From the Archives

I Need Your Help: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith!

help

I am thinking about writing a book that will be marketed to people who have questions and doubts about their faith. I don’t want the book to be polemical. I am more interested in writing a book that has a pastoral tone, one that gently helps people on their journey from Evangelicalism to unbelief (and all the stopping points in between).  My head is filled with ideas about what I should cover in this book, but I thought I would ask the readers of this blog to offer suggestions about what they think should be covered in the book.

While I think that books written by authors such as Bart Ehrman, John Loftus, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens can be helpful, I want to write a book that allows me to be  a pastor of sorts. I have a working title for the book: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith! Since many of the readers of this blog — a cast of thousands— are former Evangelicals, I am  soliciting your help with this project. What questions or subjects do you think I should address in this book? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. If you do not comment on this blog but would still like to make a suggestion, please use the comment form to send me an email.

Thank you for your help. I will make this post a sticky for a few weeks so every reader has an opportunity to make a suggestion if they so desire.

Dear Ann

blood of jesus

What follows is a letter I wrote to my Fundamentalist Christian step-grandmother, Ann Tieken, in 2012. She was married for many years to my grandfather John Tieken. They lived in Pontiac, Michigan and attended Sunnyvale Chapel. As with the previous letters I have posted, I want this letter to be a part of the historical narrative of my life.

Dear Ann,

Grandchildren don’t get to choose who their grandparents are. When we are born they just show up and we have to accept them.

My Dad’s parents died when I was five. I really don’t remember very much about them at all. I remember the Gerencser farm, the outhouse, the wood cook stove, and the funny language Grandma and Grandpa spoke.

My Mom’s side of the family “blessed” me with two sets of grandparents, Grandma Rausch and Grandma and Grandpa Tieken.

I don’t know how old I was before I realized that Grandma Rausch used to be Grandma Tieken.

For most of my life, Grandma Rausch was the only grandparent I had. She wasn’t perfect but she loved me. I was, after all, grandson number one. She taught me to love baseball and to be passionate about life. She had her faults, but I never doubted for one moment that she loved me.

Here is what I remember about you and Grandpa Tieken.

I remember every Christmas being a day of anxiety and turmoil. I remember the fights, and you and Grandma Rausch not being able to be in the same room together. This was resolved by having two Christmases, two of every holiday

I remember Grandpa’s nasty and violent temper.

I remember Grandpa slugging your son David, my teenage uncle, knocking him off his chair onto the kitchen floor. I saw Grandpa hit him more than a few times.

I remember Grandpa beating the shit out of my brother and me because we took apart an old telephone that was in the garage.

Wonderful childhood memories.

Do I have any good memories of you and Grandpa Tieken?

I have two.

I remember Grandpa taking us up in an airplane he had just overhauled, and I vividly remember Grandpa taking me to a Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians game at Briggs Stadium in 1968. I got to see Mickey Lolich pitch. He bought me a Tiger’s pennant.

That’s it.

You were always a church- going Christian. What were you thinking when you married the drinking, carousing John Tieken? But you won, and Grandpa Tieken found Jesus.

For the next 30- plus years you and Grandpa were devoted followers of Jesus. I remember going to Sunnyvale Chapel every time we came to visit you. I remember singing the Countdown song (see notes)  in junior church.

As I got older I began to understand things from my Mom’s perspective. Her relationship with you and her Dad was always strained. Lots of turmoil, lots of stress. Lots of angry words and cussing.

She showed me the letters you and she traded. So much anger, so little Jesus.

Mom told me about her younger years. She told me about what went on and what happened to her. Awful things. Shameful things. She told me about confronting Grandpa about these things and he told her that God had forgiven him and they were under the blood. Not one word of sorrow or admission of guilt, not even a sorry. A new life in Christ wiped the slate clean.

I have often wondered if Mom’s mental illness found its root in the events that took place on a Missouri farm when she was but a youth. I know she felt she could never measure up and you, and Grandpa had a real knack for reminding the family of their shortcomings. After all, we were Bob Gerencser’s kids.

