The Same Old Religious Debate

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I must be honest, lately I’ve been a little troubled by the age-old question of “why so many religions?” This never puzzled me much before, but recently, it has been a nag. So this morning, I did some research on Islam, because I feel like I should know a little bit so I can at least have an intelligent conversation if the topic ever comes up. Why Islam? Well, Islam has similar roots as Judaism, and consequently, Christianity, and I thought that some people on the internet would have a lot to say in defense of it. I was right, and much to my dismay, it wasn’t all of the usual, emotional stuff. I read an article about how supposedly there were scientific things in the Quran about biology that couldn’t have been known at the time through humans (El-Najjar 3). Similar claims are made about the Bible too.

But the more I researched, the more I realized the flaws in this religion. Of course, people also point out flaws in Christianity, but those are of a different nature, and as a believer, obviously I am rightly biased towards the validity of the Good Book. It turns out that many of the ancient mosques, instead of facing towards Mecca, are actually pointed closer to the direction of Jerusalem (The Quran’s Archeological Evidence). If you are interested, you can read more about it in this article. Of course, that isn’t conclusive proof that Islam is whack, since there is no conclusive proof, it just kind of steered me in a personal way back towards my own faith, towards Jerusalem.

Another interesting thing that maybe you didn’t know is that Muslims also believe that Jesus walked the earth, but they claim that he was a prophet who was not the resurrected son of God (Godlas 1). Now this gets interesting. Why would Muslims claim that Jesus existed, just not in the same way that Christians believe? Why these commonalities? Wouldn’t it be easier for them to just deny Jesus altogether? If there is agreement between the Judeo-Christian camp and Muslim one on something, where strife has existed for centuries, then couldn’t you conclude that there’s something there, that one of them is right and the other, wrong? And which one has really stood the test of time? Now you decide that. I know I’ve decided.

I think there’s a rather reasonable explanation for the supposed scientific evidence in the Qu’ran, even if it isn’t just a coincidence. God has definitely had relationships before with people who later disobeyed Him. Solomon, Samson, just to name a couple that I am familiar with. Isn’t it possible that part of the Qu’ran was divinely inspired, possibly through some kind of prophet who later went rogue? Or perhaps some kind of mix-up? Look, don’t get mad, it’s just a theory.

The purpose of this post was is not to put down Muslims and accuse them of things right off the bat. I don’t have too many logical reasons for what I believe either because I’m not some kind of Biblical scholar. However, I would encourage anyone to think about why they believe what they believe. Don’t overthink it, because overthinking leads to dark places. Think about it, because you’re bound to think about it eventually, and if you didn’t think about it calmly, you’ll think about it in emotional state where it would be better if you didn’t think about it so much. Know why you believe what you believe, but don’t go looking for conclusive proof, you won’t find that. However, one thing that many people come to conclude is that the universe could not have been created by accident. Along with it being unlikely, it’s depressing to think of things like that. So then, who did create it? I would imagine that whoever did would want to communicate with his creation, either directly or, I don’t know… through a book maybe? Just thinking out loud here. Prophets? Yes, that makes sense. So which one is it, now that I’ve gotten this far? Is it Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism (which I still need to research), Judaism, or Christianity? If you choose Christianity, well then, you have to choose it on a much deeper level than that, but it’s a start. It’s a start of a relationship based on redemption, a relationship with the one True God. So it’s not just a religion, and if it is just a religion, then you’re probably approaching it the wrong way.

 

Works Cited

El-Najjar, Hassan Ali. “The Scientific Evidence That God Exists and the Holy Quran is His Message to Humanity.” Aljazeerah, 2007. Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

Godlas, Alan. “Jesus: A Summary of the Points About Which Islam and Christianity Agree and Disagree.” Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

“The Quran’s Archeological Evidence.” Debate.org.Web. 4 Nov. 2013.

 

Image: religioustolerance.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem of Giving

It was early afternoon on a college campus in the Western United States. Bright, sunny, and warm. I walked to the chain fast food sandwich shop on campus. I was in a good mood, generally, becauae I have no reason not to be and am at least smart enough it. I found out the day that I got an 82 on my management accounting midterm, which is a good outcome considering that I forgot my caluculator (who forgets their calculator when they know they’re about to take an accounting test?)

Anyway, I meet a man from Feed the Children while going there. I always end up listening to spiels from nonprofit volunteers. Do I seem like a giving person? Some kind of sucker? Of course, I’m kidding about the last part, hopefully.

