Thursday, February 06, 2014

Ham on Nye: Sandwiching Evolution and Creationism Together

How do you get creationists and scientists together in the same room? Bring leading spokespeople from each camp for a debate. Last night, as many know, Bill Nye, the appropriately named "Science Guy" and Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky squared off in a debate of sorts, to argue their case for creationism or evolution. (The debate can be watched here)

To be honest, the event felt less like a debate and more like two ships passing in the night, like two parts of a sandwich that wouldn't come together no matter how much one chewed them. Not much of a surprise, I guess. Debates work best when the conversation takes place between people who share a common matrix of beliefs, even while they hold disagreements, even significant ones at that. Ham and Nye don't have disagreements, they are in fundamentally different universes. How each viewed science was at issue. Nye clearly supported the scientific process as it is taught and practiced in research. Ham looked at science as only a crutch for finding support of his own view. If anything supported the standard scientific model over the creationist model, Ham found ways to dismiss or discount the finding rather than question his own model.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pastor Dad: Questions in the Dark

My wife and I have from very early on with our kids created a rather involved bedtime ritual. All of our prayers are sung, and with the exception of the first, a variation of "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" sung to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", based on elements of the compline liturgy. This bedtime liturgy evolved out of a first child who would not stay in a toddler bed alone. Many nights I would lie on the floor with my head resting on his mattress until he would fall asleep. In that time, he seemed to soothe easiest if I sang. I had lots of tunes that I would use, but I fell into the habit of singing parts of compline because I was praying it fairly regularly. The traditional tune of "All Praise to Thee My God This Night" fit the moment. And the verse which precedes the nunc dimitis, "Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping..." even though sung to Gregorian chant was perfect before  we eventually said the Lord's Prayer.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Church of the Geek

Another project I have been working on for the past six months or so... The Church of the Geek Podcast, with the Rev. David Hansen.

Our sixth episode went up tonight. "The Ascendancy of the Geek" What happens when the outsider moves to the inside? You can find our reflection here.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Advice for Atheist Churches

A friend pointed out an article over at the CNN Religion Blog about Atheist Churches... and of course, their almost immediate fracture after seeking to spread. 

A brief excerpt from the article: 
In October, three former members of Sunday Assembly NYC announced the formation of a breakaway group called Godless Revival.
“The Sunday Assembly,” wrote Godless Revival founder Lee Moore in a scathing blog post, “has a problem with atheism.”
Moore alleges that, among other things, Jones advised the NYC group to “boycott the word atheism” and “not to have speakers from the atheist community.” It also wanted the New York branch to host Assembly services in a churchlike setting, instead of the Manhattan dive bar where it was launched.
Jones denies ordering the NYC chapter to do away with the word “atheism,” but acknowledges telling the group “not to cater solely to atheists.” He also said he advised them to leave the dive bar “where women wore bikinis,” in favor of a more family-friendly venue.
The squabbles led to a tiff and finally a schism between two factions within Sunday Assembly NYC. Jones reportedly told Moore that his faction was no longer welcome in the Sunday Assembly movement.
The split seems to be fueled by a fundamental disagreement in organization and purpose. The emergence of atheism into a more accepted existence has shown that Atheism is not in fact monolithic. With even fewer doctrinal guardians than American mainline protestants, these atheist assemblies now have to figure out who they are when engaging the larger community. 
In the midst of this discussion, I cannot help but see similarities from the early church. One of the questions Engelhart asks in the blog is if disbelief is enough to hold the Atheist Churches together. I say "No." Why? Because belief was not enough to keep the Christian Church together. I suppose it is more accurate to say that "Belief in belief" is not enough, borrowing from Stanley Hauerwas' comments that American religion is about belief in belief. (See this 2010 article in the Guardian as an example)  While the early church lived in the Roman Empire, an illegal religion sometimes persecuted harshly, the  early church could live with any profession of "Jesus is Lord!" Once they were legitimized by Constantine, the cracks in the belief began to show. Belief was not enough to hold them together. Schism and heresy began to split the Christian Church apart as leaders began to hash out what they believed about this Jesus guy and why he mattered. Throughout the history of the Christian Church, the followers of Jesus have shown with increasingly regularity that we are far more comfortable perpetrating the brokenness, sometimes over substantial matters like fundamental questions of who Jesus is, and more often over irrelevant questions like the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. What ultimately keeps the Christian Church together is Jesus, that resurrected God-Man who still shows up in our gatherings, even when we get him all wrong. He shows up in Word and Sacrament and in our life together so we can practice the grace he gives us. Belief alone leaves us Christians fractured still. It is no small miracle that any Christian Church has survived for two millennia. In the same way, I do not believe disbelief (or maybe disbelief in belief?) will hold the Atheist Church together. they will need something more.
But a bigger issue came to mind as I read the article. The Atheist Church is copying the model of the Christian Church, a model many Christian Church leaders are wrestling with because it seems outdated. The gathering to listen to people talk about stuff might be interesting (might not since not every sermon in a Christian Church is necessarily interesting to everyone), but one of the things that the Christian Church is facing, is how to engage people in those moments. And many religious leaders are altering the way the Christian Church deals with that time. We no longer live in a period where people will sit for the "Tell me" but are looking for "Show me." Don't just talk about praying. Pray. That time is being opened up for something more participatory and experiential. 
The Atheist Church needs to discern questions of identity, meaning and purpose. And they should not just duplicate the model of the Christian Church. Be true to what you believe and live into that. Make your gatherings reflect that. Even Engelhart recognizes something is amiss in this new Atheist Church movement. She wrote: 
Instead of a thoughtful sermon, I got a five-minute Wikipedia-esque lecture on the history of particle physics.
Instead of receiving self-improvement nudges or engaging in conversation with strangers, I watched the founders fret (a lot) over technical glitches with the web streaming, talk about how hard they had worked to pull the service off, and try to sell me Sunday Assembly swag.
What’s more, instead of just hop, skipping and jumping over to a local venue, as I once did, I now had to brave the tube and traverse the city.
Perhaps something was lost. in the move to a larger, organized effort. At a time when people are decrying organized religion, perhaps organized atheism is not any better. 
Why do I care though?  Why am I bothering to offer advice to atheists? Most likely because I believe the God I follow in Jesus is not the sort who observes boundaries. He doesn't just stick with his own people. He is out there. And if the Atheist Church has anything good to offer the world, it will be because Jesus is there since nothing good can come apart from him. And maybe, we in the Christian Church might learn something more about what Jesus is up to in the process. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Church-geeking out over 2013