When I went to college I lived a few miles away from you. For the first time I learned how controlling and demanding you and Grandpa could be. Now I know I wasn’t the perfect grandson; I remember charging to your home phone some long- distance phone calls to Polly. That aside, you did your best to manipulate and control my life.

When I started pastoring churches you and Grandpa started sending us money through the church. We really appreciated it and it was a big help. And then it stopped. Why? The church treasurer didn’t send you your giving statement when you expected it and just like that you stopped sending the money. Did our need change?

When I was pastoring in Somerset, Ohio you and Grandpa came to visit a few times. Polly and I will never forget these visits. How could we?

I remember you and Grandpa sitting in the last pew in the back, on the left side. The building was packed. This was during the time when the church was growing rapidly. After I preached and gave an invitation, I asked if anyone had something to share. Grandpa did. He stood and told the entire congregation what was wrong with my sermon. I wanted to die. He thoroughly embarrassed and shamed me.

I remember when you came to visit us in Junction City. Again, how  can I forget the visit? This was your last visit to my home, twenty-three years ago.

Grandpa spent a good bit of time lecturing me about my car being dirty. Evidently, having a dirty car was a bad testimony. Too bad he didn’t take that same approach with Mom.

After dinner — oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday! — we were sitting in the living room and one of our young children got too close to Grandpa. What did he do? He kicked  him. I knew then and there that, regardless of his love for Jesus, he didn’t love our family, and he would always be a mean son-of-a-bitch.

I think we saw you and Grandpa once or twice after that. I remember driving to Pontiac to see Grandpa after his cancer surgery. He was out of it. If I remember  correctly, you took us to lunch at a buffet.

For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you proceeded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years, I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train.

And that is where things remained for a long time.

In 2003, I moved to Clare, Michigan to pastor a Southern Baptist church. In what can only be a cruel twist of fate, our family moved to the same gated community that you and your new husband lived in. What are the odds? You lived less than two miles from my home.

You came to visit the church I pastored and invited us over to dinner. I didn’t want to come, but I thought, what kind of Christian am I? Surely, I can forgive and let the past be the past.

And so we went. Things went fairly well until you decided to let me know, as if it was a fact that everyone knew, that my father was not really my father. I showed no reaction to this revelation, but it stunned me and cut me right to the quick. I knew my Mom was pregnant when she married Dad but I had never  before heard what you were telling me.

Why did you tell me this? What good could ever come of it? Believe me, I still have not gotten past this. I have come to see that what you told me is probably the truth, but to what end was the telling of this truth?

Church members were excited to find out that I was the grandson to Gramma Clarke (her new married name) , a fine, kind, loving, Christian woman if there ever was one, they told me. All I ever told them is that things are not always as they seem.

Of course I understood how this dualistic view of you was possible. You and Grandpa were always good at the smile real big, I love Jesus game, all the while stabbing your family in the back. It is a game that a lot of Christians play.

Nine years have passed since I last saw you in Clare, Michigan. Life moves on. I have a wonderful wife, six kids, and eight grandchildren. And I am an atheist.

You must have done a Facebook search for me because you “found” me. You sent me an email that said:

What ? An athiest ?? Sorry Sorry Sorry !!!What happened ? How’s Polly & your family??

Nine years and this is what you send me?

Ann, you need to understand something. I am not interested in reviving any kind of relationship with you. One of the things I have learned in counseling is that I get to choose whom I want to associate with, whom I want to be friends with.

My counselor and I spend a lot of time talking about family and the past. He told me, Bruce it is OK to not be friends with people you don’t want to be friends with. No more loving everyone because Jesus loves everyone. I am free to love whom I want.

I don’t wish you any ill will. That said, I don’t want to have a relationship with you, especially a pretend Facebook friendship. Ooh Look! Bruce got reconnected with his estranged Grandmother. Isn’t God good!!

Not gonna happen. I have exactly zero interest in pursuing a relationship with you. It is too late.

My “good” memories of you and Grandpa are few and far between (and I haven’t even mentioned things that I am still, to this day, too embarrassed to mention). You really don’t know me and I don’t know you. And that’s okay.

