Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Worst Christmas Song Ever

A few weeks ago on my blog I named "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" by David Bowie and Bing Crobsy as the coolest Christmas song ever. Now, unfortunately, it's time to name the absolute worst Christmas song ever recorded to date. And boy is this one a doozie! A thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards could not equate the horrible sound of this horrible saccharine-coated pile of dog droppings.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . "The Christmas Shoes" by Newsong:

Oh, how do I loathe this song? Let me count the ways:

1. The obvious theological mistake of thinking that your dying mother needs to "look good" if she's about to "meet Jesus." Apparently Daddy never told this boy that when you die you leave all your earthy possessions (including shoes) behind. Besides, many of Jesus' early disciples were too poor to afford shoes, so I highly doubt that He's all that concerned about footwear.

2. The overall hopelessness of the song. Even though the boy got his shoes in the end, his mom's still gonna die.

3. Not only did it spawn a crappy book series, but also a crappy TV movie with Rob Lowe.

I would go on, but I feel as though this song is about to burrow its way into my brain like a parasite, so I'll leave it there and listen to "Christmas in Hollis" instead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grandpa’s Star of David

Memories of Christmas past always flood my head for obvious reasons this time of year; driving by the array of Christmas lights these past few weeks always leaves me thinking of my Grandpa and his Star of David.

I should say at this point that I come from a long line of gentiles; there is no one even remotely close to being even kind of sort of Jewish even by marriage.

Grandpa was never the religious type; Grandma was a church organist, and a pretty well known one at that, but Grandpa rarely attended services to see her play. That’s not to say he wasn’t spiritual, but Sunday’s for him meant spending time in the garage, smoking a pipe, and listening to the radio—I suppose there was actually something religious about his devotion to this routine, but it had little to do with a higher power.

How the star came about, I am not sure; I’m not even sure he knew what the star symbolized. What I know is one Christmas he decided the house should have one, and so off he went to the garage to build it. When he finished, he came hither from his garage carrying a wooden five foot tall Star of David, wrapped in foil, and decorated in Christmas lights most likely found in the neighbors trash the Christmas before.

He carried it proudly to the front of the house, and climbed to the top of the house to hang his beloved star at the homes tallest peak.

As Grandpa aged, and diabetes overtook his body, he started losing chunks of his foot on regular bases; he was barely capable of walking, let alone climbing a ladder and wandering around the rough. And yet he did—too proud to ask for help, and too stubborn to accept help when it was offered.

Neighbors would question him about the star; most wrongly assumed he was Jewish; mostly he ignored them—refusing to explain his motives for hanging this star, and why it was so important for him to hang it every year.

I wish I could say that I have a happy ending for all of this, but I’m afraid it’s all anti-climatic, as he died years ago never really explaining why he loved the star so much. I’d like to believe that it was symbolic for him—that it was his way of telling everyone the true meaning of Christmas; I’d like to believe that, but ultimately I think it had more to do with irritating someone than being symbolic.

Whatever his motives, I’ll always have the memory; as Christmas passes, and people who used to be around for Christmas are gone, memories are all we have—Grandpa left me one that I’ll never forget; his motives were likely not sincere, but it doesn’t matter because I still have it.

This is my last post before Christmas, and likely the last of the year; I wish all of you readers out there a Merry Christmas with your family; as you sit around the table of fellowship with all those you love (or are supposed to love), cherish those memories, because one day that’s all you will have.

Share the gift of love!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why I Don't Get Mad When I Hear "Happy Holidays"

I think there’s something wrong with me. Christmas is just a week away, and yet I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to. Don’t get me wrong, I am preparing my heart for celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, but something’s missing. It seems that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get angry whenever I hear phrase “Happy Holidays.”

Believe me, I tried. I really did. I spent hours watching Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and listening to James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family,” but it just didn’t work. In fact, whenever some one wishes me a happy holiday, I automatically smile and say, “Same to you.”

Yeah, I know!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t care about keeping Christ in Christmas. Far from it! I just think we have bigger things to worry about than the phrase “Happy Holidays.” For starters, “Happy Holidays” really isn’t such a bad expression. It’s basically a short way of saying “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” and “Happy New Year” all at once. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wishing everyone a happy holiday, whatever that holiday is, is there?

To me, the biggest problem we Christians have to face during the Christmas season is not the phrase “Happy Holidays,” but the increasing consumerism that’s taking over the meaning of Christmas. On Sunday mornings during the Advent season we sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” preparing our hearts for our Savior’s birth. By Sunday afternoon, however, we’re running around the mall ducking and dodging the other shoppers on our quest to grab the latest hot gift before they’re all sold out (or no longer on sale, whatever comes first). At church we greet each other with “Peace be with you,” but at Target we grumble “Watch where you’re going!” to each other as our shopping carts nearly collide. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling this wasn’t what the angels had in mind when they sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

But then again maybe I just have my priorities mixed up. Maybe the phrase “Happy Holidays” really is part of the radical Left’s socialist agenda to destroy Christianity, or something like that. Either way, have a very merry Christmas . . . or a happy holiday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Free-Market Parables?

As you may remember a few months ago I wrote about the so-called Conservative Bible Project. Well, recently Conservapedia's Andy Schlafly was on The Colbert Report, and near the end he says that all of Jesus' parables were "free-market based."

Now I'm no theologian, but I always thought the parable of the talents is about using the gifts God gave you. And I can't see much capitalism in any of His other parables. I mean, you could say that since Jesus talked about the Church, not the government, providing for the poor, His parables could be considered "free-market based." But the free-market isn't the point of the parables. Jesus' parables are illustrations for the Kingdom of God, which transcends all market systems. Besides, didn't Jesus throw money exchangers out of the temple? A good capitalist would simply say, "Keep up the good work, boys!"

Now don't think I'm suggesting that Jesus was a socialist or anything like that. I've said it before and I'll say it again: God is not a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, a socialist, etc. He's God, period. Let's leave it like that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Will the Real Reason for the Season Please Stand Up?

It's that time of know, the time when Christian have to force their message of "the real reason for the season" on anyone who will listen.

I came across one of these "real reason for the season" in the form of art not to long ago; there are many different versions of it--from ceramic art to actual painting--but they all of them have Santa bowing down to Baby Jesus.

I get what the artist is trying to say, but I don't really like the message. If you must tell a child about Santa (or heck a non-Christian for that matter), can't you just say he's a jolly fat guy who gives gifts to people because that's what Jesus would want him to do--he's giving out love and wanting noting in return; who cares about the historical "real Saint Nick" who wasn't very Saintly?

The painting above and all it's variants seem to much like a cheap gimmick, and one that really spreads no message at all; it's not saying anything about Jesus and what he stands for--it's just saying Santa worships him, so you better too.

If you must use Santa to illustrate a point, I sort of like the one below, which is both disgraceful but also too true.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Real Meaning of Christmas, or How Dirty Water Kept Me From Being a Grinch

Today's post is brought to you by Chase Andre. Enjoy!

"Happy Birthday Jesus!" reads the illuminated sign that casts a light across the 405 Freeway this time a year. Below the sign stands the headquarters for the largest Christian television network in the world. Directly across the 12 lanes of traffic stands South Coast Plaza: Orange County's ritziest of mega-shopping centers.

