Monday, March 29, 2010

The One About Health Care

I’m not by nature political; there is a reason I don’t blog about my views about who should be President or anything else with politics attached—the reason is I do not care to talk about politics. And honestly, if you want to know what I believe about anything, then I’ll answer you the same: I believe what the Bible teaches.

And yet, I find myself at ends with health care reform, partly because I believe it’s more than a political issue—it’s a moral one.

For the past several days, I have talked with way too many conservative Christians who somehow do not see the correlation between being Christian and supporting health care reform.

If you believe in Jesus Christ—if you believe in his teachings—then supporting healthcare reform, of any kind, should be a no brainer.

I don’t care if this bill ruins this country; I don’t care if it puts every business out of business; I don’t care if it bankrupts it all. If you believe in the Bible, then all of that is meaningless! I put God before country, and not the other way around.

What I find most disappointing and shameful is the people who support a bill that helps the poor are largely people who do not call themselves Christians. It seems lately that non-Christians find it easier to follow the example of Jesus Christ then Christians do.

Christians used to stand on the side of the party sometimes referred to as the Compassionate Party, but a little thing called abortion made them step away. I believe both sides are inherently evil.

What’s alarming is parts of this bill seem more conservative then liberal. Conveniently, I have yet to hear the likes of Sarah Palin speak about how this reform bill actually puts money aside for abstinence education. Why should she? She’d rather politicized her handicap son by spreading lies about how this bill is going to basically kill him.

If you don’t believe we should pay higher taxes to help the 1 out of 4 Americans without health care, then I hope, at the very least, we should pay higher taxes to help the 3 out of 4 that do.

Americans pay, on average 2 times more on prescription medicine than any other country in the world. This bill makes it easier to get generics in the marketplace. Health insurance premiums have rose to alarming rates; this bill will be competition to the market. Everyone has heard the horror stories of people who pay insurance for ten plus years, only to get denied coverage because they claimed the condition was somehow preexisting before they got insurance; it’s common practice, but this bill is the first one to ever come along that can stop it.

In four years every American will be required to have insurance—but that’s only part of this bill. A larger part is what it will do for those who already have it.

We live in, supposedly, the greatest country in the world—and yet over half of bankruptcies happen because of health related expenses, even higher are the number of lives that could be saved if they could have afforded to see a doctor earlier in their illness.

I’ve paid for my own health care for over five years; so has my wife. And yet, when we get sick we still go to a cheap clinic because we cannot afford to see the family doctor we saw while as kids—our insurance isn’t good enough for that. We have no co-payments, and lousy deductibles. Usually, if we get sick we just suck it up and hope to get over it soon because we just can afford the visit and the medications that follow.

The trouble is too many people are getting their news from 30 second sound bites that have conservatives rambling on about things that are either not true or taken out of context. And because they say they are Christians, people believe them.

Say what you want about this bill, but I hope you actually take the time to educate yourself with what it actually says, and not what people tell you it says.

It made sense when Christians staged protest against gay marriage—against abortion—against evolution in school. But this? This has drawn bigger protest then all those things combined! And it’s about helping people!

Millions of people are crying out for help—and not a single Republican thought the time was appropriate to help them. Is paying more for taxes to pay for this thing bad? Honestly, I think we deserve the higher taxes for the way we’ve behaved.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Death of Presumption

Today's post was written by George Elerick. Enjoy!

We have this stereotype about old people that has been around for quite a while. We say something like ‘they’re just afraid of change!’ or ‘they’ll never change!’ It’s almost as if they have been painted with a brush that they don’t get to pick. And the more we perpetuate all of our clich├ęs, they more true they seem to become. But, what about theology? Have all of our assumptions about God become true as well? Have we become afraid of change? I think Hume, the Scottish philosopher might have something to say to these questions.