Life is messy, Ann, and this is one mess in aisle three that no one can clean up. I have been told that I have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. This is perhaps a true assessment of me. I told Polly tonight that I am quite willing to forgive but it is hard to do when there is never an admission of guilt or the words I am sorry are never uttered. How can there be since the blood of Jesus wipes away every shitty thing a person has ever done? Talk about a get out of responsibility for sin card.

I am sure you will think I am just like my mother. I am.

You know what my last memory of my Mom is? After I tearfully and with a broken heart concluded  my 54-year-old Mom’s graveside service, Grandpa Tieken took the “opportunity” to preach at us and tell us that Mom was in heaven. Just days before she had put a gun to her chest and pulled the trigger. We all were reeling with grief and pain and Grandpa, in a classic Grandma-and-Grandpa-Tieken moment, decided to preach instead of love.

Bruce

Notes

The Countdown Song

Somewhere in outer space
God has prepared a place
For those who trust Him and obey
Jesus will come again
And though we don’t know when
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

CHORUS:

10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Savior while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
BLAST OFF!

Jesus was crucified, suffered and bled he died,
But on the cross He did not stay
He made this promise true, I will come back for you,
The countdown’s getting lower every day.

CHORUS

Soon will the trumpet sound, and we’ll rise off the ground
With Christ forever will we be
Children where will you be, throughout eternity?
The countdown’s getting lower every day!

CHORUS

072116

The Do-Nothing God

god has a plan

Yesterday, a two-year-old (some reports say the child was three) boy died after his parents left him in the car while they attended an afternoon worship service at Rehoboth Praise Assembly in East Dallas, Texas. Forty-five minutes into the worship service, the boy’s parents realized that they had left him in the car. Sadly, it was too late. The one hundred degree Texas heat had rendered the boy unconscious. He was pronounced dead later that night at a local hospital.

The parents of the boy have four other children. Polly and I know firsthand the horror of leaving your children behind in an unsafe environment. One time we left our second-oldest son asleep on the front pew of the church. It was not until we arrived home — fifteen miles away — that we realized we had left him behind. I vividly remember driving as fast as I could, praying to God that my son would be safe. Fortunately, he was still asleep when I opened the doors to the pitch-dark church sanctuary. At the time, I praised God for his providential protection of my son. I now know that we were lucky. I can only imagine what might have happened if Nathan had awakened and found out that he was the star in the Baptist version of Home Alone. Several years later, we had another incident where we left our son Jaime sleeping in the car after arriving home from church. An hour or so later, much to our shock and horror, Jaime sleepily came walking in the door. Again, I praised God for protecting my son.

Polly and I were quite busy on Sundays, so we drove separately to the church. Driving two cars and not paying attention to who had what kids led to the events mentioned above. After the Jaime incident, we made a hard and fast rule that neither of us could leave the church for home without making sure all six children were accounted for. I can report that all of our children, from that day forward, safely made it home.

What if something tragic — say injury or death — had happened to our forgotten sons? Would I have still been praising the wonderful love, grace, mercy, and kindness of Jesus? Probably, even going so far as to say that their injury/death was all part of God’s wonderful plan for our lives. I am sure the church and parents of the dead 3-year-old are now going through similar irrational theological machinations.

The question that is rarely asked is this: Where is God? If the third part of the Trinity — the Holy Spirit — lives insides of each and every believer, why didn’t he — with that still small voice of his — whisper in the ears of the two year old’s parents, telling them, Hey your little boy is asleep. Go get him before he dies from exposure to extreme Texas summer temperatures. Remember these song lyrics?

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Or these lyrics?

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Where was the strong Jesus when the weak little boy was being baked to death? Can it really be said that Jesus loves the little children when he idly stands by and does n-o-t-h-i-n-g as a boy is suffocated to death? If God can, but doesn’t, what does that tell us about God?

According to the defenders of Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, their God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. I should hope not! Most people, when finding out a child is dying in the suffocating heat of a closed-up car, would do everything in their power to rescue the child. Not God. He has some sort of unspoken reason for letting the child die. Or perhaps the child’s parents were living in sin or needed to be taught a “life” lesson. Who knows, right? God is always given a free pass when it comes to the suffering and death of children. God knows best, Christians say. Pray tell, how is letting a child die alone in a car in any way “best”?