The two seem to face each other, and dual out "The Real Meaning of Christmas" every year.

"Presents and Holiday Deals!" screams the one, in bright fluorescent.
"Keep Christ in Christmas!" the other matches its electric tone.

This banter happens like clockwork (Well, that's not entirely true. It seems to start earlier and earlier every year. I believe I started seeing "Holiday Special!" sales in August, and my pastor started his "Nativity Series" in mid-September this year...I digress). Either way, you can count on seeing it.

I have to admit, though, I tend to dread it. Not to get all Charlie Brown Christmas on you, but I don't think either sides of this debate is "the true meaning of Christmas." The whole thing makes my head spin, and to be honest, I get downright Scroogey. Or maybe Grinchy. Depends on the mood; or how many @JimCarey tweets I've read.

But this season, I heard a statistic that put legs to my Bah-Humbug.

In fact, I became downright... disturbed.

Every year, Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas.
Only $10 Billion of that would solve the Clean Water Crisis, Globally.

That same crisis that is claiming 42,000 lives a week.

What does this mean? It means that if we all shaved roughly 20% of our Holiday budget from ourselves and gave it away, we could give life to nearly a billion people who live without this Basic Need. But what do we do instead? Buy Toys and Tinsel.
(Excuse me sir...your Grinch is showing.)

Despite my flaring Bah-Humbugs, Hope has grown in me this year. It's a Hope that comes from the promising prospect of Change; and not the kind offered by any politician.

Instead, what I see is young people, like ourselves, who are beginning to take Jesus at His words:

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." (Matt 25:40)

As Travis mentioned, a group of friends and I went out on Black Friday to remind folks of the tangible impact their money could have on their Global Neighbors. We started a Facebook Event Page for what we were doing and it spread to more than 3000 invitees, and over 600 positive responses from around the country.

When you hold a protest/picket/whathaveyou such as this, you never truly know what the response will be. Overall, our small group (around 10 friends who banded with us in our area between the hours of midnight and 9am), was very well received.

One man, in line for the midnight opening of Toys'R'Us, stopped in his tracks. You could see on his face that what our cardboard signs stated disturbed him, too. "$20 could provide clean water for a person in a third world country for 20 years? I have to give!" Immediately, he pulled out his iPhone and tapped in "I'm donating right now!" he told us, before he crossed the store's threshold.

Another, about my age, sprinted out of Best Buy at around 5:30am with a flat screen TV under his arm, and a grin-of-victory spread across his face. I offered him a bottle of water, and told him why we were out there when he asked.

"You need to get laid, bro," came his response.

I gave him a bottle of water anyway. He accepted, without breaking stride. As he rushed off to wherever he was rushing to before sunrise, I called out, "And, uh...I hope...that TV, gets you... laid?"

Humorous as I found it, I was saddened to know that is the gauge-of-success much of our culture carries. It affirmed why my friends and I were out there.

Yet with every story like that, we find stories of Hope and change.

For example: a friend, Brandt Russo, is fasting from all food until he raises $15,500 "to help Ryan Alexander of Not Fashionable in his quest to end hunger by helping him provide medicine to deworm 1,000,000 children." (To find out how you can help Brandt in his Operation:STARVATION, or learn more about the cause, click here)

We all know that this stuff -- the toys, and tinsel, and TVs -- won't last. Nor will they bring us anything but momentary happiness. Yet, year after year, we persist to buy them.

If I could make one request, it would be this: Give Life. This Christmas, let's not get wrapped up in the ribbons and glitter and electric allure of the Sales and Specials. Let's not say "Happy Birthday, Jesus" and do nothing to offer him a drink of water (See Matthew 25:40-46).

Instead, let's realize how greatly our blessings & excess could impact another. We could save lives. If the Hope for Change I see rising is a trend here to stay, then Save Lives, we will.

"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Merry Christmas, Friends.

"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 8:14, as told by Linus.

Photo Credit: Sarah Jean Photo

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Naked Gospel

Thanks to Andrew Farley's The Naked Gospel, I can no longer beat myself up with guilt and legalism. I'm not sure whether to thank Farley or curse him.

Even though we know we are no longer under the Law of Moses, Farley writes that many Christians don't really believe it. If you're like me, you somethings think that you have to follow some sort of moral code in order to get into Heaven, and you beat yourself up when you feel like you're not good enough. But as Farley explains, that's the Old Covenant, which is dead. While the Law shows us God's ways, following the Law cannot save you. Only Jesus' death on the Cross can totally pardon our sins--now and forever. Farley reminds us that we are new beings, and sin no longer reins over us. Of course, we still unfortunately sin for time to time. But according to Farley it's not because of our "human nature," but because the force called Sin still lives inside of us (Romans 7:17).

"The message of 'Jesus plus nothing' . . . is often too humbling for us to swallow," Farley writes. "Instead, we opt for performance hoops to jump through in order to impress God. Sure, we trust Him alone for salvation and a place in Heaven. But when it comes to daily living, it's difficult to fathom that he wants to be our resource and carry the load."

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm way too hard on myself. Even though I know what grace means, my mind still can't believe it. I don't have to jump through any proverbial hoops to win God's favor? And Jesus already did all the dirty work? There's got to be a catch! But no, there isn't.

So now that I don't have to beat myself up with legalism and guilt, what am I supposed to do now?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Busy Day, Busy Week

You may have noticed I did not post last week (or perhaps you didn't), but, being Thanksgiving, I took the week off. Today I am enamored with graduate school application.

Many of you probably know the dire state of public libraries (if not you can read about it here.........mcsweeney's link); this has left me in this unfortunate position of trying to figure out what I will do next year if it continues to get worse (or even if it stays the same).

For many years, I have considered the idea of returning to school to get my MFA--a quite backwards idea considering I've already published a book and currently teach writing; this year the idea of it has been louder in my head than ever because it will offer two years to get away from worrying about income and just write--and hopefully it will all be better when I'm done with school.

My chances of getting into any of the programs stand at just below 1%, and even if I do get in, I'm not certain I will even go.

And so that is what I'm working on today, and that is why this post does not fit the normal tone of this blog.

With any luck, I will return to the regular post next week...

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Black Friday Comes

"It's the holiday season, so woop-de-doo and hickory dock"--Andy Williams

Yes folks, it's that time again. The time for cheesy TV movies, pointless debates about the phrase "Happy holidays," and grown ups fighting over a laughing Elmo toy. It all starts today with that wonderful day all retailers anticipate . . . Black Friday!

A couple of years ago when I was working at Pier 1 Imports, I had the unfortunate privilege of working on Black Friday. My heart goes out to everyone working in retail today. (Special prayers are welcomed for my fiancee Amy, who has to work at Babies R Us today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Fortunately not everyone celebrates the day after Thanksgiving by stampeding over shoppers to get that best buy. Buy Nothing Day is the anti-Black Friday when anti-consumerist activists do not spend money on anything for the entire day, not even a tank of gas. I'm pretty good at sticking to Buy Nothing Day, although last year I did buy some toothpaste and facial soap from CVS last year during Black Friday. I'm against extreme consumerism just as much as the next person, but I also don't want to have bad acne and halitosis.

