Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm Picking Another Fight!

I've been off of the blog for a few days and I've been trying to be less controversial in my Facebook postings as well. Part of the reason is that people get really angry when I post things that they disagree with. By and large, people today take disagreement as a personal attack on their own intelligence and decision making ability. It doesn't have to be that way.

We all arrive at our personal preferences for a variety of different reasons--including personal taste. Our disagreements don't have to be ugly. Today, I want to engage in a subject of personal taste in an effort to demonstrate that we can disagree without being hateful. 

The subject--fast food burgers!
Anti-fast food people and chicken lovers will have to wait for another day. This is about fast food burgers!
There are the national chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Hardee's (or Carl Jr.'s) and there are regional chains Jack in the Box, Whataburger, Five Guys', In and Out, etc.

Burgers can be topped with cheese, mushrooms, onion rings, bacon, guacamole, brisket, steak, pork and a host of other toppings. They can be small enough that it takes a dozen to make a man-sized meal or large enough to feed a family of four for a week in many areas of the world.

For our purposes today, we're talking strictly fast food--in a hurry, pull into the drive thru, order and drive away with your favorite company's entrant into the "how much fat can we fit between two pieces of bread and still get people to buy it" national endeavor.

Restaurant chain and favorite burger please...

John <><

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Much Faith Do You Have?

When it comes to our religious beliefs (or the religious beliefs of others), there is always that immeasurable element of faith. Sometimes we forget that it even takes a great deal of faith to be an atheist.

I bring this up because of a couple of pics posted on Facebook and because I'm rereading the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. I like this book (I did say that I'm rereading it) but I'm not certain that I would consider it a book to give to your atheist friends. Some of it might be viewed as condescending. I think that it is more of a book to equip believers that might encounter unbelievers in discussions of God or faith.

The images that I saw were these:


Both of these tend to mock somebody's belief and both require a lot of faith to believe either for or against the beliefs mocked by the signs. It might also be noted that even though the second sign was made in response to the first (and is a bit more antagonistic), Christianity is not the opposite of atheism. It is only one of several theistic beliefs and is a much greater jump from atheism to Christianity than from atheism to theism. 

But the main point today is that Atheism also takes faith. 

I think that many atheists are atheists that follow blindly without ever examining the merits of their beliefs. I might say that the same is true for many Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons or what ever your brand of theism is.

My post today is brief. I simply want to challenge you to examine what you believe. Is there evidence that helps you to believe the way you believe or are you relying solely on the teachings of your parents, church, culture or something else.

Nobody has to share why you believe what you believe, but you can if you choose to.

Have a great week.
John <><

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Question for My Evangelical Friends

I want to begin by saying that this is really addressed to my evangelical friends and it is not a trick question. It is not a trap or a question that cannot be answered as some of my recent questions have been. It may appear that way, but it is not. I am asking the question because there are many (including me) that are looking at evangelicals and mainstream Protestants that are going to support a Romney/Ryan ticket and wondering how you can do that.

Here's the problem:

For the past several election cycles, conservative evangelicals and mainstream protestants have been pushing candidates of like faith as the candidates of choice and emphasizing the importance of electing Christians to the highest offices in our country. They have spent a great deal of money and effort to get that message across to the members of their Christian denominations. They have implied (or claimed outright) that Democrats can't be Christians so don't vote for them. In spite of the fact that President Obama professes to be a follower of Jesus (a Christian), 34% of conservative Republicans believe that he is a Muslim.

But now that the Republicans have chosen Gov. Mitt Romney (a Mormon) as their candidate for president and Congressman Paul Ryan (a Catholic) as his running mate; Christian faith is no longer being talked all.

Having grown up in the Catholic church, I know that many evangelicals believe that Catholicism is as much of a cult as they believe Mormonism to be. Most hard line conservative evangelicals will tell you (in hushed conversations) that Catholics don't have a personal relationship with Jesus and are therefore destined for hell, and (boldly) that Mormons don't even believe in the same Jesus that the Bible teaches about.

