Tag Archives: religion

Believer B(ee)

 Christianity IS crazy. It’s full of cracks and crackpots. It’s enthusiastic and absurd. It’s preoccupied and impractical. All of this and more is true, from certain objective points of view. This should be acknowledged up front by Christians debating those outside the faith. The core tenants of the Christian faith are, on their own, ridiculous. For example:

1. God created a son, which is actually Him and the Holy Spirit, who has to die and be born again to absolve all men (and women) of their sin (i.e. selfishness, greed, pride). Why should He have to die at all?

2. People have to believe Jesus was resurrected – a perfectly difficult thing to believe for anyone who has never seen anyone come back to life – to gain their own lives after death. Can’t God just be nice and give them heaven without the fuss?

3. God calls on Christians to, above all else, love other flawed people and Himself – a jealous God who seems, at times, far from righteous or all-powerful. Is God selfish and egotistical?

How did Noah get all those animals on the ark? Am I supposed to believe the world is only 6,000 years old? Is God a bigot? And on and on it goes; the facts on which the faith rests appear most suspicious and flimsy to the non-believer.

YouTube’s “Theoretical Bullshit” does the best job I’ve seen of pointing out objective dilemmas that too many Christians are blind to in “God’s Checklist.” 

But facts in isolation can be deceiving. If someone is reading the Bible to find fault, to judge its moral authority and proscriptions, they’ll have a mountain of evidence to back them. It’s a collection of stories from different authors; demonstrating incongruity is not hard. That doesn’t mean believers are wrong to pray, to take shelter from life’s storms in the church. Context is key. And so is perspective.  

The Bible is one moral narrative after another. It’s Aesop’s Fables, but centered on God. And Israel. Written by a lot of Aesops. A long time ago.  

Over the course of the Bible, a larger narrative takes shape. A story of redemption. Of forgiveness. Of sacrifice. Time and time again, God calls on His free-willed children to be selfless, to care more for others, to value their gifts, to rein in their darker natures and be more like Him. And He is Love. I know, it’s crazy.

And, of course, imperfect people wrote the books of the Bible. Even if you are a Christian who believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, surely you can acknowledge that the vessels of the Word themselves were flawed.

So, it’s only natural that caring, thoughtful, fair-minded people might dismiss it as a relic. There really are plenty of reasons to do so. And Christians would be wise to acknowledge as much.

A younger me would likely be disappointed that I count myself as a Christian today. For the reasons I mention above and more, I thought Christianity was a crutch. Followers, often well intentioned, are taught the faith in a ritual setting. People like rituals. They also like believing the end of life isn’t really the end. Christianity soothes the problems of an evolving and emotional mind; it provides a measure of control; it brings meaning to an otherwise random existence.  

Logical atheists might say we evolved slowly from simpler forms of life to more complex after the Big Bang. They might say religions are a product of evolution to mitigate fear or incentivize working for the collective good. And I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong. Honestly, that all makes sense. 

Life certainly evolves. Morality itself evolves across the Bible. And fighting evolution is not only a losing proposition, it’s rude. If you would argue against logic in favor of Christianity, you’re only serving to stunt it. This, I think, is pushing people in need of love, and answers, away.

The real question I feel many atheists and agnostics want to ask is, “Why do you believe?” It seems so illogical. So they point out the inconsistencies, hoping to get an answer they learn to expect isn’t coming because defensive posturing kicks in. Ironically, I think it’s a question most Christians would love to answer.

Why do I believe?

I was saved around the age of 12. A pair of college students from a nearby evangelical school approached me and a friend at the mall. They talked to us about Jesus, and I was horrified. My friend made fun of them. What I didn’t realize at the time was they had planted a seed of fear in me. ‘If I don’t believe, I’m going to hell…’ So, after a few days of thinking about it, I asked Jesus into my heart one night before bed. I woke up the next day and felt great. I went through something of a honeymoon period as a new believer.

During this period, I remember a specific, heartfelt prayer request. Hell wasn’t my only fear. I also have always been terrified of bees and wasps. With my newfound faith muscles, I asked God to please protect me from stings until I was 40. I imagined by 40, I would be hardened by life enough to handle a bee sting. Such is a child’s way of thinking. 

While the “honeymoon” didn’t last and I questioned everything well into adulthood, my silly little covenant with God did. At the age of 41, last summer, and with my wife battling with her health, I got stung by a bee for the first time cleaning out our car. 

I can feel the pullback. Those two things don’t necessarily correlate, right? Objectively, yes. But in the context of my full life, they do. I thanked God right away and welled up with tears. … And there’s more to this I can’t unpack quickly. The big picture is: God is working with me. He’s personally involved. I can’t fully explain it, so I don’t expect you to understand. I follow Jesus because of the story of the Good Samaritan; I follow Him because of Mark Chapter 6; I follow because women found the cave-stone removed and people saw him risen and Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome; I believe because if God sent the world a lamb of peace, it figures threatened people in power would kill him; I believe because my grandmas went to heaven; and I’m a Christian because I was stung by a bee last year.  

Hello, my name is Brian. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need them. I’m crazy. It’s nice to meet you.


