Don’t write us off

lennonzukerbergjesus

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” – John Lennon, 1966

People have been predicting the end of our Church for a long time.  All were wrong:  Nero, Attila, Hitler, Stalin and so forth.

People usually make this prediction when they have achieved great success in the eyes of the secular world:  money, popularity, influence, power and so forth.  My experience is that people who have acquired such attributes are tempted to feel a bit, well, god-like.

The latest person to unveil this god complex is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  At a conference in Chicago (my fair city) last week, he said, “It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter.  That’s a lot of people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

Surprise; he thinks the somewhere else is Facebook.  He suggests (and I have to admit this is positive) that people connected in meaningful ways to others have a greater sense of purpose and give more to charity.  I’m just not convinced that Facebook connects people in a meaningful way.

Facebook and its ilk are called “social” media, not “deeply spiritual, life-changing, salvation-producing” media.  But after 13 years of spectacular growth, a movie of his life story and a few billions in the bank, Zuckerberg likely is feeling rather almighty.

The Fab Four (Beatles) had dozens of hit songs, but nothing to compare with Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

Facebook has reached billions of people.  But it never raised anyone from the dead.  It never promised eternal salvation (and it can’t).  And I’m willing to bet nobody will remember it in 100 years, let alone a couple millennia, as in the case of Christ.

Our culture idolizes the worldly successful.  He who dies with the most toys wins it seems.

Truth is, social media are weak and powerless compared to the son God.  He is the only one you can “friend” to get to heaven.

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How much for your vote?

dollar-726884_960_720The special congressional election in Georgia’s Sixth District set a sad record: most money ever spent on a congressional election.

Thirty million dollars.  And as I said, sad.

The district has a population of just under 700,000.  A subset of that number is eligible to vote and as in every district, the subset of people who actually vote is smaller.

The special election generated 260,000 votes.  I figure 80 percent were sure bets to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican.  That means there were about 52,000 people who were pondering their pick.

And it was to influence the decisions of those 52,000 voters that political operatives spent $30,000,000.  For that heap of cash, you gets lots of radio and television ads, billboards, posters, brochures, buttons, refrigerator magnets and rubber-chicken dinners.

Of course, what you are looking for is votes.  If you do the math, you are spending $577 for each of the 52,000 votes in play.  Like I said, sad.

Something is terribly wrong when we spend so much money to market, promote and sell political candidates.  We must believe that the biggest spender will win, not the soundest idea.  Does money make right?

Shut up and play the game

soccer-673488_960_720Depending on your point of view, Jaelene Hinkle is either a hero or a bigot.

In my view, she is just a talented soccer player and Christian.  But because of her firm (but compassionate) Christian view, she is sitting out a couple big soccer matches this month.

A little background.  Hinkle plays on the US Women’s National Soccer Team.  That means she is no athletic slouch.

The team is playing a couple international “friendly” matches this month.  A friendly is a little like a pre-season or practice game in that it doesn’t count in any sort of league or tournament standings.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the players are friends or behave in a friendly manner during the match.

In a bountiful not to political correctness, the US team is wearing rainbow gay pride jerseys for these matches.  I guess they want to demonstrate solidarity with LGBT folk, some of whom I presume are soccer players and fans.

Hinkle is sitting out the matches rather than wear the gay jersey, which she bravely says conflicts with her faith.  To her credit, she isn’t making a big deal about it, just practicing her faith.

I don’t think this is a choice a soccer player should have to make.

There are myriad causes the soccer team could promote on its jerseys:

  • Whole grains for breakfast
  • Right to life
  • Global warming
  • Benefits of regular exercise
  • Save the whales
  • Clean water
  • Gun control
  • Drive 55
  • Yoga
  • World peace

For me, the obvious think to promote would be bass fishing, but others would likely disagree.  So here is a novel thought; why don’t we promote soccer on soccer jerseys?

Rather than promoting a political, social, moral or religious cause, why not put the team name and a number on each jersey?  The US Team is a rather big deal, so it might make sense to add the individual player’s name.

Anything else should relate to the game, perhaps a snappy slogan:  “Let’s kick hard and whip the Russians.”  At the end of the day, it isn’t the style of the jersey that counts; it is whether you put the ball in the net.

Keep it Simple

640px-Gospel_of_johnGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

 This is my favorite Gospel reading.  Short.  Clear.  Simple.

I’m a simple guy.  I believe most problems have an obvious answer.  We may not like the answer and it may not be easy, but right is right and wrong it wrong.

That being my view, I’m astonished at how complicated we make our faith.  People study for years to become Bible scholars.  The scholars write millions or books and articles.  We fill libraries with books analyzing everything in the Bible and everything anyone has ever writer about anything ever said about what is in the Bible.

I enjoy reading, and I read many books about the faith.  I tend to enjoy books about people who have heroically lived their faith.  I’m not as enthusiastic about books that argue the fine points of theology.  I’m glad there are theologians, but I’m even more glad I’m not one of them.

I searched the book section of Amazon and got more than half a million results for “Bible.”  Should I laugh or cry?

Catholics of all varieties have been debating of late whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive communion.  I have an opinion, but in light of the gospel passage above, I’m not sure my opinion is all that important.

I have orthodox views, what many people call conservative.  If everyone observed the 10 commandments, the world would be a safer, more peaceful place.  The commandments may not be easy to follow – but they are simple.  But rules alone can’t make us happy and won’t get us into heaven.

Jesus isn’t about rules. He is about salvation, which comes from believing.  He is about mercy, not punishment.  He is about love, not law enforcement.  He is the Word and invites us into a personal relationship.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been transported back to pre-Christian times.  Debate abounds over church music, church architecture and what color shoes altar servers should wear.  We need more rules and better enforcement, right?

Pre-Christian Israel had lots of rules, but it wasn’t working.  So God did something that changed everything:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. — JN 3:16-18

Sparks will fly…

glitterCome Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

If you liked glitter Ash Wednesday, you’ll love Sparkly Pentecost.

That’s right.  The LBGT folks who put glitter on one holy day are putting sparkle in other.  They promoted glitter in the ashes for the start of Lent.  And tomorrow they are marketing bags of glitter to be thrown into the air during Pentecost services.  This supposedly will confer on everyone a “glitter blessing” and somehow affirm LGBT lifestyles.

In reality, it is an attempt to show Christian solidarity with folks who are confused about their sexuality. It is a tacky trick to get attention, confuse acceptance and endorsement, and exploit something of greater importance than whether boys can kiss boys, girls can kiss girls and anyone can enter the bathroom of their choice.

Pentecost is about the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift presented to all, undeserved and inexplicable.

Pentecost isn’t about affirming a particular race, religion, biological orientation, décor, team spirit, shoe size or hair color.  It isn’t about you or me, but the Holy Spirit.

But I expect the appropriation of holy days for unholy purposes is just getting started.  Look for rainbow flags on the Fourth of July, transgender turkeys on Thanksgiving and glitter Christmas trees in December.  I don’t know what these folks will dream up for Labor Day, but I’m sure it will be disgusting.

Pentecost isn’t a day to make political statements or issue demands.  Let’s try gratitude.  God created you.  Jesus loves you.  The Holy Spirit is with you.