The thing is, I actually would like to help children who need food. I believe that God calls us to provide for the basic needs of others. Because if they can’t even survive, how can they ever come to know Christ? But it just so happens that I have heard of scandal in the Feed the Children organization, it was a couple years ago and I think they’re doing better now, but that kind of thing does make you wary.

I would like to give, and I know that it’s right to give, but I always wonder how! I don’t want to give to the wrong people and have the money be wasted. I don’t think it’s something to be paranoid about, it just means that you must be vigilant. Also, I think it’s important to actually help people, beyond just having good intentions and taking some kind of action. The situation in Africa is a good example. A lot of people say that all the humanitarian aid that has been provided over the years has not reduced poverty.  I think I will be reading a book soon on this subject, called “Dead Aid.”

Well, I’ll be posting more on this topic in the time to come. But for now, God bless! Try not to do anything too crazy this Halloween!

What It All Comes Down to

I have decided to start listening to podcasts from Lighthouse Bible Church, and last night I listened for the first time. It was very dense and thorough, covering many topics while still sticking to a theme. I would highly recommend it, unlike some of the movies I’ve seen lately. Here is the link
http://lighthousebc.com/sermons/

When I saw the topic, which was Hannah, I was kind of excited, because I explicitly remembered reading about her. I remembered how she asked God for a child while she was barren (who would be the prophet Samuel). And I remembered how sweet and humble she had been, referring to herself as a “handmaiden.” Man, that killed me. I’m trying to imagine an American woman doing that. It’s pretty hard. (Don’t worry, I am an American female, so I think I am qualified to make stereotyping jokes like that every once in a while 😉 ).

That was most of what I remembered. I didn’t remember her prayer really, but that was the part that the pastor focused on in the podcast. Pastor Patrick emphasized that what’s really special about the passage is that she doesn’t make much reference to her particular circumstances. What’s special is that Hannah gives God his due praise. Because He is the same in all circumstances, He is still the rock and the fortress. (By the way, he explains that rock actually refers more to a cliff face. Doesn’t that make so much more sense?)

It’s ironic because what I remembered was the story of Hannah and the particular circumstances. That is not to say that the circumstances are unimportant. No, God reveals himself through circumstances. That is why the stories of the Israelites are recorded. But the stories are not ends of themselves, they are for the purpose of glorifying God.

So I guess it would have done me some good to remember the poetic language and the pathos as well as the actual story.

But I am reminded of the point of writing, the point of music, the point of everything. I am reminded that in my own writing, I am supposed to be glorifying God too. Does that mean I have to do it very explicitly? Should I be in the business of hymns or something? I don’t know. Should I try not to concern myself with great matters?

Again, I don’t know, I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. But the real takeaway is that God needs to overpower my writing, and God needs to be the reason for it. It can’t just be a theme or a motif or a “pop.” It’s got to be the whole deal. So far, that’s not happening. Am I taking too long to work up to it? Who really cares about those literary techniques, those insights on modern life, those in it of themselves are nothing! Lord help me to just write, write well and write for You. That is the prayer of undergroundvoices.

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Emotional Greed

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Why do TV commercials work? It seems ridiculous that they are as effective as they are. We laugh at them… but if they didn’t work, why would companies pay for them?

Consumers know that many of the products are superfluous, and they know that the benefits are highly exaggerated. They can see through all the fluff and glitter.

Commercials sell much more than a product. They sell an image, a lifestyle, an accessory to happiness. So no matter how cynical you are, you’ll always find something deep inside you churned by them. It’s not just your stomach. And pretty soon you’ll find your wallet churning as well. It’s due to a basic human desire- to live the best life that you can.

For a time, I was partially convinced that I’d built up some immunity to greed. I realized that, materially, I had everything a person could ever need and far more. I stopped dreaming so much about a prosperous, successful future for myself and started dreaming a tiny bit more about the good things I would do with my life, God willing.

I even wondered why it was that others around me seemed so obsessed about money. Wealthy people and lower income people that I’ve known alike. Why couldn’t they be content with their families, their friends, their present situation? Why couldn’t they be a little more like me?

Someone once called me “greedy.” The person didn’t speak English as a first language, so at the time, I thought that it was not only unjust, but that even if I was guilty of discontent, it wouldn’t be called “greed.” That’s not the right word, you’re wrong, and I’m a good person, overall? Right? Not greedy, that’s beneath me. Everyone feels depressed sometimes.

You’re not a total jerk.

I’m a good person, right?

