Tag Archives: christianity

McMass: Would you like fries with that sermon?

I thought I would share this interesting link about a church that plans to build a McDonalds in its facility to attract more church members.

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/11/28/businessman-wants-to-build-mcdonalds-in-church/?intcmp=latestnews

The church is experiencing a decrease in its attendance.  I wonder why.

So… what do they decide to do then?  Do they pray harder for the “lost souls?” Do they start a campaign to reach out to the “least of these?” Or do they revise how they have been reflecting God’s message and try to be more spiritual and Christ-like?  If you think it may have been one of the above, you are completely wrong.

They are raising funds to put a McDonald’s franchise inside a place of worship.  Can you believe this?

Can I have fries with that order of holy burger, please?  Can I have holy water to drink?

“It’s time for churches to engage with entrepreneurship,” writes the group on its IndieGoGo site. “By combining a church and a McDonald’s we can create a self-sustaining, community-engaged, popular church, and an unparalleled McDonald’s restaurant.

It claims that, in the United States alone, three million people leave the church.  You can include me in that statistic.  So they think of combining church with McDonalds.  After all, this particular restaurant “brings communities together.”  So why not have a church use this company to help bring its community together as well?  I mean, who needs prayer and Bible studies, when you can have McMass?

What are they going to think of next?  DisneyMass?

This is an example of how screwed up  today’s church is.  They notice that they are losing members, so they start acting “in the flesh.”  Instead of focusing more on the spiritual, they think more about raising millions of dollars to buy a franchise.  Instead of thinking about how to send the message of love and compassion that God brought through Jesus, they think about how to attract people with burgers and fries.

Am I the only one embarrassed about this?  And we wonder why people, particularly skeptics, criticize today’s church.

What would Jesus do if he walks inside one of these McMass projects?  Would he throw out all the McDonald’s staff who work in the church, like he did at the temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago?

“I’m loving it.”

You can see the full story on the Indie GoGo website  here.  http://igg.me/at/mcmass/x 

 

 

 


To Seek or not to Seek…?

Here is a dichotomy in my mind…

I can remain calm , through acceptance, self denial, and simplicity.  This will include being satisfied with what is, and refusing to desire so to avoid suffering.

 

Or I can live this life seeking for meaning through prayer, reflection, reading, and studying.  Being unsatisfied and wanting more in life, but feeling hopeful and maintaining faith that I will find more satisfaction .

I can let life continue to be without necessarily trying to “find ” God , or live by trying to discover who and what God is and hoping that a divine intervention will come.

What would be the correct path? I can decide to remain calm and accept life as it is, meditating and simply being.  I can do  this by being aware of the present moment.  Living in the here and now.  I can also remain calm by refraining from desiring and wanting.  Happiness would then be wanting what I already have.  Being a minimalist.  Believing that less in more.  Letting things pass through me… letting go…. without resistance… without judgment.  And experiencing peace.

But I am suddenly aware of the injustice of life.  I am aware of wars… hunger… terrorism …. and famine.  I then become more sensitive to the “evils” that poison this world.   I  start feeling anger…. frustration…. and disgust.   And then  I am motivated again to fight for justice and peace.

Which means I cannot just be. I have to move and do something.  So the question remains: Should I seek justice and peace?  Or should I simply be and accept?  Should I turn the other cheek, or fight for equality and justice? Should I remain calm, let go and let God…  or should I stand up and take action?

Blessed are the poor in spirit… but also are the ones who fight for justice.  Blessed are the meek, the ones who mourn,  and the peace makers… but also the ones who reveal the hypocrites, give to the poor, and speak the truth.

Maybe there is a time for everything.  A time to fight, and a time to make peace.   A time to speak, and a time to remain silent.

Perhaps we are called to act and not act according to the circumstances.  According to the needs at the moment.  But who decides?

Maybe it does not have to be a dichotomy, but a more fluid, mixed approach of seeking and not seeking according to our calling.

 


Just Wondering….

I have been wondering lately:
Is my desire to know God triggered by my fear of being alone?
Do I insist in finding and knowing God more because I don’t want to face an existential desperation?
When I tend to feel a desire to read some portions of the Bible, is it just mere curiosity?
When I sense some enthusiasm when I listen to some Christian music and I shed a tear, is it a simple inspirational, emotional experience, or some true supernatural intervention?
My previous post talks about my willingness to be “tuned it” to God.
Am I being hypocritical by saying I am trying to listen, but at the same time I am doubting and scrutinizing every inspiration I feel regarding the divine?
Is God truly speaking to me…?
And if so, why am I not being more receptive and, instead, I start questioning more?
I am either an undisciplined student and a stubborn, defiant child… or a mere skeptic and an ambitious explorer who does not satisfy with the possibility of the supernatural.

