´I signed up f…


´I signed up for this?´ I ask myself. I´m sitting in the comedor after dinner. Almost everyone has left expect for a a few kids sweeping the floor. I´m staring at my dirty sandals making a circle in the unmopped floor, and once again a little one is crying in my arms.

These last few weeks has seen a lot of changes. Volunteers keep leaving and new faces keep taking their places in the house, in the classrooms or at the farm. My constantly shifting group of friends consists of men and women from a dozen or so countries around the world, each with their own reasons and motivations for being here. Some come to take photos with brown kids on their shoulders, some to chase monkeys in trees or to work in the farm with their shirt off, still others to learn Spanish, and a select few with a realization that our priority is not what we can take away from our short time here, but what we can give to the young ones who life has handed so little from day one.

It had been another normal day here at the Casa. The howling monkeys awoke me in the morning, fighting over who had the right to perch on the highest branch. Another sunrise over the still river paired with the teenager’s repeating playlist of 50 Cent, Pitbull and Justin Beiber was nothing new. School ended a few weeks ago and we saw many of our kids leave for the summer; staying with relatives to work or enjoy the Holidays. They boys who stayed merged levels in the house, so I find myself not in charge of 10 little boys, but 20 or so ranging from the ages of 4 up to 18. More of my time consists of making sure the youngest don’t get stepped on or picked up. While I used to be able to simply pick up and place in time out anyone misbehaving, now I actually have to communicate, scold, and punish a group of teenagers who are simply way too cool to be here.

As I haven’t had kids on my own, I can’t speak to the level of young kids crying just for crying’s sake, but it happens more often than I would like here.  Anything can set it off: a mean word from an older kid, a punishment for not doing their chores, or literally, spilled milk.  But with my young boys, sadness compliments sadness and the weight of the world can come out if the right button is pushed, as was the case today.

As I hold my little six year old in my arms, my friend from Canada is talking with my young one’s older sister. “Why is my brother crying”? she asks. “Because he is sad” my friend says. The conversation turns to the volunteer telling the orphan that it is her last night and she is leaving on the boat tomorrow to go back to North America. “De una vez?” she says. “Yes, for good,” she responds. The young girl looks at me and looks away and you can see the look of disappointment and sorrow build as she tries to avoid the now building tears in her eye ducts. As she begins to cry the volunteer picks her up in her arms, and there we are: two volunteers holding two sobbing kids, upset at what life has to offer for them, upset that their parents are no longer living and upset that the love that we give and relationships they build are as temporary as the changing seasons.

There is a big map of the world painted in the dining hall, so I’ve started a game with whoever I sit with during the meals that involves them guessing some trivia (Where is Africa? What country did the conquistadors come from? What is the oldest country in the world? Biggest? Smallest?) in exchange for a drop or two of my chile to mix with their rice and beans. When we get tired of the map we move to other trivia about the planets or animals or Guatemalan history. When the young ones really don’t want to eat we play the classic ‘airplane game’, where the young ones get to choose where the airplane is coming from and eat a spoonful of polar bears or giraffes, depending on the climate. Recently one of the youngest girls and I were laughing and playing… “This airplane is coming from….” She stopped and turned to her older brother: “Where does my mommy live again?” The tears, as they are now as I write, swelled up as I thought of what a heart-broken sentence that is for a girl of 7 to speak.

The first question any kid will ask you upon arrival at Casa Guatemala after your name and where you are from is: “How long are you staying?” It’s a defense mechanism of sorts. It’s a way of asking, ‘Can I get really close to you for a year, kind of close for a couple months, or can I just trust that for a week or so I can climb on your back and get some free candy?’ I’m three months in these days and the teenagers who wouldn’t look at me in September or October are coming around and giving me their trust. It has nothing, nothing to do with what American candy I bring them or what games we play together or anything like that. I think they, with very good reason, simply have their guard up for anyone who shows up to see if they will put in the time.

One of my closest friends here at the Casa left last week before the time he had committed to, due to some personal frustrations along with some language barriers, and he had invited me to leave with him. I had to think twice about it. There certainly are things about this place that I wish I could change.  It is constantly frustrating seeing rural teachers who didn’t have the chance to get a proper education spinning and giving rural, less comprehensive education back to the next generation. Almost daily I have to remind myself when working with some of the volunteers that ‘you work with what you have, not what you wish you had’. And the initial novelty of living next to the pig house has quickly worn off, leaving only screams of pork being made and changing winds of mierda. But like I told my parting friend, my time here isn’t done yet. The relationships I have formed are at their peak and I am excited to see of what is to come of them.

Life moves slow around here. It is very easy to lose track of what day or week it is, and big events like Christmas or vacations are the only real reason to look at a calendar. Hours are lost (or used wisely) swinging on a hammock talking, reading, or staring at the water. This can be the death or life of a volunteer, depending on how you spend it. There is plenty of time to think about what the rest of the world is doing, or how productive you would be if you only had the internet. I just finished a book that had been sitting on my shelf since college: “Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller. His Christian version of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ left me challenged and satisfied, and I love the way he talks about his friend Paul. He says Paul is a simple guy who lives a simple life, who “is content to watch a pot of beans boil for an hour and not feel like he’s missing out on anything in the world.” To an extent, that’s how I want to spend my time here. The world keeps moving outside, but here in my corner of the jungle that I get to enjoy I want to live right here, in this moment, with these broken hearts, and not feel like I’m missing out on anything else.


“Life consists of rare, isolated moments of the greatest significance, and of innumerably many intervals, during which at best the silhouettes of those moments hover about us. Love, springtime, every beautiful melody, mountains, the moon, the sea – all these speak completely to the heart but once, if in fact they ever do get a chance to speak completely. For many men do not have those moments at all, and are themselves intervals and intermissions in the symphony of real life.”

We must learn to love, learn to be kind, and this from earliest youth;  if education or chance give us no opportunity to practice these feelings, your soul becomes dry and unsuited even to understanding the tender inventions of loving people.”

~Friedrich Nietzche


“But theirs is an existence under the weight and awareness of time, a place we are slowly escaping, a world growing fainter by the hour and the mile. Our letters will arrive like messages in bottles cast from the luminary of distant shores.”

~Donald Miller


Hey Z,


So this week my entire office team is at a conference in Indiana and left me to pretty much answer phones for two days and hold down the fort until they return. This gives me an excellent opportunity to study some, and catch up on some work and emails I owe, and you are high on that list.



A brief note before I begin. I realize that religious people can have a tendency, quite more than atheists, agnostics, or general skeptics and the like, to deal with their faith on very personal and emotional levels. It can be the very nature of their faith to do so. Some of what I’ll bring up in this and ensuing emails might be a bit harsher than how I would speak to someone such as my mother or my sisters about faith, partly because I see that in this point in their journey if they lost their faith they would have so little to hold on to and I don’t want to overwhelm them with the nonchalance that I can bring to the table in regards to such intimate matters.  So generally speaking, I don’t ever mean to cause offence or harm to what you and your family hold so dear, but I think you are mentally and emotionally prepared for such a conversation of topics and, well, you asked me.



Has it really been four weeks since you told me you believe Christianity to be the “most intellectually sound” viewpoint out there? Both the extra time I’ve forced you to wait for an adequate response, as well as the belief and, I assume, fervor, with which you make such a statement both leave me dis-heartened.



I would agree on one thing, that I also really enjoy healthy, mature and respectable (to a point…there must come a line that one cannot respect another’s beliefs of ‘faith’ due to how wacko they might be “I believe that God told me I have the right to commit acts of genocide upon you) debates and discussions, and they are something that I lack in great quantity and quality from my motus aparandi of daily life. Some days I feel as if I don’t just enjoy it, I crave it and desire it is intense ways, always looking for a way to non-annoyingly work topics of religion, faith, life origins, purpose, meaning, etc. into daily life. If a Theistic God exists, I think She cries for our generation hearing us talk about “who got voted off last night” instead of “why are we here?”


So we must be similar in more ways than one if we are both able and willing to have such a conversation, even on vast opposite ends of the spectrum.



In an effort to get our conversation underway, I briefly mentioned to you I had a problem with how Christianity, as I understand it, presents the origins of humanity. Now, I don’t know where your opinions lay on the situation, nor do I wish to attack a straw man by denouncing claims that you don’t hold as your own. I think it is self-evident that since very close to its origins, Christianity has been so diverse and furcated that it has always been nearly impossible to come to a collective, ecumenical agreement of creed or teaching.

With that knowledge, I see myself as unable to take every theory or cousin-faith and respond to them all. What I am able to do, however, is refute, thoughtfully and with as much respect as is due, the faith that I was raised to believe in as a young boy. For our purposes I chose to spell out, as best I can, what I believed about life at the age of 16, and now ten years later, what I don’t. Since I am aware there are many Protestants and the like, who never shared my pubescent beliefs (what I would come to learn years later as the “Young Earth Theory”), I also want to briefly touch on what would be a second iteration, the Old Earth Theory. And that’s where I’ll end and let you and your powerfully wielded gauntlet strike back with every amount of grace-filled force, intellectual wit and severity that one can muster. And hopefully, it will be a really good time.



