubble. It’s called respect. Once you stop showing that, you can say goodbye to your friendship altogether.”
Might I add to the Christian who wants to convert his/her friend: accept your Atheist friend as he/she is. As for your continued attempt at evangelizing to an Atheist, you might be safer just to stay in your religious bubble. Reality has its way of rearing it’s head around secularists. That might be too dangerous for a believer.
Read the original post on Answers, from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
I was recently on a very long trip with a large group of people, making multiple stops in many countries. So often as is the case, “Moctezuma’s revenge” hits hard and fast. Although I was with this large group, I was traveling alone. I still use the term alone right now, rather than by myself, because as someone who has been separated from my life partner for the past 2-1/2 years, I am still trying to map out who I am as a “me,” not as an “us.”
Being ill with either food poisoning or foreign amoebas is one of the most miserable experiences I think any human can endure. You know you are not going to die, but it sure feels like it.
I felt really rotten for four days. In those four days, we crossed half of the Pacific Ocean and made two stops at spectacular locations. At times, I barely had the energy to make it down to the communal area for a meal. I could have called for meals to be sent to my room, but I didn’t feel like eating, much less enjoying myself.
I was particularly feeling sorry for myself when we landed for a few days in Australia.
That first night was a heaping meal of Australian Barbie.
Courtesy, YouTube, Howcast.com
I remember really, really being in the midst of a very fulfilling pity party for myself at the dinner. I could barely eat anything, I was feeling alone amongst all of these people whom I had knows for maybe seven days and probably spouting off in my Texas-Southern passive aggressive voice when I am irritated, lonely, angry, hurt.
People came and went at the table, some giving me encouraging words. “You will feel better.” I knew they were right. Tonight, I need to start the antibiotics; I’m still just feeling too uncomfortable.
The next morning, I awoke, feeling much, much better. Down to breakfast I bounded, actually greeting people, who returned my more sunny outlook. It’s off to the Great Barrier Reef, then. I feel like snorkeling!!
While I was eating my breakfast at a table for 10 with people coming and going, a woman on the trip–a professor–who was a very terse, no nonsense woman, looked directly at me.
“I don’t know if you are the sensitive type or not, but I want to apologize to you for the way I acted around you last night. I was short with you and I am sorry,” she said, quite sincerely.
“Oh my gosh,” I told her. “I really don’t remember what you said. I am usually hyper-sensitive but this time, I guess your words did not register with me. But thank you so much for acknowledging me. Your apology is not necessary. I should be apologizing to all of you.”
“All is forgotten,” she replied. “Now let’s have a great day.”
But it’s not forgotten. I learned from that moment that to apologize for your actions, whether they were noted or not, whether the apology will be accepted or not, is part of healing. It’s part of being human and showing humanity.
I walk along a slot canyon, roughly a mile, known as al-Siq. The walls are high, ancient sandstone deposits, dating back to the Middle Cambrian to Lower Ordovician age. The passage is narrow, dangerous after a cloudburst. Rushing water formed this passage; rushing water continues to sculpt it. Geology is dynamic. As long as there is wind and water, nature will continue to work this passage.
The payoff comes at the end of the Siq. Peering out from the narrow gorge is the Raqmu, now known to western tourists, misnamed the Treasury, one of the masterworks in the ancient city of Petra. It was built as a mausoleum by the local Nabateans and part of the great trade network throughout the ancient world, known as the Silk Road.
