Friday, March 25, 2011

Send Us Your Stories!

Love what you read here at Disturbed Christians? Want to contribute? Well then go right ahead! We're always looking for new writers who can make us both laugh and think at the same time. If you can tell a good story, then feel drop send us some of your stuff.

You can email me at travismamone83[at]gmail[dot]com (I guess it's safer to write your email address that way), and we'll take a look at your stories.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Greetings from Rome

March 16. That was the day that we “should have” left for Tokyo, Japan. Obviously, we didn’t, and you will know why if you haven’t been living in a cave this past month.

In the days that followed some of our conversations resembled the kind of selfish and insensitive antics from Seinfeld. It’s a trip we had been planning for over a year and while we have the deepest sympathy for the entire nation of Japan, the situation for us still felt lousy.

We were offered a voucher to fly somewhere else and we picked Rome. The hardest part of this vacation is enjoying it knowing an entire nation is in pain.

It’s really times and acts such as this that make you say, why?

If there’s a God, then why did this happen? That is a question millions in Japan are asking, I’m sure. Surely God could have stopped it—so why didn’t he? For the pure pleasure in seeing pain and suffering?

I personally believe that God stopped us from going to Tokyo through a series of stumbling blocks that happened even before the earthquake happened—way too many to list here. I’ve heard other people tell of similar stories. You could say God willed people away from the country—or you could call it coincidence.

That’s nice for us, but what of the thousands not so lucky? Those dead or missing. God couldn’t have willed them from danger?

For me personally, one of the most powerful stories in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10—the thorn in Paul’s flesh. Paul doesn’t say why (or what) pain was given to him—but grace, he says, was sufficient because of it. In other words, pain brought him closer to God—making him remember why he needed God’s presence.

What happened (and is happening) in Japan is horrible—cruel—and completely unfair. But people cling to families in times like this—it makes you appreciate your time more—it makes you stop—love—rejoice.

It’s in tragedy that you really can see the face of God. I can’t say why it happened, but I can say this is the time that you can really feel that God is with us.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Martin Bashir: Apologist or Jerk?

I haven't read Rob Bell's new book Love Wins yet, so I can't say anything yet about Bell's supposed heresy. But I do want to talk about this interview Martin Bashir did with Bell on MSNBC this past Tuesday:

Like most people, when I first saw this my immediate reaction was, "Oh snap, Bashir carried you, young!" (And I consider myself a Bell fan, too.) But then the more I thought about, the more I realized something just wasn't quite right.

For starters, Bashir asks Bell about God's providence: is God all-powerful but doesn't care about us, or does God care but isn't all-powerful? For a high respected journalist like Bashir, this is basically the equivalent of Barbara Walters asking Katherine Hepburn, "If you could be any tree, what would you be?" Bell tries to explain to Bashir that neither choice applies to God, but Bashir seems to want a definite either/or.

Second, I only took one journalism course in college so my knowledge might be a little rusty, but I thought journalists weren't supposed to interject their opinion. Actually, now that I think about it, Walter Cronkite spoke out against the Vietnam War, so I think in certain situations a journalist can speak his/her mind. But when Bashir outright says Bell is deliberately twisting Scripture to suit his own needs, it doesn't really give Bell enough room to defend himself. Bashir could be right, but he made the interview more like a witch trial than a real interview.

What do you think?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why I Hate Religion

I've Turned My Back on © 2010 Casey Muir-Taylor | more info (via: Wylio)

(I wrote this on my blog last week when I was still mad at the whole Rob Bell-John Piper fiasco. I've eased up since then, but most of this is still true.)

One of my all-time favorite comedians is George Carlin. He’s one of the few stand-up comedians that could make you both laugh and think at the same time. One of his most famous routines is “Religion is Bullsh*t” where he makes his case for atheism. Here’s how Carlin sums up religion:

“Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible in the sky...who watches every thing you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry for ever and ever 'til the end of time...but he loves you!”

On one hand, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. But on the other hand, I think Carlin was right on the proverbial money.

I can’t count how many times preachers have described the holy and sovereign God as a dictator sitting in his high chair watching over everything we do, say, and think, ready to get his smite on whenever some one makes the slightest mistake. This is why I cringe whenever God is described as holy and sovereign. It’s not because I don’t believe God isn’t holy or sovereign. I do, very much so. It’s just that often when preachers describe God as holy and sovereign, what they really mean is, “God’s gonna seriously eff you up!”

And that’s why I hate religion.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an atheist. Neither am I rejecting Jesus or the Bible or the Church. I still follow Christ. I just don’t follow religion anymore. Religion is what happens when people twist the Gospel to make it fit their own agendas.

Religion is motivated by fear.

Faith is motivated by love.

Religion’s main driving force is rules.

Faith’s main driving force is God.

Religion has all the answers wrapped up in neat and tidy boxes.

Faith isn’t afraid to live the questions.

I also hope no one thinks I’m suggesting universalism. Believe me, I’m not a universalist (and apparently neither is Rob Bell). I believe that on Judgment Day we’ll all stand before God. However, when I read the Bible I can’t help but notice that the Gospel is so much bigger than a Get Out of Hell Free card.

It’s about God restoring the world through Jesus.

It’s about freedom from sin and bondage.

It’s about reconciliation with both God and each other.

And that’s why I can’t embrace Carlin’s atheism: the Gospel is so much bigger than what religion has made it out to be.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Question the Answers

Question the Answersphoto © 2009 walknboston | more info (via: Wylio)
(Originally posted on my blog)

I'm not a Buddhist, but I like to read about Buddhism from time to time. I think as a philosopher and a teacher, the Buddha had a lot of deeply profound things to say. Here's one that I've been thinking about a lot lately:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. . . . Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

I don't know about you, but it's much easier for me to automatically believe whatever the "experts" say is true or "orthodox" (notice the quotation marks). I'm afraid to ask questions because I'm afraid of what the answer might be. What if everything I've ever been taught is a lie? But when I finally do ask the questions, I'm always pleasantly surprised by the answer.

For example, last year when I nudged my way into the emerging church conversation, I was introduced to all these new ideas about the Gospel, the Bible, the Cross, and eschatology. I was also reading a lot about the New Calvinism movement and their theology. With all the different voices and ideas coming at me, though, I no longer knew what to believe. Was Christus Victor the right atonement theory, or was it Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Was God still angry at everyone? But I just kept going through the motions of doing church because I didn't want to lose my faith. The problem was, I was my faith! So finally I started asking questions and investigating my beliefs. I emptied out everything that I had been taught about Jesus, and re-read all four gospels.

And when I did, the strangest thing happened. I regained my faith in Jesus! I studied His teachings and found out He was right all along!

Questioning what you've been taught is scary, but it's necessary for growth. If we stop asking questions, we stop learning, and therefore we stop growing. Besides, I think Jesus is big enough to handle our questions. He even said, "Ask and you shall receive."