Fear Of Whales

Archive for February, 2011

What Are We In Favor Of Again?

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From The Onion: Conservative Christians protest the second law of thermodynamics on the steps of the Kansas Capitol.Christians are against abortion, gay marriage, and evolution. Against the continuing decay of moral values, and the increased need to be “PC” at the expense of frank honesty. We’re against socialism, communism, fascism, and liberalism. We disagree with postmodernism, nihilism, materialism and probably existentialism (though we’re not exactly sure what that last one is)

We know saying “Yes” to Christ means saying “No” to every other religion and worldview including (but by no means limited to) Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Taoism, Jainism,  Confucianism, Rastafari, Shinto, Sikhism, Animism, Druidism, Paganism, Wicca, Scientology, Christian Science, Mormonism, and maybe even Catholicism.

And as well we should.

I want to be clear hear and now that this is not a post about me saying that the church shouldn’t be against things. I know one of the biggest things we’ve been against lately is people telling us we can’t be against anything, so let me say now: I think we should be against things sometimes.

But holy guacamole people, What are we FOR?

We’re for Jesus, obviously, but how does that play out? What does it mean? He died and rose again so that what? We go to heaven?

Is that what we’re for? We’re in favor of going to heaven when we die? There’s gotta be something else…

What about Good morals. Christians are for good morals, and family values. But again, what does that mean?

it means no premarital sex, no adultery, so stealing, lying or cheating, Opposition to militant feminism, insolent children, obscene entertainment. Great things to be against. but I ask again, What are we FOR?

Small government, Lower taxes?

Nope! You’re getting confused. That’s republican, not christian…

I fear we have become an anti- religion. We have become a people, defined by the things we are not. we are like a hole in the ground, not a thing in itself except by contrast to the ground around it.

This is one of the reasons I’m so careful not to enumerate problems without suggesting solutions here on this Blog. It’s not that I think I know all the answers it’s just that anyone can find fault. I want to find answers instead.

And this topic is no exception.I’m not just against not being in favor of anything. I’m In favor of being in favor of some things:

I think we should in favor of Love.

In favor of Faith Hope and Charity,

In Favor of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and all the things that bring them about.

And we should be in favor of creative and constructive ways to increase those things.

This week, how can you create something that promotes global goodness?

How can you support something that makes the world better.

If you get an idea about how to oppose something that makes the world worse write it down and do it another week. This week be in favor of something.

Then comment me up and tell us about it.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 24th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

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HOLY $#/+!

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I want to talk a bit about some f***ing profanity.

I feel strange doing it. I find myself asking “Really? This is the most important thing to talk about right now?” But I honestly think it is. Not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to an end. There are some topics I really feel aught to be talked about, and I feel that I can not do them justice without using words which may not be appropriate for children.

(incidentally if you are a child reading this please go read something else, and if you are easily offended by profanity please grow up, get a pair, and keep reading because this S*-t is biblical)

There is of course no list of “Bad words” in scripture. If there were, they would be words like “Mamzer” and”Raca” not “bastard” as the bible was not written in 21st century English. The Recourse our Sunday School teachers take then is to argue that we shouldn’t use any words that are considered offensive, in whatever society we happen to be living in.

But the Bible doesn’t follow that rule! Both the Hebrew “Mamzer” and the Greek “Raca” can be found in scripture[1]. both words refer to illegitimate children, both are more offensive to their cultures than the word “bastard” is to ours. Matthew 5:22 says:

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Here Jesus clearly speaks against filippant profanity. But not so much that he feels compelled to refer to the “R-Word”. Instead he essentially says “You’re right you probably shouldn’t say “bastard”. You shouldn’t call people morons[2] either” the irony though. Is that no translator I’ve found has been so bold as to translate it that way, so we censor it by leaving an untranslated Greek word in our English bibles. I daresay if Jesus wanted the blow softened he could have done that himself.

So do we stop there? Should we take Jesus word on the subject as final and literal?

Maybe we shouldn’t say bastard or moron because those are bad words, Jesus just said them each once so that we wouldn’t have any doubt which words were the bad ones.

