Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holidays? Which holidays?!!

This time of year always bugs the heck out of me, and the very fact that it does bother me bothers me even more. As a Christian, this should be an enjoyable, joyous time of year for me. I should be totally immersed in the Christmas season, enjoying it for all its worth, and should be simply drenched in Christmas spirit.

But I'm not entirely, and that bugs me. Part of it is the commercialization that has twisted one of the holiest days of the year into this revolting money and greed fest Christmas has become -- and people still doubt the existence of Satan. Another huge reason is because of the annual Christmas wars that inevitably spring up immediately following Thanksgiving, which always devolve into a veiled reference to "the Holidays" or, even worse, the "Holiday" itself.

I utterly despise this. When I was a kid, the Holidays referred collectively to the time between Thanksgiving and New Years. Because there were three major holidays in just over a month, it was often easier to refer to the three as a whole rather than pulling each out. If you were referring to a specific holiday, like Christmas, then you would simply say, "What are your plans for Christmas?"

But no more. Thanksgiving now stands alone, and "the Holidays" stands for the various religious and quasi-religious celebrations that happen in December, up to and including New Years. This is partially due to our oh-so-sensitive feelings nowadays, our painfully politically correct world, in that referring to a specific holiday may possibly insult somebody, somewhere, sometime, and so we couldn't let that happen. Part of it is simply good marketing, because if retailers only have "Christmas" sales, then the Jews won't show up, and likewise if they were to have "Hanukkah" sales.

But I think a far greater reason for it is to intentionally and absolutely cut Christ out of Christmas altogether, and hold on to it as merely a pleasant secular holiday based upon eating, drinking, gifts, and greed. This goal becomes more and more clear every year, as the anti-Christian and anti-Christmas forces become ever bolder and receive weaker opposition.

Think of this for a moment: It has become fashionable in some circles to refer to "Holiday trees" and "Holiday balls." Are you friggin' kidding me?!! Holiday trees?!! Which holiday, Memorial Day? The Fourth of July?!!! There is simply no holiday associated with the decorating of evergreen trees but Christmas. "Ah," my ever present doubters say, "but the trees have nothing to do with Christianity. They are part of left over pagan celebrations."

That's the point! The trees have nothing to do with Christianity itself, and are solely associated with one holiday, so why not call them thusly? The whole argument behind taking down municipal nativity scenes was because they were wholly religious symbols, are were therefore unconstitutional. OK, but what about the trees, the balls? They are clearly not religious, so why not refer to them as they are?

The reason, clearly, is to try and get even the name Christ disassociated with Christmas. If even innocent things like the trees and decorations can't be labeled with Christmas, then what other reason could it be than to get Christ out of Christmas? If people are offended simply by the utterance of the name Christ, then that is just too damn bad for them. It is ridiculous to think that simply saying "Christmas" would make even the most dedicated atheist shrivel up and die, so there must be a deeper, more nefarious reason behind it.

Also, think of this: Ever see a commercial for a "holiday" sale that features things like holly, candles, evergreen trees, stockings, candy canes, and the like? All of the visual representations of Christmas are used without ever referring to it itself. Its almost like retailers are using a code to let people know they mean Christmas but can't actually use the word itself. Again, another example of Christ being cut out of Christmas. More and more, the day itself is being referred to as "Holiday" -- singular, as in "your Holiday gifts" or "your Holiday plans" -- showing that the name of Christ is simply too disturbing for most sinners even to hear.

This is an utterly nefarious and deceitful thing, and we Christians must fight back, and fight back hard. These people are trying to take our celebrations from us, taking our faith from us, even trying to take the name of our Savior from us. Why shouldn't we fight back as heartily as they have attacked us? Christ didn't die on a cross so we could deny his name, even if only in not using the word "Christmas."

This is our task, this is our mission. If you are Christian and reading these pages, prepare for a fight and take the battle to these people. Even if only in simple ways, such as wishing strangers "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays," then do it. But fight back in some way.

And if you are one of those non-Christians who love to see the Christmas season being turned into the Holiday season...well, you'd best get used to disappointment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Down with Religions!!

"Say what?" they say, looking at the title of this post. "This guy says he's a Christian, yet calls an entry 'Down with Religions!!' What's up with that?!"

