Monthly Archives: December 2008

progress

I’ve been going through the list of 2008 Weblog Awards for Best Religion Blog. Check out the whole list, because it’s a great way to catch up on something you may have missed.

Working my way down the Religion list, I went to Christianblog.com. It was new to me, but looked interesting. Just click to sign up, no problem. Then I hit a snag. To sign up, I would have to agree to a statement. Below is the quote from the site.

ChristianBlog.Com is a website strictly reserved for those who know they are a Child of God (aka: a Christian.)

We do not believe it is possible for us (or for anybody) to define what a “Christian” is or is not, other then to quote Romans 10:9, which says, “if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

If you feel that is you and you are being honest with yourself then we stand on the Holy Word of God that you and God have worked out your Salvation and we feel you have the right to become a member of ChristianBlog.Com

I have no issue with their asking this of potential members. Certainly, if you want a blog to discuss Christianity, it would be quite normal for those members to believe that “Jesus is Lord…”. Problem is, I couldn’t do it. I could not agree to this very simple statement that quite naturally defines a Christian. I do not know for certain that Jesus is Lord, that God raised him from the dead for my sake.

I was surprised actually, by how quickly I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t sign it. I didn’t twing, didn’t feel any pangs of guilt, it was just a matter of honesty for me. Maybe I’m getting somewhere in this journey after all…best of luck to you on the christianblog, I’ll be surfing elsewhere.

the spirituality spot

Fascinating article on the Livescience.com site about a spirituality “spot” in the brain.

The area in question — the right parietal lobe — is responsible for defining “Me,” said researcher Brick Johnstone of Missouri University. It generates self-criticism, he said, and guides us through physical and social terrains by constantly updating our self-knowledge: my hand, my cocktail, my witty conversation skills, my new love interest …

People with less active Me-Definers are more likely to lead spiritual lives, reports the study in the current issue of the journal Zygon.

VERY interesting and worth reading the whole, short article.

In conjunction with this, I’ve also been reading about the link between spirituality and niceness. Crunchy Con had a piece on it as well as The New York Times.

Hmmm, wonder if the two are related? Makes one question how much free will is involved in our spiritual choices, are we really hardwired to lean one way or another, what about people who make total conversions, did thier brains change? Fascinating stuff!

ignorance

I’m continually amazed at the ignorance of otherwise smart people when it comes to religion. I have heard from adults I know that they didn’t realize Jews don’t worship Jesus or that religious groups other than Baptists were baptized. Really! It shocked me. But, as I constantly remind myself, it shouldn’t be. Unless you have a particular interest in religion, why bother finding out, right?

Education systems don’t treat it as something you really need to know about. Religious schools don’t give equal time or any time to anything but their own brand typically. Religious institutions, of course, are there to talk to the converted, but if your brand of spirituality doesn’t encourage, or actively discourages asking questions then it’s likely you won’t. It’s disheartening to me and should be embarrassing to those who are so in the dark about basic religious differences.

People who are not religious or have rejected religion can be equally ignorant. I used to think they must be knowledgeable because they made a decision to opt-out based on weighing the options. Not so much.

It really doesn’t matter why people don’t know the basics about religions; all that matters is that when they don’t, they appear ignorant and close-minded. If you fall into this category, get educated! Please! It’s like learning a new language: it won’t be easy, but a little effort goes a LONG way.

a christmas reflection

I’m reflecting on Christmas this Christmas morning and have read a blog post from Slate that does a great job articulating much of why I like the secularization of Christmas. I’m by no means a non-believer, but I spent a very non-God Christmas (no church mainly) and loved it. I loved letting go of the guilt (at least for a while) of not doing it right, and focusing on my family, good friends and just reveling in as much happiness as I could.