Right…

I began to realize that my emotional greed was really no different than the conventional type of greed. I’ve always wanted to have lots of friends, go places, have fun, be accepted, and all that. What a fool I was, blinded by my own avarice! Yes, good for me that I was partially resisting the love of money, but what of my sins? What of being irritable and ungrateful? And why, why? Why couldn’t I just sit back and enjoy past memories of friendships while passively delighting in the uncertain possibility of hope in the future. Why not appreciate more my home, my writing, my little niche here on WordPress that I’ve grown to love, and all the rest. Why worry, agonize, cry in the dark, belittle myself, and constantly deliberate the reasons for it all in my overactive mind?

I know that I shouldn’t covet. But sometimes it’s just not easy. Now I know how every other human being feels.

Well, I won’t judge you if you want some more money in your life. Who am I to talk? After all, money is quite essential. Hunger and thirst will kill you before loneliness, every single time.

Donut (Doughnut) Coma

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A couple days ago, my family visited one of the very few Krispy Kremes in our general area. I was pretty excited about it because I heart donuts, even if they don’t heart my heart back. Plus I’d only been maybe once before in my whole natural life.

We devoured the free samples and got a dozen, along with a little cup of donut holes, as you can see in the picture. Mind you, there are only three people in our family. And only two of us actually had the perseverance to continue eating them after the thrill was gone.

The thrill is now gone for me. After finishing the last two, I was convinced that I didn’t want donuts ever again. So_much_sugar. But then, I started calming down. Never. Maybe just not for another year… six months…

At this point I wanted nothing more than a pot of black coffee and a big wholesome slice of kale. And maybe from then on I would go on a steady diet of fruits, vegetables, and quinoa. Yes, quinoa. Move to a yurt where the influences of decadent America would cease to affect me. Perhaps raise some llamas and make a modest income that way, enough to buy toothpaste and the occasional dozen of eggs.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little. But I was DONE, okay.

Then I went to the supermarket to get some bananas, carrots, and lunch meat for another day. And I started seeing the cakes and pastries, and what have you, and… I’m not saying I was ready to eat them, I mean I have a little self control… I’m just saying that they started looking a little appetizing again. I didn’t want to buy them, but I think I was ready to let bygones be bygones and allow them back into my life.

Habits are easy to start, good and bad. The bad ones are just a little easier to maintain. But I’m here to say that good habits can be formed and kept alive, even if we’ve failed in the past. As long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to start eating well, exercising, reading the Bible, taking up a hobby. And by the same token, bad habits can also be broken. Very carefully, of course, but nonetheless possible. Of course, I’m not an expert on this. I’ve been fortunate enough to have not gotten sucked into drugs or alcohol. Actually, I never really drank before. But am I am still convinced that with God, anything is possible, as it says, even loosing yourself from the heaviest of the heavy balls and chains.

Well, now that I’ve talked a lot about good habits, better peel my eyes off this screen and get to doing a bit of weight lifting. Yay.

Carbs, Cardio, and Me- A Dramatic Love Triangle

I exercised moderately regularly and at a very mild intensity for a little while. I also tried to eat healthy. But habits that beneficial were bound to dissolve into oblivion. 

 
Now it’s so hot, and I don’t want to do anything but sit in front if the computer or TV. It even takes a lot of willpower to do 100 bicep curls… With a 5 lb weight. I know pretty pathetic. I tell myself that I’ll get into it after I move, when I would have access to gyms and swimming pools. After all, who can get anything done with nothing but a weight set, a clock radio, and willpower? No, too primitive. I need the treadmill, even though I’m probably so out if shape that I’ll only succeed in embarrassing myself in public. 
 
I really need to start treating my body like God’s temple. But it’s so hard and against my nature! I’m an American! 
 
Eat only when you’re hungry, they say. But… I don’t feel hungry that often. Does that mean I can’t eat? How absurd.
 
Cut down on sugar, they say. 
 
So does that mean I can’t have my muffin for breakfast, ketchup drenched fries and a coke for lunch, then ribs slathered in high fructose corn syrup, and a wholesome scoop of ice cream to wrap it all up? Are you kidding? Is there even a reason to live if I have to make those kinds of sacrifices?
 
But in reality, I think it’s worth it to cut down on sugar. The other day, I saw one of those ads online that said “worst food for weight loss” or something like that. You know the type. I had to click on it, or the curiosity would have killed me before me million calorie diet. The video was about how most people have a higher ratio of “bad” bacteria to “good” bacteria in their gut. And sugar is one of the reasons. I’m talking sucrose yo. My homie, and at times, my only friend. 
 
