Saturday, January 30, 2010

Disturbed Christians for Kindle

Disturbed Christians is now available on Kindle for $1.99; I know that price is ridiculously overpriced considering it's free here, but, unfortunately, Kindle sets the price--not me. If I had it my way, it would be free. If you are interested you can see it here. You can also help us out by posting a review of the blog--five stars would be nice, but we'll take what we can get!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Explaining God To My Sister

Disclaimer: It's come my attention that some people thought I was preaching universal salvation. That is not the case! I'm merely trying to explain God to a child. I mean, seriously, how do you explain hell and damnation to a seven-year-old anyway?

Recently my dad asked me if I could clear some things up about God to my seven-year-old half-sister Jett. He said she couldn't understand why God would be so full of hate. After doing some thinking, here's what I came up with (reprinted with permission):

* * *

Hey Jett,

Dad wanted me to talk to you about God. Hopefully I’ll be able to do a good job, since I’m not a pastor. I’m just a regular guy trying to figure it all out as much as the next guy. But maybe I can clear some things up.

First of all, despite what people like Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps might say, God does not hate anyone. He loves everyone, from the Pope to Osama Bin Laden. He hates some of the things we do though, like lying and killing people. If you lied to some one, Dad wouldn’t like that, but he would still love you, right? That’s how God is.

Some people say that God hates Uncle Frank because he’s gay. That’s not true at all; God loves Uncle Frank and Kevin. In fact, some Christians believe there’s nothing wrong with being gay. They believe that the parts of the Bible supposedly say being gay is wrong were taken out of context and misinterpreted. Me, I haven’t studied the Bible enough to know for sure, but I do know that it would not be right for me to single out Uncle Frank, because none of us are perfect.

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. For example, in the past I’ve said things that have hurt people’s feelings. But that’s where Jesus comes in; He came to show us how to live, and gives us strength to live better lives. And on the cross He paid the price for all our sins, so we don’t have to worry about being perfect. It is through Him that we can be better people.

Hopefully that makes some sense. Like I said, I’m still trying to figure it all out. But hopefully I’ve cleared a few things up. Can’t wait to see you again!

Your brother,
Travis

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jesus, Urbanized

Debauchery may be a struggle for some but it was a hobby for me when I was younger. Illegally, at that. In Anaheim, CA, I used to go to a club that was practically hidden from the highway, and with shoddy security, it was easy to sneak in alcohol. If my friends and I didn't want to drink inside, we went across the street, behind the train tracks (so cliche, right?) and have a mini party until the headliner band was scheduled to play.

This is my second year living in Anaheim, and I have to pass those train tracks almost every day. When I see those train tracks, I don't just see the empty bottles of alcohol, but I see how empty I was as a teenager. Drinking isn't a sin, mind you, but for myself, I was running away in every aspect possible in my life away from God and if it meant having a few hangovers then I was happy.

The other day, I noticed an old electrical pole. It's one of the few left up in Anaheim since most of them are underground now, and it was right at the spot I loved going to. I don't believe in "signs" but I felt like this was God's way of reminding me not to cringe at the sight, not to be heavy-hearted at the things I regret doing, and most importantly to remember of His forgiveness, even if the most obscure ways.

For Disturbed Christian


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The pole is leaning over, old, withered and ready for the city to take it away (or the wind to blow it away) but I took a Polaroid of it, to remind me.

Jesus, Urbanized

Monday, January 25, 2010

WARNING: This Christian Blog Contains Adult Content

I think one of the biggest insults of the Las Vegas' Consumer Electronic Conventions is what follows: the Adult Entertainment Expo; it's as if they know the tech geeks who flock to CES will be more than tempted to take a peek at the convention that follows, which caters to the lonely and desperate.

This year, the biggest news story of the adult convention was Roxxxy--a sex doll that can feel touch and speak. I encourage everyone to watch the video below, which features the creator speaking about the dolls capabilities--if you get over the fact that this doll is a bit disgusting (especially when the guy mentions sharing it with friends), and just listen to some of the words he uses to describe it, I think you'll come away pleasantly disturbed (NOTE TO READER: IT'S NSFW)

Occasionally, I listen to Christian radio while going to work; I'm always surprised (horrified) by the number of commercials that talk about some form of cosmetic surgery. Man's biggest flaw is its inability to see the beauty that God sees when looking at himself in the mirror.

The doll/robot is just the next evolution of creating a species of man that is not satisfied with the image that God created.

I can't look at the doll and not think about how everyone (including Christians) want technology to give them an upgrade. We can now create the image of ourselves that we always wanted and have sex with the woman that we always wanted too. The world is becoming nothing more than an illusion--it's hard not to stare at it and wonder what is real. Anything that we don't like, we think of a way to correct it with something that gives us the illusion that it's perfect.