My friend Chase Andre is doing something interesting called Operation: Black Friday Takeover. He and some friends gave bottles of water to people standing in line to get inside the stores. Then they collected the empty bottles, and will recycle them and give the money to Charity: Water. Stay tuned and I'll let you all know how they did.

All this does get me to thinking about how I've been spending my money. Lately I've spending lots of money on music, especially since now I've discovered it's cheaper and easier to just download albums from the Internet. But it all adds up after a while, and besides I'm not really supposed to be spending all this money on myself this time of year. So I'm going to make a conscious effort to watch how I spend my money. I'll try to get into the habit of asking myself, "Do I really need this, or do I just want it? Is this going to make some one else happy, or just make me happy?"

So I hope everyone else reading this will look past the extreme commercialization of what used to be a religious celebration, and remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Oh great, now I sound like one of those cheesy TV movies!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is the Prosperity Gospel Responsible for the Crash?


Definitely grabs your attention, doesn't it? However, the title of this month's Atlantic's cover story is a bit misleading. Writer Hanna Rosin does not blame the current economy on the teachings of either the Bible or the Church. Instead, Rosin examines how the economy might have went south with the help of a fad that many Christians denounce--the Prosperity Gospel.

The article mainly focuses on Casa del Padre, a Latino church in Charlottesville, VA, and their pastor Fernando Garay. On any given Sunday, Garay (a former loan officer) preaches that God is willing to shower true believers with great abundance. Like many other prosperity gospel preachers, he urges his congregation to aim big, regardless of their income. "If you can't afford a house you shouldn't buy it," says Garay's wife Hazael. "But if the Lord is telling you to 'take that first step and I will provide,' then you have to believe." If you don't, it's a sign of disbelief.

While Garay claims that the recession did not affect his church, many other churches aren't so lucky. According to the article, "most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona--all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis." Also, at one point the article mentions that apparently Wells Fargo had the idea to send sales officers to church-sponsored "wealth-building seminars" and tell the churchgoers how they could buy new homes.

At the end of the article, there's no clear answer as to whether or not the prosperity gospel played a hand at bringing down the economy. However, I'm sure it didn't help things, either. If last year's crash taught us anything, it's that for too long we've been spending more money than we have. The pastor should be a voice of reason in a world of mixed-up values. But with these prosperity gospel churches, people are hearing the same message they would hear from Jim Cramer: buy it all now! The only difference is the prosperity gospel throws in religious guilt; if you're not prosperous, you're not a good Christian.

What do you think? Do you think the prosperity gospel had a hand to play in this mess?

Monday, November 16, 2009

And You Call Yourself a Christian? Really?

Did you hear the one about the US preacher in Arkansas sentenced to 175 years in prison for abusing young girls?

If there's a poster child for this blog--a person who shames the name of Christianity, he would definitely make the cut (you can see his photo below if you want to make him a poster child)

His name is Bernie Hoffman (AKA Tony Alamo) and he was accused last week of marrying several women when they were minors (amongst other things). In his defense he said that he was, "just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel." Because, you know, the Bible says go forth and have sex with little girls.

If all he was doing was having sex with little girls, I guess you'd just call him normal (at least for a cult leader--if you are the leader of a cult, it's sort of expected that you do perverted things...I'm pretty sure that's why people become cult leaders)

But Alamo was a bit weirder...When his wife died in 1982, Alamo claimed that she was going to be resurrected, so he kept her body around: for sixteen years! What's more, he actually left it on display for everyone in church to see for six months! Note to reader: if your pastor has his dead wife on display this Sunday because he claims she will come back from the dead, YOU ARE IN A CULT!

Alamo's lawyers wanted the judge to have sympathy and let him off the hook because he was old (in his 70s) and sick (he has diabetes...a life threatening condition that can be aggravated if ganged raped in a prison shower).

I'm really getting tired of people who don't think they should be held accountable for what they did simply because they are old.

Fortunately, the judge did not pity Alamo. So Tony Alamo, if polygamy is what you desire, then I hope gay marriage is allowed in whatever state you end up going to prison, because it looks like that's where you'll be staying for the rest of your life. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lessons Learned from Carrie Prejean

If you're on my Facebook friends list, you will know that I am not a fan of Carrie Prejean, a.k.a. Miss California. It has nothing to do with her views on gay marriage. The reason why she gets under my skin is because, to me, she comes off as being a moral crusader shining the light in a darkened world, but time and time again we keep finding out that's not the case.

Shortly after the infamous "opposite marriage" quote, several pictures of Prejean posing scantly clad, a big no-no in the pageant rules, were released. Then this past week a homemade sex tape featuring Prejean allegedly . . . ahem . . . going solo . . . was brought to light, forcing her to settle her court case with the Miss America producers. She said that the video was shot when she was 17 and it was just for her then-boyfriend. But as said ex told TMZ, she was really twenty.

And then came the Larry King interview:

My new favorite train wreck!

Now with all these new revelations about our favorite opposite marriage advocate, you'd expect me to rip her to shreds. But you know, in a way I'm like Carrie Prejean. I sometimes wear a facade to make people think I'm sweet and have my crap together. But the truth is I'm not. I've got a beam in my eye just as much as the next guy. I have my own personal hang-ups.

So while I am still not a Carrie Prejean fan, I can't really say much, because technically I'm no better.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Best Christian-ish Books I've Ever Read

A few weeks ago, I created a list of the best and worst Christian movies ever made. If you love lists, then you'll love this post because I'm going to do it again--but with books. So sorry if you don't like lists.

This list is also to make you aware that DisturbedChristians is starting to review books on an irregular basis; if you are interested in review books, then shoot me an email and I'll see what I can do (like all DC writing jobs, they are non-paying, but you will get free new books on an irregular basis)

I won't be listing my list of worst books, but you can probably gather they are basically any book that become so popular that mugs, t-shirts, and blankets are created to let everyone know how great their message is (i.e. The Prayer of Jabez, Left Behind, Case for Christ just to name a few)...and it's not like those books are a bad thing--I just find that they are usually copying ideas of other writers and aren't very original. Except for Left Behind which is bad on so many different levels.

Keep in mind that the presence of a book on this list does not mean it's a literary classic--it's just a book that changed the way I felt about something and  made me a stronger Christian. Also, I call it "Christian-ish" because some of the books are more about religion or Judaism than Christianity. So without further interruptions, here is my list of top 11 favorite Christian books (in no particular order).

Prayer - by Ole Hallesby
I read this book in college. I had grown of Methodist, and partly because of this was never really taught how to pray; I could recite by hard classic prayers in the Christian canon, but the thought of praying in a group frightened me. Prayer is a classic book that shamefully many people have not only never read, but never heard of.