Merry Christmas everyone, whatever that may mean to you!

my early christmas present

Finally Facebook has proved itself useful! Last night, a childhood friend reached out who I haven’t seen in probably 15 years plus. We were inseparable in elementary school. I was so thrilled to hear from her. She looked fantastic, married with a new baby, what an exciting time in her life. My excitement on reconnecting with her made me ponder. After all the gifts are exchanged in a few days, I know nothing I get will give me the same warm, wonderful feeling as hearing from my old friend. The absolute absence of expectation, of getting something I didn’t even know I wanted, is so wonderful. Often, after all the gifts are ripped open on Christmas, the first thing my kids say is “I’m bored!” Of course, the anticipation is so much more exciting than the gift itself. The lack of anticipation makes the getting so much more wonderful. I’m still smiling about my friend, thank you for such a wonderful gift!

weird stuff

There is some weird stuff going on out there in the name of religion. These are from The Church Around the Corner: Offbeat religion stories.

Muslim hate preacher claims ‘Christmas is the pathway to hell’

A Muslim lawyer has launched an extraordinary rant against Christmas, branding the celebration ‘evil’. Hate preacher Anjem Choudary claimed the festival was the ‘pathway to hell’ and urged his followers to boycott it. ‘In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in Western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas,’ he raged in a sermon broadcast on the internet. … ‘Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah. … ‘Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. ‘Protect your Paradise from being taken away – protect yourself and your family from Christmas.’

– Source: ‘Christmas is the pathway to hell’: Muslim lawyer’s extraordinary rant at ‘evil’ celebration, Daily Mail, Dec. 10, 2008

New Capitol display sought with Santa “hell” warning

A Kansas-based church that has blamed deaths in Iraq on U.S. tolerance of homosexuality has asked Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office to approve a “Santa Claus will take you to hell” message to display among other religious statements in the Capitol’s third-floor hallway. The Westboro Baptist Church’s message would be near a Nativity set, three signs mocking atheism, and an atheists’ sign that celebrates the winter solstice, while also taking a shot at religion as “myth and superstition” that enslaves minds, all in the state Capitol’s third-floor hallway.

– Source: New Capitol display sought with Santa “hell” warning, Seattle Times, Dec. 12, 2008

Man says God ordered him to ram vehicle

A man who rammed his truck into a woman’s vehicle on a highway early Friday told authorities he crashed into her while going more than 100 mph because God told him “she needed to be taken off the road.”

– Source: Man says God ordered him to ram vehicle, AP via MSNBC, Dec. 1, 2008

Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology

A nude model resembling the Virgin Mary on the cover of the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine, published only days before a major Mexican festival dedicated to the mother of Jesus, prompted the company’s U.S. headquarters on Friday to apologize.

– Source: Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology, Reuters, Dec. 16, 2008

Virgin Mary appears woman’s brain scan

A 42-year-old woman without insurance and mounting medical bills plans to sell an MRI scan of her brain in which the image of the Virgin Mary seems to appear. … Having seen where other supposed images of Mary or other religious icons were sold for thousands of dollars, Latrimore plans to post the MRI scan on eBay, the online auction site.

– Source: Virgin Mary in Fort Pierce woman’s brain scan; next stop: eBay, TCPalm.com, Dec. 5, 2008

Dante banned from selling soul on eBay

A musician fed up with his life was today barred from selling his soul to the highest bidder. Dante Knoxx, 24, offered the “used” item for a starting bid of £25,000.50 or a buy it now price of £700,000 on the internet auction site eBay. But eBay pulled the listing today with about two hours to go and no bids because it breached one of the firm’s policies. “You cannot sell anything that is not physical,” said Mr Knoxx.

– Source: Dante banned from selling soul on eBay, Independent, Dec. 15, 2008

It’s always good to read these when I think my writings might be too “out there”! Makes me feel very mainstream.

the happiness challenge

A friendly challenge to blog about happiness has been opened, because apparently it’s contagious and, as I consider myself a very happy person, I’d like to spread the wealth. Since the topic of this blog is religion I’ve decided to write about something religious or spiritual that makes me very happy. Hmm, it is at this point that I realize I don’t typically associate my writing about religion with happiness – not that it makes me unhappy, as a matter of fact it’s quite fulfilling, it just doesn’t bring that big smile to my face :). So time to change that!

