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Rafi Flow
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Churches have traditionally defended the concentration of power by the elites by way of its innate conservatism. Whether it was the mainstream Southern Christians of Lincoln's time who thought slavery was approved by God and Scripture or the Northern Christians who didn't want to upset the apple cart and tear apart the nation. Only the Quakers were consistent in their opposition to slavery until the nation was finally rent asunder and sides were forced to be chosen. In Germany, churches raised the Nazi flag and accepted money from the government and participated in the complicity of silence as Jews, gays, and gypsies were carted off to the ovens. Only a handful of dissidents from the church joined the socialists in their opposition to the Hitler regime. I understand where you're coming from Brent. I fully understand. As Evangelicals again draw the lines in their conservative confrontation against the chaos of cultural change. Whether it is the gross economic imbalances caused by rightist policies, the drowning of poor nations through profligate, unchecked carbon use, or whether people can simply choose their own forms of sexual expression... I just hope you pick the right side when justice sets her balance. Love will help you make that choice.
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The brush strokes of a Van Gogh, the guitar in Dire Straits "Love Over Gold", Bruce Cockburn's tone poem evocation of a Nicaraguan bus ride, the sleek abstractions of Brancusi, the clean geometry of Alvar Aalto, the visionary unity of art and poetry in William Blake, the revelatory words of Sam Coleridge, Brubeck's modern rhythms, and Bach's ornate symphonic cathedrals. So much that is visionary, revelatory, evocative, and spiritual about human art and experience. It's all inside and around us. Add in the awe and power of raw nature, the hum of work and commerce, and the love and touch of friends and family. What more do you need? Life is beautiful.
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Funny, but the greatest events in my life came from times that were stressful. When my son was born, I had to deal with distractions from my dysfunctional family. I finished my undergrad work when I was dealing with a profound personal betrayal. My Harvard business degree came out of a time when I was recovering from a near fatal accident. Happiness is overrated.
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Kewl. But if God WERE active, the discussion would be quite different. Less personal struggle and more transcendent illumination. There would be no religion, no dogma, no discussion. No "Divorce Care" sessions. No 12 step recovery programs. No "Mid Valley Fellowships" trying to cure gay people from living. We're just "monkeys with car keys" trying to figure out how life works. Nothing on this board convinces me otherwise.
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Yeah. Looks that way. Usually, Not Religious means not religious. I can understand why Christians don't want thoughtful sinners around. Sorry I stumbled into your echo chamber.
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I'm not so presumptuous as to speak for God. The way I get my ego and self out of the way is to let God speak for himself. I think there's enough shouting in the world. The thing is, all three examples I gave had the participation of faith communities. Secular goals, to be sure, but real examples of what people of faith and reason can accomplish. The saving of hundreds of thousands, even billions of lives is pretty freaking worthy of note. Compared to that, revivalism looks like a carnival sideshow.
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Good news? Plenty. "Partners In Health" have been doing remarkable work in saving lives through a pragmatic approach in providing direct health care in the poorest nations. In my lifetime, we've gone from the imminent threat of worldwide nuclear genocide to the nuisance of occasional car bombs in distant lands. The next big moral battle is over climate change and the environment. Something I'm gratified to see elements of the Vineyard faith get on the right side of morality and responsibility.
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Many families have problems with the crazy old grandpa in the attic. They want to welcome people in the front door and seat them in the living room, but they end up afraid that the old geezer is going to come down and blurt out his hatred for gays, his misogynistic slurs about women, or perhaps his love for ol' Dixie and the days of slavery. Christian churches have that problem today. It's not enough to say "come as you are" and then whip out the Romans and Leviticus to condemn "the gay agenda". Society has moved past so many "traditions" that were supported in the Bible. Slavery and segregation are dead. Women have equality. Child beating is prohibited. And yet the Bible is the crazy old man upstairs rejecting the modern world. The reality is, you can't be for biblical literalism and not be marginalized by mainstream society. Can you navigate the freeways of Southern California with an ancient papyrus map of Judah? You can try, but it's going to hurt. Hermeneutic gymnastics doesn't really help, because even if a camel corral is functionally equivalent to a parking garage, it's just easier to use a GPS. Vineyard is struggling with LGBT issues, even though it was in part founded by a gay man. There is something extremely and seriously wrong with that. You should be at the vanguard of faiths accepting people as they are instead of saying, "We love you, but only if you change everything about you." The mainstream faiths are much closer at keeping that crazy old man locked away. They care about the Bible and cherish it, but they know better than to be guided by its stupid prejudices in daily life. You can still learn some lessons from the geezer, but as an adult, you need to think for yourself.
