Religious leaders want every church member to become a minister. God help us!



Bringing souls to the Lord has become increasingly difficult: we now live in a world where Richard Dawkins can write a book called The God Delusion and live, Ayaan Hirsi  Ali can tell Muslim women to love Islam and wear shorts (and live), while cities in the deep south, like Austin Texas, have the largest Atheist organization in the country.

Yep, the good ‘ol days of religious dominance aren’t dead, but questioning Christ has never been a more common pastime.

Enter the church planters convention in Texas.  Formally known as Verge: Missional Community Conference, their goal this year was not how to better minister to the flock, but rather how to create ministers to minister to others.

The sheer lack of forward thinking is really upsetting here; not everyone is fit to be a minister.  The mandate to ordain as many in the congregation as possible is almost as reckless as closing your eyes as you walk a cross the street, with your 2-year old in-tow.  Sure, we’re supposed to place all things in the hands of the Lord, but he did give you eyes, didn’t he?

Jeff Vanderstelt, a pastor and a church planter, had this to say in Audrey Barrick’s article on the subject:

“If you don’t structure your church in such a way that the saints are doing the ministry and you’re equipping the saints for ministry, what you’ll convince your people of is that they pay you to do ministry for them and they receive it all from you.”

And while this seems like a decent concept on the surface, it carries some serious flaws alongside for the ride.  Namely the fact that we do not live in a perfect world; all those who receive the beneficent gift of ordination will not use it wisely.

I should pause for clarification.  The pastors and other religious advisers who attended the convention, with the hopes of creating ministers, aren’t looking for the worst eggs in the basket.

They are just trying to get to as many eggs as possible.

Pastors and other clergy aren’t thinking about the consequences of ordaining a racist bigot, or a gay-basher.  There is no weeding out process, no uniform set of standards, other than that they are already a member of the church, and that they love the lord.

These qualifications don’t hold for any office of importance outside the realm of faith, and since we hold religion in such high esteem, we should be willing to concede that it is lacking in the accountability department.

When you’re putting your soul, your very worldview in the hands of faith, it should at least be given to you by competent spiritual leaders.

But we need only scroll the headlines of the local papers to find abuses of divine authority: how many religious articles have been posted this week alone (in America and around the world) describing the crimes of spiritual leaders?

Ordaining every Christian in America is a terrible idea.

If religion is ever to repair it’s tarnished image, ordaining individuals that are seasoned in good communication skills is a start.  Creating a minister that is grounded in ethical and moral sturdiness would also help.  Oh, and how about realizing that The Bible is a guide for life 2000 years ago?

Ok, that probably went too far.  But what we DON’T want to do is tell a massive amount of people, many of whom have questionable ethics, morals, and ways of thinking, that they should go out and bring people to God.  Encounters with “less than savory” folks really doesn’t make God look attractive to potential converts.

And it also makes religion look frightfully desperate.

Posted in An Atheist in The Heartland: Journal Entries, Morality and Values, news and society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shame on Christian relief workers who deny Voodoo practicers food



Many churches of late have donated their money and their sweat to the Haiti relief effort.  Major religious organizations are pouring into earthquake-ravaged nation, filling the coffers of their  local affiliates for those in need.

But that money and that food came from Jesus–

It came from Christian Americans who, while trying to do something good in the world, also have no problem putting in a good word for The Lord.  Several Christian organizations have struggled with assisting the needy worldwide, while attempting to do so without mentioning God.  G. Jeffrey MacDonald’s article in The Houston Belief Blog does an excellent job of highlighting the problem.  He states that last September

more than 20 religious institutions, from Scientologists to Buddhists to Catholics, agreed to a set of guidelines that urged relief groups to refrain from imposing moral values or engaging in inappropriate evangelism.

I commend the efforts of those who wish to do good simply for the sake of doing good.  Oftentimes, I’ve spoken with my evangelical friends about the work they do in other countries.  There typically Bibles attached, homes are visited with information packets about Jesus, and individuals who have received help are “encouraged” to visit the church to learn more about the Lord.

But we all know that an organization is made up of many parts; its the foot soldiers that really decide if rules will be followed.  It’s the relief workers–not the organization spokesperson, that must balance faith and food.

Haitian Voodoo priests of late have sounded the alarm recently, claiming that Christian relief organizations are favoring Haitians who are Christian over those who practice the voodoo tradition.  Michael Sheridan’s article on the subject also quoted the Haitian “supreme master” as saying that the Christian relief workers

“Take everything they get to their own people.”

Relief organizations are denying such claims and say that they are working hard to make sure food is distributed equally without regard to personal faith.  I contend however that the problem doesn’t lie with the organization, or even those on the ground in the ravaged country: the problem of proselytizing is embedded in the faith itself.  There’s no fixing this problem without shunning religious mandate, for the Bible requires one to go out into the world and preach the “good word.”