To start:


As far as I remember,  the conservative fundamentalist Christianity that I was taught, which has its origins only in the last 100 years or so in response to Darwinism, teaches that the planet that we live on was created by a Deity somewhere around four to six thousand years ago, by first placing just two human beings in a park somewhere around present day Iraq, and keeping them busy by having them name all the animals and not eat from a tree that didn’t really have to be there in the first place. Those who take this story literally believe that a snake started speaking human, or Arabic, or whatever dialect God bestowed upon the primordial couple, that the creator of the universe played some sort of literal hide-and-seek game with his friends, and that because of these circumstances childbirth is painful (what did it look like before?). This is the story of how God created a perfect pre-sin world without death, which evidenced itself in a recent funeral I attended where the pastor spoke of death as a foreign entity that was never meant to be paired with mankind. This seems to be a slap in the face of basic biology. From the moment we are born our bodies begin to deteriorate. If there is one certainty granted us all, it is finality. Can one picture a world without death? The world would not function. Would we be more than hyper sensitive Hindus never walking on grass so as to not kill thousands of insects, microbes and bacteria?



It is hard to tell the Genesis story without mentioning the ever-famous worldwide flood, where God pretty much decided the caliber of human beings that had been spit out so far just wasn’t up to par with his ideal world, almost a beta version for a product that didn’t turn out the way He had hoped. So He scrapped all of humanity, killing presumably thousands upon thousands if not millions of human beings, parents, toddlers, elderly, unborn babies, in order to start fresh with the Noah family, who, in retrospect, might not have been the perfect candidates seeing as to their occasional propensity to get really drunk and pass out naked (Genesis 9). If God creates another flood today, I’ll know a couple frat boys who could make excellent candidates, ha. Ok, ok, but really, upon a re-reading of this story, if meant to be taken literally, I ask the questions staring most in the face, where in the world did all the water come from? And where did it go? How did kangaroos make it on the ark? What about llamas? What about the extremely large turtles that are only found on the Galapagos Islands? How did the second-first family make a boat big enough for the five million species that inhabit the world today?



Part of me doesn’t even want to spend time arguing against something that to many civilized people seems like such an obtuse concept, but even more head-spinning ensues when I meet rational people who have great jobs and great educations but still believe some of these Hebraic fables and stories as if they belong in a science book, or endeavor to put them in their science books! I could go on page by page through the Old Testament if time and your patience allowed me: the alignment of the planets is altered as the sun stops moving so that a tribe of herdsmen warriors can kill other herdsmen warriors? A river stops flowing at a precise moment? God doesn’t like the world’s first skyscraper so he invents distinct languages? An entire city is knocked down by blowing of some ram’s horns? (In regards to the last example, I recently heard a Radiolab pod-cast testing just this subject. Everything these guys do is interesting: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2010/oct/04/walls-jericho/). Any linguist would be shocked to hear such a primitive answer taken seriously to explain the development of diversity in speech, or tell any astronomer the earth’s rotation stopped and he’ll explain to you the fundamentals of gravity.



In short, a literal understanding of the Biblical Old Testament falls far too short for any intellectual thinker to take seriously. To do so means throwing out all of our modern research on other humanoids (homo erectus, ardipithicus ramicus, Lucy, etc.), as well as everything we know about the fossil record and carbon dating which prove themselves accurate time and time again.  It also means eliminating what we know about our relationships with other species, most specifically the great apes,  ignoring the massive biological similarities we share as relatively recent cousins because, according to traditional teachings we are not related at all, just surprisingly similar in DNA structure, intellect and mobility. It ignores scientific research that most all respected thinkers and shapers, including  some of the leading Christian scientists (see Francis Collins, decoder of the human genome (http://www.amazon.com/Language-God-Scientist-Presents-Evidence/dp/0743286391) have come to accept as truth, such as the ages of the earth (around 3 billion Y.O.) or the universe (14.5 billion Y.O.) and encourages reliance on moral fables and poetry.



So that’s that. I don’t even know if that’s what you believe or not, but those are just snip-its of the mockery of truth that I was raised to believe as a easily-influenced child, and a Gallup poll less than ten years ago presented data that 45% or so of North Americans believed similarly as I.



Well clearly, more than 45% of Americans hold some claim to their own version of Christianity, (I believe in the US the numbers are around 75%, and in Mexico upwards of 90%!), so this leaves me with another prevalent and influential brand of Christianity, what some might call an “Old Earth Theory”, or perhaps Intelligent Design. While I make no claims to possess intimate knowledge on a level as the Y.E.T., I understand it to be an agreement with most modern scientists as to the age of the earth, universe and basic origins of Homo sapiens as African descendants of other apes. What makes these thinkers distinct, as far as I can tell, is that they still accept the basic tenets of Christianity, namely that mankind is special and made in the image of the God they follow, that sin is real in the world and brought about by Satan, and God was forced to ship his own son off to earth to tell us these things and let us know that if we believe in him as God we can enter the right Kingdom of God, both in this life and the next.



What I find most confusing about this train of thought is that it admits the gradual changing and evolving of species into what we are today, but then still holds to the truth taught in the scriptures that mankind is different than the rest of the species, in that we have souls and our choices have eternal consequences and when we die we will either go to heaven or hell. This boggles my mind. How can one believe in one moment that every human is an ancestor of another species that didn’t have souls, then next that very human has a soul. When did souls, consciousness, self-awareness, sin, etc evolve? 10,000 BCE, 100,000 BCE?  There is just no logic to it. And to make things worse, any human that doesn’t rely on what Jesus Christ did on the cross for all of mankind, due to his own ignorance or arrogance, is destined for a life of damnation. This means that for tens of thousands of years, men and women from every part of the world were born, grew up, had children of their own whom they loved and taught and nurtured, and then died and went to a very dark and lonely place, “full of weeping and gnashing of teeth” because the creator of the universe sat by with his hands on his hips, choosing not to save the Aztecs or the Incas, nor the Native Americans who cared for and nurtured the land they lived on, nor the Chinese with advanced writing ability, but found particular favor in a tribe of once-powerful middle easterners in a remote corner of the Roman world. That’s where the Creator of every galaxy, quark, gluon and species of bacteria chose to manifest itself. It’s absurd. And not in a “oh, it’s so peculiar it just makes sense” sort of attitude. Limiting a God of unbelievable power and creativity to one people group in one moment in history with one dogma that the entire world needs to follow presents itself as so contained and so limited, that to an outsider it comes across as downright arrogant and preposterous.



I briefly mentioned Marcus Borg to you, and I just finished my third book by him, entitled ‘Reading the Bible Again for the First Time”. I both cling to and get fed up with Borg and his companions (John Shelby Spong, Frank Schaeffer) in the emergent church with their new ways of thinking about scripture and what faith means. But I would encourage anyone to read some of it. To Borg, the OT and NT, from Creation to Revelation, can be seen as stories that are ‘more than true’, that is to say although the facts may not be accurate “ok, ok, we’ll admit that Peter didn’t actually defy gravity and the buoyancy of h2o by walking on water”, but that doesn’t mean the take away is any different for them. I’d be happy to talk more about him at any time, but you should pick up something by him and let me know what you think.



I know too often I take the position of attacking Christianity as a whole, and this shouldn’t be my premise, although a couple of my literary heroes take upon themselves that precise responsibility. I’ll admit frankly that often religious people can be on the fore-ground of humanitarian aid throughout the world, as well as domestically. Not only that I see the hope that it gives people that I don’t think they would know where to find elsewhere.



The Christianity that I struggle against and want to see dissolve away as soon as possible is the Christianity that claims to have all the keys.


The Christianity, and the Christians that see all other faiths and walks of life as foreign, evil, and from, gulp…SATAN… are indeed more similar to the fundamentalists on the other side of the ocean, or neighborhood, than they realize. The Christianity that is too closed-minded to see people living full, meaningful, emotion and love-filled lives of purpose and significance without ever looking at a Bible, the Christianity that cannot recognize the positive teachings in their Holy Scriptures as universal mores that can be shared across faith-lines, the Christianity that spends billions of dollars annually in culture wars against other monotheistic religions in parts of the world that just can’t handle more bloodshed, (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: http://www.amazon.com/Tenth-Parallel-Dispatches-Between-Christianity/dp/0374273189), the Christianity that is dedicated to converting what they classify as “unreached”, the Christianity that won’t stop until every ancient religion with deep cultural roots is wiped out in every remote tribe and village , the Christianity that stirs up religious xenophobia and daily reinforces an “us vs. them” mentality in its followers, this is the Christianity that I reject.



Happy Holidays









You know, a lot of people go to college for 7 years

Ok, I don’t recommend this post for many. It’s not too harsh, or too offensive, or too critical or depressing. It’s just too LONG.

Brief side note. Two and a half years a go I started writing a paper about Christian missions work, seeing as it was the field that i wanted to go into once I graduated school. About this time I started, or deepened, my doubts on my particular faith. So the paper got put on hold for a while. Ok, longer than a while. I finally picked up the pen again this semester. It took me a long time of wrestling with questions that I had and not wanting to admit to people how different we thought. So this is what I wrote and presented last week to an audience of 60 some at North Park. Academically I’m not too proud of it. I haven’t written a paper in years and this isn’t the final copy. But the meat of it I love.

The reason I haven’t been writing a lot is because I’ve been working on this. I’m so glad to be done with school so I actually have time to learn. ha.


From the vast array of restaurants up and down your block, to the multi-colored sea of faces you see heading to and from work or school, we can see just how much globalization has changed our world in almost every way. As George Ritzer puts it, “virtually every nation and the lives of billions of people throughout the world are being transformed, often quite dramatically, by globalization” (Ritzer, The Globalization of Nothing 71). Globalization has forever changed how we see the world and brought vastly different cultures closer together. Indeed, it has changed how we as Americans live our lives in our society, but has also tipped parts of the developing world upside down. Globalization’s “insinuation of Western cultural values into worldwide commercial ventures,” (Gillett 17) has made ideas, products and lifestyles that we in the West are so comfortable with and yet are so foreign to parts of the world readily available to all.