I am a Christian, and I do say down with religions. The reason for this is, quite simply, because Christianity at its finest, at its most pure, at its most perfect, is not a religion at all. It is nothing short of a personal, loving, intimate relationship with God. It is getting to know your Father in Heaven better than you could ever get to know your father on earth, or your mother, or your siblings, friends, or spouse. It is the perfection of the most pristine relationship imaginable.

According to the good people at Merriam-Webster, there are several definitions of "religion." The most vague one refers to the worship of God, but because a person can worship God in their own mistaken way with no religion at all, this definition is a little weak. Standing before the ocean, taking a walk in the woods, or looking at the night sky can be a worshipful experience devoid of religious content, so I reject this definition as simply being too imprecise.

But Merriam-Webster offers a second, more detailed definition: "2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices" Ah, yes. Now that's far more precise, and is far more in keeping with the definition most people have in their own minds upon hearing the word "religion." And it is to this definition I say, "down with religions."

Look carefully at that definition. What exactly is it saying? First of all, it is relating religion to a huge, monolithic institution, not unlike a modern government or other massive bureaucracy. Think of the IRS or some similar organization. Now, emanating from this monolithic institution are a whole long list of things that the adept must do and say, clothes that they must wear, and other details of their outward life. It also speaks of a desire to control what one holds in his or her heart, but the reality of this situation is that religions are far more interested in what outward behaviors one exhibits rather than the purity of one's heart.

So what we have here is a massive organization that has produced vast amounts of rules, regulations, and dogmatic literature in an attempt to effect the outward actions of the alleged faithful.

So if I claim Christianity, when properly practiced, is not a religion, what are some examples of a religion? Almost needless to say, Islam comes right to mind. There are few better examples of a "religion" by the definition of a monolithic organization bent on controlling one's outward actions. I will talk far more on this collection of insane ramblings later, so suffice it to say now that Islam is indeed a religion I'd like to see go down.

Next in line is Catholicism. "OK, now wait," they say again. "Isn't Catholicism Christianity?" No, it is not. Catholicism is its very own religion loosely based upon Christianity. But thinking that the precepts and beliefs of the Catholic Church represent the beliefs of Christianity is like saying the precepts of the KKK represent the belief system of the United States. It doesn't, and it couldn't be further from the high ideal of the original founder. Once again, I'll devote an entire post to the Catholics, so just allow me now to say that this is another religious system that needs to go down before people can be fully free.

Some other religions? Shinto and Hinduism, and Buddhism as most people perceive it. Actually, let me take a moment to say something about quasi-religions like Buddhism. Buddhists are wonderfully peaceful people and are truly some of the most dedicated humanists I know. However, Buddhism itself is not a religion at all. It is a philosophy, not unlike the many systems that came from ancient Greece. The only difference here is that none of the Greeks tried to turn Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates into some sort of divine personage. Siddarthur Gautauma, or Buddha, or whatever you want to call him, was a caring, compassionate, lovely individual, but he was no divine person -- nor did he ever claim to be. So the problem with Buddhism is that people spend their entire lives thinking about a philosophy when they could have been spending their lives getting close to God. It is a wonderful pursuit when combined with Christian faith, but as a philosophy, it is a real waste of time, and therefore needs to discarded with yesterday's garbage.

So how is Biblical Christianity different? When practiced properly, there are no barriers between you and God. You pray to him when you want, how you want, where you want, in whatever way you want, and you can say what you want. There are no formulas to remember, no magical words He has pre-approved at the expense of all other words. You bring him your pain, your troubles, your concerns, you wishes, your thanks, and your sins, and he takes them from you and makes them right. There is no ritual involved, no cleaning process; you're a sinner when you come to him, and a drop of water won't wash away sin. There is no direction to point, as the entire Earth is holy. Because of Christ's sacrifice, we have an open line directly to God, and we can access that line whenever we wish. Christianity recognizes your freedom and encourages you to use when speaking to God.

Christianity doesn't tell you want to eat or what to wear. All of God's creation is holy, so there is no food that could possible make a person "unclean." Why would God make the pig less holy than the cow, or the cow more holy than the goat, or the lobster less than the chicken? He wouldn't, of course. This is just one of those silly, outward control things religions do in order to allow their faithful to ignore the evil in their heart and focus instead on the meat on their plate. What a man puts in his stomach doesn't make him clean or unclean, but rather what he has in his heart. Similarly, Christianity doesn't tell you what to wear. No need for flowing robes from the 10th Century, no need for prayers tied to your forehead (prayers should etched on your heart, not plastered to your forehead!), and certainly no need to hide women's faces.