Apparently, this year it's going to be okay to elect hell bound heathens to office; and politics--not faith, is what's important.

To be fair, I know of a few Christians that have told me that they'll be researching some of the third party candidates for the office of President of the United States. They won't vote for a Democrat based on the party platform of pro-choice and/or gay rights, and they can't vote for the Republican candidate based on his choice of religion.

For the rest of you...
I know that you don't owe me an explanation of who you're going to vote for and why, but I'm curious none the less. Has the past really been about needing Christian leaders? Has the Christian faith of previous candidates really been the determining factor for getting your vote or has it always been about the party and the Christianity of the candidates has just been a fortuitous coincidence and an opportunity to legislate Christianity into the laws of the land or brow beat fellow congregants into voting for them "because of their faith?"

This is an important question and one that must be answered well.
If the Republican Party has been the party of the evangelicals in the past, Governor Romney's nomination (and his running mate choice) means that it no longer is. If Christian faith has been the determining factor for support and leverage for votes, what do you do now? And what does it mean for the future? Will voting for a party Mormon instead of an opposing party Christian mean that the Christian leadership argument will no longer be valid?

I have no problem with voting for your party's candidate because he or she represents your party. But let's face it; that's not the reason we've been given in the past. Perhaps we all have to make some concessions in choosing candidates. It could be that those that support President Obama don't like everything about him, either.

It could be that you are willing to set aside your belief that Mormonism is a cult to vote for a pro-life party (or whatever reason you choose). It may also be that a fellow believer is willing to set aside the pro-choice issue to vote for President Obama because of other issues they support. We all get to choose. We all get to vote (if our state hasn't made it too difficult and we have the proper ID and can get to the polls on election day, etc., etc.).
And we don't even have to justify or explain who we voted for or why.

I'm just curious...

John <><

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marking Time ...

School is starting around the Ozarks. From elementary schools to college classes, the new school year begins.

When ever these regular calendar events come around, they have a way of making me realize that time is passing by. It doesn't make me feel older, but it does make me pause and look to see if different areas of my life are on track.

Recently (thanks to meeting regularly with my accountability group), I've got my daily Bible reading back on schedule. I'm also more deliberate about my prayer time.
A couple of conversations with friends and a glimpse of a video (and a few pics) of an overweight preacher/magician has me watching what I consume and actually getting a little exercise. The exercise is pretty much limited to walking. I'm keeping a diary of foods and drinks and counting calories. I'm trying to keep away from processed foods and have pretty much cut out diet sodas and drinks that are artificially sweetened. Water, coffee, tea and a little milk are the drinks I've pretty much cut back to. There was a soda last Sunday morning that was purely out of habit. I was throwing away the empty can before I realized that I even bought the Coke Zero.

I've got a few things coming up in the fall; a one-day class to prepare and teach on sharing your faith, a weekend event at Tabernacle Baptist is Piedmont MO, and a week long revival in Galena MO. Preparation for these kinds of events always make one reflect on your own faith walk and I generally ending up preaching the message that I need the most. The preparations also have a way of distracting me from the focus of diet, exercise and whatnot. I'm going to have to keep on task.

September also means that the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers (OCACW) will begin meeting again. Please join us if you're in Southwest MO and can make the 2nd Saturday of the month meetings.

Well, since there isn't anything political or controversial about this post, I probably won't have to worry about offending anybody. I also know that the hits on this post will be about 1/4 of what I get on the more controversial posts which is a little ironic--the posts that are unoffensive get fewer hits, but the ones that tend to make people mad many more hits. Go figure.

John <><

Friday, August 10, 2012

Did You Know...

...that even if the Roman Emperor Diocletian (early 4th century) had succeeded in destroying all of the manuscripts that would become the New Testament, he could not have destroyed our ability to recounstruct it.


According to Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in their book I Don't Have enough Faith to be an Atheist, the early church fathers of the second and third centuries quoted the scriptures so often (36,289 times) that all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament can be reconstructed from their quotations!