Here is a blog post I did for the Church of the Geek podcast page, where I look over 2013 geek/church events...  and even manage to invent a new word.

Read it here.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Tipping Point

A colleague over on that Book of Faces shared an article about a waitress who received an evangelical tract instead of a tip. It had been cleverly designed to appear like a ten dollar bill, but the waitress quickly realized that what she had was not money at all. (see the pictures here)

Several things strike me as wrong about this. 

First, it is incredibly presumptuous to leave a tract that basically says you know the spiritual condition of a person you interacted with for mere minutes. Evidently, being saved gives one super powers to determine this. Or not.

Second, it is a poor witness. Reducing Christianity to a pie-in-the-sky vision of eternal life leaves no way to discuss the love God has for this person right now. This person needs to put food on the table and has various needs that are now not fulfilled. Sure, as the tract says, "Some things are better than money." But few waitresses I have worked with are doing that job because the money is so damn good. 

Third, it is injustice. For whatever reason, our society perpetuates the myth that tipping is something people give as an extra... a bonus for good or bad service. What we must realize of course is that the servers' wages are almost exclusively tips. The minimum wage for such workers is abysmally low, and hasn't kept up with federal minimum wage law very much at all. Don't muzzle the ox as it treads grain, and tip your waitstaff twenty percent at least. Every worker deserves to be paid. 

The tipping point for me in this discussion (yes, pun most definitely intended) is the Lord's Prayer. I realize few Lutherans would ever pull such a crappy move, because we don't generally hand out tracts (The ability to share one's faith might also be called into question... but tract leaving is definitely not about sharing one's faith). But there is also a place to turn to consider our restaurant manners in the light of our faith, the Lord's Prayer. More specifically, "Give us this day our daily bread." 

When we consider all that must happen for us to receive that meal, we cannot consider the waitress a dispensable link in the chain. To faithfully pray as our savior taught us, we are to give thanks for everything required to bring us our daily bread. And just as we would not expect the supermarket to take a "Get Saved" tract in exchange for our groceries, neither should we leave it for a person seeking to live off of that job. Being thankful is not just a state of mind, but an active response. If you feel it necessary to leave a tract, make sure you also tip well. If you cannot afford to tip, you cannot afford to eat out. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

New Project: Church of the Geek

For the past few months, David Hansen and I have been creating a new podcast: The Church of the Geek, where we talk about things in the Geek-iverse and (usually) how it intersects with the life of faith. 

After getting a few shows in the queue, we have officially launched Episode 1! (have no fear, there will be no Jar Jar Binks in THIS Episode 1)

In a few days it will be listed on iTunes. Until then you can listen to the podcast over at our site: http://geekchurch.blogspot.com/

Listening on a non-iTunes podcast platform? This is our RSS Feed.

Find us on Twitter @GeekChurch


We hope you enjoy listening!