I don't think Christians will be jumping (literally?) all over this doll; but do they really have to? You can't exactly point at it and say 'that's wrong', when you consider all the things Christians do to both their bodies and minds to create the false illusion of happiness.

God didn't create flaws--he created opposite reactions; to know ON you have to know OFF; to know light, you have to know darkness; a human’s flaw or disadvantage is merely the opposite reaction of their advantage--it's the only real way to understand who we are and who God is. But what happens when you take away the opposite reaction? When you take darkness away from light? People believe that science can create a utopian society of people, but anyone who has studied utopias knows that they cannot exist without their opposite: the dystopia.

Watch the videos if you want to be creeped out:






A haunting sad new world is upon us.


Man can create many things, but salvation will always belong to God—it’s the one thing that man can never make. But, of course, we will try…

Friday, January 22, 2010

Was Jesus Packing Heat?

It's been said, "God created man in His image, and then man returned the favor." I always think of that quote when I try to figure out how the Jesus of modern American Christian culture can be the same Jesus I read about in the Gospels. Maybe I'm just reading my Bible wrong, but I don't remember Jesus being anti-immigration, or pro-consumerist, or pro-preemptive strikes on foreign countries that may or may not have WMDs. And as far as I know, there's nothing in the Bible that suggests that Jesus was packing heat. Yet for some reason, I keep seeing more depictions of Jesus as a gun-toting Chuck Norris bad-ass, which is a big change from the guy hanging half-naked and humiliated on the cross.

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about the Kentucky pastor who told his congregation to bring their guns to church for a special Second Amendment celebration. The event included "a handgun raffle, patriotic music, and information on gun safety." Even though I'm not a big fan of guns, I have no problem with gun shows in and of themselves. However, I do have a slight problem with gun shows being held at church. Isn't the Church supposed to preach the Word of God before anything else, including the Constitution? This was also not too long after George Tiller was shot in front of his church, so in my mind a gun would have been the last thing any Christian wanted to see at a church.

Then recently we found out that several rifles used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan were encoded with Bible verses. A spokesperson for the rifle manufacturer, Trijicon, said they used the verses to provide "never-ending support and prayers" for U.S. troops. I believe in supporting the troops, too, but I'm not sure how putting Bible verses on guns can be an effective ministry tool. Maybe it's just me, but I usually don't associate the Prince of Peace with blowing off some guy's head.

Of course I can understand why we "return the favor" and try to create God in our image: we all want a god to whom we can relate. Secretly we all want to serve a god who likes the same things and hates the same people we do. It makes our iniquities okay. Unfortunately, we are only worshipping a projection of our own wants and desires, and not the true God. And, unfortunately, I'm guilty of this just as much as the next guy.

The prophet Isaiah writes that one day God will make all the nations beat their swords into plowshares, and theirs into pruning hooks. But in the meantime, taking the Bible references off the rifles is a good start.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Calling All Missionaries

My brother was a missionary for several years; while I have never felt compelled to serve God in this way, I always admired him for not only having that calling but having the courage to go through with it. Passion for a cause is simple, courage can be harder, but financial support is always the hardest.

In spite of all the Christians out there giving Christ a bad name, I still find hope in the amount of people willing to risk much to help those less unfortunate. The goal of this blog is to show the redemption of Christianity sometimes blurred by the more disturbing aspects that some Christians bring out.

There is a point to all this narrative, and it is this: my wife and I want to help. Starting today we will begin giving out money to sponsor missionaries. We don’t have enough funding to help everyone, and we obviously aren’t going to pay for everything, but we will do our best to help as many as possible.

If you are a missionary or know a missionary who needs funding we want to hear from you. The requirements are simple: money goes through an organization and not a person (this can either be a church or missions organization), and you have to be willing to write a short blog at some point (either while you are serving or when you return) about why you did what you did, why the help was needed, a few pictures, and what else needs to be done.

Funding is available to both short term and long term missionaries; organizations do not have to be faith based.

Before contacting us, you need to already be on your way funding-wise. If you are merely considering serving somewhere, please hold off contacting until you are ready.

If you are interested, please write outreach@disturbedchristians.com and let us know where you are going, why you are going there, and approximately how long it will be before you leave.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Aniversary!

Today DisturbedChristians is celebrating its one year anniversary, so it seems like no better time like the present to give you the State of the Blog address, and update you on changes you will start seeing in the coming year.

I had no vision for this blog when I started it a year ago; it’s only goal was to show a flawed Christianity—complete with sarcasm, humor, and most importantly redemption.