Intellectually, I know the video is right, even if it may have exaggerated to promote its probiotic product. But my heart asks: could sugar really be so bad? Sweet, innocent sugar, the kind that comes in the form of pink heart shaped cookies and whimsical edible teddy bears? How can it possibly be conducive to weight gain? ‘It doesn’t even have fat’ I think as I’m foaming at the mouth, about to stuff a handful of marshmallows into my face. That harmless carbohydrate that we love to love… Is hurting people? And I must cut down? 
 

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Movie Review- Lee Daniel’s The Butler

A charming, informative, intriguing day trip through the decades and the Civil Rights movement. The acting was excellent, I didn’t know Oprah had it in her, and the writing was decent, although I did find it hard to believe that Cecil ended up influencing presidents and walking in on all of the most important discussions. But those quirks made the movie interesting, so I respect that.

The lighthearted racial banter was funny, and the intense scenes, moving. I don’t think I was ever madder at the KKK in my whole life than when I saw the Freedom rider bus scene. I did like the director’s style, how he juxtaposed Celcil’s peaceful career in service with Louis’ struggle to receive service from an angry Southern society. And another great thing about this movie was the characterization. The presidents and the servants alike were heroes, but weren’t always heroic. They were people first, and that’s something to be appreciated.

Throughout the movie, the ideology war between the “Uncle Tom’s” and the modern blacks was prevalent. Both had their points. The Uncle Tom’s slowly chiseled away resentment with their hard work and non threatening attitude. But the protestors were only demanding rights that all American citizens deserved, and often did so in nonviolent ways. They were achieving progress faster.

I wonder what kind of person I would have been in such a situation. An Uncle Tom? A protestor? A belligerent, dare I suggest? I hope not, but one must try to understand that years of pain caused the belligerence.

Well, hope we can all just get along, and at least the racism seems to have gotten much better. But commenters, feel free to tell me otherwise 😉

Nothing New Under the Sun?

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Is it true that things are getting worse in the world? Is this an even “wickeder” and more “perverse” generation than the one before it and the one before that? It sure seems that way sometimes.

Even though it’s before my time, I love music dated from the 60’s to the 80’s. I grew up on the Beatles, the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Journey, and the like. It seems like music today just isn’t of the same quality. It’s quite a subjective matter I understand, and I know that there is good stuff out there today… but something about it just seems… Inferior. This probably just has a lot to do with my personal bias, and perhaps I’m a little delusional in seeing such glaring differences between music of the same century. But let’s take a step back farther and to the side, from Modern America to Europe back in the day. Is hip hop really as good as classical music, in the most objective way possible?

And then there’s the morals of society. Everyone’s favorite subject. Watch a movie from the 40s. Watch a movie from today. It’s not rocket science. People used to censor, dance around things, leave to the imagination. And now entertainment is often shameless. As we strove towards portraying gritty reality in media for the sake of believable art, we long ago crossed the boundary and entered into a realm of senseless debauchery. And in doing so, I think we are also beginning to abandon those basic truths that have given movies their magic, replacing them with raunchy details that fail to carry their weight when it comes to illustrating the true nature of the human spirit.

Yet I’m not sure if that says much about the phenomenon that supposedly exists of each generation getting worse than the last. Are people essentially any worse? I think that media has a negative effect, but there are also positive influences all around. The changes in the media are not necessarily an indication of a change in the people. No doubt that the media is more dangerous, that it has gotten more comfortable in its own skin, that it is content to take off its clothes in the living rooms, bedrooms, bus stops, and offices of this fine nation. But are people really any worse? In Ecclesiastes it says that there is nothing new under the sun. Since Adam took a bite out of that fruit, the world has been a crazy place. There has been hatred, war, violence, idolatry, greed, extra marital sex, adultery, jealousy, cursing, homosexuality, selfishness, and most importantly, indifference towards God. All through the centuries. We can’t forget that.

The good old days seem good to us, I understand that. A time when things were less complicated. Sure. The world seemed less artificial back then. We’d all like to get back. No one likes all the crazy, prophetic stuff going on in the world now that seems even crazier than anything that’s ever happened before. But was it really, truly, better, and is the future really truly going to be worse? I doubt it, but I could be wrong. It seems to me that people are just always finding new ways to sin, but isn’t sin sin no matter how you smear it in lipstick? I could be wrong. Maybe kids today are truly rotten, and it will only get worse. The end times, after all, seem pretty bleak. There will be the anti Christ and the mark of the beast, that seems like rather unprecedented evil. But there will also be more Christians (I think) and there will be signs and miracles. That’s a plus. So what’s better? I don’t know, I think I’ll just throw out the measuring cup and call it a day. The point is that people sin and people always have sinned. The point is that you’re either for or against God so it doesn’t matter how quantitatively moral you are if you don’t have God. The point is that there’s always hope and there’s always joy.

