Showing posts from 2016

Weekly Awful - The Worst of 2016

Some of the worst stories you could ever imagine are found in the Bible. From gang-raped, dismembered concubines to children eaten by their parents, the Word of God is certainly colorful in its teachings. Then again, that's the point. The greatest lessons come from the greatest mistakes. We would do well to observe our world with an equally critical eye.

This year had no lack of awful stories, the worst of which made a mockery of death. Below are the Weekly Awful's Worst of 2016 winners. Let wisdom increase as we study the terrible things said by stupid people.

#3 The Twin Tower Mattress Sale

Taking the bronze is a Texas company called Miracle Mattress. They produced a commercial announcing their "Twin Tower sale" before toppling two towers of mattresses and ending with a tepid "We'll never forget".

Imagine a People's Gas commercial--set in Auschwitz. Or an ad for atomic clocks in Hiroshima. Clever associations are designed to invite laughter and evo…

Year in Review 2016

This was a fun year. I renounced evangelicalism, argued that Christians should swear more, and questioned whether salvation was really exclusive. I think I became a pacifist, too.

I made it my mission to push the envelope this year, and almost every post did so--from dismissing inerrancy to rejecting substitutionary atonement.

It was cathartic to purge those fallacies and focus on the practical reality of following Jesus. In many ways, it was the climax of my writing. Which makes next year, appropriately, a question mark.

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How I Stopped Hating Christmas

It's been a very long time since I've been able to enjoy Christmas. It's supposed to be a magical time full of lights, anticipation, and most importantly, eggnog. And I couldn't agree more. I loved Christmas as a kid, and I still love all of the traditions that come with it. I just haven't been able to take any joy in them.

The joy of Christmas died for me sixteen years ago. I had been warned about the year 2000 and it did not disappoint. Christmas Day was the highlight of my life at that point as I had just received my first bass guitar. But the very next day, I experienced what I can easily say is still the worst day of my life.

My parents walked me into their bedroom saying that we needed to talk. They sat me down on their bed, and I glazed over as they explained to me that the marriage counseling hadn't worked and they were separating.

The years of unrecognized childhood anxiety imploded and I began to sink deeper and deeper into I knew not what. The world …

Don't Make Pastors Work on Christmas

They can't lead the family of God if they're never around their own.

It happens four times every twenty-eight years. It happened five years ago, it will happen again in six years, and it's happening in less than two weeks. Christmas will fall on a Sunday.
Most people would probably say that Wednesday is the worst day of the week for Christmas because it's hard to turn it into a long weekend. But for pastors, leaders, and other volunteers, any day is better than Sunday. Because if they're lucky, they'll only have to spend half the day away from their families. The unlucky ones will be treated to the wrong kind of long weekend.

Of course, pastors love their churches as do the tiny percentage of congregants who regularly volunteer. They sacrifice their time every single week because they recognize the importance of the church's spiritual welfare and because they genuinely care about people.

But that doesn't mean they want to work on Christmas. Like most Ch…

4 Theologically Incorrect Christmas Carols

You haven't lived until you've gotten into an argument about whether Christians can sing "secular" Christmas carols. Believe it or not, there are those who imagine that Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty are demons seeking to appropriate our piety. It's almost as nonsensical as the silly songs themselves and twice as harmless.
What the church should be concerned about are the heretical, sacred carols that we unwittingly allow into our hearts and minds. The songs we sing in worship actually matter as they reinforce our confession with rhythm and rhyme. And unlike fictional flying reindeer, we grant them power to influence our faith and practice.
That being said, Christmas carols only have as much power as we allow them, so we don't necessarily need to purge the bad ones from our holiday traditions and activities. But if we don't want carols to incorrectly inform our theology, we need to inform ourselves about incorrect theology.
Away in a Manger

Jesus' Death Didn't Save Us

His life did.
When we think of our salvation, we usually think of Jesus' death and resurrection. We celebrate Easter and sometimes Good Friday and thank God that his agony made our five-second prayer meaningful.
We don't usually think of Christmas. Christmas is great for talking about the deity of Christ or, for some, the historicity of his coming, but we rarely associate it with our salvation. As miraculous as his birth was, Jesus' incarnation was only necessary so he could get here and die for us.

Though many western Christians (Protestants and Catholics) disregard the incarnation, eastern Christians certainly do not. Eastern Orthodox churches believe that we're saved through a process called theosis which means that we become like God.

Unfortunately, whenever westerners hear "become like God", they immediately flashback to Genesis and accuse our eastern sisters and brothers of sinning like Eve and Adam. They probably don't recall Peter's words abou…

Thanksgiving Isn't About Family

It's about treating those who aren't like they are.
Ten years ago, I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home in a small, Chicago apartment with people I didn't know. Having just moved from New Jersey for college, all of my family lived twelve hours from campus and I didn't have a lot of money. So my wife and I decided to stay put and celebrate alone.