But if that’s the case Jesus must have changed his mind because later in Matthew he does refer to people as Morons (6 times[3])

If we look holistically at scripture we can see a clear pattern emerging. biblical authors (Jesus included) are not afraid to use harsh language and profanity to get a point across, they do not pepper their speech with expletives, but neither do they censor themselves. The prophet Isiah said in 64:6:

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteous acts are dirty tampons ; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

The Hebrew reads “‘iddah beged” literally meaning “menstruation cloth”

In Galations 5:12 Paul wishes the Judiazers would cut their dicks off

In Mark 7:27 Jesus appears to use an ethnic slur

In 1 Kings 18:27 Elijah taunts the worshipers of Baal that perhaps their god won’t answer because he’s taking a dump

And Ezekiel 23:20… Well… Even I won’t say that one. you can look it up…

Perhaps the most impressive instance of biblical profanity though is Philipians 3:8

Yea doubtless, and I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and consider it a pile of shit, that I may win Christ,

The Greek word being “skubalon” which is refers literally to excrement, particularly that of animals. Josephus used the word this way, along with Strabo and Aretaeus. Philipians however is the first instance on file of it being used metaphorically to refer to a worthless and profane experience, Implying that Paul not only approves of this kind of swearing, he actually invented it!

—————————————————————————————-

1. Deuteronomy 23:2 contains “Mamzer”, Matthew 5:22 contains “Raca”
2. Literaly. “Morons” from the greek μωρός (Moros)
3. Matt 7:26, 23:17, 23:19, 25:2, 25:3, and 25:8

Written by RyanGaffney

February 20th, 2011 at 5:08 am

Surviving the Zombie Onslaught

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If you follow the blog and have been reading along you’ll have heard all about how our behavior as Christians mimics Zombies in the sense that we both don’t mean any harm as we mindlessly attempt to assimilate people. And if you care about the church, it may be that in reading, you’ve started to become very depressed.

It’s ON now!

Life in a zombie church can be depressing for people with brains. But take heart! I have good news! Zombies have a natural enemy, so there is hope yet. And there are still some left in the church, in fact, there’s one writing this blog right now! Yes that’s right, I’m referring to the Nerds. Zombies worst nightmare.

Nerds are not often considered effective in battle. They’re paralyzing and irrational fear of girls tends take them out of the running for any valor awards you may be thinking of giving out. but against Zombies, or Raptors, a nerd is exactly what you need. We know this enemy, we know their strengths and weaknesses, we have prepared for this.

Here’s what you need to know about how to survive the onslaught of Christian zombies in your town.

1: Shoot Them in the Head

A zombie’s weakness is the head. They’re like Highlander immortals, they just keep coming unless you take out their head. Christian Zombies are no different, their will is immovable but their brains are soft and mushy. Since their illness is the result of a misunderstanding, you need to kindly, but forcefully demonstrate from scripture and experience, that thought is a good thing! But be careful, because the Christian Zombies already think they agree with you so you will have to “Double Tap“even when you think you’ve won the debate, you need to win it again. Really drive the point deep into their cranium.

2: Get to a Safe Place and Hole Up

Thinking Christians, and thinking people in general have got to stick together. As thinking becomes less and less popular outside, you need a pocket of people who are willing to be “impolite” enough to intellectually disagree with you and rationally explain why. you need practice thinking, or you might stop! In the movies, this means a mini mall, or a skyscraper you can barricade, but for us this means book clubs, and Star Wars groups. anything that will keep Zombies out.

But be careful, if somebody who’s been bitten gets back into the safe house it may become the most dangerous area of all! Similarly, if you create a group full of a bunch of the same kind of “smart” Christians all of whom think similarly you risk creating an ideal environment to foster zombie-ism where all of the humans in the room suffocate in a cloud of their own agreement. (5-Point Calvinists are especially prone to this)

3. You’ll Need Plenty of Food and Guns

As Columbus said in Zombieland “It’s a marathon not a sprint. Unless it’s a sprint, then sprint” In the church today, Now is not the time to go on a Zombie Killing spree while armed with only a baseball bat and this article. You’ll only make enemies, feel guilty, and return zombiefied in the third act to kill your former love interest. Instead you need to arm up and renew your strength. Know the truth, learn the arguments be prepared with a sawed-off single barrel shotgun of knowledge, to defend your stance against any zombies. And fill up on the Bread of Life that is available through scripture. Know the Bible and know God because as it says in Isaiah

They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings like eagles, They shall run a tractor rigged with C-4 straight through the heart of the zombie stronghold and not grow weary, they shall walk and not be faint

…or something like that…

Written by RyanGaffney

February 15th, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Life in Zombieland

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All Last Week I’ve been talking about zombies. And I wonder if some of you aren’t wondering if I’ve been a bit melodramatic. “Ryan” you might be thinking “I’m sorry you’ve run into a couple people who seem to want to eat your brains, And surely that’s a bad thing. but this problem can’t possibly be as widespread as you’re saying it is. So before I close this series tomorrow, I want to take a post, and talk about the signs and immediate results of this problem I’ve been talking about.