John <><

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I Know How You Feel

It may sound funny, but I think I know how Dan Cathy must feel.

I know that I have no idea how it might feel to have millions of dollars to donate (personally or corporately) to organizations of my choosing. And I know that I really don't know what it's like to run a big successful business and I've never been in demand to come speak to large groups of successful business men and women.

But I have made statements that I thought were just expressing my own thoughts and opinions only to come under fire from readers and friends for doing so. It's kind of funny (in a sad way, not a haha way) that we are all supportive of free speech that we agree with but want to be arguementative and downright hateful towards people of a different opinion. The same can be said of religious freedoms. You are free to worship as I do and I am free to push social pratices and laws that are in accordance with my beliefs, but don't you dare try to infringe on my rights by doing the same with your personal beliefs!

It has become common practice in our society to take every differing opinion as a personal attack. I know. I have had people tell me that they feel that they are being singled out and attacked personally. Most of them I would never "attack," others have been off of my radar (forgive the occupational analogy) for so long that I didn't even know they read my posts or status updates, and for those that I might personally engage--trust me, I'm not afraid to engage you in a personal discussion about our differences.

In the past I've said that I would stay away from politics. I don't know that I can really do that. It is very much apart of our make up in the USA. And I think that we all need to be engaged in our system and well informed of the candidates and decisions that are before us. Just because we differ in the candidates we support or the ideas we have for fixing our social and economic woes, doesn't mean that we have to be nasty to one another.

I would hate to have to invite you to quit reading, but if you feel that my opinions are personal attacks--well, maybe you would be better off to quit reading. If you disagree, you are always welcome to leave comments defending your opinions (or get your own blog). If you feel that I'm a heretic to your (or my) religious beliefs, we can talk. By now, most of you should have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I believe. You may also have a fair idea of how I can be offensive to just about anybody that is easily offended or is one of those that just loves a fight.

So before you start with the comments, know that I am aware that the Cathy thing isn't just about what he said so don't waste our time or space trying to convince me or my readers of the deeper arguments. That's not what this is about. It's about being able to disagree without being disagreeable. It's about having a discussion about our differences without hating one another for those differences.

In the six years that I've been writing Out of My Hat, I've had my Christianity questioned by fellow believers and affirmed by atheists. I've been called too liberal by some and intolerant by others. I have vegetarian friends that probably cringe over posts that mentioned monster burgers. Some readers are fellow evangelicals, some are protestants, some are Catholics, some are atheists or followers of another belief system. Some of my readers are union activists, others are management or business owners. There are Democrats, Republicans, Independents and third party members. There are readers from around the world that are probably wondering what is going on in the USA!

With so many diverse backgrounds, all I have to do is take a stand and I'll offend somebody! Even if you've found yourself with an opposing view most of the time, Know that I'm not "attacking" you or your beliefs. Anybody that has ever found themselves on the wrong end of a personal John rant was very much aware of it. Fortunately, that hasn't happened for a number of years.

Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to be a jerk about it if it will make you feel better about yourself. Feel free to leave a comment or feel free to leave. If you decide to stick around, I'm sure that you will find some things that we agree upon, some things that we don't, and many things that we can learn from one another.

Whew! I feel better (I think).

John <><

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Socialism? Please Explain.

I didn't get any takers on my post asking for some clarification on how the PPACA became a bad thing to the party that originally proposed it. So let me ask a second question--another one that I don't understand but have a pretty good idea of why things are the way they are.

How is Obamacare socialism?

Medical care is not provided for by the government.
Medical care is not paid for by the government.
Medical insurance is not provided for nor paid for by the government.

If you get sick and need medical care, the doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies still set the cost of health care and profit.
If you don't get sick, the insurance companies that have collected your premiums still profit.

Tax dollars aren't used to pay for health care.
The government doesn't make money from health care.