Hume posed the principle of ‘is-ought’ which in short is the presupposition that what ‘is’ is also what ‘ought’ to be. The problem with this assumption is when we apply this rule to discovering who God is. Some might say that because our theology has been inherited since Eden that the doctrines and dogma’s we have adhered to should be the truths we ought to hold fast to. The issue with this approach is that it only allows singular interpretations to arrive on the scene and for the audience to choose the truths that fit their current worldview. Another issue is that the ‘ought-is’ principle doesn’t allow much room for the ancient voices to speak on the matter. The ancient Jews believed God was perfect, but they also believed that perfection evolved. That perfection moved forward and wasn’t stagnant. In the West, we tend to think of perfection as a static state of being, the Jews did not. The Jews also saw truth as something that unfolds. Truth itself is in progress. Truth is also not static, rather it is dynamic. If they are right on both counts, then the theory of ‘is-ought’ is a bit anaemic and leaves us wanting. It makes us prisoners of our own truths, doctrines and dogmas. The flaw of the is-ought theory is that it assumes that history { or certain authoritative figures throughout history} has/have commented on certain aspects of God and that their contributions must be true because they said it and it ought not to be challenged. That premise is built upon the assertion that tradition or what has been accepted as tradition is the only valuable thing in development process for global community. A flaw in that premisee is that it leaves only room for what is considered acceptable to those who might be in charge. This approach to any philosophy is quite limited in its scope. It leaves room for oppression, denial of other truths, and fosters the ever growing fear of change. When applied to God-discoveries it makes God appear small, and there is an underlying assumption that we could know all things about God and who this being is.

Theological Non-Cognitivism is a theory in Atheism that simply states that words like ‘God’ and religious language alike do not have cognitive value. That we don’t fully grasp the meanings of the words we use when trying to explain our experiences of the divine. Some Atheists use this as an argument to prove that God does not exist. Maybe we can humbly borrow their language to allow a pregnant space for God to speak to humanity in the inadequacy of our language. Maybe what we really need is the death of theology all together. Or at least the death of the presumptions that tend to come with it. Maybe we can come together and realise that all of our theological meandering is at best an attempt to touch the vastness of the Divine. Maybe we could come to realize that there isn’t one acceptable view on God. He’s too big! And to assume so is to make us God’s puppeteer and the rest of humanity the players on a stage. Maybe all of humanity could come together and celebrate the immense reality that is God by immersing ourselves in the silence and awe. Which would be the recognition that our word, philosophies, thoughts, scriptures and books only touch a corner of who this Being is. At least that’s the way it ought to be!

Monday, March 22, 2010

See You Next Week

I am currently away celebrating Anniversary #2 with my wife, Diana; we are in Hollywood (which is less than a hour away...we wanted to get away, but didn't really want to fly anywhere). I wanted to post a picture of the guy who dresses up like Jesus for tourist, but I didn't want to fork over the 10 dollar tip (I'm not sure what not tipping a guy who dresses up like Jesus means four my soul, but I'm sure I'll make it up somehow). So, until I return, go read my very first article for Relevant Magazine (it was first printed (in a slightly different form) here).

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Church You Should Run Away From

I don’t really feel like bringing up what Mr. Beck said recently about social justice churches anymore. Everyone already knows he’s full of baloney, so it’s no use wasting my breath on him. But I will say that there are some churches people do need to stay clear from, but it has nothing to do with social justice or activism.

If your church talks about tithing like it is a pyramid scheme, RUN!

During my ten-year walk with God, I’ve attended several churches, and one thing I’ve noticed is how some churches talk about tithing. For example, the first church I went to was a charismatic church that loved talking about prosperity and “sowing seeds of faith.” I was a baby Christian at the time, so I thought that’s what Jesus was all about. Then I noticed something--whenever they passed the collection plate, they would always say how God was going to pour his blessings one-hundredfold on everyone who gave cheerfully. This always made me feel a little uneasy, but I never understood why. Years later, I finally understood why: these folks were more focused on the reward than on the act of giving itself.

This particular church is not a unique case. I’ve heard many pastors talk about tithing as if it’s a get-rich-quick pyramid scheme. They’ll say things like, “For a love gift in addition to your weekly tithe, God will anoint you with endless blessings and prosperity.” It’s like those infomercials that promise if you call now, they’ll throw in a vegetable peeler for free.

You’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t the Bible says that we reap what we sow?” Yes, that is true (Galatians 6:7). But the reward isn’t the point of giving; it’s the giving itself. Let’s take the story of the widow who offered her last two copper coins (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus praised her for giving all that she had. But did He praise her because she successfully followed God’s sure-fire get-rich-quick pyramid scheme? Or was it something deeper? The Bible doesn’t say what the widow was thinking, but I like to think that the widow didn’t offer her last two coins in order to get rich. If she were only thinking about her own prosperity, she would have kept the coins. Isn’t that what any reasonable poverty-stricken widow would do? But that’s not what happened; she gave the last two things she possessed to God, because everything belongs to God. Our offerings to God are our meager way of thanking the Maker of Heaven and Earth for all His blessings, none of which we deserve.

