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Year in Review 2015

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Being the contrarian that I am, I was determined to make turning 30 uneventful, but 2015 had other plans. This year, I started on anti-depressants, I had my first legitimately viral posts, I started writing for Think Christian, I had spinal surgery, and I started a new job. I also took an impromptu three-month hiatus from writing because, apparently, it's inappropriate to question the tenets of evangelicalism while working for an evangelical organization.
That being said, I'm determined to push the envelope even further in 2016. Someone has to ask the questions that no one wants to admit having. Especially the ones that incite thoughtless, kneejerk reactions. Here's to another year of working out my faith.
Most Read Posts
These posts were read 3-40 times more than most (that's not a typo). They primarily deal with ethical artifacts that have been perpetuated by a self-serving maintenance rather than a refining scrutiny. I guess I'm not alone in thinking that the fai…

You Shouldn't Have a Vote in Church (and other problems with congregationalism)

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Democracy in church reflects American values, not biblical ones.
Most Christians don't give a second thought to how their churches are run until something happens that they don't like. That's because most of them fall under a model that closely mimics our national government. And there's a good reason for that.

This form of church government is known as Congregationalism. It's a system where each congregation has complete or mostly complete governing autonomy and leadership is determined by the voting membership. It's also a system that wasn't popularized until (big surprise) modern colonialism.

When the Puritans came to America, they were looking to purify the church from all of the medieval corruptions that had tainted it for centuries. But instead of simply allowing the state to preside over the church, they tried to make church attendance mandatory for everyone. Their hope was that they could inhibit government corruption and ensure church unity by gett…

Keep Christ Out of Christmas

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Keeping Christ in Christmas keeps our faith in a myth.

Red cups. This year's War on Christmas was waged with drinkware by a coffeehouse chain. The ever sinister Starbucks, who historically has featured holidays cups adorned with various Christmas-related symbols, has been offering plain red cups, "to create a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity."
For many Christians, such inclusivism is interpreted as hatred of Jesus. It's an explicit rejection of not only the significance of the season, it's a rejection of Christ's reign in our culture. Because the War on Christmas has always been about who's in charge: Jesus or humanity.
Kicking Christ out of Christmas isn't a denial of history or truth because everyone knows that Jesus probably wasn't born on December 25th. And most everyone knows that the Bible doesn't prescribe the celebration of his birth either. No, kicking him out is a denial of his authority and jurisdiction in our lives. By…

If Islam is a Violent Religion then so is Christianity

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Anyone who refuses to learn the culture behind a religious text forfeits the right to speak about it.

According to the latest Public Religion Research Institute poll, the fear of terrorism has increased fourteen points in just the last year with nearly half of Americans saying that they are somewhat or very worried about terror coming to their homes. Ironically, and likely much to the chagrin of Donald Trump, the majority of Americans support allowing Syrian refugees into the country (though 41% oppose it).
However, Americans are twice as likely to say that violent Muslims are really Muslim than they are to say that violent Christians are really Christian. In other words, many people in this country still believe that Muslims and their religion are inherently violent.
They're quick to point out that the Qur'an not only sanctions but encourages violence to spread its message. One such selection says: "And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places wh…

No, Cops Aren't Mostly Good

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If they were, then there would be fewer bad ones.
When Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shot and killed Laquan McDonald last year, the other officers present corroborated his story that McDonald posed a threat. There are even allegations that they intentionally erased security camera footage from a nearby Burger King. But when the dashcam video was made public last month, those who clamored for "all of the facts" changed their tune: PTSD.
It certainly fits the traditional narrative. Earlier this year when Dylann Roof shot up a black church, his actions were ascribed to mental illness--a "lone wolf." Which is interesting because black and Middle Eastern aggressors are usually called "thugs" or "terrorists", respectively.
For them, the blame assigned by our white majority nation transcends the perpetrator and is seen as part of a larger, societal problem. Black shooters are said to come from a culture of fatherlessness and Middle Eastern sh…

Why People Commit Suicide

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Pain has nothing to do with why people take their own lives.

On October 5, 2015, California became the fifth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Governor Brown's decision to sign the End of Life Option Act into law didn't come as a surprise to many, despite his Catholic heritage. A recent Pew Research study shows that support for assisted suicide has increased dramatically in recent years with 68% of Americans in favor of it.