If the United States is good at one thing, it is the ability to export its culture abroad. When Americans travel abroad, it is almost always a possibility to eat at American restaurants, see American films being played at a local cinema, or hear the latest American pop singer on the radio.  These experiences, which used to be novel, are increasingly the norm in many parts of the world, as more cultures are exposed to, and then forever changed by Western values and products. Although much can and has been said about secular pushing of American lifestyle, there is another trend that is not as discussed in such length: religion.

Taking specific examples in Latin America and the Middle East, we can begin to illustrate the specific agenda of Christians in America who feel “called” to evangelize to the rest of the world. Alongside evangelism, fine-tuned worldviews are transplanted across oceans and into communities with widespread responses. Although Christianity does not find its deepest roots in North America, there is evidence to support that in our modern times this is where some of the most influential supporters live and can be seen as a base of sorts to spread it arms of influence around the world. Books, films, street evangelism, relationship building, service projects and holistic ministry are prominent missions work examples pouring out of America like no time before in history, for good or for bad. The aim of this paper is to look at some of these aspirations through the lens of globalization and see some of the traits, tendencies and tools of Christian Americans and the missionaries they support, as well as the effect it is having on the rest of the world. We will be able to illuminate two sides of American Christian missions work: the first being an enterprise that connects and dialogues with a foreign community in order to come to an intertwined conversation of faith, and the second  a more “mission of exportation”, concerned little with the local culture and only about pushing one’s own agenda and values.

If we dive into some of the ideas of globalization, we can come up with two competing schools of thought, and with them two relatively new terms: those of glocalization and grobalization. British sociologist Roland Robertson popularized the first term, glocalization, in the 1990s, and used it to emphasize the integration of the global and the local. Hence, global + local: glocal. Glocalization can be defined as “The interpenetration of the global and the local, resulting in unique outcomes in different geographic locations” (Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society 163). What Robertson and others mean when they use the term ‘glocal’ is that humans are quick to adapt to new environments and modify their language, dress, speech or marketing tools to fit the culture they are attempting to influence. When McDonalds sells Maharaja Macs in India to adapt to a culture that generally does not eat beef, we can see the global entity being affected by the needs of the local, in this case non-meat eaters, and the glocal emerges. It is the combining influences of two separate cultures that blend together to create a seemingly new culture altogether. “From the point of view of glocalization, the forces impelling globalization are not seen as (totally) coercive, rather, as providing material to be used, in concert with the local, in individual and group creation of distinctive glocal realities” (Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society 164).

Sociologist George Ritzer, in his book published in 2004, The Globalization of Nothing, attempts to introduce a pairing concept to go along with glocalization , which he callsgrobalization, a term that combines the worlds grow and global, and focuses “on the imperialistic ambitions of nations, corporations, organizations, and the like and their desire, indeed need, to impose themselves on various geographic areas” (Ritzer, The Globalization of Nothing 73). At the heart of grobalization, says Ritzer, is “the need for (especially) American corporations to show ever-increasing profits, and the related and supporting need for the United States and American institutions to exert ever-increasing cultural hegemony” (Ritzer, The Globalization of Nothing 74). So when the International Monetary Fund or other international policy-making organization shows up at a country’s doorstep with new rules on how to spend their money, this can be seen as grobalization. Other global entities such as the United Nations or even the American military can be seen as grobalized forces setting worldwide standards to be followed in every culture. Grobalization emphasizes the increasing similarities within cultures, while promoting them simultaneously.

It is no surprise that these two views are competing visions on how to see the world, nor should it come as a surprise that glocalization is generally viewed in a much more positive light than grobalization. While glocalization can be seen as the local and global working together to push a product, better a community, or establish laws, a grobalized vision sees a powerful outside movement entering a culture for its own specific aims and purposes. In both cases, an outside force is involved attempting to change a community, but in one there is more adaptation to a culture and a better connection with the local. To put it another way, grobalization pushes cultural imperialism and homogeneity, “a transnational expansion of common codes and practices” (Ritzer, The Globalization of Nothing 74), while glocalization emphasizes heterogeneity, a blending of two distinct cultures. These terms will be used again and frequently throughout the paper to bring to light some different aspects of a globe-spanning Christianity and may help in the understanding of the attempts and ultimate goals of religion-spreading by Americans.

Before we proceed any farther, it is important to get a short history of where Christianity came from, its growth and first attempts to influence new cultures, and how it came to be today so essential to millions of lives.  If we look back to the first few years of Christianity, the first followers established evangelism and the spreading of its influence as core ideals and indeed, “Christianity is by nature a missionary faith” (Bailey 5). Even Jesus Christ, whose life, death and teachings Christianity is based upon,  tells his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (N.I.V. Acts 5:29). Ever since then followers of Jesus have taken those words to truth and seen it as their purpose to spread the influence of Christianity, in small numbers at first, but eventually globally.

From early on, Christianity “developed a very strong organized face with centralized authorities…but did not exclude the development of various alternative Christian movements” (Beyer). That is to say that almost from the onset, which can be seen in several of the letters of St. Paul, there were factions in the church that began to take on many different faces and adaptations to local cultures. “We have in this first one and a half millennia of Christian history…a kind of core/periphery, ‘great tradition’/’little tradition’” (Beyer). As the church around the world “the factors that the global dimension added were other cultures or… other social contexts.” (Beyer) We can see from very early on, Christianity, while establishing a core leadership, has always been malleable to new elements.

Two areas where conflict arose with the presence of Christian missionaries were those of Latin America and the Middle East. In the case of the Middle East, in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries Christian soldiers from all over Europe felt it was their duty and God’s calling to retake the holy city of Jerusalem that had fallen into the hands of their Muslim enemies.  Many times under the mandate and blessing of the Pope, Christian soldiers were driven to slaughter their enemies because, as was the cry of the Crusades, “The Lord wills it!” This author does not feel the need to go into detail on how skewed their thinking actually was, and the Church today has finally issued official apologies in hopes of making amends with those of Muslim faith.

In Latin America as well, we can see examples of conquistadors exploring new lands with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. Even as early as 1511, not 20 years after Columbus’ famed voyage, the exploitation of the indigenous people was evident enough to implore one monk to write to his companions “you are in mortal sin … for the cruelty and tyranny you use in dealing with these innocent people”(Chaimberlin). As another author said “no account of the conquest would be complete without some consideration of the key role played by the first Christian missionaries. [Fernando] Cortes… who is known today as the conqueror  of Mexico by Spain, ‘was a pious man who fancied himself ‘God’s chosen agent’ in the evangelization of the New World’ ” (Joseph and Henderson).

In more recent years, the world’s first pioneer missionary society in the United States was founded in 1810, in Boston, and called itself the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  It was the first society of its kind full of Americans eager to share their culture across borders. In reality, the Gospel they presented had “a high cultural content, as has frequently happened in history, a particular cultural, economic, and political system within the message itself” (Sigmund 34). Early Christian missions made little attempts at separating their religious and secular ways of life in the sharing of their beliefs. “The cultural core of the mission societies was to be found largely in ‘the American way of life’” (Sigmund). The practice of building of a school near a church was also based on schools in the United Kingdom and the United States so that churches could be used for education and religion in the same week. “Many a Protestant school was named Colegio Americano to promote the United States as a cultural and political model” (Sigmund). This was all done under the pretenses of spreading Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus, it was accompanied by an American way of living. In the Middle East the story was very similar, in that Americans saw a chance to reclaim the land of the Bible for Christ, and upon the their arrival, the Americans believed “believed that the ‘contest has commenced,’ in that a modern evangelical Christianity was to be forced on the local populations who were unwilling or unable to help themselves” (Makdisi).

At present time, Christianity in America is more prevalent than ever. While many claimed that the twentieth century would bring about the age of reason and the end of faith, we can see a resurgence of Christianity in our country. According to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008, over 173 million people over the age of 18 in America, or 76% of Americans, consider themselves Christian. This can be seen as a sharp contrast to that of our European cousins, as another survey shows that fewer than 40% in some cases of Europeans consider themselves believers in any higher power, while U.S. statistics hold true at about three-fourths of the population (Kosmin).

Numbers in %
Great Britain France Italy Spain Germany The United States
Believer in God 35 27 62 48 41 73
Agnostic 35 32 20 30 25 14
Atheist 17 32 7 11 20 4
Would Prefer Not to Say 6 6 8 8 10 6
Not Sure 7 4 3 3 4 3

In 2001, Jonathan Fox and Shmuel Sandler conducted a survey of Western countries and their comparative views on separation of church and state. The factors ranged from restrictions on public dress, government officials meeting religious requirements, and funding for religious schools or organizations. Of the 26 Western Democracies polled, the average percentage was close to 20% where state governments are influenced by religion. The United States was the only nation to show absolute separation of church and state. Their response was this: “To those living in the U.S. who have little knowledge of politics outside of the U.S., they are likely to be astonished. Thus it can be said that the U.S. is the exception on two counts. First, it is the only Western democracy with nearly total separation of religion and state on the measures used here. Second, it has the most religious populace of the Western democracies.” (Jonathon Fox) When comparing the United States with other first-world democracies of our time and seeing the sharp contrast in which we hold to our religious roots, the evidence becomes clear that America seems to be the exception, not the rule when it comes to religious interest and heavenly devotion.