I am sure the dead boy’s parents are grieving over the loss of their son, knowing that they are the cause of his death. Just now, I viewed a TV advertisement reminding parents to always check the backseat of their cars for children. It’s hot out there, the ad said. Way too many busy parents forget to make sure all of their children are accounted for. Thirty years ago, Polly and I could have caused the death of our children. Luck, not God, saved our children. Sadly, for the Dallas parents, their inattention cost their son his life.

Parents are responsible for caring for their children. When bad things happen such as this boy’s death, most often parents or others adults are responsible. Years ago, we delivered newspapers for the Zanesville Times-Recorder. One day, Polly was in Shawnee, Ohio making collections. Shawnee is quite hilly, as is most of Southeast Ohio. Polly drove up a steep hill to our customer’s home, got out of the car, leaving Jaime secured with a seat belt. Polly, thinking she would only be gone for a minute, left the keys in the ignition, not knowing that Jaime had figured out how to unbuckle his seat belt. Mimicking what he had seen his parents do countless times before, Jaime reached up, turned the ignition, and pulled down on the drive shift.  The car, much to Polly’s horror, began rolling backwards down the steep hill — 400 feet in all — launching the car into the air before it landed in a creek bed.  Fortunately, Jaime was not injured. It took two wreckers to extricate the totaled car from the bottom of the hill.

During Jaime’s younger years, I painted the front doors of the church red. I didn’t have any paint thinner to clean the brush, so i waited until got home to do so. I put the brush in a pint jar of thinner to soak. Knowing that mischievous Jaime was nearby, I put the jar on the back of the counter, safe from his little hands — or so I thought. I went on to do other things, only to find out that Jaime had pushed a chair up to the counter and climbed up so he could reach the red “Kool-aid” that was on the back of the counter. Fortunately, one drink was all that was needed to teach Jaime that all red liquids are NOT Kool-aid.

In both of these stories, Jaime’s parents were culpable for what happened. Lessons learned : never leave child unattended, never leave keys in car, always set parking brake when parked on steep inclines, and never, ever put dangerous things where children can get a hold of them.

I am not suggesting that parents can protect their children from every possible danger. We can’t. Children love to test boundaries and get into things. It is a wonder that any of them survive to adulthood. Risk is all around us and one of the lessons parents must teach their children is to measure risk and danger. But, despite training them and keeping them under our watchful eyes, children can do things that could kill them. And sometimes parents can, either through carelessness or inattention, do things that harm their children. Regardless of to whom blame is assessed, one thing is for certain: God will be nowhere to found. He is the do-nothing God, a deity who can’t be bothered with rescuing an innocent child on a hot summer day in Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Robot: Elliot Alderson Attacks Organized Religion — Fu*k God

mr robot elliot alderson

Mr. Robot is a USA Network drama starring Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a “cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression.” (Wikipedia)  Now in its second season, Mr. Robot focuses on Alderson’s interaction with the hacktivist community as it attempts to battle global corporate influence and control. I am an avid fan of the program. I love its dark, complex storylines. I have been a Rami Malek fan since 2010 when I first saw him in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. If you are a fan of dark/sci-fi/dystopian psychological thrillers, I think you will really like Mr. Robot. And if you are an atheist, you will certainly love Mr. Robot’s negative — dare I say hostile — portrayal of organized religion. I am surprised that One Millions Moms — the outrage wing of the American Family Association — have not called on their followers to write letters to Mr. Robot advertisers, threatening to stop buying their products unless they immediately pull their ads.

In a post titled Every Atheist Needs: Mr. Robot, blogger Godless Mom featured Elliot Alderson’s season two rant about organized religion. Alderson, answering the statement “God can help you, said what most atheists would love to shout from the mountaintops:

“Is that what God does? He helps? Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one-offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So fuck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me.”

Here’s a video clip of Anderson’s rant. I hope you will watch the video. Anderson’s passionate oration against organized religion is must-see TV.