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Well, yes. I guess I do sound hostile. I'm well into my middle age, so I reserve the right to get crotchety about my pet theological peeves. Perhaps a gentler way of putting it is that I've worked hard to eliminate cognitive impairments from my life and get closer to reality. That and recent news stories out of Oregon and Wisconsin where multiple children died because of their faith healing parents. I guess if faith healing was genuine, Pentecostal pews would be packed with centenarians, rather than the youthful demographic profile of most Charismatic churches. Ooops. I did it again.
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Looks like a remarkable program. I think I've found my next charity. Thanks, Doug.
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Everybody ages, but not everyone grows up. I understand that people are at different stages in their lives. Their is a kind of self-imposed dependency that is common in the Christian faith. A continual need for emotional reinforcement that is reflective of small children. A whiny "what have you done for me lately" attitude towards faith. Hyper-Pentecostalism and its emphasis on "signs and wonders" for spiritual entertainment is an unfortunate manifestation of this attitude. What new shiny balloons and bubbles do we need to have to play with and distract us? Meanwhile, life goes on. I prefer to use my energy to engage my daily life, rather than devote a large share of my time maintaining an artificial metaphysical construct.
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In your question, I'm reminded of my teenage son in the morning. He'll come down to a kitchen stocked with food and say he's not hungry and then go back upstairs. Then I'll fix him waffles or an egg and toast sandwich and he'll rush downstairs and wolf it down. All the ingredients are there, but he'll wait for Dad to put it all together for him. And I really don't mind, because I'm his father and I love him. He doesn't have to beg me for food because I already know his needs and appetites. But I'm grown up. I make my own meals.
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I don't think too much about benefits from God. The Biblical sense of what God is are tiny slivers of perception from different men over history that were filtered through the many committees of authors and redactors through time. A truly great and universal Creator of all doesn't exist to address my daily wants and desires. I have my life, my hands, my mind, and my will with which I shape my environment to improve my circumstance. What more do I need to derive as a benefit? I guess I'm a stage 5 kind of guy.
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I'm not looking for drama in my life. I'd rather wet my nose and insert it into a light socket, than go to a revival like Toronto's with people spazzing in the aisles and hooting like baboons. 85% of Americans claim a faith. Only about 20% of Americans are attendees. You can have as many special events with all the music and inspirational speakers. But those who will actually attend your revival will mostly be the existing attendees. Instead of building campfires to huddle around, lob some firebombs. Go into the broken communities in Roxbury, Dorchester, Lawrence, Brockton, Fall River....and ignite them with direct love.
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A revival of compassion would be good. Direct engagement in the life of the city at street level. Not preaching, doing. Not on a metaphysical level, but the physical level. Shut up and love. Stop playing with shiny spiritual toys ("Doin' the Stuff"), and actually DO STUFF. Not supernatural masturbation, but actual healing, feeding and giving with your real physical being and resources.
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Revivals are an ineffective means of marketing. You flood the area with advertising and mostly just preach to the converted. It might have been different in olden times when there was fewer entertainment options, but today you are competing with television, sports, and movies. You will never increase church attendance beyond the 20-25% range, simply because religion doesn't have as great a hold on people's attention and imagination. People are better educated, life has more options, and death is no longer a constant companion, as it was during the days of William Miller and Jonathan Edwards. If churches want to get more people, it has to be more relevant. Can Christianity grow in modern times? Probably not. Especially since the church is retreating more from mainstream society and holding fast to ancient mores that have less meaning each year. Creation has less mystery each year. Spiritual life is now under the microscope of brain physiologists. Like a hermit crab, the God of the Gaps is having to continually find a new home to make its stand against knowledge and reason. Churches need to become more Jesuit and less Opus Dei. Gatekeepers of wisdom, not defenders of the keep.
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Oct 12, 2010