Which brings me to another, vital difference. Christianity respects and holds up all people -- even the women (Can you hear the collective gasp from non-Christians all around the world?!) The view of women in Christianity was perverted in the Middle Ages due to sexist political practices and power issues, but the truth, the Biblical truth, is that Christianity lifted women up as equals to men in all respects. If the world had implemented the proper Biblical Christian belief system, we would have had complete gender equality long ago.

I could go on and on and on, but I hope you begin to see that there is a huge difference between religions and Christianity. Religions seek to control and dominate people's lives, even to the extent of what foods they can eat and the clothes they can wear. Christianity seeks to change the thoughts people have in their minds and the feelings in their hearts, and seeks to make these changes for the betterment of everyone. Religions seek to force people to do this and to think that, Christianity seeks to have people want to change themselves as a way of expressing their gratitude to Christ for his sacrifice. In the end, religions seek to control people through fear, while Christianity seeks to have people control themselves because of joy and thankfulness.

So because of this, I say down with religions, and up with Christianity!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So What Is a Christian?

What is a Christian? A Christian is, first and foremost, a sinner. I get so sick and tired of the non-Christian view of us as sanctimonious do-gooders who don't have a foul bone in our body. I know full well this attitude is based more from an attempt to make us look like hypocrites every time one of us falls short of Christ's ideal -- which is only every single day -- to weaken the faith rather than out of respect. However, non-Christians are always thinking Christians are lily-white and pure as the wind-driven snow. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Much more so annoying to me than the non-Christian having thins opinion is when the Christian does. I despise it when Christians think that just because they have turned their life over to God and accepted Christ as their savior that they are now no longer sinners and are, therefore, better than everyone else. We are not better than anyone else, we are still sinners, and we are in fact held to a much higher standard than is the non-Christian. If you only ever accept Jesus as your savior then do not make an attempt to live a sinless life and recognize when you fall short, then you are only pretending to be a Christian and will be judged far more severely than the non-Christian ever could be.

Christians are sinners, just like everyone else. It was the dreadful weight of our sins, the burden of our mistakes, that drove us to our knees to begin with and made us accept Jesus as our savior and to ask Him for help. But even after doing this we are sinners. Everyday, in every way, we continue to sin. The only difference between us and the rest of the world is that we are very well aware of these sins, we ask forgiveness when we do sin, and we make a very earnest and honest attempt to not fall into the trap of that sin again. But that doesn't make us sinless. It only makes us willing to recognize ourselves as sinners and eager to ask forgiveness and try harder.

Let me personalize this by putting my own sins on the line. God made me a very passionate, sensual, person-centered man so I could do my work as a social worker with the intensity needed to heal the sick. The Devil has twisted that gift -- and I've allowed him to do it -- such that I'm a lusty and and sexually obsessed man as well. If I allowed myself, I could be a complete hedonist, living a life of sexual debauchery. In my youth, I did allow myself to fall into that trap of sexual sin before I was fully dedicated to Christ. Yet even now, I struggle with that sin. I fight the urge to flirt more than I know I should, I fight the desire to lust a woman in my heart, I need to make a conscious effort not to sin in a very real flesh-on-flesh way. I have sin in my heart, which is bad enough, but I need to fight to make sure that sin doesn't flow into the real world. So I see my sin, recognize my sin, ask forgiveness for my sin, try not to sin in the same way, and when I fail, ask for forgiveness all over again. This I do because I have faith Jesus Christ, and I know He will forgive me and help me do better. But in the end, I am painfully well aware of the fact that I am a sinner.

So what else is a Christian? A Christian is compassionate, being aware of others' pain and struggles and wanting to help. A Christian is accepting, loving all people as God made them, even if they despise the sin in their lives. A Christian is forgiving, following the pattern set by God Himself in our daily lives and not holding grudges for the injuries done to us. A Christian is peaceful, always trying to use words and God's love to resolve any situation. A Christian is aware of all God's creation and takes a personal responsibility in caring for it. A Christian is full of faith, always believing that God is in control of things and that things will turn out all right, no matter how bleak they look at the time. A Christian is aware of the suffering of others, especially the weak, the poor, the down-trodden, and he oppressed, and is willing to do what they can to end their pain. A Christian is humble, recognizing that, in the end, they are nothing but a dirty sinner, and has received God's grace not because they deserve it, but only because God loves them so very, very much. A Christian loves all human life and fights to persevere it.