Grace at Bender Springs - by Vinita Hampton Wright
I stumbled upon this book while writing a thesis paper on contemporary Christian literature. I had been under the impression that Christian fiction could not be good (at least modern fiction); everything I found was either cheesy historical romances or cheesy end times thrillers; then I found this book. This is the first book by Wright. The two books that followed in Velma Still Cooks in Leeway and Dwelling Places are actually better, but I put this one here because it was the one that first introduced me to the author and made me place hope that there were Christian authors writing about real issues in the church--like depression, addiction, and ultimately redemption.You can read a profile of the author here.

Just As I Am - by Billy Graham
Many of you know that I committed my life to Christ when I was young at a Billy Graham crusade in Anaheim; partly because of this, I have always been fascinated by Graham's ministry. It should be no surprise that this book is on this list. The book is not incredibly well written, but what really impressed me with the book was I felt like it gave me an inside look into history. Graham has meant more influential people than probably anyone else alive. This book gives insider stories about basically every President sense Kennedy.

In His Steps - by Charles M. Sheldon
Over 30,000,000 copies of this novel have been sold, which makes it one of the bestselling novels of all time; oddly enough, it's a bit forgotten today. The book coined the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" (no that didn't start as a bracelet...the bracelets just made it popular again). As you can guess by the phrase, the plot of the book centers around the idea of asking what Jesus would do before doing anything; it's a simple message, but equally a powerful one.

A Handbook of Theological Terms - by Van A. Harvey
Unless you are a theology student, you've probably never read or heard of this book; I am not a theology student, but I love theological words and the history behind them.

J. Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ - by Roger Steer
I enjoyed this book, but I'd actually recommend any book about J. Hudson Taylor. If you never heard of Taylor he is remember for being one of the greatest missionaries to China; what's more important than this, however, is how he served. During the time, missionaries would enter a country and treat the gossip like it was something you could believe in so you can be more white. Taylor went to China and lived like the Chinese--he dressed like them, ate with them, and immersed himself in their culture in a time when this just was not practiced.

Mere Christianity - by C.S. Lewis
I really don't need to explain this book because almost everyone whose reading this blog knows what the book is, and has probably read it. It almost singlehandedly started modern Apologetics. More people today read The Case for Christ which is a shame, because that book is basically just a copy of what Lewis did, but poorly wrote.

The Literary Structure of the Old Testament - David A Dorsey
If you want to know why this book is so great, read my post last week.

The Other Bible - Willis Barnstone
Dan Brown got one thing right: there were other books around about Jesus; where Brown got it wrong was that this was a new thing. The study of the Bible's so called Other Works got big a little over a 100 years ago. This book is one of the better collections of these books. While the works are not what I'd consider great, they can be appreciated from historical level. Some are ridiculous, but others offer true inside to the what people believed 100 to 200 years after the Jesus rose again.

The Prophets - Abraham J. Heschel
This is one of the best historical books written about what it would have been like to be a prophet.

Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind - Joyce Meyer
I like this book because of it's subject: spiritual warfare. It's a subject that is often not talked about, but it really should be.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You Don't Mess with the Osteen!

One of my favorite bloggers Matthew Paul Turner recently got into some trouble after writing a hilarious parody of the new Joel Osteen book It's Your Time. Normally, I would post a short excerpt, but you really need to read the whole thing yourself. No excerpt can do it justice.

Unfortunately Turner ruffled quite a few feathers. The most vocal being a commenter who calls him/herself "Concerned with you being a douche:"

Joel Osteen is bad news. No one who reads the bible is gonna disagree with that.

That being said, what are you trying to accomplish here, or with the christian chirp tirades, or really with anything you do.

You are an embarrassment to the faith that you claim. You are no different than Joel Osteen. You aren't creative. You offer no theological commentary. You offer nothing for someone who desires to follow Christ. In fact, your "humor" looks nothing like Christ. Its degrading. Demeaning. Immature. It does nothing to build up others, to critique in love.

You are a bain on a movement of Christianity that has given my life new purpose. You are an asshole, MPT. I cannot believe that you've made me side with Calvinists, Fundamentalist Christians on Chirp, and now Joel Osteen.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

(Apologies to those who are sensitive to strong language and bad grammar. These aren't my words.)

While I understand this person's concern, it's strange that some one concerned about Turner being a douche would act like one himself. Kind of defeats the purpose, y'know?

I personally saw nothing wrong with Turner's post. It was calling out false teachings in a humorous way, just like here at Disturbed Christians.

Of course now every time I see Osteen, I always think of this hilarious video:

If you get a chance, go check out Turner's blog. And remember, controlling your weaknesses is an important part of controlling your weaknesses!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Bible is a Myth & Other Things You Will Never Here in Sunday School

Some people will find this statement shocking: The Bible is a myth.

I remember one of the first times I actually heard someone say this was a teacher in college; he said it to get everyone’s attention and to sound controversial. It worked. Several people sat a little straighter and one even raised their hand to object. It was the first time I had heard someone say it, but not the first time I had heard about it—I had read several authors make this same point, which is why I knew nothing about the statement was even remotely controversial. If anything it was a cheap trick.

A myth is not fiction, and yet for some reason the word implies this to many people. A myth is a legend. Out of my own laziness, I’ll skip putting a scholarly definition here and in its place insert one from the Internet which is basically the same definition you will find anywhere:

Myth: A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. (Source:

Simply put, a myth is a legend that is passed down, and that’s essentially what the Bible (at least the Old Testament) is: a passed down legend.

I wish they would teach the Bible as a myth in church, because studying the Bible as a myth will take you down a path that is even more incredible and even life changing: studying the Bible as a literary work.

The Bible is also full of parallels and symmetry. My favorite book is Genesis which has the craziest literary construction of any book ever wrote. What do I mean by parallels? Look at the "Tower of Babel" (Genesis 11:1-9) and match up the letters—see how they link up:

a. introduction: all the Earth had one language (11:1)
b. people settle together in Shinar (11:2)
c. resolution of people "come let us..." (11:3-4)
d. CENTER OF STORY: God discovers the plot (11:5)
c. resolution of God "come let us..." (11:6-7)
b. people disperse from Shinar (11:8)
a. conclusion: all the Earth now has many languages (11:9)

Do you get the feeling that person who wrote the book knew what they were doing? Then there's also the creation account; look at the order of how it says things were created:

a. light
b. sea and sky
c. dry land
a. luminaries
b. fish and birds
c. land animals and humans
d. Sabbath

Here's's the story of Abraham and the promise of a son (Genesis 12:1-21:7):
a. introduction
b. Abram lies about Sarai
c. Lot settles in Sodom
d. Abram intercedes
e. promise of a son
f. Ishmael's birth
g. CENTER: God's covenant
f. Ishmael and Abraham circumcised
e. promise of a son
d. Abraham intercedes
c. Lot flees Sodom
b. Abraham lies abouut Sarah
a. conclusion

Entire books have been written about the literary structure of Genesis alone; if you really wanted to dissect it, it would take years of scholarship--and it's a pretty short book.