Of course, it's not socialism.
As a matter of fact, for me, very little will change. I'll pay my portion of my employer provided insurance plan. I'll meet my deductible and pay my copay each time I use that insurance plan and they tell me that I've used it for a covered service. If the service is not covered, I'll still have to pay the entire cost myself.

That's not socialism.

Obamacare became socialized medicine when the conservative spin doctors decided that it would take that kind of tag to make it objectionable to otherwise reasonable people. They knew that their faithful followers often accept their rants as the truth and played on the trust their viewers and listeners have placed in them. Shame on them.
And shame on those that continue to trust them after they know that they've been played.

So that's my take.
If there is somebody that can offer a correction to my way of thinking and show me how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is socialized medicine, I would greatly appreciate it. As I mentioned before--

I am so confused.
Please help.

John <><

Friday, August 03, 2012

For the Record

I've been wondering what I would write about for post number 700.
For better or worse, this seems to have been dropped in my lap.

I've decided to set the record straight. I realize that I often seem to send some mixed signals to my Christian friends and family. I am more concerned about sending mixed signals to my non-Christian friends and followers. So let's just put it out there as plain as I can manage in a few short paragraphs.

I am a follower of Jesus.

I don't like to use the word Christian to describe myself. If we accept that Christian means to be "Christ-like" then I am afraid that I fall far short of that definition. Besides, I think it's pretty arrogant to proclaim, "Hey! I'm like Jesus!"

I believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus. I believe that He is the Son of God. That He is God. I believe that He died for my sins (and yours, too) and is the ONLY way to heaven. If you believe that there is another way to heaven (live a good life, do more good than bad, follow another belief or religion), I believe that you are wrong and will spend eternity in hell. In case you're wondering, that's what Jesus taught (along with the love your neighbor stuff).

When I preach, I preach salvation in Jesus and Jesus alone. I believe that we are called to teach others the things that Jesus teaches; that we are called to share Jesus and his love; that we are called to love our neighbors and our enemies; that we are called to be gracious and forgiving as God has been gracious and forgiving toward us.

If you are an unbeliever, I will gladly share my beliefs with you. I will listen as you share yours with me. I will not debate, argue nor fight with you about who is right and who is wrong. I will lead you to my Jesus and leave the Holy Spirit to pierce your heart with the truth. If we part with the same differences that we met with, I will pray for you.

That's my confession to my non-believing friends.
To my fellow followers of Jesus:

I am a social liberal. I believe that we (as a society) have a responsibility to one another. I don't believe that adequate health care is something for some and not for others. I believe that decent health care is a basic human right. I don't believe that one religion has the right to impose its beliefs on a society that has many religions and beliefs. That means that as a citizen of the USA, I support a gay couple's right to a civil union. I believe in the Biblical definition of the family and recognize that not everybody else does. I'm okay with that. As a preacher of the Gospel, I would probably decline to officiate a same gender wedding. I would not turn down an invitation to attend the same wedding and to celebrate with the couple.

I don't use pro-life/pro-choice as a litmus test for political candidates. I believe that conservatives have been played for too long by a party that is truly powerless to make a real difference and wouldn't even if they could. There is just too much money and manipulative power in keeping it as an issue. I don't believe that laws ever change the hearts of people. If you want non-believers to behave like followers of Jesus, you're going to have to introduce them to Jesus first. Then let Jesus lead them.

I don't get worked up over religious persecutions, we were told to expect them. (That's one of the things Jesus taught, remember?) 
I realize that the followers of Jesus will be a minority of our society. This may come as a shock to some, but I seem to remember a teaching that says the road is narrow and the way is hard and few will find it.
I accept that you have an American right to free speech and to worship as you choose. I realize that as a follower of Jesus, I do not.

I don't know if any of this makes any sense or not. I expect that some will think that I'm an intolerant religious zealot that judges everybody and condemns all non-Christians to hell. I'm not. That's not my job. Others may label me as a heretic and remind me that you can't be a Christian and a liberal. (And yes, I've been told that before.)