I honestly don’t know what to think. Perhaps I am thinking too much, and not trusting enough.
Perhaps I need to quiet down my questioning thoughts, and simply be.

After all, what am I but a single being, among billions of beings in a tiny planet revolving around a massive star?  And this star is among billions and billions of others stars in a seemingly endless universe.  Why would I be so important?

What is the “self” anyways?  What makes me distinct (and similar) from other beings?  How do I know that this consciousness that I experience, which allows me to perceive “reality,” is the only consciousness I will ever experience?

See?  I can’t stop questioning and wondering about these things.

Just Wondering….


Tuned in: Testing God once again

There is an interesting blog titled “A Year Without God” which caught my attention a few months ago. It is a provocative blog that describes a former Adventist pastor deciding to live a year as if God did not exist .   He says in one of his posts titled “Where I stand: a six-month report” that he does not believe in God because of lack of empirical evidence.  These are his exact words :

I don’t see how there is any empirical, scientific evidence for God’s existence.I don’t see any evidence for any recognizable pattern of God’s interaction in the world. I don’t think the Bible records anything more than ancient people’s search for the divine.”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/)

This is a  powerful and bold statement regarding the possible existence or non-existence of an all powerful being.   Although I understand his point of view, I also tend to be cautious and vigilant about any conclusions I make about that which possibly created my mind in the first place.  I sometimes ask myself :  Can the cartoon character conclude that there is no cartoonist?  Can the painting prove that there is no such thing as a painter?  I cannot reach such a bold conclusion if I am not capable of fully understanding what the universe is all about and what other people are perceiving and experiencing.  It is true that we may not be able to “prove” the existence of God by using physical evidence that only our five senses can detect.  But do we have only five senses?

Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct. 

I am not ashamed to say this, because I also believe that doubt and skepticism can be utilized to learn more about the true nature of my existence, and also about God, as I am capable of understanding Him.

To make a long story short, I recently encountered trouble in my immediate family and felt desperate about it.  More doubts came to my mind, but this time it was about the approach I have been taking in the last year.  I started wondering if this “God business” was actually a bad thing to walk away from.  The concept of hell, salvation through faith alone,  the “forgiveness” of sins, the Holy Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ were a few of many questionable doctrines that simply became too mystical for me to accept and believe any longer.  But right now I am looking past these doubts and allowing God to work on me.  I still have my doubts, but my recent experience in life has been like a a bucket of ice water spilled on my face.  I needed to wake up.

 

So I started to pray, like I have not done in months.  I humbled myself against my rational and intellectual nature, and started to talk to this “invisible” and “distant” God out of desperation.  I often criticized the act of prayer as a manipulative way of getting God to do what I want, which you can read more in the post “Why pray?.”  But I felt like a vegetarian craving for a hamburger in the middle of a desert.

I also started posting and sharing messages in a Christian forum and started reading an inspirational Christian book as well.  As I read some of the pages, my rational mind kept saying to myself:  “be careful…. don’t fall into the religious trap…. you know it is just superstitious….. this is only religious fanaticism… fairy tales.”

But my personal family ordeal was pulling me away from my rational mind, and towards the “unknown” of spiritual life.  I craved for answers.  So I decided to give God another chance.  I blindly got to my knees and plead for my heart to be transformed.  Instead of blaming others and expecting circumstances to change, I accepted the challenge of opening my heart again and let “God” do whatever needed to be done.  I was basically “testing God.”  I remember praying : “you want my attention?…. you got it!”  I cried like a baby.   I remember saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith… but I am here pleading, just in case you are listening!”

I then came across this other wonderful blog titled “Isaiah 53:5 Project” where it has a recent post called “God is calling, Pick up the Phone” The author described a time when he decided to open up to the possibility of God’s call:

” Since I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God or continue to ignore His constant calls I finally, and reluctantly, “answered the phone”.

 

This post helped me realize that God may be “calling me.”   I have asked God if He is listening.  This post asked me if I have been listening to God.  The answer is probably NO.  Like the prodigal son, who walked away from his father, but returned after he has been starving to death.    I still have my doubts.  But that is ok.  I don’t believe God expects me to know everything for certain in order to grow spiritually.   Christianity may still not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn.  I am willing to listen.