White evangelicals, on the other hand, continue to be the stubbornly opposed demographic with only 42% in favor even when there's great pain and no hope. No doubt, many will view them as lacking all compassion choosing to value principles over people.

Those principles include things like the sanctity of life, the image of God, and selflessness. In fact, they're likely to say that there's no such thing as assisted suicide but rather assisted selfishness. To them, suicide is just selfishness disguised as compassion for loved ones when …

Why We Go to Church

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Church is about you. And everyone else.

Everyone goes to church for different reasons. Some go simply because they love church, or at least, their church. Others go because they feel like they have to out of respect to family, friends, or the Bible. But most people go for specific reasons: a particular style of worship, a favorite method of preaching, a robust children's ministry--the list goes on.
Those are the things that draw us, keep us, or make us want to look elsewhere. Which is odd because none of them have anything to do with church. Sure, they've come to define common church experience but all of them can be found outside of church and none of them are necessary to making one. They're just some the things that contemporary churches do.
That's why many people are leaving brick and mortar churches. If those things are all that make a church a church, then there's no need to miss the game every Sunday when that same content is available on-demand online. You …

The False Hope of Christianity

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The church has no business making promises apart from salvation.

One of the biggest lies churches have led people to believe, intentionally or not, is that when they trust in Jesus, their lives will suddenly become better. All the pain and sorrow of their unsaved days will be washed away with their sins and a beautiful, mountaintop experience awaits them where the honeymoon never ends. Of course, it only takes a few years before a lost job, a broken relationship, or the death of a loved one quickly dispels this myth.
But that's when an even bigger lie kicks into high gear: the Christian life has seasons. Pulling from arbitrary biblical imagery, many will be quick to tell you at a low point in your life that every Christian has seasons of plenty and seasons of famine. There are times you're on top of the mountain and others when you're in the valley of the shadow of death.
God's authorship throughout all of this is carefully excluded, but perseverance and faithfulness i…

Church Isn't for Everyone

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I never feel more alone than when I'm at church.

You can always point out those people at a Super Bowl party who obviously don't like football. They're the ones who take the most time refilling their plates or who seem to have really small bladders because they're always in the bathroom. And when they're forced to actually watch the game, they just look out of place. Some try to mimic the enthusiasm of others--poorly. Others play too much defense and get into arguments about the ethics of football culture. And some sit quietly and keep to themselves hoping no one will notice how uninterested they are.

That last one is me. I don't get football. Not the game per se, but the point of watching other people play it. If you like the game so much, go play it yourself. Watching sports, in general, seems silly and a waste of time so I don't bother pretending when the Big Game day arrives. I just stay home instead of being the wet blanket no one needs at a party. Unf…

Mourning Jihadi John

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My latest for Think Christian...

In the last year, the world has been assaulted by disturbing ISIS videos depicting the beheading of journalists, beginning with American James Foley. The masked executioner--identified by intelligence agencies as Mohammed Emwazi and often referred to as Jihadi John--struck terror into many hearts and inflamed desire for vengeance, a flame that may very well have been satisfied yesterday.

According to the BBC, a United States drone strike in Syria targeting Emwazi is believed to have been successful. Though he was just one man, many will feel the sweet relief of justice in his probable death. Writing for the Daily Express in the United Kingdom, Douglas Murray went so far as to say Emwazi was "this country's most shameful recent export."

Continue reading...


Photo credit: sjrankin / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

What Peeple gets wrong about people

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My latest for Think Christian...
Few startups have been met with as much instant animosity as Peeple. Originally described as a "Yelp for people," the proposed app would allow you to rate and comment on your acquaintances in three categories: personal, professional and dating. (There are even plans for a five-star rating system.) When news of the startup broke last week, the backlash was so immediate and widespread that some have speculated Peeple was in fact a hoax. Peeple co-founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough appear to be moving ahead, with Cordray sending this note to the BBC: "World's largest positivity app for positive people launching November 2015 on iOS and Android." Peeple's founders do seem to have an optimistic view of humanity, as they assume an app dedicated to rating others won't quickly degenerate into juvenile incivility. But as misguided as that expectation might be, what should be more concerning is the kind of value this app …