It’s just Genesis though, right? Nope. You could do a parallel like that of the ENTIRE Bible. You can even do it of the least read books. Take Deuteronomy…

a.       God’s Awesome acts at Mount Sinai (Deut 4:1-40)
b.      Given of the first tablet (Deut 4:41-5:33)
c.       Lessons from God’s past and future care (Deut 6:1-25)
d.      CENTER OF STORY: Completely destroy the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-26)
c.   Lessons from God’s past and future care (Deut 8:1-20)
b.   Given of second tablets (Deut 9:1-10:11)
a.   God’s Awesome acts in Egypt and wilderness (Deut 10:12-11:32)

There are hundreds of books out there if you want to know just how intelligently constructed the Bible is. I recommend The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis – Malachi by David A. Dorsey to give you a start. What the Bible says is important, but how it says it is important too—which is why just once I’d love to hear a preacher give a sermon on it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Christian Style

Halloween has long been a controversial subject among Christians. Some say there's nothing wrong with dressing up and trick-or-treating, while others think it's evil because it started as a Druid holiday (although Christians took the holiday and turned into All Hallow's Eve, the day before the Day of the Dead). Many churches have come up with an alternative that preserves all the fun of costumes and candy, but without the spooky undertones: the Fall Festival.

I went to my first Fall Festival this past Sunday. It was just like the Halloween parties I went to when I was a boy; they had pumpkin carving, a pinata, a costume contest, and "trunk-or-treating" where the grown ups handed out candy from the trunks of their cars (it's much more innocent than it sounds). The only difference from my old childhood Halloween parties is there were no kids dressed as either devils or witches.

Here are few pictures:

Here's me and my pastor. Yes, folks, that's the same man I take spiritual guidance from!

Many families decorated their trunks.

The classic candid youth group shot.

Of course if the Fall Festival isn't scary enough, there's always The Tribulation Trail.

Located near Atlanta, GA, the Tribulation Trail is "an outdoor walk through drama. It portrays the end of times as recorded by John in the book of Revelation. Each scene tells the story of truth and will ultimately lead you to a time of decision. It takes approximately 90 minutes to walk through." Ah yes, nothing says Halloween than scaring people into believing in Jesus!

Or you could do what Kimberly Daniels did and write about the evils of Halloween on CBN's blog. The original article is no longer online, but according to Huffington Post, Daniels said that "most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches." Maybe that's why Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are so addictive.

However you celebrate Halloween, may it be a happy and safe one!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Can You Fart in Church?

If you’re reading this because of the title, then let me put your mind at ease: yes, you can fart in church. It’s the way God wants you to relieve gas, and it would offend him if you held it in—that’s unnatural and not using your body, his temple, as it was made. Holding in your fart might even cause you great discomfort that causes you to miss the message of the sermon.

Really, however, the point of this post isn’t so much farting as it is about the comfortable nature that this thing called worship has gotten too. California is the laid back nation of the world and it’s not uncommon for people to where shorts and flip flops to church—heck, it’s almost expected. But what happens as we progressively make church more casual and comfortable?

I don’t really prepare for church; I drag myself out of bed and into a pew. Why bother dressing up and getting ready when no one else does? It’s nice being able to go somewhere where no one is bothered by how you look. But at the same time, this nature of dragging myself out of bed and into the pew also makes me unprepared spiritually. And that’s why, as much as I like the casual nature of churches today, I’m also becoming just a little bothered by them.

Few pastors talk about the importance of preparing ourselves spiritually to receive God’s message; I often wonder if they themselves have ever considered the notion. But it’s an important notion. It’s important to be ready for church because if we aren’t then half the message will probably be lost on us.

Making church casual seems to make it too easy to come to church with grudges; to be angry at people; to have things that need to be confessed, but that aren’t. Catholics, at one time at least, would have to confess their sins before going to church (it’s a bit more relaxed today); I don’t believe in the ritual of confession, but I’m highly in favor of the idea of it. I wish more churches would have a room aside for prayer, and I wish more would encourage congregates to go make use of it before entering the church for worship—to get it right with God before going to church to worship him—in this way you’ll be more open to receive anything the message that Sunday says.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Perks of Being a Christian Hipster

Several months ago Brett McCracken got the blogosphere talking when he identified a new subculture within the Church: the Christian Hipster. According to McCracken, the Christian Hipster prefers Sufjan Stevens over Michael W. Smith, Donald Miller over Joel Olsteen, and Wes Anderson over The Passion of the Christ. They are also attracted to Catholicism and liturgy, "even if they are thoroughly Protestant." Christian hipster are also wary of "weird and awkward evangelistic methods including (but not limited to): sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, 'beach evangelism,' and modern dance."

I know the #1 rule of being a hipster is not admitting to being a hipster, but McCracken describes me down to a T!

I think since we grew up during the age of the Religious Right and Megachurches, many of my Christian peers are dissatisfied with mainstream Christian culture. We feel like Jesus' radical message is too often watered down for the comfortable suburban lifestyle, far away from the cries of the poor and suffering--the very same people Jesus came for. Besides, even Rich Mullins hated "Awesome God!"

Of course this is probably just another church fad. Remember the Jesus People in the '70s?

Either way, I think I'm going to go to my local coffee shop, read Rob Bell, and listen to the Wagon Wheel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

another banned book? seriously?

(This was posted on my own personal blog, but considering the conservative Christians parents denying the book, I thought it was perfect for Disturbed Christian)

OC parents need to get over themselves. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is an important piece of American literature and because one paragraph the conservative parents are not in agreement with, they want it banned. This is Maya Angelou's story and sadly, because she didn't grow up in their sheltered homes and gated communities, they think this attested biography can't be shared. I hope my children experience life-changing books, but if this is allowed, they most likely won't be able to.
Watch the story here. It made me a little sick to my stomach.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Best Christians Movies Ever Made

Last week, I gave my list of most regrettable Christian movies; this week, as promised, is my list of my ten favorite:

Chariots of Fire
A common theme you’ll see in this movie list is, by and large, they aren’t overtly Christian or evangelical. The best way to make a movie work, in my opinion, is to give them Christian themes—make the idea subtle and not force it down a persons face. Inspire people to do better or know more.

The Chariots of Fire is a great example of the subtle approach; the story of a Christian who will not run on Sunday nearly moved me to tears.

The Agony and the Ecstasy
If you’ve taken art history, then you have more than likely seen this one; if not, it might be new. The acting is what you should expect from Charlton Heston—which is to say not very good. But the story is inspiring, the tension between the Pope and Michelangelo is fantastic, and you’ll probably never look at the Sistine Chapel the same way again.

Ben Hur
Another example of how a movie can still be great despite bad acting and cheesy dialogue. It’s hard to believe a Civil War general thought this idea up.

Luther is hands down one of the best period pieces I have ever seen; the producers made the right move picking an actor who could actually act. Yes, it’s not entirely historically accurate, but no period piece is. Things are sacrificed to help the stories pace, but the message still comes across loud and clear.

Road to Redemption
This is the only overtly evangelical movie on my list; it was produced by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. Last week, I mention the Apostles of Comedy as an example of a bad Christian comedy; this is an example of a good one.

Jesus Camp
This one isn’t a Christian movie, but every Christian in America should have to watch it. It’s a pretty good portrayal of why evangelism can even scare evangelist. I expected it to be a movie that adds fuel to the fire of why people should just say Christianity is a joke; it was actually, a pretty fair portrayal of the follies of fundamentalist Christianity, and was not trying to condemn Christianity.