Not only are Americans arguably the most Christian modern citizens on the globe, they are also the most influential at spreading their worldviews around the globe. Short-term missions costs alone being sent out from the States, after paying for airfare and accommodations, food and sightseeing can reach as high as $4 billion dollars a year, according to the Capital Research Group (Sparks). Thousands upon thousands of Americans live their lives attempting to to “fulfill the Great Commission”, with their highest goal to go forth into every nation of the globe seeking converts to their way of life. Evangelical Protestantism is what sociologist Peter Berger has even called the fourth dimension of globalization, making the point that the origins are indeed from the United States and becoming indigenized into their own cultures (Berger). American missiology has gone as far as to “coin the term unreached people to refer to communities and groups of people who have never heard the gospel” (Escobar). It seems that these groups are going with more than just a dedication for change, but a direct calling from God to do so.

Some, like Greg Livingston in his guide to plant churches in Muslim areas in the Middle East, quote prophetic passages in the Bible that promise that “church growth is inevitable” (Livingstone). Using the Bible as his stepping stone, Mr. Livingstone sees no reason not to believe with confidence that “every tribe, tongue, kindred and people group” will one day worship the same God, and this, in his own eyes, is to include Muslims. It is with this same fervor and sense of duty that Mr. Livingstone, with such certainty of his own way of life and disrespect for norms of others,condones, and even encourages breaking the laws of foreign nations that don’t allow missionary visas or proselytizing, because, quoting scriptures, he sees Christians as those who “must obey God rather than men” (N.I.V. Acts 5:29). I myself have seen this sort of disrespect for local laws and felt the sweat of fear running down my back as I snuck in an extremely large and extremely illegal amount of American money to an underground church in one of these closed countries. Breaking the laws American Christians chose as unjust and enforcing their own moral code seems to be the normative among many missionary circles, and can be seen as an example of a grobalized Christianity, with little concern for local laws or customs as long as the global mission is accomplished. It is not hard to make the connection to the recent events in Latin America where Christian missionaries, thinking they were doing God’s will, wrongfully attempted to take thirty-three children away from their home country across the border from Haiti into the Dominican Republic to offer them what they thought would be a better lifestyle. It was of little consequence to those who felt called by God that each of these would-be “orphans” each had at least one parent still alive. It seems that at times with their assumption of the truth, Christians can assume that the ends justify the means.

What follows is just a sampling of organizations and individuals and how they attempt to spread their beliefs coming from their own American culture and adapting to a new one. Author and speaker Josh McDowell is one such Christian who spends his life attempting to influence others around the world with what he considers the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. McDowell is the author of over 100 books, one of which claims a top 15 spot on what Christianity Today calls “most influential Christian books,” ,and by his own words, is “probably one of the most known Christians in the world”(McDowell). This author sat down with Mr. McDowell and asked him what tools he uses to spread his message. He responded that the first thing he and his team attempts to do when penetrating another society is to “study the culture. The Bible says there is great wisdom in much council. So we get a lot of council.”(McDowell). He reported that “each ministry in each country takes on its own flavor.”(McDowell). This cuts to the heart of glocalization. Ritzer describes glocalization as being “in concert with the local” (Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society) and Mr. McDowell seems to realize this as he takes part in his global enterprises. He compares himself to a McDonald’s corporation, in that McDonalds’s also studies culture well before attempting to make a change. “My book, More Than A Carpenter, was the first Christian book to go in over 70 languages, and now [has been copied] to over 100 languages. So we’re in the same category as McDonalds: mass productions with quality.” (McDowell).

Mr. McDowell did, however, make references to Christian organizations that may be seen in more of a grobalized light. “I think that’s one of the downfalls of the church: …how often we have westernized, not evangelized. And that’s not good. Because nowhere in the Scripture does it say that Western culture is better than some other culture. There’s enough evil in the American culture, a lot of what the American culture stands for, so I’d say that’s a downfall”(McDowell). It is evident that Mr. McDowell can see some of the effects grobalization and cultural imperialism can have on nations when Western missionaries get to preaching in their area. For him to admit that many missions teams have “Westernized” instead of evangelized, it is not difficult to rename the work of some missionaries as simply attempts for hegemony, both religious and cultural.  “Most Americans, whether they be Christians or non-Christians, go in with their product, their vision, their strategy, their people, with their money wanting the locals to help them. That has burned many Christian organizations and secular corporations.” (McDowell). Mr. McDowell declined to comment on which organizations he felt writing were their mission statements in such a fashion, but the fact does remain that both secular and religious organizations attempt to not work with the local, but rather import their own products and methods of proselytizing. It is irrelevant if the ultimate goal of an American company is to sell more hamburgers or fill more church pews, with only a Western vision for an area and a lack of true connection with the local, these organizations seem destined to fail.

Mr. McDowell’s own ministries within different regions are vastly different, and in true glocal fashion, appropriate to the communities. This author’s parents were a part of a team with Mr. McDowell in 1998 to Cuba, the first year aid was given to Cuba from America in over 40 years. Mr. McDowell saw a great need in Cuba for basic supplies and filled an entire shipping crate full of bikes, toys and other supplies. Along with these presents, the team came sharing their gospel message of Jesus Christ. In Cuba, Josh and his team are bold with their preaching, speaking in churches and holding meetings with local church pastors. In Cuba, the church is growing at an expansive rate, as communism continues to weaken and open up more doors for an American influx of medicines, clothing and other goods. I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with Mr. McDowell’s ministry in the fall of 2007 and see for myself the growing church, despite such impoverished circumstances. Although there was standing room only, we Americans were saved seats in the front row, and when I approached the pulpit to say a few blessings in my rusty Spanish, the crowd seemed hinged on my every word and eager to hear about the rich, American churches that were supporting them from the North. With few connections off the island, the Cuban church relies heavily on wealthier congregations from the North to equip them with supplies.

In places like the Middle East, however, where proselytizing is mostly illegal, Mr. McDowell and his team must use other methods to pass along their message. In a radical attempt at understanding the culture, Mr. McDowell wanted to understand the mind of a Middle-easterner and write a terrorist novel that would be accepted in their cultures.

I deal with four barriers that a Muslim has with the Christian faith, but I deal with it in a way that they don’t even know I’m sharing it. It’s a unique technique, and I don’t know anyone who has ever used it before. And I’ve gotten by with it. I called my publisher in Egypt and said would you put together three-hundred radicals: imams, mullahs, Muslim leaders and tell them they can come and attack me verbally for three hours. Any questions they want, anything…oh it was a lively three hours. I videotaped and audio taped it all. Why? Then I went on televisions on one of the largest Arab satellites and for weeks they said ‘we’re going to have a Christian on board…you can attack him verbally with anything you like. I had five hours of transcripts: how If I said this how a Muslim would respond to it…the whole spiritual content of the book I had right there in those manuscripts. So that was identifying with the culture. I can’t think the way a Muslim things. I think western. But I wrote middle-eastern.

It is Mr. McDowell’s adaptation to the cultures that he is participating in and appreciation of the glocalizing factors of his ministry that have made him so successful in his quest to see as many people as possible come to know Christ. Whether it involves helping bring the message along with much needed goods in Cuba or dialoging with people of other faiths in the Middle East, his attempts at homogenizing the religions of the world have seen great strides to achieve his purpose.

In an interview with the supervisor of Middle Eastern and Central Asian missionaries with a local missions company based in the Chicago area, Sam Bowman talked about his time working in Iraq for a year and what it meant to be a Christian missionary in an  almost completely Muslim environment. While admittedly Mr. Bowman saw no personal conversions to Christ, he discusses the importance of working with the locals in order to achieve their purposes. “You can’t just go in and say ‘guys, you have so many things wrong. Let me tell you how it is. [Christians should] let the [local] believers decide if women should wear head coverings, or what they should do with the political situation in their country. Let them make those decisions. Teach them what it means to evaluate culture” (Bowman). “Contextualizing the gospel is number two after language learning. Helping people see what Jesus would look like in their culture is of utmost importance. If you can’t practically image what Jesus looks like in a culture, you don’t know what it looks like to follow Jesus in that culture.” It is Mr. Bowman’s teaming with the locals as well as deep understanding of the need for a local image of his global worldview that sets him ahead of some of his peers. His remarks about the local Southern Baptist chapter of missions were less than flattering. “They are just known for having good salaries. They live like one of the richest one percent of their country. They go in, and they don’t change the gospel much.” Mr. Bowman sees Jesus Christ as his own example on how to do missions, in that he believes when God was on earth he adapted to the culture he was a part of, eating local food and adapting to local customs.

Mr. Bowman’s tactics are vastly different than what they would be in a culture where he could be bolder with his gospel. His entire ministry was either service projects to help the community or one-on-one conversations with people about Jesus Christ. In explaining the importance of connecting with locals in order to accomplish the mission, Mr. Bowman tells a story.

The same week that we arrived with our team in Iraq, there was a Chilean team that also arrived. What did they do right away? They were just meeting neighbors. They couldn’t speak [the language] at all and just started relationships. They said ‘we have to meet our neighbors and can’t do anything until we do’. We had started a master plan of reconstruction of the water system, a multi-billion dollar endeavor and it was like pulling teeth to get anything done. Simple projects always took five times longer than we thought because we weren’t connected with the locals. When the Chileans saw a need for a cultural center they got it approved and constructed in weeks, when it would have taken us eight months. They had people who wanted to build with them because they had invested time with them. Their culture is to build a relationship first and then see what you can accomplish.

It is this example of glocalization, the combining of the local and the global, that can breed good rewards if done right.