Look hard at this list of attributes. See anything odd? What I find ironic about this list is that, while Christians are always being railed against for being closed-minded and sanctimonious, the real fact of the matter is that the very belief system considered to be "modern" is in fact Christian. Aren't these the same list of attributes we wish more people espoused, whether Christian or not? Don't commentators constantly remark on the need for more of these behaviors, even as they criticize Christians for being thoughtless and cruel? Isn't this the very base of the modern world?

It is, of course, painfully true that not all Christians live like this. Many Christians continue to live as sinners in sin their whole lives, never making any attempt to change. They are two-faced and hypocritical, and are the very lowest form of liar. However, there are many teachers that are cruel to children, many policemen who are criminal, many soldiers who are cowards, many parents who are neglectful. Yet do we judge the group by the exception. Dare I say it, there are many blacks who deal drugs, many whites who are racist, many Jews that are cheap, many Hispanics who commit crimes, many Asians who can't drive, many gays who are girly and many lesbians who are butch. Yet in out hypersensitive world, would we ever dare to publicly denounce the whole group by the few individuals who exhibit these attributes? Of course not. Then why do we judge the totality of Christianity by those who do not fit the mold?

Historically, Christianity has not always lived up to its promise. The dominance of society by the church in Medieval Europe, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Years War, the forced conversions of Jews and American Indians. But these represent a complete rejection of the teaching of Christ in the Bible, are were a willful twisting of the Word to suit specific, evil, very real world wants. This is a tragedy, but hardly represents what Christianity is. Yet, once again, the exception is held up to defy the norm.

Ultimately, though, the Christian represents the very best of the modern world. Everything that is wrong with our world is because of the rejection of Christian values, while the surest fix for what is broken is more Christianity. What can we do to make that happen? What can you do, today, right now, to make that happen?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks for What?!

Ah, yes. Here we all are, basking in the food-induced coma after glow of Thanksgiving. The family, the football, the food. And today, Black Friday, is all about the consumerism. The greed. The money. The stuff. Ah, yes, Thanksgiving.

But, dare I ask, thanks be to whom? And for what purpose? It is not so much a question anymore of for what are you thankful, but to whom are you thankful?

See, our society, thanks to the careful and patient guiding of Satan (a very real entity in the world, do not delude yourself into thinking he's not) has become so accustomed to cutting God (another very real entity in the world, do not delude yourself into thinking He's not) so far out of the picture that He is rarely even considered in our regular everyday lives. He is not come to when there are concerns. His word is not counseled when there is confusion. He is not leaned upon when they are issues. He has been slowly and very nearly cut away from the fabric of our lives.

But He is here, none the less, waiting, helping, thinking, loving. All for you. Simply because you choose to ignore Him doesn't make Him any less real. He is here, and he is waiting for you.

So I ask again, to whom are you thankful? When you stopped yesterday to consider all the reasons you have to be thankful (assuming, of course, you actually did do that; the modern world, and Americans in particular, are awfully good at having everything and appreciating nothing) did you thank God for His love, and beneficence, and gifts to you? Or did you thank luck? Or did you thank "the universe" -- whatever that means. Or did you thank -- and I'm willing to bet this was most people -- yourself?

Did you thank yourself for providing yourself with all the wonderful things you have. Because, after all, it was all you, right? You're the one who works your tail off, isn't it? You're the one who went through school to get where you are, right? You're the one who earns the money, makes the budget, pays the bills, and does every other damn thing to make your life livable, right? Why shouldn't you thank yourself for all your hard work?

Why not? Because you didn't actually do any of that, it was God working through you for your own good and His own reasons, even if you never have or never will acknowledge Him for it. It was God that gave you the will and the strength to work hard everyday, whether its at a factory job or making your way through grad school. It was God who gave you the talents that make your job possible at all. It was God who has provided you with gift upon gift upon gift, regardless of whether you deserved it or not. It was God, is God, and always will be God.