Top 9 things about religion/spirituality that make me happy (10 just seemed too predictable 🙂

1. My children – because the miracle of birth will always be a miracle. It never ceases to amaze me how little doctors actually know about why things happen in pregnancy, why people can’t or can have children. All I can do is thank God for allowing me to raise these two precious souls.

2. The concept of God – I would be nowhere without this, and I certainly wouldn’t have a blog ;). But the belief in a greater being/spirit/whatever does make me very happy.

3. The Christmas season – see previous post, conflicted but VERY happy. We get our tree today as a matter of fact, yea!

4. The cross – I collect crosses and there is something very joyful to me about the symbol, despite all that I can’t decipher about my personal feelings on the subject of Jesus and the crucifixion, the symbol itself does make me happy…and maybe that’s enough.

5. Karen Armstrong – I must say, I get giddy excited when I hear she has a new book out or is speaking somewhere. The religious discussions that she inspires, and her charter for compassion are totally joy inducing.

6. The Quakers – I LOVED attending the Quaker meetings and felt happier than I ever had “going to church” in the traditional sense.

7. Graveyards – this may seem like an odd one, but ask those who know me, I’m gaga over graveyards. The history, the peace, the sense of seeing into the past, and for the spiritual unknowns of death.

8. Churches – much like the crosses, I’m drawn to churches in a way I can’t really explain. Or I should say houses of worship in general, not just Christian churches.

9. The journey – my journey with faith, the seeking itself, is so rewarding to me. It can present extreme moments of happiness and the opposite – which we won’t mention in a post about happiness. I’m very thankful and happy for my personal quest, and for anyone else seeking.

my conflicted christmas

I love Christmas – for so many reasons – the jolliness, the holiness, the cold weather, the eggnog and rum! It’s the holiness one that always gets me though (well, the rum get’s me too…). I’m conflicted over a few things and would love any thoughts on these:

1. Like others, I’m disgusted by the material focus of the holiday, on the other hand I love shopping for loved ones and feel it’s important to teach my children to GIVE – and yes, that may mean shopping occasionally. Everything in moderation people!

2. The Christmas story (i.e. virgin birth/manger) is very spiritually meaningful to me (part I), but, more frequently, I enjoy the wider reach of the Christmas spirit – that it is really for everyone, including the non-Christian friends I have that celebrate it and anyone else who wants to spread good cheer! Making me wonder how important the “Christian” aspect of Christmas is.

3. The Christmas story is very spiritually meaningful to me (part II), but I don’t believe a word of it. This is the real douser!

But Jesus is the whole reason for Christmas right?

Sure – but the means do not equal the ends.

The birth story is one of the more touching ones in the Bible for me. Despite my love for the story, I push it aside. I don’t want to focus on the story but rather the meaning, the application in life. Help those in need, bring gifts to strangers, open doors rather than shut them.

Whether or not the story itself is based in fact is almost beside the point. The story should represent how we show we believe rather than just what we believe – if that makes sense. Let Christmas become less Christian if it means that more people come together for celebration and sharing. Secularize Christmas for the sake of the true meaning of Christmas! Ok, I know I’m getting carried away, but this topic is hard to articulate for me (I’ve rewritten this more times than I’d like to admit).

The Christmas tree, the stockings, the cookies, the carol, all those lovely traditions – and so many others – all remind us to spread joy, give willingly, and embrace life. I know God’s message is not so easy to boil down, but I don’t think he would object to this version. Let’s just not let an amazing story distract us from the more amazing meaning.

P.S. And the Santa thing, when can we give that up? Pretend jolly fat men don’t spread joy, people do!