However, even in organizations such as Mr. Bowman’s, in a recent lecture we both attended on missions to a particular Middle Eastern country, the handout full of information was quoted as saying “Humanity is a vast mosaic of tens of thousands of pieces. Each segment must be won to Christ” as well as hope for continual Western and American involvement where currently there is none, encouraging prayer that “the area is developed for tourism and outsiders come in.  Pray that the   *****   people would have the opportunity to hear the gospel.” This sort of language subtly admits two things. First, that the organization recognizes the cultural diversity that there is in the world and seeks to homogenize it in terms of religion, and secondly that what this particular part of the Middle East needs is more outside influences to come in and help steer the culture away from the local beliefs that is already possesses.

On the other side of the world, Mike Timmer, a missionary in the same organization as Mr. Bowman, has spent eight years in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and agrees that the local church is what sustains his own ministry. “Christians teaming up with local churches so that the Christian movement is truly local is vital to the longevity and maturity of the new Christians. Too often the ministries will thrive under foreign direction but collapses in the void of real local ownership when the missionaries leave” (Timmer). This can often be the case when wealthy Christians, supported by American churches, seek to do good in foreign lands, but without a connections with the local church, without making it glocal, these impacts can often last about as long as the Americans’ visit.

Mr. Timmer builds and helps direct orphanages to help spread his message of God’s love to underprivileged children in one of the poorest countries of South America. Mr. Timmer’s ultimate goals are different than those of many multi-million dollars organizations to win souls and convert populations. “We feel called here because God put on our hearts a real love for children and orphaned children are being allowed to die because there are not enough homes for them. We simply provide all the details and proof of Christ’s love for these children.” (Timmer).

One of the most successful and dramatic cases of an attempt at homogenizing religion on a global scale is that of The Jesus Film Project. Based on the Jesus Film, a film taped 30 years ago that tells the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ, the project has tried to give every person on the planted “one chance to see Jesus” in translating the film in over 1,000 languages. In the next ten years, the organization aims to translate it into another 700 languages.. This would accomplish their goal of having translated the film into every language on the planet with 50,000 speakers by the year 2010.. The Project also boasts connections with local churches in an attempt to help preach and indoctrinate those of other cultures the message they are bringing. Recently one representative informed a group of potential donors that in Brazil they are attempting to connect with the local churches by saying “If you will commit to church planting, we will commit to do this project” of translation into indigenous languages and re-telling of their Christian message. As the representative said “There’s a whole lot of world left that hasn’t heard.”

Both grobalization and glocalization examples can be extracted from God’s servants at the Jesus Film. For one, former President of The Jesus Film Project is not ashamed to compare his company with Coca-Cola. “Several years ago I sat down with one of the vice-presidents of the Coca-Cola Company and discussed some of their objectives. I discovered that day that they have a plan to take Coca-Cola to every person in the world. And they are doing it!…Their marketing is extraordinary. But we are ‘marketing’ a ‘product’ that changes lives for eternity…We must be strategists for Christ and His Kingdom.” (Eshleman)

Mr. Eshelman is not alone in using this language. In Robert Coleman’s “Master Plan of Evangelism” which also reach Christianity Today’s Top 50 Most Influential Books, Coleman compares Christ to “a general plotting his course of battle” calculating how to win. Mr. Coleman is bold enough to admit his and God’s “strategy of world conquest” (Coleman), and it can become apparent that this is indeed the ultimate goal of many Christians, as kind and soft as their words may be. Other Christians discuss Jesus Christ as ‘the great marketer who “understood His product thoroughly, developed an unparalleled distribution system, [and] advanced a method of promotion that has penetrated every continent” (Webster). These honest and bold statements about the end goals of Christianity seem to be the minority in evangelistic culture. Most seem content to express the niceties of Jesus Christ or the need that everyone has for his love. One author is correct when he writes “evangelism seems to presuppose a superior grasp of ultimate truth.”(Kirk) “The social achievement of the Christian evangelist’s culture is deemed to be more advanced and of a higher quality. Here Christian evangelism is up against a tricky problem.”(Kirk)

Indeed, Evangelicalism in Latin America has grown at an explosive rate over the past three decades or so, where “one of the conduits of the expansion of Evangelicalism in the region has been the use of media – first, radio and more recently and with greater impact, TV, while the phenomenon of televangelism has come from North America, “native” Latin American televangelists have emerged (Sigmund).” A short list recently of a few Evangelists broadcasting to Latin America is as follows.

Pat Robertson 16 Countries
Jimmy Swaggart All Countrires, via three TV stations in Brazil
Benny Hinn TV to 12 Countries
Billy Graham Mostly radio, 7 countries
Hal Finkenbinder TV 14 Countries, Radio 28 Countries
Alberto Mottessi TV 7 Countries, Radio 18 Countries
Luis Palau Radio 20 Countries.

Sociologists are not silent on competing aspects of American religious work either. Catalina Romero in The Sociology of Religion would oppose the idea of Christianity being “a monolithic doctrine imposed upon the consciousness of ignorant people and uncritically accepted.” Rather, she says “it is a complex assemblage of doctrine received within a particular historical context which it is explored.” (Romero). When American missions connect with the local community it becomes “reinterpreted to ‘fit’ contemporary a particular culture. As the global becomes local, the change in time and context alter[s] the meaning and impact of the message “(Romero).

An excellent example of this can be seen in the Pentecostal Church movement over the last century. Finding its roots in the Azusa Street Revivals around the turn of the 20th century, the Pentecostal Church swept across North and South America and can be called “the most dynamic and fastest growing sector of Protestant Christianity worldwide”(Robbins) with a remarkable ability to “adapt themselves to the cultures into which they are introduced.” One of the reasons why this relatively new version of Christianity works for Latin America is due to the ability to compare it with the local religions of shamanism, especially in Mexico, where “speaking in tongues and native visionary counseling is obtuse” (Dow).

Once again we can see an adaptation of the large-scale movement to the language and customs of the people group. When the external religion mixes with the already internal expressions, what we have is a glocal response. However, it can also be noted- that Pentecostal churches, wherever they are, can be “notoriously uniform across the globe “and display “a radical similarity of practice despite the dissimilarity of the contexts in which they appear”(Robbins). So whether or not these practices can be seen through the theories of grobalization or glocalization, the answer is both: “In terms of debates on cultural globalization, the Pentecostal church appears to weigh in both for theories that stress process of Western cultural domination and homogenization and those that emphasize the transformative power of indigenous appropriation and differentiation.” (Robbins)

Other commentators of Latin American Protestantism admit that “the bulk of Protestant activity in South American has been promoted under the aegis of North American missionaries” (Swatos) and that adaptation to a Christian lifestyle can be seen as more of inclusivity to a certain group of elites than a lifestyle change. “For many South American ascetic Protestants, becoming Protestant represents an overcoming of popular religiosity and a reaching out to a life-style that they have come to associate with the United States” (Swatos). As another author states “Wearing external symbols of membership in a faith group, such as habits or other Christian symbols, is now an expression of identity and power” (Romero). What we can see is Latin Americans more likely to join a church not for its beliefs, but rather with its association with a culture they want to belong to.

There are many authors who write about the imperialistic strength of the West, which this author believes Western Religion to be a strong component of. “It is the failure of the Western imagination to confront the most obvious cultural realities about the world on its doorstep,” writes Meic Pearse in his critical book “Why The Rest Hates the West”. “By refusing – or at any rate, failing – to understand, coexistence becomes impossible, and the only possible bases for relationship between West and non-West are those of domination or collision.” (Pearse 125) In the opinion of one Christian news-reporter after the September 11th attacks, one option seems more viable than the other: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”(Coulter). Pearse continues: “As our Western world intrudes even more on non-Western space, we believe ourselves to be offering freedoms, prospering and rising aspirations. And in a sense we are. But we are also seen as egoists, rooted in no solid culture and no fixed network of family and relationships. The things we believe ourselves to be promoting do indeed appeal to non-Westerners. But quite understandably, not all of them are ready to throw themselves into the moral and social void in the process” (Pearse 144).

Supporters of the Grobalization Theory of Christianity, such as Ryan Dunch, surmise “if there were a single group most commonly held to exemplify the operation of cultural imperialism in modern history, it would have to be Christian missionaries” (Dunch). Even up to currenty day, it is said of Evangelical Christianity that it is “the carrier of pluralistic and modernizing culture whose original  location is the North Atlantic soecieties” (Berger). Perhaps Peter Beyer says it best when he presents his thesis to his paper  The Globalization of Christianity as a Case in Point: “My contention is that religions in today’s world, to the extent that they are constructed as differentiated social forms, accomplish this result through a globally extended and multi-centered process” that “proceeds by way of the multiple particularizations, or glocalizations,  of a general and somewhat imprecise universal model” (Beyer). To him, Christianity is much less a top-down organization with universal characteristics, but rather a multi-faceted force that adapts to each culture differently in its own way. Although he recognizes the strong attempts by Western cultures to “export their versions of Christianity complete with what we would now call their cultural characteristics, the Christian convert recipients have over time generated their own renderings more suited to local cultural styles” (Beyer). These versions can be very similar to the original or vastly different, depending on where it is located, but it is the case that new versions of Christianity are creating localized and ‘inculturated’ variants of themselves in different parts of the world.