Writer’s such as Valerie Tarico agree.  Her “Solar Powered Bibles for Haiti..” article expressed her dismay at those relief groups who are using Haiti to win souls for Christ.  Her opening paragraph neatly packages the issue:

While Doctors without Borders was struggling to get anesthetics for amputations into Haiti, an Albuquerque group queued up aid of their own sort: 600 solar powered talking Bibles. Even now, food, water, and medicine are having trouble reaching Haitians because of damaged transportation facilities and supply lines, but the missionary group says some of their Bibles are “on the way.”

Of course the polite thing to do at this point is recognize that “good Christians” would never participate in such disgusting, overt behavior.  But I don’t think that’s really the case.  A “good Christian” would in fact welcome the bringing of food with the bringing of the Lord.

Not only does this reinforce the validity of their faith, but it cements the idea of Jesus and goodness to those who have no other frame of reference.  Mark 16:15 is clear on the subject: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  It would be  a lost opportunity for a person of faith not to share the remarkable story of how they came to be standing in front of them.  Right?


That is why I chose my donation organizations carefully.  My children and I spoke about the need to donate, and the need to do so without coercion.  Instead of donating to the school’s chosen organization (which after a bit of research was found to channel money to Haiti via religious means), we opted for the Non-Believers Giving Aid Program, a consortium of secular organizations channeling 100% of donated funds to the people of Haiti.

We wanted our girls to give, but to give with the intent only to help.

It’s of the utmost moral shortcoming to use a time of tragedy for personal, political, or religious gain.  Yes, we are Americans, and in America everyone is trying to make a quick buck.

But I would think that given the pedestal religion is sat upon, it would rise above America’s greedy intentions.  No religious person, if they truly want to help another simply because they deem themselves morally upright, should ever proselytize while assisting the starving, the out-of-doors, and the sheer desolate people of our planet.

Posted in An Atheist in The Heartland: Journal Entries, Morality and Values, news and society | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

As Obama spies education, teachers struggle to meet No Child Left Behind standards

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thank a teacherIt is only fitting that President Obama pay some special attention to education in the coming year: American students are out of school almost 30% longer than most kids in the developed world.  And what’s worse, the cognitive skills of those students who manage to stay in school are outpaced by nearly 25 nations, many of them without our vast resources.

The “No Child Left Behind” legislation, enacted in 2002, was designed to change America’s dismal education standards.  Since then, there has been serious progress on the front to educate America’s youth, and there has also been negative consequences that the legislation did not intend.

Though Obama has released few details about the overhaul, it is supposed to relax the rigid standards (and completely unobtainable  goals) set by NCLB, namely that all children in America be literate by 2014.  It is also readjusted to focus on more parameters when qualifying a school as “failing.”

But while most educators scorn NCLB, I find it difficult to agree that the legislation was completely negative.  In many ways, NCLB forced all educators (and teachers of educators) to prove that their methods were positively effecting classroom learning.  The standards I’ve set for students in my AP English class are tough–and I can thank becoming a teacher in the era of NCLB for that. Continue reading »

Posted in commonalities, from the teacher's desk, news and society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Finding common ground: Tiller, Roeder, and the value of human life

Life--girl protester

Life--girl protester

It took 37 minutes for a jury to decide that Scott Roeder was guilty of first-degree murder in the death of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller.  But we all know that Roeder’s guilt was not on trial here, and we were aware of this fact before the trail went into motion.  Roeder made no attempt to conceal his identity at the time of the murder.  Of late, his attorney also made no attempt to conceal the fact that “protecting life” of an innocent child was at issue, not cold and calculating murder.  But it was with ice-cold objectivity that he gave a moment-by-moment account of his thoughts and actions on the date of Tiller’s death.  No, Roeder wasn’t on trial–we already knew he was guilty.

On trial was whether or not an unborn baby’s life was equal to that of a living, breathing “soul.”  What was at issue was whether or not an individual could claim the life of another based on the intent to save an innocent, helpless life.

The question of equality between a fetus–a child in the making–and a man also unleashed the torrent of serious fervor that exists on both sides of the abortion debate. Continue reading »

Posted in Morality and Values, news and society, sex drugs and other elephants | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Symbol or religious mandate? The curious case of Ms Eweida



I’m not one to go running to the defense of the evangelical, but I find myself trying to figure this whole “Ms. Eweida” thing out.  Let’s toss the facts out and go from there.

At issue is what constitutes a mandate by faith, what is simply an expression, and what are the rights of private sector employees with regard to religious adornments.

Our story begins in 2006 with British Airways.  Ms. Eweida, an evangelical, is told that her cross does not constitute a “necessary” expression of her faith–not like the religious requirements of hijabs, skikhs, or turbans.

“Between 20 September 2006 and 3 February 2007, the respondent prevented the appellant from attending work when she visibly wore the cross and did not pay her as a result, ” Nick Fagge, of the reports. Continue reading »

Posted in Morality and Values, news and society | Tagged , , | 11 Comments
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