Wise Blood
This is a very dark movie that probably a lot of people won’t understand (read my full review here). If you take the time to let the message haunt you a bit it might make you see the world differently. The book, as you might know, is one of my top five favorites, and the movie does a pretty good job with it. It’s nowhere near as good as the book, but what movie ever is?

It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a cheesy film, yes, but  who cares? No one does a better job instilling morals into movies like Frank Capara, and this is him at his best.

Charlie Brown Christmas
When I was young, my favorite cartoons were Peanuts and Garfield; I never really was shocked by the evangelical ending as a kid, but watching it as an adult I’m a bit surprise they can still get away with it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why U2 is the Most Overrated Band in the World

I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, since most of my Christian friends are huge U2 fans. But let me start out by saying I don't think U2 is the worst band in the world. They wrote some great songs, like "One" (a personal favorite of mine), "The Unforgettable Fire," and "Beautiful Day." I just think they're overrated, and here's why:

1. The Edge plays almost the exact same riff in every U2 song. It's good for a guitarist to have his own sound, but after a while I get bored of hearing the same old chiming guitar sound. Play some lower notes, man!

2. They only do one good album every ten years. It seems like every great U2 album is always followed by two or three crappy U2 album. Achtung Baby was followed by Zoopora and Pop, and All That You Can't Leave Behind was followed by How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon. Hopefully U2 will make another great album in the early 2010's.

3. Bono tries too hard to be the next Mother Teresa. Don't get me wrong, I love it when celebrities try to raise awareness for certain issues. But does Bono have to be a part of ever single charity under the sun? If there's a charity ball somewhere, you're bound to see Bono slithering through with his wrap-around shades.

4. No one knows who the other two members are. Okay, so there's Bono and the Edge, but who are the other two guys? I think one of them is named Larry. Which one is he again?

5. Bono has a prophet complex. Ever notice that every time he opens his mouth--whether to sing or to talk--he says each word as if it's some profound message sent from God to heal the world? Dude, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" might be a great song, but I don't think it's that doggone good!

Am I being too harsh on them?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Banking on the Holy Bible

For a leather Bible.
That's it.
Just a Bible in pretty colors.
For $198

I know it's important to have a good Bible, but for that price I would be worried about writing notes in it. What's the point of having a Bible you can't beat up with notes, highlights, markings, and scratches from using it so much?
If I see a person's Bible in tip-top condition and they've had it for awhile, I just think they don't use it as much.
Is it just me or is just a little too steep?

In case you do want to splurge, buy it here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Worst Christian Movies Ever Made

I do not have high hopes when it come to Christian films; when I watch a movie like Left Behind the only thing on my mind is, did anyone think that this movie would do good? I often wonder if there’s some sort of Christian filmmaking playbook out there that says in chapter one: as long as you do it with the right intention, people will flock to see it.

There have, of course, been great Christian movies, but more often than not they’re good because they aren’t overtly evangelical—they have a Christian message/theme, but that’s not the focus of the film.

This week I’m going to list off the ten worst Christian movies I have ever seen; next week I’ll list my top ten favorite. The list is not in order; some are better worse than others, but to list which is which would be like saying, this murderer is worse than this murderer—they’re both murderers, so does it really matter whose worse?

Left Behind
Kirk Cameron should stick to what he does best: Growing Pains reunions. This movie is sad for many reasons—the biggest reason is it really could have been good; they had all the right things going for it: a sizable budget, a book with a big following, and an idea that was mildly interesting. Unfortunately, the movie was disastrous.

The movie had a horrible script and even worse actors; that’s not a bad thing in Hollywood—just look at Transformers, which also had both, but went on to become 2009’s biggest hit. Whereas most movies that had a bad script and bad acting would not show it to anyone until opening night, the marketing team behind Left Behind actually not only let people see it early, they sold DVDs before the film was released! So when opening night came around, the word of mouth was: that movie sucks, don’t waste your money—if you really want to see it you can just borrow my DVD. I remember even seeing a copy at Blockbuster's the night it opened.

It gets worse; Tim LaHaye (who also happens to be the scariest looking guy alive) sued (I believe the Bible does say turn the other cheek, but this is over a book not a cheek) the producers and as part of the settlement can option off the rights again--which means we may actually see a remake of one of the worse films ever made.

Another great example of why Kirk Cameron should stick to only doing remakes of Growing Pains—seriously, Kirk, are the Seavers getting back together one more time or what? What about a spinoff series with you and Bonner playing roommates? Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio would produce it? Doesn’t he owe you for helping launch his career?

Unlike Left Behind, which was horrible all around, there were parts of this movie which were bearable; unfortunately the parts that were outright laughable helped weigh the movie down. It was cheesy, slow, the characters were flat, and can someone tell me why so many Christian movies have to feature men who struggle with pornography? Is this really the only thing Christian men struggle with?

Amazing Grace
I think there was Christianity somewhere in this movie—it took too long to get to that message. The movie was essentially the British version of Amistad. I much would have preferred a movie about the history of the song.

One Night with the King
Another period piece that just did not work. I have read the story of Ester dozens of times; I know it well. So why did this movie confuse me so much. I had no idea what was going on for half of the movie, and the other half I was just bored to death.

The problem with this film is probably the material they had to work with. Ester is one of the shorter books of the Bible; added to this was the fact that there’s really little said about God in the entire book—the book is more about Jews as people and not what they believe.

The Passion of the Christ
If you saw The Passion the Christ there’s a good chance you saw it for the same reason a person goes to church on Easter: guilt. If you didn’t want to see a movie about some guy dressed up like Jesus getting lashing after lashing for 120 minutes this somehow made you a bad person. When I saw it, I remember hearing a woman two rows behind me wailing (not crying, wailing!) as she watched; those who weren’t wailing were giving "praise Jesus’" to the screen. I was looking at my watch for most of the film.

The oddest thing about the entire film was the ending; I wasted two hours watching him die, and only saw about five seconds of the resurrection! If a person wants to do a real Passion Play, then it shouldn’t end at the cross—the story should begin at the cross! The point of the movie was to make it clear the pain Christ experienced—but the film didn’t do it justice; there’s absolutely nothing on film that can show just how much pain he suffered.

Omega Code
This movie came out about the same time as Left Behind, and was better. But not much. I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t like it; I just remember coming out of the theater thinking, well that was dumb.

American Carol
To be fair this isn’t a Christian movie—it’s a conservative movie, which sort of makes it Christian. I remember hearing some of the actors explaining that they wanted to do a movie that was a conservative response to all the liberal propaganda out there. This movie is just flat out sad. Every joke is forced, every parody is pathetic, and it just made me feel really bad for Charles Dickens (the movie is loosely based on Dickens’ Christmas Carol)

See my review here.

Apostles of Comedy
This movie was an instant play on Netflix. I gave it ten minutes to prove to me that Christian comedians are mildly amusing. Ten minutes into it they had proven one thing: Christian comedians are not mildly amusing. The jokes were beyond cheesy. It seemed like they were afraid any joke that had vaguest reference to dirty socks would be too risqué. If you want Christian humor, direct your browser to the Wittenberg Door Magazine (which sadly, at least until they can get funding, is no longer.)