The anti-intellectuality  of the christian sub-culture has lead to a social hierarchy not unlike High School. When cognitive capabilities are considered a detriment, those possessing them are considered with suspicion and relegated to the bottom of the social ladder. People with other notable traits, Such as proficiency in sports or innate physical beauty are boosted to the top of the ladder, along with a considerable portion of people who are simply unremarkable, but well liked.

In other words The Jocks and the Popular kids reign over the Freaks and Geeks.

Typically this social construct reverses polarity by the end of college, and in certainty the employment sector. But in the church the pattern is mostly holding with a few exceptions.

Cameron, With “Crocoduck”

Plantinga With Books

Kirk Cameron is a sought after debater at churches who fetches a high honorarium, Alvin Plantinga is scarcely heard of.

Let me say that again: The kid from growing pains, has more influence in your church that the Evangelical Professor Emeritus Of Analytic Philosophy at Notre Dame. here are some pictures for you to compare.

Pretty people rule Christendom. Musicians, Actors, Charismatic Personalities, folks who can work a crowd. If they’re smart we’ll try not to hold it against. Scientists, Philosophers, Historians… They can come to our church anytime they want. But don’t ask us to put them up front. What are you Crazy?

This rule of the Jocks isn’t the problem of course, It’s just a symptom. Jocks are better than Zombies, Jocks are people too. But they’re being in charge helps us understand that we don’t like thinking when we can help it… And I will say this.

In a Zombie attack. Jocks are usually the first to turn. They don’t tell you when they’re bitten, and if they do survive the the third act, they’re always the ones that leave the door open. Always.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 14th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

The Cause of The Zombie Apocalypse

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Yesterday I rhetorically asked “what gives?” regarding the anti-intelectuality of many Christians today I want to take a shot at answering my own question.

Why do we, as a people group, fear logic and reason? Why do we clip verses out of context and put undue emphasis on them that diminish the importance of sources of knowledge other than church? It’s not native to scripture, so where do we get it from?

Well I think there is a number of causes, but the first major problem is we think we’re saved by thinking the right things, rather than by Jesus. So out thoughts become a very touchy subject because the implication is that thinking the wrong things could send us straight to hell.

Also we don’t really believe Christianity is true. We don’t think it lines up with the real world, so we’re afraid of the real world, because paradoxically, we think if we study science too much, we might realize evolution is true, and then lose our faltering faith in Jesus, and then go to hell.

Which is ridiculous because obviously if you proved Christianity was wrong you wouldn’t have to worry about hell. But these conversations don’t take place in the sense-making parts of our brains. if they did, then we would just realize we don’t really believe and move on from there instead of getting defensive.

The final problem I see is that the church has become a business, and pastors the CEOs. Pastors are expected to keep people in the seats and keep the lights on. Doubt may be good for a healthy human existence, but it’s not good for business, so rather than let people search for answers in fields that pastors are unfamiliar with like Biology, our automatic subconscious response is to be fearful and defensive of the question, and our congregants follow suit.

On Sunday, when it comes time to preach a sermon on something, Pastors are busy (another result of putting them at the head of a business in addition to asking them to care for people’s spiritual needs personally) and it’s much easier and safer to preach a sermon on the first part of 1 Cor 8  “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” Than it is to explain that 1 Cor 15  was a rational treatise that invited free inquiry, or talk about the message of the Pauline story being one of truth prevailing, or telling about Kepler, a monk who some might credit with inventing modern science, doing so for the Glory of God. These things run through the christian narrative like a scarlet thread, but they must be exposited, they must be found and dug up and understood, and that takes work, and work takes time, and time is money, and the sermon… is due… tomorrow.