If you want to know whether or church is a biblical church, pay attention to the way they talk about tithing. If tithing is a humble offering to God, then you’re in good company. If your church makes tithing sound like a pyramid scheme, RUN!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Free!

You've probably noticed the little book on the side called "Christian Obscenity"...if not, turn right now--see it? That book is available in paperback and electronically via Kindle. It's now also available for free on Feedbooks: http://www.feedbooks.com/userbook/10566

Most of the stuff in there has been published before, but some of it is funny. If you like it and want to say thanks, leave a good review on Amazon or Goodreads or whever it is you leave reviews.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Open Letter to Glenn Beck

Dear Mr. Beck,

This past week on your radio show you told your listeners to "run as fast as [they] can" from any church that teaches social justice. You said that social justice and economic justice are "code words" for Communism. I don't mean to question your faith, but I wonder what would possess you to say that, since there are so many verses in the Bible about justice.

I often hear Christians say Jesus only came to save people from Hell, and that he had no social agenda. While it's true that His main goal was to atone for our sins on the cross, there is a social aspect to the Gospel. As you may remember in Luke, Jesus announced His ministry after reading Isaiah 61:1-2 in a synagogue:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor


In case you didn't know, the "year of the Lord's favor" is a reference to the Jubilee Year that occurred every 50 years, which is when all debts were cancelled, and all slaves were freed. Some may say Jesus meant to say He was going to liberate us spiritual slavery only, and as I said earlier that was His main goal. However, if you take a look at His ministry, His spiritual healing was always accompanied by physical healing. Remember when the bedridden man was lowed from the roof? Jesus both forgave his sins and made the man walk again. That's why I believe the Gospel liberates us from both spiritual and physical bondage.

Some other verses to consider are Matthew 25:31-46, Micah 6:8, Deuteronomy 16:20, Psalm 89:14, and Proverbs 31:9. These are just a handful of the thousands of Bible verses concerning either the poor or justice. God clearly has a heart for the poor and marginalized in society.

I don't know if you know this, but social justice is actually not a new fad in Christianity. As Rev. James Martin, S. J. recently said on Huffington Post, "The term 'social justice' originated way back in the 1800s (and probably predates even that), and has been underlined by the Magisterium and popes since Leo XIII, who began the modern tradition of Catholic social teaching with his encyclical on capital and labor, Rerum Novarum in 1891." Rerum Novarum condemned unrestricted capitalism, and supported the formation of trade unions. The document still influenced modern Catholic social teaching, particularly the themes of preferential option for the poor, and dignity of work and the rights of workers.

And what about the Quakers who played a major role in the abolition movement? Or the black churches who marched for civil rights in the '60s? Their belief in social justice changed the world. What about Rick Warren's current P.E.A.C.E. Plan? Should we report him as a Commie?

Mr. Beck, I pray that the Lord will open your heart to the Scriptures, and that you will see how God stands with the poor and marginalized.

Sincerely,

Travis

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Most Offense Movies I've Ever Seen

Mark Driscoll (pastor of the Mars Hill mega church in Seattle) really hates Avatar. He calls it the, “most demonic, satanic film I've ever seen.”

Anyone else saying, “Huh?”

I think Matthew Paul Turner does a pretty good job explaining why the guy has suddenly turned nuts, so if you want my reaction to that statement, then just read his, because that’s how I fill in a nutshell.

But it did get me thinking; what films have left me utterly offended (not necessarily because they are demonic)?

In no particular order, here are the top three films that left me offended by the credits (and by credits, that, sadly, means I watched the entire movie):

In and Out – the movie is about a teacher who is outted on live TV after one of his former students wins an Academy Award. Why I was offended? Because the message of the movie is a guy who does things that the stereotypical gay male does (sews, goes to plays, reads, etc), then he’s gay. At no point in the movie does the character seem to have any attraction sexual attraction for men—unfortunately, no one tells him that you are not gay just because you do things that some gay men do.

An Education – I was horrified by this movie about a teenage girl who falls for a much older man; if there was a prerequisite for being a pedophile than this one would have to make the cut. It takes place in the 60s where apparently parents are okay with their 16 year old daughters hanging out with 40 year old men. It’s creepy. Critics have raved about it’s a coming of age movie, which horrifies me even more—it’s more like a movie about a girl getting manipulated than coming of age. I think rape is a better way to put the sex that they had. By the end of the movie she’s not more mature, and she’s certainly not more womanly—she’s a young woman whose been stripped of all her innocence, but is still 100% immature and making all the wrong choices.