Bob Dylan - 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and the Gospel Years
Bob Dylan, in my opinion, recorded one of the greatest gospel records of all-time; it’s the record that turned me on to Dylan in the first place; unlike many Christian records with fluffy lyrics that simply imitate whatever band is hot in the secular world, Dylan’s album can stand on its own. The sound is fresh even for today, and the lyrics are deep, sad, and redeeming.

It is for this reason that I was so eager to see the unauthorized documentary about Dylan’s gospel period. This documentary, though promising, spends too much time talking to people who don’t even seem to know anything about Dylan—and they combine it with lousy photos. My guest is since it’s unauthorized they had little to work with—everything was off limits. Perhaps Dylan will open up a bit more about this period when he finally scribes the next volume of Chronicles.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is the Bible too liberal?

At first I thought this was a joke. But after Rod Dreher, Andrew Sullivan, and Huffington Post wrote about this, I'm afraid this is true.

Several members of Conservapedia are going to make a Conservative Bible.

According to Conservapedia, their Bible translation will go by ten guidelines:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Really? Really???

According to Conservapedia, many of our favorite Bible passages are actually corrupted liberal translations of the original text. For example:

The earliest, most authentic manuscripts lack this verse set forth at Luke 23:34: "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.

But isn't that verse also in the King James Version? So are they saying that the evil liberals have been corrupting God's Word since the 1600's? Man, those lefties sure are crafty!

Maybe it's just my own "liberal bias", but it seems like this Conservative Bible doing exactly what it accuses the Left of doing: distorting the Bible to fit its own political agenda. On the bright side, this and The American Patriot's Bible will make great Christmas presents for the far-right-winger in your family!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Being Obnoxious in the Name of Jesus

Ok, you caught me. Every once in a while (as in every Monday night) my evenings are spent with Tyra Banks and a handful of young wannabe supermodels, via America’s Next Top Model. Some people prefer gossip sites, or other forms of bad tele, but it’s a combo of hormonal women, fashion and Tyra all in one, and my Monday’s nights can’t lose. After a few seasons, the models all look the same after awhile- tall, Bambi eyes, gorgeous contoured faces and attitudes that can cut you in half.

A few weeks ago, one of the episodes included, Amber as the young 18 year old Southern Californian who caught my attention. Not only did she have the harsh annoying attitude, but when I actually heard the words "Jesus loves you" on a reality television show, I felt like I was watching a car flip over and over. It was horrifying but just like reality TV, it was so deliciously entertaining.

I was offended at first. "This crazy girl does not represent me", and "I can't believe she is not being sarcastic." The other models were of course turned off by the Jesus spews, but they were mostly turned off by the emotional rollercoaster that was Amber. In a great mood, she was the evangelical young woman of God with crazy in her eyes. In a foul mood, she was the young evangelical young woman of God with crazy in her eyes. Do you see the pattern here?
I suddenly remembered why I was so intrigued by this crazy girl. Amber reminded me a lot of myself when I was 18, and most younger Christian "born again" girls. Loud, obnoxious, and base all our Christianity based on emotions rather than the Truth. I don’t speak for everyone, but for the most part, I’m sure we can all admit at one point in our growth with God, it has been more about how we feel rather what it really is.

Once a born again Christian goes through the emotional process of becoming "born again", no one can deny the feelings involved. I remember the night I gave my life to Christ (again), and my parents surrendered their mischievous teen hellish daughter to the hands of camp counselors who do not get paid enough to deal with demon children like me. Cue the worship music, the bond fire, the devastating testimonials from ex-prisoners, the hormonal teens and the hour long prayers. It was not a moment I regret giving my life to the Lord, but in all honesty, I wish I would have been more stable about it. I had a choice to make, and I chose to follow Christ that night, but it was not how I would have wanted it. Some campers took it as an opportunity to focus more on God, I (and the other part of the camp) took it as another way to get more dramatic about something.

After coming home, I was on such a Jesus high. I sold my secular music to the local record store and bought every Christian CD targeted to teens then. I decided that fashion was a way of the world, not the way of God, and decided my friends were not just good enough to help me in my walk. After a few weeks of reading my Bible daily, attending youth group weekly, leaving the life of secular music and television, abandoning my worldy friendships, my parents evil planned worked. That is until one morning I was bored with it all. I was bored with the Supertones on constant repeat, I was bored with my lame goody church friends, I was bored with Scripture, I was just tired of “being a Christian”. I became aware that I was a dramatic angsty girl with too much to live for in just khaki pants and turtlenecks. I wanted to have absolute freedom and somehow I got the impression that freedom was not Christianity, at least not man-made Christianity.

The problem with the Rosie Riveter, Obama type "We Can Do This", or "Yes, We Can" emotions fall flat once they melt away. It took years to finally come to have a good relationship with my thoughts and feelings, to actually want to read my Bible rather than having to feel forced to read it.

God didn't make us as robots, He made us with dangerous emotions such as anger, jealousy, joy, fear, sadness, and passion to name a few favorites. After so many meltdowns and dramatic moments in my life to grab attention, quiet confidence speaks to others more than loud Bible verses. Amber reminds me that yes, she may still be growing wherever she is (she didn’t make the second episode) but God speaks truth to us in unexpected moments, like friendships, and quiet moments and most importantly, love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Most Controversial Thing That Dan Brown Never Wrote

I have not read Dan Brown's "Lost Symbol," nor do I have any intention on doing so. As a comparative religion student in my younger years, I had mild interest in "The Da Vinci Code," but I found the book to be wickedly overwrote, and not really all that controversial--he was writing about so-called shocking revelations that had been know facts (as myths or historic accuracies) for over hundreds years. Still, the librarian inside me can't resist reading the reviews just to see what the books all about.

The book appears, at least from the reviews, worst than any of the others; that's not a surprise. What was at least a small surprise (although it really shouldn’t have been) were the number of people on places like Amazon who had started what almost appears to be a ministry to get people not to read Dan Brown. It's obvious by the reviews that they have not read the book; they write a paragraph or two about things that are in the book, and then conclude with a paragraph that says things that are not in the book; I am pretty sure they are trying to scare Christians who are trying to decide if they should read it.

One person says that not only does Brown say, without a doubt, that there is no God, he (Brown) also concludes that man can become God. First off that doesn't make sense--how can there be no God if man can become God? If man can become God, then how can there be no God. But that's beside the point, because the book doesn't even make this claim!

I imagine that there is a entire group of Christians who are reading the book with a pen in hand to take notes, so they can cite verbatim things in the book that are anti-God.

What’s disturbing is the extent that Christians can go to elaborate things that really aren’t even bad to strike a little fear into a person; post-modern evangelism seems to, at times, be more about scaring you into believe rather than proving truth by simple acts of love.