Written by RyanGaffney

February 11th, 2011 at 11:12 am

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Zombies and Evangelism

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Yesterday I wrote about a rising tide in Christianity that resembles the behavior of Zombies.

many Christians think that doubt, rationality, and booksmarts are all worldly, and by extension “bad” And they want you to join them in this level of thoughtlessness. “Just trust Jesus, and let go of everything that gets in the way of that”

have you noticed what a strong resistance the normal people are putting up to evangelism lately? I mean you have the New atheists who are insisting The Pope should be arrested, and trying to prove that Jesus never existed. You’ve got the Relativists who are convinced that no belief is wrong except one that believes it’s right,  and everything in between all united in one conviction, that following Jesus is bad and wrong.

Why do they hate us so much?

Could it be because we keep trying to eat their brains?

I don’t know. but I do know this: I’m a longtime christian and spiritual leader, familiar to just about every church tradition in America and I have a bold personality, and I don’t feel free to doubt in Church. When I have a question I keep it to myself and address it in a super safe environment with one person at a time because I’m afraid of judgment.

If I were a non-christian, I’d probably be petrified.

And yet Christianity is the only world religion I can think of that is falsifiable. That invites scrutiny, and that boasts holy scripture is written mostly by unabashed intellectuals (Paul was a Scholar, Luke a Doctor, and the OT was written mostly by historians)

So what Gives?

Written by RyanGaffney

February 10th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

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Zombie Christians

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Johnathan Coulton sings a song about a polite Zombie. The chorus goes

All we want to do is eat your brains,
We’re not unreasonable, I mean noone’s gonna eat your eyes!
All We Want to do is eat your brains
We’re at an impasse here, Maybe we should compromise…

Something about that song reminds me of several Christians I know. They have good hearts, these Christians, they try to be polite, and kind, but at the end of the day, they want to eat your brains so you’ll be just like them.

Like Zombies, many Christians make no use of their rational faculties, and they don’t want you to either. because thinking, in their mind, is bad.

I think this phenomenon has to be related to the classic “Faith vs Reason” or “Science vs Religion” problem but it goes much deeper than that. I certainty won’t be the first or last blogger to insist that Faith is compatible with Reason, and that Science is harmonious with Christianity when both are rightly considered. But I may be the first one to point out that that fake debate has resulted in what amounts to a rampant anti-intellectualism in the modern church.

So we say things like “Science and religion are not incompatible, and besides scientists make mistakes” or “Philosophy, means ‘love of knowledge’ but I love Jesus instead” or ” Why are you trying to rationalize God? Don’t you know he is beyond our understanding that’s what faith is for, It’s better than reason”

BLAM!

And it’s not just science and reason anymore! It’s gotten to the point when anytime I say anything “smart” about math, history, or even theology I’m met with rolling eyes and reminded that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” and that “Knowledge puffs up” Never mind that that first passage refers to the scandal of the cross, and the second, to food sacrificed to idols! Forget about the fact that there is a running Pauline narrative here that comes in the form of a logical argument. Totally ignore anything that would indicate there might possibly be a cultural backdrop to this text. We’re too busy having “faith like a child” to worry about that stuff.

The problem is that what you call faith like a child is what I call faith like a zombie.

Children aren’t stupid, they aren’t anti-intellectual, and they aren’t judgmental. They’re “uninformed” certainty. but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant when he asked us to come to him like little children.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 9th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Opposing the Devil

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So I have a confession.

I’ve been watching the show “Reaper” on The CW.

I know, I know, guys like me aren’t supposed to watch formulaic pulp comedies like Reaper, We’re supposed to be reading stuff and watching NOVA reruns… I do that to, but I’m a sucker for anything theological and Reaper is about a kid who’s soul was sold to the devil by his parents before his birth, so now he is forced to serve as the devils bounty hunter for all eternity in between shifts at the hardware store where he works…

…I told you… it’s not a smart show.

But honestly, theologically speaking it’s not terrible.

It’s not great (I’m on the 14th episode and Jesus hasn’t come up yet) but considering it’s Hollywood they have done a decent job of sticking to a single Judeo Christian mythology and running with it. I’m used to seeing some Hinduism mixed in somewhere along with some stuff they just made up. But Reaper sticks to Angels and Demons and is clear on the fact that angels are heavenly beings different from dead humans, and demons are fallen angels who participated in the rebellion.