Now, I can just here all the angry, bitter people getting their hackles up. "What did God ever do for me?" they sneer. "Where was He when I was hurting and in pain? Where was He when I was suffering? I've made it this far without God, I don't need Him for anything, and I don't need to thank Him for anything."

To which I can only say its a matter of seeing what is right before one's face, or choosing to ignore what is there instead. When you were hurting and in pain, did you survive? Did you make it through? Are you now alive? Where did the strength, the will, the skill to do that come from? Yourself? That's laughable! If you are alive, if you still have breath in your lungs, you are enjoying a beautiful gift from God. If you choose to deny its source or to deny the giver, that's on you, but your denial doesn't make that any less a gift from God.

So stop now if you haven't already and take a hard look at your life. Were there times that you just didn't know how things would work out, yet they did? Were there times when you just didn't know where they money for a bill would come from, or where the food for the family would come from, and yet it did? Did you wish for a miracle, and it happened? This is God working in your life, this is God whispering to you, "I'm here, my love, and I'm not leaving you. Ever."

If you choose to ignore that, fine. If you choose to deny that's actually God, fine. If you are too angry to see the gift for what it is, fine. But these are your choices, your actions. Not God's. He is not walking away from you. He is not abandoning you. He is not ignoring your need. You are being an arrogant, spoiled brat who doesn't appreciate everything the Father is doing. But at least recognize that God is here, and God is giving to you everyday, whether you want to thank him for it or not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Yeah, I'm a Christian. Got a Problem with That?!

Yeah, the title pretty much says it all. I am an unabashed, unashamed, and unafraid Christian, and I really don't give a flying fig what you or the media thinks of Christians, Christ, Christmas, or Christianity. I am a Christian, convinced and convicted, and will debate anyone, anywhere, at any time regarding their belief. I will proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ, point out any errors you may have regarding Biblical Christian belief, and tell someone of another faith -- or no faith at all -- why they are just plain wrong. I am a modern, liberated Christian, I am in your face, and I'm not going anywhere.

Let me tell you some of the things that piss me off. I am so sick of the smug, coy, arrogant atheist who thinks that their disbelief in Jesus is, one, enough to convince me of the error of my ways, and, two, valid enough reason for me to hide my faith and the practice of my faith away from their overly sensitive eyes. Hey, you know what I say to those atheists? "Fuck you, asshole." (Yeah, I've been known to swear on occasion to make a point; perhaps I'm not what you had in mind when you thought of a Christian? Perhaps I'm a little too straightforward? Perhaps I make you uncomfortable? Perhaps I do, but I really don't care). I'll not go into too much detail about them right now, because I have plenty of space to describe the error that is the modern atheist.

But even more than the smug atheist on my anger list is the weak-willed Christian who fears public scorn, so they politely refuse to discuss their faith. And even worse than that is the Christian who has such touchy-feeling notions of tolerance that they won't say why they believe what they believe or that they believe someone else is wrong. Good Grief! Christ did not allow Himself to be nailed to a cross so you could be some warm-fuzzy ambassador of acceptance. He died for your sins; the least you can do is spread the word as a way of saying thanks.

I want to wrap this up, or else I'll vent everything I have to say now, and that wouldn't be any fun, would it? My points are these: If you are a Christian and reading these words, spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Don't be afraid. He wants you to do it, and will help you do so. If you are not a Christian and would like to know more about what the Bible says, let me know, I can help you with that. If you are not a Christian and think I'm wrong, too bad. You are the one who is wrong, and you might as well get used to hearing it. Let me know why you think you're right, and I will point out the numerous reasons why you're wrong.

On that note, let me just point out that Christianity has been bashed because its considered exclusive. As in, you have to accept this one point of view at the exclusion of all other points of view. This is seen as intolerant, closed-minded, thoroughly unmodern and potentially dangerous. It is not any of those things. It is absolutely true that to be a Christian you must put aside all other gods and accept Jesus Christ as the only saviour, and in doing so you can -- you should -- proclaim the error of any incorrect belief systems. However, if this is exclusive, then it is a very inclusive exclusivity. Anyone, of any race, either gender, any nation, any former belief system, any former lifestyle, any socio-economic status, any ability level, any anything, is invited to join this supposedly exclusive club. There is no institution or organization on earth that is so welcoming, no collection of humans that is so open to all. So, please, feel free to join the club. You are welcomed here.