The message of Christianity should be an easy one: love. But instead of promoting the simplest message known to man, Christians often find themselves in the world of trickery; the people in the reviews for Dan Brown are obviously followers of the trickery message, but it’s everywhere in evangelism. How many times have you had a person offer you money, only to look down and see that it’s not money at all—it’s a Bible tract! That’s a nice message Christians are sending: sorry you’re broke and have no money, but as a believer in Christ, I’d like you to have this Bible tract that I hope will give you comfort when you have to go home to your family and tell them that once again there’s no money for food!

There are no tricks in the Bible; I get tired of all the tricks Christians have made up to scheme their way into people’s hearts. If a message is true, then there’s no need for trickery.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Permission to Speak Freely

Have you ever wanted to say something to either your pastor or members of your church, but were too afraid? You aren't alone.

Last week Anne Jackson launched a website called Permission to Speak Freely where you can finally say whatever you wanted to say to the Church. You can either create a postcard (a la Postsecret) or send an email. "The purpose of this movement," the website says, "is simple: To share the confessions received from the website, as well as a collection of Anne’s own essays on fear and grace to show you that you’re not alone."

Here is a sample of some of the confessions so far:

Click here to learn how to contribute.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why I Hate Crazy Love

During my vacation this weekend, I forgot my Kindle. I was bummed, but I went into a bookstore, and bored with all the magazines, the craft books, the memoirs, I had this appetite to want to read something substantial. The only thing that came to mind was Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love. Go ahead, and think it was the Holy Spirit or whatever, but the only reason I had any desire to pick it up was the cover. In the Christianity section, every book had...

A) Kirk Cameron on the cover via Fireproof taking over about 4 shelves
B) Joyce Meyer on the cover
C) cheesy sunset with a couple holding hands with how to catch a perfect single pastor, or something along those publications.

Yes, I judged a book by it's cover, and the cover may be simple, but after reading the first few pages, it's challenging book already.

On Disturbed Christians, we don't exactly point out how the American church can do better, but how us as Christians can live, be and do better than what the American church has to offer. It's something I've recently struggled with and I'm literally holding it in my hands. After reading, and studying and having my own opinions about what scripture has to say, I'm finally listening to what Jesus has to say about it, and I truly believe He let's Chan speak to a generation that has complete disgust with the church built by human flesh and greed.

So why do I hate this book so much? I hate it because I'm comfortable. I'm comfortable with attending church, a Bible study and just study what needs to be covered in order to live the Bible thumpin' life. I hate it because it challenges that helping takes more than just writing a check or clicking away via Paypal. I hate it because it cuts deeper than what Christian high school camp taught me that summer (and trust, it was a very emotional summer for a poorly behaved 15 year old pastor's daughter). I hate this book so much because I learned everything I learned had a missing piece and I finally found it, now I don't know what to do with it. I hate this book so much is because for the first time in a long time, I can see why I fell in love with God in the first place.

I'm not finished with the book yet. It's a book I was sure I could finish in one night. 186 pages is a good evening well spent, but every time I get to a paragraph, even a sentence in the book that shakes me a bit, I put it down. It stares at me when I pass by it, and when I take it out of sight, I can't stop thinking about it. I shrugged off a lot of pages but then it hits you like a bad itch. You can't scratch it because you have your hands full, but it refuses to get away from you.

I'm sure once I'm done with this book, I will have more reasons why I hate this book and hate Francis Chan for writing it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Won't Be Praying for You

I've heard a lot of people express their outright hatred for "I'll be thinking of you in spirit." No one, after all, does think about people in spirit, and the phrase really makes little sense. It's just polite. I see it as a half truth; kind of like when you say "Hello. How are you?" If you’re like me you probably don't even honestly want to know how they are half the time.

There is a phrase that I do detest; it's the phrase, "I'll be praying for you." It's one thing when you say a half lie that is only bound to Earth, but it's another when you bring an act that should be Holy into it.
That's not to say I think it's bad to pray for something or someone; it is to say that half the time people either say it in vain or at inappropriate times.

Consider this: you’re at church, there's a mother who is telling another mother about how they have a doctor’s appointment and they have no one to pick up their kids, and on top of that they don't have enough money to go to the grocery store; and this is the reply that came from the other mother's mouth: I'll be praying for you.
I have seen this scenario played out too many times. I'm not perfect, and I'm nowhere near a saint, but I don't offer prayers where prayers shouldn't be given. In the case above, a prayer was a nice gesture, but not what this woman needed--she needed someone to pick up her kids, and buy her some groceries.
It disturbs me how many people not in the world, but in our own Christian family hurt and suffer and all people do is say that they'll pray for them.

When there's someone who is obviously suffering, our first thought shouldn’t be about prayer; it should be about love and compassion. Before we get to the prayer part, we should first try and help them with the need part.

If a person wants a prayer, I'll give them one; but before I offer it, I always clear up if that is in fact what they want.

I have heard all kinds of reports suggesting that people who pray live longer lives and our overall happier. This may be, but I don't believe it's prayer that's doing that--I think it's love. It's when the prayer comes from a person who’s not giving an obligatory gesture, but when the person is honestly concerned about their well-being; people are healthier and happier because they know there's people who love them, and they are able to see God in this love.

Every time I hear the phrase abused, all I can think is how much stronger the church would be if people did not ask "Can I pray for you" and asked instead "What can I do for you?"

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Scars of Bullying

I was severely bullied in school. And by "severely bullied in school," I mean that from first through twelfth grade not a day went by without someone either laughing at me or calling me names. I've been laughed at for talking, laughed at for wearing the wrong kinds of shoes, and laughed up for merely walking down the hallway. I've been called "faggot" and "gay" so many times that for a while I thought I really was a homosexual (although I never thought of men that way). I was never beaten up, though; the words hurt more than a thousand punches.

I tried to pretend that the bullying didn't bother me. I wore black, sneered, and stuck up my middle finger at anyone and everyone who dared to look at me funny. But I wasn't fooling anyone. I would eventually break down and cry, and sneak into the bathroom to cut my arms. The scars on my body reflected the scars I felt inside.

And many of my bullies claimed to be Christians. They didn't really act like it though; they were always talking about smoking weed and getting laid. And yet they wore huge crosses and those WWJD wrist bands. Since I didn't really grow up in the Church, I didn't know any difference, so I thought all Christians were judgmental liars and bullies. It didn't help that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were still the most public Evangelical faces, so that made my disgust for religion grow. If God was just as self-righteous as the so-called "Christians" who treated me like dirt, I didn't want to have anything to do with Him.

And then when I was 17, some one introduced me to the real God. This God wasn't anything like the bullies. This was a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness. This was a God who was saying, "Come home, son. Everything is going to be alright." That was about nine years ago, and in those years there has been a lot of healing.

Although I can't say that the scars have completely healed. There are some people in my life right now who are trying to help me grow as a man and as a Christian. But whenever they speak, I feel like they are just judging me, like the school bullies judged me. Then I get upset and think about giving up on the whole God thing. Of course I could be just overreacting; I'm pretty prone to automatic negative thoughts, always thinking that other people are judging me when they're really not. But when you've been mistreated for so long, and people are constantly pointing out what you are doing wrong (even if they are right), you sort of automatically assume you're being judged.

Well, I know that when this life is over my scars will fully heal. But I do wish they would completely stop stinging right now.