Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Honesty

It's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us again, and once again I'm marveling at the self-righteous double standard of many Christians. It begins with Halloween.

Many Christians refuse to celebrate Halloween and it's easy to see why. Halloween is a "holiday" overtly rooted in spiritual darkness. The whole tone of the festival is occultic, with it's "lighthearted" emphasis on ghosts, goblins, witches, etc. The actual origin of Halloween in Celtic paganism is the final straw for anti-Halloween believers. I understand the distate these believers feel; what I've never understood, though, is why the Christians who so sanctimoniously condemn Halloween eagerly celebrate Christmas and Easter, which are just as pagan in origin as Halloween. I've never gotten a real answer from such Christians, but I recently had the pleasure to finally meet a Christian who was honest about the holidays.

His name is E, and I work with him. He's a strong Christian and leads the prayer group at work. Right before Halloween I asked E if he was taking his kids trick or treating. I must admit that I was baiting him; I wanted to see where E stood on not only Halloween but also the larger issue of pagan "Christian" holidays. E answered my question with a question. He asked if I knew the origin of Halloween and I said I did. He then said that I should know why he didn't celebrate Halloween. Because it's pagan, I responded and E said yes. Then I asked him if he celebrated Christmas and Easter, since they're pagan in origin, too. E said he didn't, and I was surprised. That was the first time I'd heard a Christian be consistent on the holiday issue.

I told E I was surprised by his answer because most Christians I knew refused to acknowledge the paganism of Christmas and Easter. E had a response to that. He said that his duty as a Christian was to be true to Scripture, not Church tradition. E said that while he remembered Christ on Christmas and thanked God for sending His Son to earth, he didn't celebrate the holiday itself. As I said, I found that refreshing.

I admire E for his honesty. So many Christians are uninformed, inconsistent, or just plain ignorant on the issues of the holidays and whether they should celebrate them. E has taken a stand and he's letting the Bible, not cultural norms, be his guide. He is being consistent and honest on the holidays and doing it to remain true to God. E is living out holiday honesty, would that every Christian did so.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Connection

This blog is about my often troubled and contradictory relationship with God,the Church, and the Christian faith. I was raised in a nominally Christian home and my Christian education was rudimentary. Neither one of my parents modelled Christian living to my siblings and me. My grandmother took me and my sister to church regularly but I never felt I belonged and as soon as I could I stopped attending. Still, I managed to emerge from my largely religious deficient childhood believing in historic, orthodox Christian doctrine.

I believe in God. I believe that the Bible is His inerrant Word. I believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified, buried, and rose on the third day. I believe that Jesus died for our sins and that He is now the only way to God and salvation. I believe all of that yet I hesitate to call myself a Christian. Something is missing in my spiritual life, and until I find it I feel the label "Christian" is best not applied to me.

What's missing? I can't put it accurately into words but I refer to it as "the connection".

Over the past two decades I've read lots of Christian books and watched lots of Christian television. I've noticed a common theme when the topic of salvation is being addressed. In virtually every case new Christians described having what I call the conversion experience. This experience seemed to cement their commitment to the faith more than a rational understanding of Christian truths. This experience, which was invariably described with great emotion, opened up "the connection" with God. And what is "the connection"?

"The connection" is the feeling that you really do have a relationship with God. "The connection" encourages and helps sustain committment to Christian convictions. It's more than just a cerebral understanding of the reality of God; it's the heartfelt realization that God is there. I've never had that heartfelt realization.

When I was fifteen I asked Jesus to come into my heart as I'd been taught to do in church. I was serious; I really wanted Jesus in my life and in charge of my life. After praying, though, I felt nothing. I thought I must have done something wrong so I asked again and again, nothing. I tried a third time and got the same result. That was 30 years ago and I still don't understand why I didn't experience "the connection". I still ask myself, why did God reject me?

Well meaning Christians who have had that conversion experience and know the reality of God will insist that God didn't reject me when I was a kid. They'll insist that He did answer me, even if I didn't feel it, and I've been His child ever since. They'll say that faith isn't about feeling but about believing that God will do what He says He will do and then acting like you believe it. That's what well meaning Christians will say because they just don't understand what it's like to pursue God and not find Him. They don't understand because they have "the connection". So those well meaning Christians, sadly, are of little use to me.

Why does God choose to connect with some people but not others? And why would He do that if He really wants everyone to be saved? I mean, how is God encouraging people to seek Him and His salvation when He ignores them when they do? Alas, I am at a loss for any rationally and emotionally satisfying answers to such questions. One resource that was helpful to me was the book Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey. While I believe Yancey fell back on some pat answers toward the end of the book, it was so refreshing to see someone in the Christian community acknowledge that God can be disappointing. My attempt to reach God had left me feeling like a woman quoted in the book who said:

I kept hearing the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus Christ". But I found to my dismay that it is unlike any other personal relationship. I never saw God, or heard him, or felt him, or experienced the most basic ingredients of a relationship. Either there's something wrong with what I was told, or there's something wrong with me.

Boy do I understand how that woman felt! And maybe she's got a point. Maybe what's wrong isn't her, me, and others like us but, rather, what we were told Christianity would do for us. I don't know, but my pursuit of God continues albeit with a lot less intensity than when I was young. I still want God in my life. I still want "the connection". Maybe, if I keep trying and have faith, I'll one day get it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Slight Problem With Carrie Prejean

Well, it's official. Carrie Prejean will keep her crown as Miss California despite the controversy over her support for traditional marriage. I'm glad for that. I support Miss Prejean in her struggle against the intolerance of gay activists; however, I do have a slight problem with Miss California.