Video Link

Are you a fan of Mr. Robot? What do you think of Elliot Alderson’s rant against organized religion? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Because I Can

because I can

Evangelicals are primarily known for the things they are against: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, socialism, atheism, humanism, liberalism, and Barack Hussein Obama. The farther you move to the right, the longer the lists become. Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, I heard countless sermons about this or that “sin.” Years ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon based on the text, neither give place to the devil. After reading the text the preacher spent the next 40 or so minutes listing all the things he was against. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List) Most of the preachers of my youth believed the following were sins: women wearing pants/shorts, men having long hair, dating couples have physical contact before marriage, listening to rock music or contemporary Christian music, going to the movie theater, using non-King James version translations, cursing. As a teenager, I believed that my pastors were against e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I am sure the teens of the churches I pastored said the same about me.

One of the first challenges I faced after leaving Christianity was determining a moral/ethical framework by which to govern my life. Let’s face it, having an inspired, inerrant Bible as the moral arbitrator makes life easy. No need to think about or ponder certain behaviors. God said ____________________, end of discussion. Lost on people who think this way is that it is not God speaking. If sermons are anything, they are preachers giving their personal opinions about what this or that Bible verse means. Opinions vary wildly, leading to one group of preachers saying particular behaviors are sinful and other group of preachers saying they aren’t. They fight among themselves, certain that their interpretation of an ancient religious text is infallible.

When I first deconverted, I was blessed to have for a friend a charismatic pastor who had also told Jesus to take a hike. He and I spent countless hours together, talking about Christianity, the Bible, and the ministry. We both laugh at how we acted and reacted back then. My friend got his ear pierced. He also got a tattoo. One day we were out and about and we saw a sign that said Parking Reserved for Pastor. A photograph was taken of middle fingers extended as we stood in front of the sign. I know, quite juvenile. But remember, Evangelicalism robbed us of much of our lives. We came of age in the late 1960s and 70s. While our non-Evangelical peers were enjoying love, peace, and rock and roll, we were in church praising Jesus. So in many ways, we are now living our teenage and young adult years now. We are experiencing things that our contemporaries experienced 40 years ago.

because I can

Now that Jesus, the Bible, and the screaming voices of preachers no longer guide us, we are free to do what we want. Several months ago, a Fundamentalist family member asked me why I was growing my hair so long. My response? Because I can. And when they see me again and notice that I am now sporting a bald head again, I am sure they will ask me why I shaved my head. The answer is the same. Because I can.  The answer to every behavioral question is the same. Because I can.

Now, lest Evangelical zealots say I am preaching nihilism or licentiousness, I want to be clear: just because I can, doesn’t mean I will. What I am saying is that I don’t need a deity, a religious text, or self-righteous Evangelicals to tell me how to live. Using reason and common sense, I weigh each and every choice and decide accordingly.  Well, most of the time, anyway. I can, at times, be impetuous, making decisions without taking time to weigh consequences. Most of the time, I survive my impetuous behavior with nary a scratch. There are those times when making rash decisions have had poor outcomes. When this happens, hopefully I learn from it. If my poor judgment harmed someone else, I do my best to make things right.

I think I will end this post here. Why? Because I can. 

Does your Evangelical family and friends “question” some of your post-Jesus decisions? Have you ever said, because I can? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Groveling at the Feet of God to Whom All Praise, Honor, and Glory is Due

tim tebow

Tim Tebow, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory.

Dear Human Worms,

You are NOTHING! It’s all about me. I am your King, Lord, Sovereign, and master. Nothing happens that escapes my eye. I hear, see, and know everything. I am the one who gives you the ability to breathe and move your legs. I am the one who is in control of every aspect of your lives. I am the puppet master of the universe. I spoke the universe into existence and I alone have the power to give and take life. Get it into your head, worm — it’s all about me, me, me!

Now, grovel before me, worm. 