Maybe these things are the reasons that I struggle in every aspect of life. I struggle to be a faithful follower of Jesus. I struggle to be a good citizen of my country. I still struggle to be a good dad to my kids (that are pretty much grown) and a good husband to my wife. I have far too many things to worry about as I try to serve well to be concerned if everybody else is serving well. Though I will help you to understand the Bible and the teachings of Jesus as well as I can, when the time comes to stand in judgment, you're on your own. That's the best I can offer.

John <><

I Need Help in Understanding PPACA

In case you are not familiar with the PPACA it stands for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is referred to as Obamacare by most conservatives or opponents. In Missouri, nearly every political ad for the primaries that are coming up have a conservative talking about how they will oppose Obamacare.

The thing that I really have a hard time understanding is when did this conservative proposal for health care reform become so distasteful to ... conservatives? I even wonder if these politicians know that it was a conservative think tank that came up with many of the ideas that are a part of the dreaded Obamacare. I wonder if they know that Republicans in Congress once backed the ideas that are included in the dreaded Obamacare. I know that the Republican candidate for the presidency once liked it enough to implement most of the ideas in reform for his state, but now says that it won't work nationally.

I just can't understand when or why these once conservative ideas became so ... liberal, just because they were proposed and enacted by the Democrats. I would have thought that the Republicans would have jumped all over that and taken credit for it at the time! They could have said, "Finally! We've been wondering when you guys would see the light! We will gladly support OUR ideas for health care reform!"

Unfortunately, when your only goal is to make sure that the president doesn't get re-elected, you have to oppose all of his ideas--even if they were once your ideas, I guess.

So, for everybody that opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, please tell me why. Tell me if you supported it when it was a conservative idea and what changed your mind. Tell me if you oppose it because it took place as Obamacare and you were completely ignorant of its origin. Tell me how a proposal developed in a conservative think tank, once backed by Republicans in Congress, implemented by a Republican governor (and soon to be Republican Presidential Candidate) and upheld as Constitutional by a Republican led Supreme Court gets to be major talking point in a negative way among conservative candidates for any public office.

I am so confused.
Please help.

John <><

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Once More on Chick-fil-A

Well, Aug 1, Chick-fil-A (CFA) appreciation day is in the history books (so to speak). I didn't make it by a CFA and don't have any feelings about it. I have seen many posts from friends that waited for long periods of times and nobody seemed to get angry or behave rudely.

Just a few observations--

Maybe if you know that everybody around you has the same moral beliefs as you do, it's easier to behave civilly. I wonder if we could manage to be as polite the next time we're waiting to renew our driver's license or sitting in a doctor's waiting room. And don't try to tell me that it depends on everybody else's behavior or attitudes; you alone are responsible for being polite or being a jerk. 

While there were obviously many that showed their support of CFA and the beliefs of the Cathys, I wonder how many made the opposite decision--the decision that rather than avoiding them for a day, they will never (or never again) patronize them. I know that there are many. I just don't know how many. And for the record, the problem they seem to have isn't with the expression of what they believe, it's with the financial support they give to anti-gay organizations and lobbyists.

Now that we've established a large block of conservative believers, many which claim to be born again believers, how might we mobilize them to tell the world (gays included) of the love and grace that is found in Jesus? I'm not asking them to give money in support of any social position. I'm not asking them to campaign for any legislation. I'm not even asking them to go anywhere or to target a specific group of people. Just tell the story. Maybe the next time you're in a line and people (other people, of course) are getting aggravated you can be reminded to share the story of Jesus and his love and sacrifice.

I'm sure that CFA will continue to be a successful business. But even with a successful business there are usually far more people that don't patronize you than people that are regular customers. I don't think that CFA wants to limit their business to Christian patrons, but they may have taken steps to do just that. While CFA Appreciation Day may have been a huge one day success, I don't think that Gov. Huckabee did the Cathy family any long term favors.

Just a few observations...

John <><