I didn't watch the Miss USA pageant but I did see a couple of excerpts following Prejean's controversial statement. One of them was of Miss Prejean strutting across the stage in a bikini, revealing almost as much skin as a Playboy centerfold. That rubbed me the wrong way. Carrie Prejean's opposition to gay marriage was, according to her, rooted in her Christian faith. She has spoken of her reliance on God's strength during this difficult time. What I don't understand is why Miss Prejean understands God's teaching on homosexuality but doesn't seem to understand His teaching on feminine modesty.

I've written about feminine modesty on this blog once before. I complained that too many Christian women who take modesty seriously think it means they have to dress like 19th century frontier women. Carrie Prejean seems to be the opposite exreme, a Christian woman who has no concept of modesty at all. And what's more, nobody seems to have noticed that. It makes me wonder what's going on in the Christian culture.

It's great to have young people stand up for Judeo-Christian principles in public but Christians, young and old, need to stand up for ALL of those principles. The Bible commands modest dress for Godly women. It doesn't give a specific description of modest dress but I'm sure it does NOT mean a barely there swimsuit. I don't think Carrie Prejean's wardrobe faux pas means she's insincere in her faith. I think it means that she hasn't been taught all the specifics of that faith.

For years femininsts have militantly opposed beauty pageants on the grounds that they objectify women. Surprisingly enough, I think Christians can and should oppose most beauty pageants on similar grounds. Public events that require women to strip, even briefly, to near nudity violate Biblical standards. I don't think Godly women shouldn't participate in such things. But Carrie Prejean did participate in such an event and it gave her an opportunity to stand for Biblical truth. So God made a way for something quite wordly to be used for His glory. Still, that bikini prance was a disconnect from Christian values. That's the slight problem I have with Carrie Prejean.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jesus Defined Marriage

The issue of gay marriage is quite contentious in our country. This contentiousness was highlighted by the recent controversy involving Miss California Carrie Prejean's support for traditional marriage during the Miss USA pageant. Miss Prejean's commitment to traditional marriage is believed by some to have cost her the Miss USA title. It has also made her the object of rabid scorn. Miss Prejean's courage and grace in the face of vitriolic condemnation is an inspiration but it might leave some people wondering if she's right to base her stand on the Bible. She is.

There are secular arguments against gay marriage but to those who claim any allegiance to the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic, the Bible's definition of marriage is the final authority. The Old Testament is unambiguous in it's condemnation of homosexuality as sin. Gay marriage is definitely NOT in the OT's picture. Many liberal and/or gay Christians, however, say the New Testament is different, more "enlightened". They like to make much of Jesus' alleged silence on the subject of homosexuality. He didn't speak directly against it so, they reason, this is an endorsement of the lifestyle. They are wrong.

Jesus didn't mention homosexuality, that's true, but He really didn't have to. We need to remember that Jesus didn't exist in a vaccuum. He lived in a Jewish culture steeped in the moral teachings of the Mosaic Law. Jesus was a devout Jew who, unlike the apostle Paul, never repudiated the Mosaic Law nor its moral commandments, including the commandment against homosexuality. When Jesus was on earth the Bible consisted only of what Christians now call the Old Testament. That was the Bible Jesus read. That was the Bible Jesus quoted. That was the Bible Jesus believed to be the Word of God. And that was the Bible Jesus used to define marriage. Yes, Jesus defined marriage. It's written in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, verses 3-6. Here are those verses from the New King James Version of God's Word:

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female' and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.

There it is folks, Jesus' definition of marriage. In the view of our Saviour, marriage is a heterosexual covenant. When confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus didn't offer some new, "inclusive" concept of matrimony. Instead, He quoted the book of Genesis--showing He regarded it as authoritative--where God instituted marriage by creating mankind male and female. It is for that reason--making humans male and female--that men should leave their parents and be one flesh with their wives. HUSBAND and WIFE, MAN and WOMAN are what God joined together, and that "one flesh" is what man has no authority or right to put asunder. This is a crushing blow to liberal Christianity's love affair with homosexuality, gay rights, and even its attempt to allegorize Genesis' creation account. This should be the end of the debate, but it won't be.

Die hard liberal believers will rush to point out that this definition of marriage came in response to a question about divorce, not homosexuality. Therefore, Matthew 19:3-6, the liberals will say, is irrelevant to the issue of gay marriage or homosexuality in general. They are wrong. Jesus did give the above definition of marriage in response to a divorce question, but that does NOT negate the definition itself. The meaning of marriage applies to all circumstances; it is NOT situational. If the Pharisees had asked Jesus about gay marriage He would've given the SAME answer, because there is only ONE Biblical definition of marriage. There is only one union God ordained: male and female. Jesus said man must not separate what God has joined. The Saviour submitted to God's domestic structure. Who are we to object?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do You Agree With This Guy?

I found this video while looking around on God Tube, now The young man, Josh, is expressing his opinion on a subject that has divided the Christian community for decades. I think a lot of believers agree with Josh; I don't. I think that the views that Josh shares in his vid are the very reason why the Christian worldview--and its secular, traditionalist counterpart--has lost the culture. I understand where Josh is coming from when he says that Christians can't and shouldn't take the things of the world to honor God. But everything we could ever use to honor God comes from the "world" in the since that it comes from sinful humans. If we can't use rock music to sing God's praises, can we use ANY music, ANY art, to do so? ALL art, after all, comes from human beings. I believe it is neutral; it will convey whatever spirit is in the people making it. I don't believe that a certain type of spirit is inherent to particular types of art. But that's just my opinion. Give a listen to Josh's view and then decide for yourself.