Confessions of a Closet Conservative

Yesterday, when I was looking through my purse, ladies, you know the necessity of rearranging the make-up and throwing out the wrappers every once in a while, I made an interesting observation. I had both a pocket Constitution and an evangelism booklet (which I haven’t used yet) in there. I would have had a Bible too, but for extenuating circumstances. Next thing you know I’ll be driving a Chevy, slinging guns, and listening to country.

Especially when I’m with ultra right-wingers, like the people in my family, I feel relatively progressive and moderate. I’ve always been somewhat upfront about being a Christian, but politically, not so much. If I admit that sometimes I’m not bursting with pride about being saved by God (which is ridiculous, right?) I’m more wishy washy when it comes to political things.

And maybe I shouldn’t get too fixated on one particular point of view, ideology, or party. I get annoyed when Christian conservatives wonder how Christian liberals can look themselves in the mirror, and vice versa. Would Jesus have been more of a Republican or Democrat? The question itself sounds impossible, narrow-minded, possibly blasphemous, yet that is how we think sometimes. We try to match our religion to our ideologies instead of matching our ideology to our religion.

But I’ll say right now that I am kind of conservative. Yes, kind of conservative. I’ll say it because I don’t want to be spineless. I’ll tell the truth. I believe in the free market and in the value of the dollar- but not the attitude of the dollar. I think abortion is the same as murder. I also don’t think that we should get involved in the Syrian conflict. Even if it is true that the Syrian government used the nerve gas and that the rebels aren’t basically the Muslim Brotherhood, the fact that there is doubt and a lot of money at stake should be enough to make us think twice. But apparently no one cares what I think.

Jesus, the idiot box, and an age-old quagmire

I’m not exactly a Puritan myself. My life has always been centered around the arts. Since I was a young child, I’ve been writing, first stories and now novels. I enjoyed acting in plays in high school, and secretly hope to be a voice actor some day. I have a special place in my heart for Disney movies, but the last one I saw in theaters was “We’re the Millers” which had its share of ill timed cussing and thematic weirdness. I watch more TV than is good for me, but don’t follow new shows very much. Usually I watch reruns or whatever else is on at random times, and try to critique and over analyze it. I especially appreciate it when shows make fun of comedic conventions or their own techniques. When I was around 11, I even wrote my very own pilot for a sitcom called MELicious Intent. It was to be about a rebellious runaway girl with a bit of a quirk- believing that she was a fugitive. The teen would make many attempts to commit crimes and even kill people, but to keep it light, all but the most petty infractions would fail to be carried out. Sadly, while looking at my old script, I realized that the writing wasn’t that much worse than some of the things that actually go on the air.

What was my point to all of this? To open up a heated discussion about the relationship between Christianity and the arts. A few days ago, I read an interesting post here on WordPress about just that. Christians who condemn secular art for its inappropriate content and Christians who try to find positive, Jesus-compatible values in everything.

I think there are good aspects to both approaches, like many other modern Christians, I’m sure. I hate it when I try to be controversial, but end up agreeing with a majority.

Puritans- good for you for being offended by the trashy stuff that’s out there. Why do we want to embrace things that God hates anyway? On the other hand, why be so aloof and judgy? We’re not entirely above the things coming from the tube or the screen. I’m sure all you churchgoers out there secretly relate to the things you see. Why not learn from it? Why not interpret it the way you want to and make something worthwhile out of it? Take the wheat, forget the chaff.

Sometimes I wonder how to illustrate God through art. I always wonder why secular art seems more appealing and of better quality. I wonder why Christians can’t use the same techniques for their agenda. I wonder why Christians must always use the same rhetoric. You know the rhetoric I’m talking about. “Forgiveness, grace, healing, blood of Chirst.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, all of those things are true, it’s just that I wonder why it can still seem boring when people are trying their best to shake up the scene and put things in different perspectives. I don’t know if I can do any better. I want to use the talents God gave me, but I’m not sure how. Is it possible to reinvent art, making it believable and extraordinary without using the same techniques as everyone else out there? As you can see, I’m a little confused, but I’m going to keep trying. I don’t want to make God cheap and palatable, but I also want to draw people towards Him in a new and exciting way. I have a feeling this is going to be harder than I ever would have imagined.