God

Millions of Christians believe that what I have written above accurately portrays God and their subservience to him. Simply put, with one voice these worms cry, You are everything, oh Lord, and I am n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Each and every day countless Christians do good works, yet, if they are true to the teachings of the Bible, these do-gooders never take credit for their acts of love, kindness, and compassion (or touchdowns, winning baskets, or walk-off home runs). No matter how much effort  and time Christians put into helping others, they must never, ever take the credit. If they do, they are reminded of the fact that the Bible says, without me [God] ye can do nothing. God is everything, everything, everything. Christians are nothing, nothing, nothing.

Why then, do Christians do things such as tell their pastors, great sermon, applaud when singing groups or soloists finish their songs, clap when church children perform, and thank others for doing a good job? Why then, do churches advertise the name of their pastors? Why do churches praise the hard work of Sunday school teachers, missionaries, youth leaders and junior church workers? Why do churches put “IN MEMORY OF . . . ” plates/labels on things, reminding everyone of who gave the money for this or that item/project.  Shouldn’t imprints of human effort be stripped away, and God alone be given all the praise, honor, and glory?

The truth is, Christians love receiving the approbation of others as much as the rest of us. I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I appreciate it when people thank me for the work I do on this blog. Their support helps spur me on, be it financial support or a short email that lets me know they appreciate my writing. When people do well, we should praise them. I know I don’t do it enough.

My children have turned out to be good people. They aren’t perfect, but neither is their father. My oldest son was recently promoted to a management position with a large manufacturing concern. My youngest son was recently promoted to team leader at the same company. Son number two is a network administrator for a local wireless internet provider and phone company. Son number three is an expert automobile mechanic. My youngest daughter continues to sharpen her seamstress and furniture restoration skills.

Eighteen years ago, Polly started working in the auxiliary services department for a large manufacturing business. We moved away from Northwest Ohio several times, yet each time we returned, Polly’s previous employer immediately offered her a job. Last year, Polly was promoted to the position of shift coordinator. She is responsible for second and third shift auxiliary services employees. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether Polly was supervisor material, I would have said no. Yet, here she is, supervising two shifts, and, by all accounts, doing a great job.

My children and wife have one trait in common: they are all hard workers. When Polly and I first married, our meals consisted of whatever came from boxes or cans. Today, Polly is an excellent — dare I say superb — scratch chef. Unbeknownst to Polly, I ordered her an immersion mixer. It arrived today. Her glee was a sight to behold. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I bought her a vibrator with a lifetime supply of batteries.

As many of you know, I have someone who edits my writing. While I am a better writer than I was a year ago, there are days when my writing, due to fatigue, pain, or entrenched bad habits, can still be a pain in the ass to edit. While she tells me it is not necessary, I thank my editor from time to time. Why? Because I appreciate her hard work.

Yes, many people are lazy slackers whose goal in life is to do as little work as possible. These workers tend to be the people whom we complain about on social media. Sadly, some people just don’t care. But, others do. When cashiers, waitresses, restaurant workers, and customer service representatives — to name a few — do a great job I try my best to say thanks. If they are wearing a name tag, I address them by their name. It takes all of two seconds for me to do this, yet it reminds those serving me that I appreciate their efforts.

And that’s the point of this post. Why should a narcissistic, demanding employer — God — receive praise for that which he did not do?  Everything you and I do today, tomorrow, and until we end up ashes in urns is because of our own hard work and effort. Granted, none of us got to where we are today without the help of others (Thanks, Mom!). Hillary Clinton is right; it takes a village to raise a child. My life is the sum of all those who have touched and helped me in some way. It is important that I recognize this lest I turn into Donald Trump. I would not be where I am today without the help of others. When I write the acknowledgement pages for my book, I will rightly thank all those who helped me along the way. But, none of them will expect me to grovel at their feet, giving all the praise, honor, and glory to them. Only in the Christian world are people expected to die to self and give God the praise that should be theirs.

deny self

Is it any surprise, then, that many Christians have poor/no self-esteem? I know it has taken Polly and I many years to regain any sort of respect for self. Hammered by a lifetime of preaching meant to destroy self-worth, is it any wonder that, to this day, we have a hard time accepting praise from others. Our lives were swallowed whole by God’s absolute claim on our lives. We were called on to be bond servants (slaves) of the most high God. We worked seven days a week, from early morning hours to late at night — never once expecting the praise of others. We do it for you, Jesus, we said to the ceiling, believing that none of our good works would have been possible without God. Even when people broke with protocol and threw some praise our way, we quickly deflected it, throwing it back to God. We are just his humble servants, we told those who thanked us. Without him, we are nothing.