With the help of Travis and a group of occasional contributors, it has surpassed over 70 readers and 40 followers with really no promotion at all.

The first change you will notice this year is I purchased the domain disturbedchristian.com, so there’s no more any need to add .blogspot.com.

The next changes are still to come. In coming weeks, the site will begin offering paying writing contest—yes, paying! So keep an eye out for writing contest announcements if you are a writer, have a story to tell, and in need of some extra cash.

The next thing is we’d like to begin hearing more stories from people who are actually going out and making a difference for the gospel via actions—specifically short-term/long-term mission projects. I’ll provide details in coming days, but if you need sponsors and wouldn’t mind sharing your experience, than we’d love to help out.

And lastly, we are always looking for more contributors, so if you have something to say and want to help out (without pay), write me at scott@disturbedchristians.com

And lastly, lastly, if you want to be in an easy contest now, then go to my wife's blog and enter to win a free camera.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Salvation on the Small Screen?

*UPDATE: For those expecting a rant about Pat Robertson's latest inane comments, sorry to disappoint you. That would be way too easy. "Look, a barrel of fish! Where's my gun?"

While browsing my Google Reader's recommendations page, I came across one Nadia Bolz-Weber, pastor and author of the blog Sarcastic Lutheran. At first I was like, "Okay, tattooed female Emerging/Lutheran pastor . . . interesting." But the more I read, the more I realized that she has some amazing insights into the Scriptures.

Recently I began reading her book Salvation on the Small Screen?: 24 Hours of Christian Television. The book is a collection of her observations while watching Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) for twenty-four straight hours.

That's a brave woman!

Naturally there are a lot of swipes at TBN's prosperity preachers (Joel Olsteen, Paula White) and apocalyptic fundamentalists (John Hagee, Hal Lindsey). Here are some of my favorite observations:

"[On John Hagee] In just five minutes we've gotten the crippling of the U.S. economy, nuclear holocaust in Israel and the United States, and the end of Western civilization. Is this guy available for children's parties?" (Page 36)

"[On 'Believer's Voice of Victory'] This is Rhonda Byrne's 'The Secret' evangelical style. Just believe and it will come to you." (Page 48)

"[On 'Ancient Secrets of the Bible'] Trying to prove scientifically the historical accuracy of events in the Bible is to faith what having your spouse under twenty-four-hour video surveillance is to marital trust." (Page 91)

The book isn't all snarkiness, though. In fact, at one point Bolz-Weber wonders "if the Word of God can be proclaimed in my preaching . . . as deeply flawed as I am, then on some level I have to allow for the possibility that the healing of God can come through a charlatan like Benny Hinn." I personally think she's more biblical than Hinn, but she might have a point.

Overall the book is clever, well-written, and hilarious. I just hope she never has to suffer through Jan Crouch's drag queen wig again in her life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pressing On

Many of you know I am a hardcore Dylan fan; most of you probably don't know why.

It's hard not know of Dylan growing up--his songs are covered, they are in commercials, they are in movies, they are the titles to books--he is everywhere, even if you don't know him you've heard him.

So that's how I was; I had heard of him, and I knew many of his songs, but I had never really listened to a full album.

I was in graduate school in the early 2000's reading about Scorsese planning to do a documentary on him; on my breaks, I started reading up on Dylan in the library. The thing that really stood out for me at first was that thing that happened in the 80's--the whole Christian thing. After hearing the nasally vocalist had some gospel records, I couldn't resist the temptation of listening to them.

I was expecting some cheap techno wannabe Christian gibberish rock ala Petra and Stryper; it was none of that. The first album I listened to was "Slow Train Coming" and it blew me away. The lyrics were deep and actually made me feel the presents of God, and the sound was its own genre in itself--it had the good old fashion church gospel sound in it, but it was more than that. No Dylan record fits into any one group or style--Bob Dylan is his own genre and that's one of the things that has made him the genius that he is.

After listening to Slow Train Coming, I started to slowly buy up his other records in a compulsive, completest fashion; and when I had all of them, I started combing Newsgroups and Torrent sites for the hard to come by bootleg stuff. Today my hard drive has over 11 gigs and 2500 songs of Dylan (yes, you read that right--11 gigs).

I've had the chance to see him live twice; both times felt more like an experience than a concert. I would pay good money just to see his backing band play.

Last year, he released a Christmas album, which made a lot of people wonder what gives? Is he still a Christian or what? (for the record, he never officially said he wasn’t a Christian—most people just put two and two together when he divorced and started showing up at Jewish functions)

I've read all the books and articles that try and guess what religion he is now. I've come out of it feeling bad for the guy. He probably would call himself Christian if people wouldn't abuse him for it--and by people I mean Christians. I don't think he left Christianity because he didn't believe in Christ, I think he left because he stopped believing in Christians--he didn't want and to be anyone’s savior...he just wanted to write and perform music.