Views of Christian missionaries outside the United States can be a stark contrast to our own. According to one writer “Present new missionary activity is simply a readjustment of colonial strategy. The core of a culture is religion. The foundation of a nation is its culture. The loss of culture and religion weakens a people. Fundamental Christian groups, funded mainly from America have continued to use religion as a weapon, funding ‘local’ groups to convert the ‘heathens’. They conduct a spiritual war using sophisticated, physiologically devised forms of mind control and aggressing marketing strategies using electronic media”(Samarasinghe). This shows that even attempts at glocalization, working with the locals, can be seen as dangerous through the eyes of some locals. On a talk show on Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel Television, Dr. Awdah Qawwas, member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches stated in 2008 his clear rejection of missionaries to Islamic countries in North Africa. Dr. Awdah claims that the missionaries “are financed by the American churches” “and come as individuals to exploit the sons of this homeland by recruiting them to work for the fulfillment of their own interests” (Qawas). He goes on to explain the missionaries “exploit the points of weakness of individuals who might be in need of money or medical or social help” (Qawas). It is not a hidden fact that many missionaries do indeed go to serve the needs of the poor and hopefully, in doing so, can spread their messages of a better religion as well.

It seems, at times, that American Christians are so eager to assume that their message needs to shared or to pump dollars into missions that will cause change, voices are rarely given to those whom are being ministered to. This is not important if we as a culture are to be under the assumption that our way of life is best and should be transmitted around the globe. But if we as Americans are to be responsible citizens in our modern society, there must be a great effort to listen as well as preach and accept other beliefs as well as pushing our own.

It is no secret that globalization has bred a cross-fertilization of sorts coming from these areas of interest as well. In a nation whose first Islamic mosque was only built in 1934, as of September of 2009 there were more than 1,200 counted mosques within the United States. Islam is, as First Lady Hillary Clinton once put it, “the fastest growing religion in the United States” (Stammer). The Evangelical church needs to be prepared to adapt to new faces and new cultures and ideas and the possibility of a Muslim knocking on their doorstep with a tract even as they pour their dollars towards spreading their message abroad, and so far they have had little success in adaptation. Since vocal American Christians such as Franklin Graham are calling Islam “ ‘a very evil and wicked religion” or Jerry Falwall on 60 minutes claiming that “Muhammad was a terrorist’ ” (Kidd), it seems Christian American’s desire is not to connect with Muslims but rather continue to overwhelm them with their culture and particular chosen religion.

It is not entirely the case today, nor do I wish to make the point that the only instances of Christians or missionaries evangelizing are coming strictly from the United States. I have met Russian Christians attempting to convert Arabs, Filipino Christians serving in the United States, Dominicans serving in Europe, and the list could go on. What perhaps once was a strictly one-way street has now, with the aid of globalization, led to a highway of evangelists and convert-seekers from every corner of the globe. These sightings cannot be taken likely, and can be seen as a continual glocalization of the communities making their culture connect with those who shared with them and internalizing it. Although those highlighted in this paper have been people who are sent from my own culture, it is impossible to deny that this “two-way street” is one of many facets of Christianity today. What we can see, through the history of Protestant Christianity, in the faces the leaders and followers of Christianity in the United States, and in the influence the United States and the West still have on the developing world, is an imbedded sharing of cultural beliefs and traditions as Americans continue to go forth.

“When all the world has shared its good news,” Mr. McDowell dreamed with me as we sat talking over ice cream in the mountains of Colorado one summer afternoon, and this certainly is the hope and dream of many of the Christians I encounter. Many of thousands of Christians are simply not satisfied with their version of the truth but go to great lengths to proselytize those who believe otherwise. With the ease of transportation, the spreading of information and the ability of cross-cultural communication, they now have the ability to do just that is ways that were never seen as possible before. Will they succeed?  What would the world look like if their mission was accomplished and the entire world was under one religion? That is one question this author hopes will not ever have to be answered.

If you made it this far you deserve a cookie. how about peter bradley adams

3 Books and a Funeral

(Written Sunday, March 28th)

Today was a hard one. i had a date with a friend to go to church together. when they cancelled i decided to attend anyway. I luckily saw some friends and didn’t sit alone. I had never been to a traditional Covenant Church before, even after attending 5 semesters at a Covenant school and working at Covenant camp. I’m glad I wasn’t alone because I had no idea how much audience participation there is.

I’m used to going to church where you stand to sing, then sit to listen, then stand to pray and go home. This morning I always had to be on my toes. I’ve done the whole, say hey to your neighbor deal, but I think I offended people this morning by not sticking to the script. They call it the “passing of the peace”. I’ve passed a couple peaces in my younger years, but never so officially and by the book. “The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you!” I assume the exclamation mark was added so one really, really means it when they recite it off their buletin.

I also didn’t know we give thanks to God every time scripture is read. Some might remember, when we were kids when somebody was reading from the Bible it meant that A. we cheered for them if they went to your jr. high or were on our team and B. we all got to yell “HATS OFF!” as loud as we wanted and didn’t get in trouble.

Being Palm Sunday, there were some exceptionally grotesque pictures of a man hanging half naked, bloody from head to foot and with thorns jabbing into his skull hanging upon the walls for people to marvel at and find comfort or peace. I found it odd that the kids’ pastor had the young children of three and four go around and stare at the photos for them to try and understand what Jesus went through. These were probably the bloodiest, most gory image they have ever seen or will see for the next ten years or until their first Quentin Tarantino movie.  I was hanging out with a two year old the other day whose mother scolded him when he said that he was going to shoot me, but when he wanted to play Bible stories and he was David and I Goliath, he could whip me ’till I’m dead as much as his little heart desired. I found it ironic that the only books he has in his young library that deal with and even glorify killing were those of his young picture bibles.


The Unlikely Disciple – Kevin Roose

Oh my this book was good. I liked it. My dad liked it. Rob Bell and Brian McLaren liked it. Matt Vaudrey liked it. If you need more convincing, get over yourself. I wish I had it with me to give a couple quotes, but the basic concept of the books is thus: Liberal non-religious college kid transfers to one of the most conservative, Christian universities in the nation and tries to fit in as a non-swearing, Revelation quoting, masterbation beating, gay defeating, Jerry Falwell loving, born again Christian. Awesome. Hilarious. An easy read. Do it.

Family Happiness – Leo Tolstoy.

Fell in love with this book in college when Steve Yaccino gave me a copy for my birthday. I found it at a book shop and re-read it to find some of my favorite quotes I had lost.

This could be my favorite:

“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor–such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps–what can more the heart of man desire?”

A Shattered Visage – Ravi Zacharias

Brian Steck first mentioned this guy to me last month, so I thought I’d give it a look. At no point have i claimed atheism as where i place my hat, but it sure is challenging to think about what the consequences are if one says that there is no god.

Today I, along with a couple hundred other people, said goodybe to a friend of ours. I first got the phone call when I was on my way to breakfast with my girlfriend that he had passed away. I didn’t, and still don’t, know how to respond or act or feel. Peder had been sick for over a year now, so I suppose i saw it coming. A couple months ago I posted a song on here called “Laughing with God” by Regina Spektor. The first couple verses go

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one´s laughing at God when they´re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one´s laughing at God when it´s gotten real late
And their kid´s not back from the party yet
No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one´s laughing at God when they see the one they love
Hand in hand with someone else and they hope they´re mistaken

Well, Peder read and commented on it, saying that if anybody knew what hard times were, he did, and that he knew what it was like to wrestle with God through those hard times and that all he could do is have faith through them.  The last line of the song goes…

“No one´s laughing at God when they´re saying their goodbyes”

And tonight that rings true like a big kick in the ass.

You see, what you Christians can sometimes forget is that you have the one-up on everybody else when it comes to death. While people without faith see death as the end, you guys (for good or for bad, right or wrong) can smile and think peaceful and hopeful thoughts that you will see the person again. That is a luxury that those of us yet left questioning don’t have.

Whenever I attend church or church-like activites for the past six months or so, I can’t bring myself to sing anything I don’t mean. This usually means I do a whole lot of humming and tapping my feet. It’s not that I don’t want to, or I don’t love the songs of miss the memories that they hold. I would just feel like a liar if I did. But today I broke that tradition and sang along with the Benediction we used to sing at camp.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

And for the first time in ages, I longed for it to be true. I wanted Chris Hitchens to be an idiot, I wanted evolution to be joke, I wanted every Bible story I was raised to believe be a solid fact, and I wanted to believe with everything I could muster that Jesus did beat death and that I could too if I trusted him. I wanted to believe it. I really did. I wanted to get in a time machine and go tell myself at 16,18,21, 24 not to question things anymore, not to complicate life, not to search too hard for answers because you might not like what you find. I wanted to give up my search for truth and be satisfied with hope and peace, be it truth or falsity that i believed.

To quote Joe Pantoliano in the Matrix:

“I know what you’re thinking, ’cause right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”

(if you don’t catch the reference, see  http://www.arrod.co.uk/essays/matrix.php for a small explanation)

Patience with God


Why does the shortest month of the year always seem like the longest? The cold Chicago weather did give me plenty of time to read some new material, when I wasn’t getting caught up on The Office and Big Love.

I read this book for school but found it entirelly entertaining none-the-less.  It was not an attack of Christianity as a whole, nor it’s doctrine or principles, merely it’s more popular and conservative members in the States. If you need any more reassurances why you shouldn’t read the Left Behind series (see video below), why George W. Bush was practically blasphemous in his declaration that the United States way of life had taken over Jesus’ as the light of the world or how crazy Pat Robertson, Jim Wallace and the like are, its worth perusing. But I’m guessing if you already know that you don’t need to waste your time, and if you don’t know that you don’t care to find out.

I finally found time to finish the quartet of the famed Four Horsemen with S. Harris’ End of Faith.  Harris, along with his friends Hitchens and Dawkins has absolutely nothing nice to say about religion whatsoever. Of Holy Scriptures he writes

“It is time we admitted, from kings and presidents on down, that there is no evidence that any of our books was authored by the Creator of the universe.”

“Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything – anything – be more ridiculous? And yet this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.”

And his rants on religion are not merely limited to Christianity. His criticisms of Islam are strong and perhaps a bit too broad.

Moderate Islam – really moderate, really critical of Muslim irrationality- scarcely seems to exist. If it does, it is doing as good a job at hiding as moderate Christianity did in the fourteenth century (and for similar reasons)… There are other ideologies with which to expunge the last vapors of reasonableness from a society’s discourse, but Islam is undoubtedly one of the best we’ve got.

He goes on to say that an intervention of sorts is necessary in the Middle East by us in the Western hemisphere, as well as a call to admitting that some cultures (assuming not ours) are not as developed morally as others (assuming ours).  I don’t think I’ll be needing to read any more new atheism any time soon. Not only do I feel confident to speak of, or if necessary defend, some of their arguments, it’s starting to get repetitive. This is also how I am beginning to feel about debates over atheism vs. Christianity. I think the two should not be squared off in the first place. To me, it’s like holding a debate between movies vs. Saturday Night Live or baseball vs. Labron James. Anyway, I think I have seen every combination so far of Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson, Douglas Wilson vs. Daniel Dennett, Dennett vs. Dinesh D’souza, D’souza vs. Dawkins, Dawkins vs Allister McGrath, Mcgrath vs. Hitchens, Chris Hitchens vs. Peter Hitchens (brothers), Hitchens vs. William Lane Craig, and so on and so forth until everybody buys their books and they all secretly shake hands at all the money they are making.
Dawkins, interestingly enough has recently decided to retire from public debates with Creationists because, as I’ve heard him say else where that that would be the equivalent of an astronomer having a serious  debate with an astrologer.

I really, really liked this book. One of my profs recommended it to me when she saw me reading The End of Faith and thought I would appreciate it. I did. Frank Schaeffer’s dad, Franciss Schaeffer, was one of the leading right-wing apologists in the sixties and seventies and has a big influence on conservative Christianity in America today, years after his death. My dad told me today that from what he remembers, before Francis Schaeffer and his buddies, Christians stayed out of politics for the most part. It was the elder Schaeffer along with Rick Warren and James Dobson types that helped establish the conservative evangelical right that is known today. Frank comes from an interesting background, one that he appreciates and respects highly but also is slightly embarrassed of and wishes he could change. So yea, I enjoyed the read.

Frank went chapter to chapter kind of just picking on anybody who claims to have The Answer, be that in science of scripture or a sinner’s prayer or whatever. According to him, Bill Maher is an idiot jerk for only picking on weak Christians, Richard Dawkins just wants to push his website and make money, Chris Hitchens cares less about spiritual matters and more about screwing anybody he wants, Calvin was absurd to believe in pre-destination, Daniel Dennet spends too much time asking what love is – chemically, evolutionary- and not how great it is, Rick Warren is giving a message “less about God than it is about trying to convince his readers to become American-style evangelicals”, C.S. Lewis never would have gotten to Wheaton as a drinker and a smoker, the Billy Graham foundation spends too much money on museums than ministry, and in general the the Christian leaders he was raised on “… always had to feign a degree of certainty about the Big Questions that no sane person ever feels.”

When he wasn’t busy disregarding anybody who claims to have the answers, Schaeffer paints what is for me a beautiful picture of a life that is enjoyed and well lived, without the certainty of knowing where he will go when he dies, nor of the exact purpose of his (or any of ours) existence around here. He admits that when he “loves” somebody, that may very well be just a chemical and physical attraction evolved from evolutionary practices, but that does nothing to say to him that it is any less genuine or necessary. When he prays he does so not because he necessarily believes that God will heal people more if they pray (wouldn’t we see a huge increase in longevity and better health among, say, the Pentecostals who weekly believe that God performs miraculous deeds?), but because it is the best way he knows how to connect to something bigger and wish wellness over someone he cares deeply for.

Schaeffer’s book urges an emphasis  less about apologetics and more about character. When he was writing a book about the Marine Corps, he got to spend some time on a base, watching the Marines going through their daily routine of marching and drilling and spinning their guns around in circles inches from their chest. This was their practice, their way of preparing themselves for the battle, for the real thing. Without this they would be hopeless in combat. He beautifully compares this rehearsal with thinking and studying about the origins of life, the meaning of life, the purpose and future of our lives; they are just practice for us-before actually living full, complete and wonderful lives.

Concentrating on belief rather than on character leads some people – be they atheist or religious – to get stuck on the training rules and miss the whole point of “boot camp”. They never get their ‘eagle, globe, and anchor’ emblem and graduate. It’s as if there were platoons of recruits stuck on Parris Island who had never graduated and who, now as crazy old men, are still marching around yelling cadence, having mistaken the training phase for being Marines.”!

I took this thought as simply wonderful. Let’s shut up for awhile about why we think life is purpose-full, good, unique, full of beauty and creativeness, and enjoy the fact that it is.

That’s all. Three songs I’m addicted to this week.

A definition of terms

I know it has been awhile since I shared any thoughts on the web that is worldwide, if you are still reading this you are perhaps very interested or very bored. Life took a couple unexpected turns relationally and financially the last couple weeks, and I quickly learned a personal lesson of how much an actual luxury it is to sit on your couch and muse about the origins of the earth or what put us here when you know where your next paycheck is coming from.

Maybe Maslow wasn't an idiot and highschool pysch isn't a waste.

It isn’t particularly that I’m tired of having conversations about God or religion or truth. I have found a few logs in the road over the past couple weeks that I hadn’t approached before.

The first is the realization that what I thought was novel a month or two ago has actually been looked at, studied, hashed, rehashed, argued and debated for far longer than anybody who I know has been alive. I guess I knew that there are a mountain of people smarter than I who have tackled these things, but there still is some discouragement knowing that answers, or certainty, are not 100% positive or definite. I suppose it is true that faith is required for any stance you take on things.  It may be very true that a Powerful Being from outside our known universe created everything that we can see and feel and touch and taste and actually stopped by on the planet a couple of years ago so that we can keep living after this first life. It also may be true that there is no such Powerful Being at all, and this life is the only one that we possess, thanks to billions of years of gasses moving and millions of years of cells evolving and thousands of years of homos (not the derogatory term. erectus, ergaster, habilis, antecessor, sapien) living on our planet. Both of those ideas, honestly, seem so hard to believe it hurts sometimes. But I think both do, at some level, require not only a great amount of faith but of awe and wonder. I think i speak from the heart when I say I want so bad to know which is true, and I find sadness in the voice that says I may never know for certain. (This speaks nothing to the fact that these are only two of many more possible equations of the origins of life).

Secondly, I think my conversations with people about religion have slowed down a considerable amount. If you haven’t assumed yet, most everyone I know professes the Christian faith and lifestyle (to varying degrees), so discussions on faith and life  tend to be based around the truth or untruth of Christian principles, holy scriptures, stories/fairytales, practices and role in our society. These have been generally light-hearted and kind spirited in nature, although the subject matter and possible consequences are anything but. I think I ask a lot of questions about why people believe what they do and I think when asked I try to bring up points that generally aren’t discussed in Christian circles or preached from your weekly pulpit. My problem lately, hence the delay in any serious public sharing, is that I think it is a lot easier to communicate with people with a curious, inquisitive approach to things rather than a commanding assumption of superiority and rightness. What does that mean? Imagine you get two different emails from me. One says

“Hey, I’m having a lot of questions about faith and God. Let’s hang out and talk about them”

and the other

“Hey, I’m getting pretty sure that the faith you were raised to believe is a a lie. Let me tell you why.”

I assume you would be more interested in the former rather than the latter. And I think that’s, unfortunately, how some of my conversations with people are starting to turn into. That is not to say that I have more answers than I did when I started out. I don’t. But I think I have started to pick a couple locations to pitch my proverbial tent.

Thirdly, and most constantly on my brain as of late, is a lack of knowledge of (I know this may sound silly) what Christianity is. I know what I was taught, and I know what some of my friends were taught. But let us be frank. I think if i polled a thousand different people on the street or across the world I would get close to 1000 variations and  don’t think I would get any better solidifying answers than I do know now. I’m well aware of the basic tenets: Jesus, Salvation, the Cross, the Blood, the Good Shepherd, Grace, Faith, Eternal Life, The Kingdom of God, The Empty Tomb, The Wages of Sin, The Golden Rule, The Shema,  etc… But I think so many ideas of looking at it complicate things for me, more than simplify. I know that every Christian can, or at least should, be able to give an explanation for their world view. But the conversations I have had over the last couple months are anything but coherent and people’s takes on Christian lifestyle seem much, much more subjective to their own circumstances and desires and interests than those of an objective statement of beliefs.

If I can put it in today’s terms, the Christian faith seems less like a structured party or group, say the Democrats or Republicans, and more like the emerging Tea Movement. With both of these groups of people, it’s hard to find a leader or complete statement of beliefs and easier to pick or chose what works for you. It’s easy to pick on some of the more prominent leaders but near impossible to tread upon as a whole.

I think there is comfortability in professing Christianity in my environment, in the same way there is in professing attachment to the Cubs. The truth is, right now, I don’t have a whole lot of interest in either, but the Cubs don’t profess to have the only pathway to live forever nor convince me that death is not the end.

I was asked recently by one of my parents if I still pray, and when I responded negatively was encouraged to keep an open mind amidst all my criticism and sarcasm. I’m trying. I am. I’m currently tackling most Christian’s favorite hero and the guy that brought you these lovables.