Expelled – I’ve already stated my disgust for this movie. You can read it here.

Avatar won’t be making anyone convert to some New Age religion anytime soon; these movies, however, could easily make people more arrogant towards Christians (by watching Expelled), have no conception of complexities of admitting you are homosexual (by watching In and Out), or show how to come of age merely means to have sex (by watching An Education)—I find all of these things worse than Avatars supposed new age message.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What To Make of Mark Driscoll

I'm still not sure what to make of Mark Driscoll.

Maybe it's just me being a wishy-washy emerging Christian, but I don't think I would feel totally comfortable going to his church. For starters, he's part of the whole New Calvinism movement. I personally don't have anything against Calvinism (in fact, I started an interesting conversation about Calvinism on my personal blog), but Driscoll seems to really emphasize the whole Total Depravity thing. For examples, there's this video where Driscoll explains that God hates both the sin and the sinner:



True, he does go on to say how Christ died for our sins, and we are saved by grace alone. But to me it seems like if God would hate us, why would He send His Son to die for us?

Then there's his emphasis on masculinity:



I thought being a man meant laying down your life for your wife (Ephesians 5:25), not watching football and hunting.

And then there's this bit he did on the movie Avatar:



I'm not a big fan of Avatar, either, but mostly because I'm a horrible movie snob (I'll take Wes Anderson over James Cameron any day). And to be fair, Driscoll isn't the only Christian who has slammed Avatar; Steven Koster at Think Christian called the movie "pagan and boring". But I think Driscoll's comments got so much buzz because it does kind of sound your typical fundamentalist getting too hung up on the "liberal-run" Hollywood. I like to think we have bigger things to worry about, like poverty and nuclear war.

And yet Driscoll is NOT a fundamentalist. In fact, in this video he points out seven signs of fundamentalism:



And that's why I'm always ranting about fundamentalism, because fundamentalists believe their interpretation is the infallible Word of God.

So I'm not really sure what to make of Driscoll. On one hand, I think a lot of what he says teeters on misogyny and sexism. But on the other hand, technically he is still my brother in Christ, and the Bible tells us to be like-minded towards one another. Besides, I've only handpicked a few videos, so I'm sure this blog is not a full representation of Driscoll's character.

I'd love to interview Driscoll for my podcast Coffee Chats, because I want to open up a conversation with both "emerging" Christians and more "Reformed" Christians. I think if we just talk to each other, we can really learn a lot. So Mark, if you're reading, call me and we chat over some coffee.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The $50 Goes To...


Crystal!
Please email us and we will send you the money via Paypal under "Personal" so you will get the full amount and none of those pesky fines.

We chose the winner randomly from random.org.

If you didn't win, but need missionary financial support, we do have a funding for this. Please email us at outreach@disturbedchristians.com for more details.

Thanks for playing along!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Why the Poor Get Poorer

Earlier this week, I got a $50 parking ticket; it was my fault, but to be fair, in the 2 years we have live at our apartment, the street has never been monitor. It was a known fact that the city just did not have the time or resources to make sure cars parked in the 2 hour curb parking were in fact only there for 2 hours--I once saw a car parked there for a week and a half straight with no ticket.

My city (Anaheim) is running dry on funds and found new ways to collect--one is parking tickets. What I’ve found is the cities small little money getting programs target the poor and middle class.

Even the library is playing a role; the Anaheim Library no longer let’s patrons with fines above $5 use the computer. If you need to use the library computer to find a job, but you can't because you don’t have money to pay off your fines, then something is seriously wrong.

Interestingly, the city is rewarding the rich by giving tax breaks on purchases of $20,000 or more.


Last month, I posted about giving $50 dollars away to one reader; it is our way of rewarding people for no reason. There are a lot of ways to put a smile on someone’s face—money is one of the easiest. We’ll announce the winner a little later this week, but I’m sure, at the very least, there will be the hint of a smile on someone’s face.

Times are not great now—there are lots of cities, like Anaheim, that are penalizing lower classes. There is one thing to be joyful about in spite of all of it: it makes it easier to make someone’s day, and trust me, there are a lot of people out there that really need their day made.