If I have learned anything post-Jesus, it is that without him I have come to understand that I am someone who is deserving of the approbation of others. I have worth and value. I matter to my my wife, children, and grandchildren. I matter to my friends and extended family. And yes, I matter to many of the readers of this blog. And I can say the same about those who have positively touched my life. We matter, not because of God, but because we are fellow travelers on the road of life. While we are all headed for the same destination — a soylent green factory — how much better and fulfilling is our journey having people by our side.

How about you? Were you taught that all praise, glory, and honor belonged to God? How did these teaches affect your view of self? What have you done to regain a healthy view of self? Do you still have a hard time accepting praise from others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Satan Has Stolen My Heart and I Want It Back

satan commands it

Warning! Snark Ahead!

What follows is my response to a comment left on the post  Quit Complaining, Your Suffering is Nothing Compared to What Jesus Faced and a comment posted on the Seeking His Kingdom blog.

satan stole mind

A Fundamentalist Christian using the Spaniardviii moniker thinks that Satan has taken my “heart” completely away from Christ. Which is funny, of course, because the word “heart” in the Bible refers to the mind, and I can assure you my mind is still firmly attached to my decrepit body. And what’s this idea that I will regret my decision to reject the teachings of Christianity every time I close my eyes? I scientifically tested Spaniardviii’s hypothesis — closing my eyes one hundred times. I waited for regret to appear, but alas it never made a grand appearance. Not one time. I think I can safely conclude that Spaniardvii’s hypothesis is false.

According to Spaniardviii I have no “spiritual” insight. How could I, right? I am now an apostate. But, I wasn’t always an apostate. At one time, I was an on-fire, sold-out follower of Jesus. I was certainly “spiritual” for many, many years. People such as Spaniardviii will search in vain for evidence to bolster their claim that I was never a true Christian®. Since real Christians never, ever walk away from Jesus, and I am now an atheist, it is evident that I was never a member of Club Jesus®.

I posted an email yesterday I received from an Evangelical who said I was living a hedonistic lifestyle. And now, today, here’s another commenter making a similar claim. According to Spaniardviii, I am living a “sinful” lifestyle. What is this sinful life I am living? I ask. I suspect, to most people, my lifestyle would be quite benign and boring. What is it in my way of living that suggests I am some sort of hedonistic sinner? Now, I might want to live such a life. But alas, want and ability are two different things. The Bible says, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s me. I sure want to be a bad, bad, bad sinner, but my body won’t cooperate.

In another comment left on Seeking His Kingdom, Spaniardviii says:

Your welcome but I know for sure that he will delete it [his comment] but at least he will read it.

Wrong again, Spaniardviii.

According to Spaniardviii’s blog, Spiritual Minefield, his goal is to “help Christians avoid false doctrine.” It’s too late for me, since God has most certainly given me over to a reprobate mind, but it might not be too late for some of you. Perhaps Spaniardviii can help get you on the right track — that track being, of course, the one that he is on. Amazing, yes? Every Christian thinks his track (belief) is the right one.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Stacey Campbell, the Shaking Prophetess

stacey campbell

This is the eighty-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of  a prophecy by prophetess Stacey Campbell. In any other setting, such behavior would land a person deluxe accommodations at the local psychiatric hospital.

Video Link

 

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Pokemon Teaches Children Witchcraft by Unnamed Preacher

pokemon

This is the eighty-eighth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of  sermon preached by an unknown preacher about the dangers of Pokemon.

Video Link

 

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Donald Trump Believes in the Name of Jesus by Mark Burns

pastor mark burns with donald trump

This is the eighty-seventh installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of prayer/sermon preached by Mark Burns, pastor of The Harvest Praise & Worship Center, Easley, South Carolina.

Video Link