Oh, Caspian.

We love that Chronic-WHAT!-Cles of Narnia

Mere Christinity by C. S. Lewis has been, so far, not only surprisingly less than challenging, but a lot more familiar than I imagined. It’s as if I’ve heard quotes and stories and parables from it my whole life, so when I actually read it it’s like I’m re-reading it for the first time. Aside from attempting to explain why women must submit to their husbands because the bible says so, support for capital punishment, and confessing if he and another Christian killed each other they would have a good laugh about it up in Heaven, Lewis writes with great wit and using some creative and at times stretching analogies to prove some points on Christian doctrine. I guess it’s far from the exclamation mark that I had heard about, but challenging none the less. I do really appreciate some of his points on morality and where it came from; how we can discuss ideas of right and wrong in the universe assuming that these are real and definite things. Without a God figure where did these come from? Without a Moreness that defined these characteristics can we really speak of right, wrong, good and evil as objective truths?

Without a doubt I had more fun reading this book in California last month than any other book that I’ve read in a while. It’s a dozen or so chapters, each by a different philosopher, dealing with some of the biggest and most challenging questions that Christians face. A couple of my favorite chapters included “Is God Omnipotent” (to which I’m forced to answer no), “Whom Does God Consign to Hell”, and “Why Does God Require Prayer”. It felt good to read grown ups discussing real issues that were glazed over when I was younger.

That’s all for now. Where to go from here? I think I want to know more from people “What does Christianity mean to you?” I have greatly appreciated everybody who is interested in thinking about these things honestly and openly with me. Without those conversations life would be little less exciting.  In completely unrelated events, Corner 41 is now open for business. So come get a beer and and if you are interested talk about life with your neighborhood bartender.

Christmas, Doomsday Preachers in Wicker Park, and Why Chris Hitchens keeps me up at night


The holidays have come and gone and it’s time to get back to normal life. New Years was amazing and Christmas held for a lot of interesting conversations and church services, some of which left me puzzled and others completely frustrated.I attended no less than three Christmas services this year, due to family plans and what not. Each left me with one or two thoughts penned in my notebook.

1. “If you are not experiencing joy you are in sin. If you are not experiencing peace you are in sin.” I take this out of context, of course, but the idea stays the same. For the head pastor of the church that I attend most regularly, joy and peace are not only blessings or fruits of the spirit, but instead are requirements by God to possess if you want to live a life pleasing to him. We all know Paul tells us “the wages of sin is death”. I guess to him that means you better by joyful if you want to live.

This guy is in trouble

2. “there’s a dying world out there that needs to know they can find peace with God through the blood of Christ.” I know most shouldn’t have a problem with this quote. It sounds like sound biblical doctrine. And it would take a lot of reading and studying on my part to unpack ideas of tolerance and absolute truth. I’ll just comment that I could easily find around 4 billion people who don’t think so.Perhaps he is right that the world is dying

I don't know what Jesus would say about this.

3. “…by child-like faith or trust in Jesus…” If I could make a deal with the church it would be this: Show me where the Bible says we should have faith like a child, child-like faith, or any verse that links those two specific concepts and I’ll shut up. Otherwise, drop it from your lingo. Cheers.

4. “His commitment in wanting to be in a relationship is not obligatory” woah. Not obligatory? So if i click the wrong button

does this mean things will be ok for me? Or will i suffer eternal damnation and separation from anything and anyone I ever knew that loved me and cared for me? Joking aside, this concept of Christianity still hurts to think about it. I have the idea of a father figure in my head who says I have a free choice to mow the lawn all day or play video games. There is no obligation either way, it is my decision. But when he gets home at the end of the day one of my decisions will be rewarded with blessings and the other punished. But, like I said, it’s completely my decision. This is the paradox I see in Christianity, only on an eternal scale. And I think the fact that feel-good free will messages are being taught at not just any neighborhood church, but rather the head pastor of the third largest church in America, say something about what has happened to the gospel.

5. “there’s no dancing. There’s no silliness. Not around God”.

I believe if i remember this was in reference to the shepherds being afraid when angels showed up in the sky singing a chorus to them. Ok, maybe if you attended Moody at all during the 20th century this was the case, but i won’t even begin referencing Biblical verses about dancing in front of God.

Last one. At the most recent mega-church service I went to on Sunday, once again the lead pastor was speaking to an audience of at least +5,000 and telling them that God had come through for them in great ways because miraculously, even in these hard times, they have been able to stay “in the black” financially. “What a good God!” and thus the clapping ensued. This sounded more like cheap public relations to me than God’s handiwork. Why was the church not in the red? Because they had to put my friend’s dad and at least thirty other people like him out of a job. Let’s give that a round of applause.

I pass on these quotes not to make an attempt as to say that nothing that is spoken in front of a pulpit can be believed, nor even to say that everything said or most things said on Sunday mornings are wrong or not encouraging. I only make the point that without an attentive ear or an open Bible, pastors can say shit that just isn’t true and it can go right over your head. Mine does it. I bet yours does it too.


Moving elsewhere, not one or two, but all three Christmas services I attended referenced, in one manner or another, Phillipians 4:7.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heats and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

or as the NLT puts it

then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

I must admit, this is very challenging. How do you tackle this one? To the believer it says “you don’t have to understand everything about what you believe” and to the non it says “don’t even think about challenging this. your logic only takes you so far.” How can you even begin to approach an inner-mystical peace from God that flies in the face of understanding? I can say that I have had moments of deep peace in my life, some consciously focused on a Deity and some not so much. I can also say that they were, for the most parts, unexplainable. I would admit the point that there is a lot to it that I don’t understand if you would also cede the dangers of a religion based purely on inner emotions and feelings rather than on sound logic and reason.


Outside of church, questions don’t stop. It was New Year’s Day I believe, and I was at one of my favorite book shops when I heard an awful lot of yelling coming from something outside. At first I thought it to be a fight, but it didn’t stop after ten or fifteen minutes. From the second floor window I finally found them, maybe five or six mid-thirty somethings standing out in the freezing cold, accomplishing what I can only imagined was a last-minute NYE Resolution: to stand out in 20 degree weather at nine at night on a Saturday night and yell, literally yell, at the hipsters, college kids and young professionals of Wicker Park about the wages of sin.

No, not these kids

Not him either

These were just your average Chicagoans, drinking starbucks, wearing Argyle sweaters and working up a sweat for Jesus.

Come to Jesus while there is still time!

I imagine they thought they were doing the will of God. Unfortunately the balding gentlemen living on floor three did not agree as he threw open his window and yelled “Excuse me! I’m trying to sleep up here! I appreciate what you are doing, but could you please take it somewhere else?”

This must have thrown the proselytizers for a head spin. Were they supposed to act as most decent citizens would and NOT yell loud things outside somebody’s window after they asked, or where they supposed to follow the inner calling they were certain God had for them: to stand outside of a bookstore and  yell, ahem, “Where will you spend eternity?! Smoking or non smoking?!

They did not stop, however, and continued on sharing the good news that we all need so badly. “Come to Jesus while there is still time!!” and “You don’t have to run! The judgment day is coming!”

If you are a Christian reading this, then these words could be doing one of two things. You could agree with them and right me off as a sinner and walk away. Or these could be getting underneath your skin as a type of Christianity that you have always had a problem with which turns secularists off to the truth of Jesus. My date for the evening was in the second category, and I think it bothered her more than me to hear such bold and attacking remarks. As I debated going downstairs to talk to them, and the sermons kept going  ( “How you doing friend? Can I talk to you about Jesus? You don’t want to remember this day on judgment day!” )  I could see a liberal, more tolerant and generally modern side of Christianity get offended inside of her. I’ll happily admit and be thankful that Christianity is far more diverse than those folks outside, and often there is more in-fighting than anything else.

(un?)Fortunately the friendly group was gone by the time we checked out. I had already imagined the things I wanted to say to them, “why are you yelling?” “what are you trying to prove?” “I’ll talk to you if you stop screaming and come inside”, but none of these did I get to share. The two of us walked home and discussed matters of faith for the better part of the night. Throughout the course of that conversation and those that followed, a thought came to me that I’m not sure if I can clearly explain.

Simply put, it goes like this. I have doubts of faith. You have doubts on faith. Most everybody has some doubts on faith. Some people tackle them. Some people don’t. I guess if I was speaking to a Christian questioning some of the same things I am I would say, “What’s so different about the two of us? If we both question some of these truths and are looking for answers, would it be fair to say that you pre-suppose that you already have the answer somewhere and it only needs better explanation, whilst I would say I hold no pre-existing assumption of correctness in my vulnerable, lengthy, and sometimes quite depressing search for more answers? To put it another way, a Christian has the ultimate solution to the answers and works to prove it. I have no idea what that solution might be, although I’m willing to learn.


Ok, that said, I’ve had a good week of faith-related issues. I’m reading some great books, unfortunately they come four at a time so I can’t pick just one. It is challenging to me though to be reading some smart books by Christian authors who pair new atheist such as Dawkins, Chris Hitchens and Sam Harris in the same boat as conservative Christians who claim to have ultimate truths. I’m learning to have more respect for people of faith in general, and not write them off as people who believe in fairy tales as Dennet might suggest.

I’ll leave you with Chris Hitchens. If you haven’t heard of him or watched him or read him, he may come as a bit of a shock. To a secularist, he is a champion. To a Christian, he is an inappropriate ass. I’ll pass this along in hopes that somebody can watch it and prove him wrong. Please watch it.