One episode was particularly poignant (whether they realized it or not)

it depicted a group of demons, who Sam (Our Hero) connects with that have formed an underground revolution against Satan. They regret the fall, and are going to attempt to overthrow Lucifer. When Sam attends their secret meeting however, he finds them supporting and encouraging one another to do good. They talk about planting flowers, and a sign in the back of the room reads “12 helpful steps” (to overthrowing Satan) Here’s a snippit:

Bob: Hi, My Name is Bob, and I’m a demon

Group: Hi Bob!

Bob: The week started out great, I rode around Monday, collecting recyclables, then uh, I dropped coins into expired meters, then I- Tried to eat a child… I knew right away it was wrong so I- Untied the kid and called my sponsor Randy and we had a pretty tough talk. Thanks man, I owe you my life.

Randy: Thank you man.

Okay, so silly… not intelligent, but it also brilliantly illustrates a theological perspective that is currently being forwarded by folks like N.T. Wright and Dallas Willard to folks who still think  Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc.

It’s called kingdom theology, and one of the key pieces to it is the idea that what we do here and now, has the potential to add to or take away from the Kingdom of God. And our job as Christians, is to add to it.

That means that we are actively at war against the devil to bring heaven down to earth and destroy hell. We all, through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, oppose the dark forces in this world. and what are our weapons?

Alcoholics Anonymous.

Seriously that’s one of our strongest weapons.

I was speaking to a Non-Christian AA Graduate and Economics Major earlier this week about how he might use his Econ knowledge to make the world a better place. “Global economic interdependence, may be the best way to bring about world peace” I said, but he was doubtful. “I don’t think so man, and I don’t think Global Christianity is the answer either” I agreed “Not if by Christianity, you mean going to church” but then he continued “You know what would work? An army of recovering alcoholics! … If we could get everybody to practice the 12 steps man… it would be perfect!”

He’s absolutely right. that would change the world utterly.

We are using AA to turn the coats of some of Satan’s strongest allies into warriors for our side. We also have WorldVision, IJM, The Invisible Children and yes, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Passive, Nonviolent Resistance to the Darkness. That’s life in the Lords Army… Don’t laugh… I’m dead serious.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 4th, 2011 at 12:01 am

Marraige As The Last Resort

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One popular mantra in christianity today is “What if Jesus really meant that”

It’s a powerful question, when applied tho things like “Sell all you have and give to the poor” or “Judge not lest ye be judged” or “early in the morning while it was still dark Jesus went to a quiet place and prayed” Assuming that Jesus wrote the Bible (as a functional member of the trinity speaking through the Holy Spirit to the Biblical authors) the prospect of taking seriously some of the least popular elements of Biblical teaching is both dangerous and revolutionary.

But one verse I have never seen this applied to is 1 Corinthians 7. Let’s take a look:

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Oh That’s right! I’m here to make friends with this one!

What if the Bible, really means what it says here? Are we even willing to admit that’s a possibility?

I think it is. and I think that though understanding it may require an Aspergers-level ability to ignore social norms,this passage may be the most romantic thing ever written into any holy book.

“Don’t get married” says Paul “Unless you absolutely have to, then go ahead” he then goes on to say “And then have lots of sex”

It reminds me of that scene in “A Beautiful Mind” where Nash is trying to hit on a girl, and he’s a mathematical genius but he just can’t figure out how to talk to women so he ends up saying

I don’t exactly know what I am required to say in order for you have intercourse with me. But could we assume that I said all that. I mean essentially we are talking about fluid exchange right?

Husbands, try this line with your wife tonight:

“Well Honey, I need it!… So Satan won’t tempt me for my lack of self control”

tell me how it goes

…But if we can ignore the social awkwardness that this writing presents to our culture and consider the meat of the point, it’s actually very good… It’s more than good, it’s beautiful.

I wrote in my last post that when my car died it felt similarly to when my past relationships ended. Well apparently I wasn’t authentically in love with those girls!!! Hopefully if there’s a woman out there for me, I’ll care about her more than my truck! That’s the one you marry.

“Wait until you can’t bear it any more, Until you can’t live without her when the thought of being apart makes you feel as if you’re on fire… well then at that point, ‘it’s better to marry than to burn”

Do you think it’s “true love” because you cried when she dumped you and “You never cry”. That’s nothing. Maybe when you can’t breathe, then we’re ready to start thinking about marriage.

But absolutely not before.

Written by RyanGaffney

February 1st, 2011 at 12:01 am