It was weird being without family, but to our surprise, we received an invitation from a classmate who was hosting Thanksgiving for stranded students like us. I still remember the five different kinds of pies, the awkward but fun game of Cranium with complete strangers, and the broad smiles that our presence gave our classmate and his wife. They were overjoyed to welcome us into their home.
Ten years later, we're talking about immigration bans, internment camps, and registries of foreigners.
Last year, Donald Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Two weeks …

Stop Waiting for the Government

We don't need the government to fulfill our obligation to love one another.
The working class of America have spoken. They're tired of being forgotten and ignored. They're tired of working hard while their tax dollars go to people who don't work at all. So they elected Donald Trump as our next president.
The irony is that both the working class and the poor rely on the government. Poor folks need welfare because they either can't work or can't find work. Likewise, the working class apparently need international trade agreements to change in order to find work.
I won't pretend to understand what it's like to work in an industry where you, your father, and your grandfather have worked. But I do understand how scary it can be to switch industries and start a completely different job.
Last year, I quit radio and moved into marketing, partly because I could see the death of that industry rapidly approaching. So I took the plunge and bailed on a career I had …

I Don't Have a Duty to Vote

The only people who think I do are those with something to lose.
Few would contend that this election is the most divisive in recent history. Never in my young life have I seen two candidates more radioactive to the opposing party. And never have I seen the rhetoric stronger that this election will spell certain doom for the country if the wrong person is chosen.
Everyone is scared. With such entrenched ideologies, there is little hope of swaying either candidate's supporters. So the war for hearts and minds is taking place among the undecided's--the skeptics and cynics such as myself who find support of either candidate at best dubious and wrought with conflict.
Even suggesting a non-vote on Facebook is bound to unleash hellfire. "There is so much at stake", they say. Or, "a non-vote is just a vote for Trump or Clinton anyway".
But it is entirely fallacious to equate a non-vote with a vote unless, of course, you assume that a non-vote would've been a v…

Putting America First is a Vote for Hate

The kingdom of God makes for terrible national policy.
Plenty of people have a good reason to vote for Donald Trump. They're called the working class.
Blue collar folks--the under-paid, under-appreciated, multi-generational backbone of America--fear for their livelihoods as foreign outsourcing continually puts their jobs in jeopardy. They're bitter and disillusioned with the nation that once relied on them but has now discarded their memory for increased profit margins. They love this country and they hate that they feel betrayed by it.
Enter the savior, Donald Trump. The man who will put America first and make America great again.
Trump won a significant number of hearts and minds by turning the working class against the rest of the world. Rather than address corporate practices that he himself has utilized, he claimed that foreign nations were exploiting our trade agreements while polluting our fair land with job-stealing rapists and jihadists. Essentially, he created an ene…

Christians Don't Tithe

We give to promote equality.

Net or gross, that was the question. Do we tithe 10% off of our net income or our gross income?
Tithing itself was never questioned in my church growing up, just what we tithed or how much. The less spiritual, of course, would say net because God couldn't possibly require more than our Christian nation with all its religious tax subsidies. The super spiritual would say gross because all we had was his already so deductions did not apply.
The spiritual outcasts cleverly eluded monetary giving by defining tithes as either time, treasure, or talent and conveniently focusing on the first and last. They angered a lot of people mainly because no one knew how to refute their position.
Few Christians understand the origins of tithing let alone the specific stipulations involved. From childhood, we're simply taught that God expects us to give 10%. Some parents handed out dollar bills each Sunday to simulate the practice while others deducted the tithe from …

If Salvation is Not in Christ Alone

How much do we need to know about the Son to do the will of the Father?
One of the hardest things about being a Christian is that no matter how much we care for those who don't believe, they know that our beliefs damn them to hell.
They call us unloving. They say we value an antiquated religion more than a committed relationship. They challenge us to be more open and generous about "god" and interpret our conviction as callousness.  After all, we choose to believe what we believe (as much as we can choose a God who sovereignly chooses us); thus, we choose to believe that their destiny is hellfire, annihilation, loneliness or whatever the answer should be.
Many of us have tried to repackage our religious exclusivism in rescue terms. We tell them that it is because of our love that we plead with them to believe as we do--that we don't want them to take the wrong path. Genuine or not, our concern still rings hollow to those who don't understand why their beliefs hav…

Christianity Has Only One Essential Belief

Evangelicalism, on the other hand, has a lot.

Earlier this month, Time Magazine reported that an evangelical college campus organization was firing employees for their views on marriage equality. The truth is a little less sensational but no less encouraging.
In March of 2015, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA released a position paper on human sexuality outlining its opposition to gay marriage. Just this past July, InterVarsity staff received a letter explaining the paper and requesting any employees who disagreed with the positions to come forward and receive their reward for services rendered: an "involuntary termination".
For those of us who were employed by evangelical organizations around the time of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, InterVarsity's reaction isn't surprising. While I was producing Moody Radio's morning show in Chicago, I was hearing from colleagues that we needed to protect ourselves before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage e…