Friday, September 28, 2007

Ode to Fundamentalism

Baby I can't please you, I can't please you, baby

Every time you start to criticize
I can see the misery in your eyes
You say I make your pain
You're trying to turn the blame all around you

Baby I can't please you, I can't please you, baby

You take the words I say and make them mean
Everything they don't - baby, you're obscene
You don't listen, you don't hear
You're blinded by the fear that surrounds you

Baby I can't please you, I can't please you, baby

I know you say love when you mean control
You buy the truth and your heart is cold
So you live in shadows

Baby I can't please you, I can't please you, baby

You try to tell the world how it should spin
But you live in terror with the hollow men
Who stun you with their lies
With fever in their eyes as they drown you

-Sam Phillips, Baby I Can't Please You

Monday, September 24, 2007

Paradigm Shifts

I recently picked up a copy of Spencer Burke's book, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity. The book's premise is that the time of organized religion is passing and that Christianity (and religion in general) is evolving into something more directly spiritual and less structured.

I'm not quite sure what I think of that yet, but given that I've only finished the first chapter I'm going to hear him out before reaching any definitive conclusions. Certainly church as we know it is changing, and the old paradigms that have governed Christian thought since the Renaissance are gradually losing sway. But to advocate doing away with the church as an institution altogether is a very radical proposal.

Still, Burke does know how to get my attention. In the first chapter alone he refers to Fowler's Stages of Faith and the shattering of the Medieval church's Earth-centric view of the universe, and he makes the following statement:

For years, preachers have appealed to people to join the church and experience Christian salvation using this phrase, "It's about relationship, not religion." The only problem is that it's seldom true. In actuality, the relationship promised by religion is usually predicated on commitment to the institution as much as it is to God. You don't have to be in a church for long to figure out what the expectations are - whether it's tithing, teaching Sunday school, praying, or going to confession - and what they expect you to believe becomes even more apparent.

Rather than facilitating a dialogue between followers and God, the church has a tendency to interpret individuals' relationships with God for them. Rather than responding to the call of God on their life directly, individuals often find themselves responding to the call of the church. What seems like obedience to the teachings of Christ is often adherence to external and dogmatic belief systems. This "false advertising" of sorts has no doubt also contributed to the interest in new spiritual paths.

Having written similar things more than once about rules-based Christianity since I started this blog, how can I not give him the benefit of the doubt until I've heard him out? I'm a bit cynical about the idea that basic human nature has evolved substantially within the last century, or even since the beginning of recorded history, but maybe a new paradigm of how we relate to God wouldn't require that.

We'll see what the rest of the book has to say.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Links

My latest post at Ex-Gay Watch is up here. Not that I expect conservative evangelicals to wake up to the arrogance inherent in the way they relate to the rest of the world as a result of one article, but as they like to say, change is possible.

Also, here's an interesting article on promiscuity rates in the gay community. A little myth busting can do a world of good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Critical Analysis

If you haven't yet heard about the new ex-gay study that's just been released, don't worry, it's only a matter of time. For some in Exodus and religious right circles it seems to be an event comparable to the return of Christ, while some on the other side would leave us with the impression that it's not worth the paper it's printed on.

The truth of any matter generally lies somewhere in between the extremes of opinion that are inevitably generated, and I doubt that this is an exception to that rule. Jim Burroway has done a preliminary analysis of the Jones-Yarhouse study that's up to his usual high standards (he'll be doing a more thorough look at the study once he's had a chance to read the book). Even if you don't normally delve deeply into ex-gay issues, I recommend reading Burroway's review so that you can knowledgeably address the subject should it ever come up in conversation.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cutting Edge Magic

How on earth does he do that?!

On second thought, don't tell me; it's more fun not knowing...

Monday, September 10, 2007


There are many different ways that people try to escape from their everyday lives. Some of those retreats are relatively benign hobbies, while others can be highly self-destructive. Either way, they represent avenues for getting away from the mundanity (or pain) of the "real world."

When I consider all of the unhealthy things I could have gotten into (drug use, anonymous sexual encounters, compulsive gambling, etc.), I don't feel so bad about the amount of time I spend gaming. Not that "at least I'm better than X" is a very Christian way of justifying one's behavior (however many Christians may resort to such an approach), but I am convinced that playing games (board, card, RPG, etc.) is - or at least can be - a healthy pursuit.

As in all things, moderation is called for. But gaming does help cultivate a sense of fair play and good sportsmanship, it sharpens the mind and it provides a healthy outlet for those of us with a competitive streak. It's also a social activity, at least when played around a table as opposed to on a computer.

I've blogged before about how I prefer a roomful of gamers to your average church or gay venue. No group of people is perfect, but in my experience gamers as a whole tend to be less judgmental, and the games they play come in boxes or books with rules that are even-handed and clearly spelled out.

I probably already spend too much time gaming and not enough time working to make the real world a better place. Even so, it would be very easy to immerse myself even deeper in the gaming world, at the expense of actually dealing with the less pleasant realities outside of that little bubble. I'd love to leave all the mud and vinegar of the culture wars behind to live a quiet life, gaming with friends in my spare time and maybe eventually finding someone to settle down with.

But then I'll read about the latest crap that so-called Christians are trying to pass off as truth (and that so many other Christians swallow unquestioningly), and I'll be forced to ask myself how I can remain silent. How can I, in good conscience, stand by and do nothing while so many of those who claim to speak for God see nothing wrong with demonizing an entire group of people, twisting facts and spreading outright fabrications in the furtherance of a supposedly 'godly' agenda?

I may not be able to solve all of the world's problems, but I can still be part of the solution. And there will always be at least a little time to get away for a few games with my friends.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


If you're secure in what you believe, there's nothing that can really offend you.

I came across that comment on a message board recently, and it reminded me that one of the traits that separates fundamentalists (and obnoxious ideologues of all stripes) from mature believers (again of any stripe) is a driving need to convert everybody to one's opinions and beliefs.

Not that one has to abandon the concept of evangelism if that's an important component of one's faith, but evangelism can be conducted without the issuing of ultimatums - and even without the use of words at all. The most persuasive examples are those individuals who place the most demands on themselves and the fewest on others.

If I'm truly confident in my beliefs, it isn't going to shake me if nobody ever converts to my way of seeing things; that's God's job, not mine. I'll no doubt still celebrate such a conversion should it happen, but in the meantime my job is to love others and accept them as the bearers of God's image that they are, regardless of their beliefs.

The insecure believer fears disagreement and feels threatened by those who see the world differently. They may hide their fears behind 'biblical' pronouncements of fire and brimstone, but it's ultimately little more than a mask. To the immature, the outside world is a realm of darkness filled with traps and enemies, and those who cannot be converted must either be avoided at all cost or eradicated.

The secure believer is free to acknowledge and build on the common ground that can be found between any two people and to develop life-affirming relationships that the fundamentalist can only turn away from in fear. Differing worldviews provide opportunities for learning, not for proving one's superiority.