Anyone who loves Dylan's music and knows about the conversion has their own theory about what he is (or isn't). My guess is he still believes, though he's more of what you might call a Jew for Jesus--practicing the traditions of Judaism while believing in the fundamentals of Christianity; I've never read an article where he denies a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (though I'm sure whatever relationship he hasn't isn't the evangelical kind he had in the 80s), but he is extremely guarded about what he says. If that's the case--that he still believes in Christ, but isn't vocal about it, then he's the perfect example of what a Christian should be: flawed, but trying. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter to me what he is--he gave me two albums that left me in spiritual awe, and even denial of faith can't take that away. God used him as a vessel while he had accepted his grace, and he shared his personal experience with the world--whether or not he still has what he had is a question he doesn't have to answer to any person on earth.

If you've never heard Dylan's gospel records, then treat yourself and watch the videos below. Be kind to them—they are live and from the 80s—a combination that really does not give the songs justice from the versions you’ll hear on the CDs; unfortunately, there’s no better footage because Dylan no longer performs any of the songs.











Friday, January 8, 2010

The End Is Near . . . Or Is It?

It looks like the Mayans were wrong; the world will NOT end in 2012. It'll actually happen a year early.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, biblical scholar Harold Camping claims that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011. Here's how he came up with the exact date:

The number 5, Camping concluded, equals "atonement." Ten is "completeness." Seventeen means "heaven." Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.

"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.


In the words of Bill Cosby, "Rrriiiight."

Now if you're not an eschatology scholar this may seem convincing. However, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, the article says that Camping originally thought the Rapture was going to happen on September 6, 1994. Camping claims that he made a "mathematically error" the last time, and he's really got it figured out now. However, the book of Deuteronomy says if a prophet says something is going to happen and it doesn't happen, he shouldn't be trusted. So if Camping got his math wrong the last time, what makes you think he's got it right this time?

But most importantly, Jesus clearly says that no one except God knows when the world will end (Matthew 24:36). So do you really think God would plant some special code in His Word that a nerd with a calculator (and a lot of time on his hands) could figure out?

I might get left behind for saying this, but I don't think it's time to start putting together a "Welcome Back, Jesus" party just yet.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome to 2010

I’m not big on resolutions; I have goals, but they don’t usually come at the start of the year.

So instead of a blog about resolutions, this is a blog about predictions—Christian predictions in particular. In the year 2010, I predict some of the following will happen:

*Sarah Palin will suggest the creation of a separate Christian nation.

*There will be a really bad Christian movie that makes way too much money, and inspires way too many unoriginal Christian books.

*Billy Graham will die and everyone will suddenly pretend to be evangelical for the weekend of his funeral; churches will get a boost in attendance that weekend; President Obama will attend the funeral and make several statements about how much he influenced his life. The next week controversial will break out when a news report that reveals Graham made controversial statements during the Nixon administration (statements that have been public for years). Things will go back to normal the next weekend. (Note to reader, I admire Billy Graham more than almost any individual living, and I don’t make this statement to insult him)

*A Christian vampire book series will be released.

*Catholic Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will position himself more with evangelicals as he begins his pre-bid for the White House.

* One of the Jonas brothers will grow up and be involved in a scandal

*A minister will get sued for refusing to offer his services to a gay couple

*Rick Warren will counsel Tiger Woods on his sexual addiction

*Travis will finish his book

Friday, January 1, 2010

So This is the New Year, and I Have No Resolutions

I don't really believe in "New Year's resolutions." It's always some lofty goal that we never meet. For example, a few years ago when I woke up and suddenly realized I was fat, I resolved to lose weight. For the first month I did well; I counted by points like a good Weight Watcher. By April, however, I ditched the point counting and went on a major buffet binge.

That's not to say that I don't believe in making goals. I just don't limit my goals to 12-month periods. Too restricting.

My goals include:

-Lose weight (I try to spin for about 15 minutes every night)
-Write a book (think of it as "Blue Like Jazz" if Donald Miller had mental issues)
-Get married (I've been engaged for almost three years, so I think it's time to get the proverbial ball rolling

But my biggest goal is to, as we Christians say, draw closer to God. If you're like me, you're very easily distracted by the things of this world: individualism, materialism, etc. If I'm not careful, I can easily go so wrapped up in that stuff that I nearly forget who I am. So hopefully I can stay focused both this year and every remaining year after that.

So Happy New Year, everyone!