 

In Tandem

And this is life: Forward motion.

Time passes and erases heroes with villains, farmers, families, foes. And when they vanish, they are never more we — this preposterous pirate’s crew. 

Loss is our language, our final expression. When friends meet their end, we cry to honor what was, and sign to own the note of their vacancy. 

Many veer off course. We dismiss debt knowing our own anchors too sit on silt. 

So ‘Rest in Peace’ we say. The laughter we shared in the valley’s shadow always proved we could. 

Ahead, we’re broken in tandem. Into the sea that swallows the sun we sail. Full speed!! 

Should, for some silly reason, all possibilities arise, I’ll chose your faith in me to find you.  

And bolstered by your confidence, I will. Lounging on shore. Waiting. Giggling with the good news we hoped for. 

For friends and brothers in war

The deceiver is ego.

Two Frost paths emerge in the wood: one rooted in confidence, earned and restrained or assumed and wild, and a trail of self-doubt and shame.

Both sides come around the mountain with servants and lost souls. But the deception all parties face and to which they must succumb or overcome is that one’s value varies by circumstance. 

Our environment and brick-and-mortar selves constantly change clockwise by second and hour. 

Does value move up and down with them? Are metrics based on location? Is there no thread that runs across lives from powerless, curious newborn to broken, failing geriatric daydreamer? No string of self crossing rich to poor, homely to handsome? 

Ego is the variable. Worth is fixed as part of one creation. Value is bounded, measurable, shared. 

Take heart, weary Soldier, comradery is the call. 

Colder as you go

Living on a mountain top,
I can see the cool north
above the cloudline.
Colder as you go.
And the warm south shines
in yellow and orange, with
patches of brown rock poking through.
The trail looked longer coming up.
Now it seems quick, and all I know is this clumsy mountain.
I’m at the summit, I guess,
And I’d choose to sit,
but momentum pushes me onward silently along a moving sidewalk.
Always forward, south to north.
I used to run ahead and stumble.
Looking back, a patch of yellow and purple wildflowers shine past
the marsh and thickets.
My feet are still stained green
from the marsh.
My forearm is scarred.
I can’t sit or stop, so I plow.
Other walkers hop on and off
in the night. Some turn back.
Faces pressed against the glass.
Some search for answers. Who built this this cragged,
broken trail?
Others place berms and lilies at the log alter to feel still.
A few throw their stones in any face that will catch. They don’t cry anymore, but their brows point in.
The view is calming now,
a moment open from the trees.
I remember the spring,
bubbling by the cave.
The smooth rocks caught my imagination as a child.
Pieces of mountain
Shaped by rain that fell
from too-heavy clouds.
Picking up dirt, we planted seeds that stayed behind somehow.
Kids too focused on leaves and bugs to worry. What we couldn’t see we didn’t. And the mountain home was huge, everlasting. The path was daunting and easily dismissed.
I look to its edges these days.
I want to find a round, glassy stone.
Like one I remember from the brook.
To put in my pocket.
To make me rich, a child’s game.
To remind me of valleys,
flat stretches near the water.
To make me brave.

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On love, New American Fox Bible

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not boastful in non-election years. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others unless they were captured; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of conservative wrongs, and it supports strong border security. It does not delight in evil but rejoices in a fair-and-balanced truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres traditional American values. Love never fails because failure is for losers. God is good to those who work hard. If you have failed, maybe you didn’t work hard enough. Or believe hard enough. Stop blaming the system.

But love your enemies. Do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back unless they are Muslims or liberals. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Unless they don’t believe…

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, gets what’s coming to them. Rush to action. Do not appear weak. 20150727-133903-49143155.jpg

The Cherry Farm

I can see the money tables turning.
I can see the soft son of God
Broken open on the cross,
Smiling, writhing, then serene.
I can see the cave light up,
The threshold stone pushed back,
The followers’ celebration, bewilderment.
But Abraham standing over his son?
Noah and his arc?
Job with sores, in mourning?
Is a rule book carved in stone
Broken in pieces like bread, hurled at adulterers?
Maybe the leaves are falling
Away from the flower.
Maybe the fields are ripe.
And the fruit is an unyielding
Devotion. An undeserved grace.
Call me a bad Christian.
An unbeliever. It fits.
But I hold a cheesy hope.
My sappy dream is to be a Samaritan,
Wise enough to extend
a hand of help to a beaten man
On a beggar’s road.
It’s a trumpet call at harvest time.
I think I’ll settle in a quiet corner, picking cherries from their stems.

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Calming politics

Wake with half a croissant.
Drive in the car to the place.
Up the stairs, turn on the light, settling deep in a maroon chair. Familiar faces calm the politics. I’ll eat fried chicken and keep a black phone company. Green street signs watch me pass with jealous eyes, whirling around day after week after routine Tuesday night dinner. Dishes. Trash. Kids on furniture. All of it together changing piece by part. Forgetting years. Wrenched ankle. Death looms like a memory of regret. Sunrise, moon time, send me searching for smells in my mind.
It’s beautiful, dammit.
All of it.
Faith leaves a lump of coal
I’ll swallow in minutes, days, driving, walking in steps
up stairs.