Lamenting Along with Iron Maiden

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My latest for Think Christian...
Few bands have the legacy and longevity of Iron Maiden. Forty years and 16 studio albums in, the British sextet continues to prove that they’re one of the most hard-working and ambitious heavy metal acts around. And nothing shouts ambitious like a double-disc album. As such, The Book of Souls stands out in Iron Maiden's catalogue as a formal departure from their trademark, punchy bursts of metal. The prog aesthetic that used to punctuate their records now defines them, and the sound they began to develop on Brave New World feels like it's reached its logical culmination. As far as these elements are concerned, the recording sounds great.Continue reading...


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When Christians Curse

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Foul language varies by culture but misappropriating divine judgment does not.

From ISIS to police brutality to the Planned Parenthood allegations to mass murderers, the world never seems to disappoint when it comes to evil. And for most Christians, there's little practical action to take besides joining in on hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter or #DefundPP. But we can always pray. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on how to do this.

Sure, we can all skim through the Psalter and pray for the rescue of the persecuted and the justice of evildoers, but there are a number of psalms that ought to at least give us pause before rendering their words on our enemies.

These psalms are called imprecatory psalms. To imprecate is to invoke a curse; thus, the imprecatory psalms are essentially curses called down upon God's enemies. At least 14 of the Psalter's 150 psalms fall into this category. And there are those that would say that these psalms have special significance to today's …

Only Hypocrites Have Integrity

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Integrity was the virtue of an opaque generation.
It's only been in recent years that I haven't gotten a crick in my neck every time someone walked by me while I was on a computer. All of those years of pornography addiction left me so paranoid that ALT+TAB became a reflex (macs suck) and whiplash was second nature. But when it finally sunk in that I no longer had anything to hide, surfing the web finally became fun again.
Secrets are heavy. David once wrote, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." That's exactly how I felt: empty. I was so consumed with the guilt of my dirty, little secret that I began to feel like a shell of my former self. Being both physical and spiritual creatures, it's a bit like breaking up the metaphysical band. Keeping the two connected is just as important to our overall health as is the health of the individual components.
One way to do this is through integrity. As a word, it simply means "…

Your Spiritual Growth has a Price Tag

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Spiritual profiteering has never been an ethical business, but at least it used to be an honest one.

I grew up believing that the Reformation was Martin Luther's crusade for the gospel against the extrabiblical theology of the Roman Catholic Church. I had no idea that he never intended to start a revolution or that his 95 Theses were actually titled "Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences." In fact, all I knew about indulgences were that they were some Catholic perversion involving the sale of salvation. But the more I've learned about this period, the more I've realized that Protestants never rid themselves of indulgences; they merely redressed them in modern cloths.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven." Or simply, medieval indulgences were a way of commuting penance through payment. You could pay a fine ins…

Would you vote for an atheist?

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My latest for Think Christian...

If public opinion is any indication, we could have our first atheist president in a few years. Some 50 years ago, only 18 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist. But according to a June Gallup poll, that number has increased to 58 percent (for comparison, 73 percent said they would vote for an evangelical Christian).

Some find this troubling because they don't think God would want them to vote for an unbeliever. Wouldn't God's first choice for leadership be a Christian? To answer that, we need to consider how God has distributed His authority throughout history.

Continue reading...


photo credit: Prone to error via photopin(license)

I Can't Vote Republican Because I'm a Christian

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So long as personal responsibility is your platform, the Bible can't be your barometer.

As if I wasn't already convinced, last week's GOP debate reminded me why I won't be voting for a Republican in 2016. And not for the abnormally-coiffured misogyny you might expect. No, most every other candidate besides Donald Trump made it pretty clear that the Republican Party does not exemplify biblical values.

Of course, if you reduce biblical values to abortion and traditional marriage, then that couldn't be a more absurd statement. From Mike Huckabee accusing Planned Parenthood of "selling babies' body parts like the parts of a Buick" to Rand Paul declaring that he doesn't want his marriage "registered in Washington," it would seem that the GOP covered their bases on what God cares about.

Even Marco Rubio had the audacity to say, "God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can't even find one"…