Growing up in a stifling, lower middle-class family in the oil fields of west Texas, our only emotional outlet was not in the home-where it should have been safe-but in the church. I have written about the uncontained emotion that I often exhibited in this congregation when the Lay Witness “missionaries” would come to town once a year, transporting the normally deadpan, distant group of midcentury, working-class WASPS into an evangelical dramafest: hands extended to Jesus, crying for mercy, for forgiveness of unknown sins…all with the theatrical ending of “Jesus will save you,” “Expect a miracle,” and the people in the crowd would silently cry. Down to the altar many went–giving their life to Christ. “Miracles are alive today,” cried the missionaries. More soldiers for Christ! Onward, Christian Soldiers, marching as to war…
But after all of the “missionaries” packed up and left to another equally, dry, dusty, tumbleweed-infested Podunk, Texas church, nothing had changed. The next Sunday, the same old tired sermons, the same old stoic, boring mythology and the same old little infighting, based on myth, legend and created drama. “I’m more holy than you because I have the holy spirit in me. Jesus has given ME the ability to speak in tongues.” All it takes is a little education to realize that all this miracle about the holy spirit giving you the ability to “speak in tongues” is absolute bullshit. It’s one thing to speak and pray in another language. It’s another thing to spew out a shitload of jibberish and let all of the uneducated around you tell you you’re speaking in tongues. Dramatic fakery, was my take on the whole situation.
Robert Tilton, speaking in “tongues,” courtesy, YouTube.
What did make sense to me, though, was acting in plays at the small, notable community theater in town. The dramatic plays that came and went in our community spoke of real emotions, real life. These plays were not based on myths about superheroes who could save you eternally if you just believed in the unbelievable. No, these were real stories, real dramas, based on the everyday life of just plain folks who are caught up in the daily struggle of life, of death, of trying to make a living, of trying to find love and purpose, the pursuit of happiness in its purest form. Real. Dramatic. Life.
I thought that what I needed to be was an actor. This was my calling. It was the only thing that made sense to me. Insisting that I get out of all of that fake-church drama and pursue the art of drama in my teenage years did one thing for me. It saved me from the world of religious fantasy that was forced upon me. An acting career was, alas–and dramatically–not for me. That takes complete commitment to the craft and unbridled commitment to myself. However, I craved the blessing of my family. I was not given that confidence as a child, but rather, it was clear to me that I was to be seen and not heard. My opinion and my dreams do not matter. Shut up. Stop being so dramatic. Actors are whores. So that was the end of my dramatic dreams.
Fast forward half of a century later on the opposite side of Texas. As my husband and I were going through marriage counseling toward the inevitable end of our marriage, our very wise, very perceptive counselor mentioned how early Greek dramatic plays helped people deal with their pain and their fears long before the advent of psychology and psychotherapy.
Suddenly, the lightbulb turned on. I got it. The dramatic world that I craved as a child was not that of the stage, but that of reality. Not the drama of the religious dogma, but the dramatic playing-out of real life, real emotions, a safe place where I could release my emotions and become the person that I really was. Not a drama queen but a person with real, dramatic feelings. The stage was the one place where I could be a real person, not a follower of a 2,000-year-old superhero who was born of a virgin, performed miracles and will guarantee me “eternal life” if I only believed. No, that’s not the dramatic life that I want.
To admire. Easily done in the context of a celebrity-crazed culture. Admire an actor, an artist, a politician, an activist, a leader, a family member, foreign or domestic, straight, gay, bi, trans–we all have those we admire in our lives.
When I saw the Daily Post for the day, all I could think of was not whom or what I admire: rather, I saw French. The word admire is from Middle French, admirer, which has not lost its original meaning: to marvel at.
When I began taking French lessons at the Alliance Francaise, my instructor told us very early in our classes that English is 40% French. I never really thought about English having so much French influence, especially since our language certainly does not sound French.
The French language entered the English lexicon in 1066. Every English historian knows the date. William, Duke of Normandy crossed the English Channel–or La Manche (the sleeve, in French)–and killed the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. It was all about politics and land grabs. William, who also went by the moniker of William the Bastard added another title to his name, William the Conqueror.
Norman French became the official language of the British Monarchy for 200+ years. So many of our french words are almost unrecognizable to our ears when we speak English. If you have ever heard a Texan or a Michigander say “admire,” you know that. Yet, French lives on in our writing, especially in our weird rule-breaking spelling.
In this case, I admire the evolution of our language from Norman French to modern English.