I am tuned in.


Is God Listening?

Is God listening? I have been struggling with a difficult issue that has brought me to tears. I have not been religious for more than two years. Meaning, I have ceased to pray, go to a religious institution, or read the Bible. I don’t even believe God interferes with everyday life. However, I am currently experiencing a high level of anxiety and sadness, to the point of crying out of desperation to God. I am actually doing what I have criticized and labeled as “irrational” and “self-centered.” Praying to God only when in need of something or out of despair.

Could it be that, because of my lack of faith and religious abandonment, that God is “teaching me” a lesson? Wouldn’t this mean that God is not merciful? Or could it be that God is helping me be closer to Him through this tribulation? Could there be another way to get closer to God instead of through suffering? Is this what finding the true God is about? I hope someone can give me some insight, since I am struggling with the idea of begging to God just because I wish circumstances to be different.  I don’t want to feel that I am trying to “manipulate” God into allowing things to be my way.   I have also prayed that, if it is not His will, to help me accept whatever happens.  I have been writing in forums and sharing with other bloggers as well, in hopes to find some answers.

I just want to be fair and not pray out of convenience.  But I fear that I may be talking to empty space.  Don’t know for sure.   I will try to keep an open mind and see if this difficult experience helps me to grow spiritually…. or not.

And if you want and believe so…. please pray for me as well.  Thanks.


“Blessed are the violent” : A book review on Zealot

Since it was published, I became interested in reading the book Zealot, by Reza Aslan.  I finally got the chance to read it and decided to share a book review with my readers.

The book starts with stressing on how the Roman empire took dominion over Jerusalem. It focuses on the fact that the Jews were jealous people who strongly believed they were God’s chosen people and that every foreign invasion and cultural “impurity ” had to be abolished at all cost. In spite of this nation wide grandiosity, Jerusalem was simply a small province at the corner of the great Roman empire. The author emphasizes that the Jews did not see this exceptionalism as arrogance or pride, but a direct command from a jealous God.  But out of this insignificant portion of human history, a great figure submerges which proved to influence history forever. In chapter two,  the author explains that Jesus was executed mainly for being one of many “bandits ” who rebelled against Roman dominion.  Jesus is then described as a leader who declared war on Rome by identifying himself as a Messiah or “King of the Jews “. However, Herod was the “king ” chosen by Rome (client -king) to maintained control and peace in Judea, although he was hated by the Jews for working for Rome and not God.  Herod was followed by one of his sons, Herod Antipas, who took over Galilee when Jesus became famous.  The idea that Jesus was originally a violent enemy of Rome brings a lot of questions to mind.

In chapter three the author writes that Jesus was born and raised in the insignificant town of Nazareth, and not in Bethlehem (which was added to link Jesus to King David and only mentioned in Matthew and Luke ). When Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem to the festivities, he admitted people knew who he was and where he was from (as opposed to what the scriptures say about the Messiah) but instead made emphasis on his heavenly origins.  So instead of being an earthly king and Messiah, he is described by gospel writer John more as a divine being or logos. (“The verb was with God from the beginning …” Jn 1:3).  The author then asserts that Luke’s story about the Roman census during Jesus ‘s infancy is inaccurate.  He mentions this to explain that these ancient authors did not write to show historical “facts ” but revealing “truths .” Readers back then were not interested in what actually happened but were more interested in what it means, which may have been the case.  In chapter four, the author talks about Jesus’s mother being raped, Jesus having siblings, and probably being married.  He also stressed on how impossible it is to say anything about Jesus ‘s early life because before he was declared Messiah it did not matter what kind of childhood a Jewish peasant had.  And after he was called the Messiah, the “only aspect of his childhood that mattered were those that could be creatively imagined to buttress whatever theological claim ” about Jesus’s identity as Christ.  Out of many rebellious gangs, the author then describes an extreme group of extreme rebels called “zealots “, thus the title of this book.

Chapter five starts with describing Pilate as a cruel and bloodthirsty governor, different from how the gospels describe him. After many massacres, the Jews declare war on Rome. Chapter six is simply a narrative going back and forth in history after Jesus’s death on how the Jews regained control of the Temple but lost their land back to the Romans.

In Part two, the author is fixated on the idea that Jesus was also an extremist or “zealous” rebel fighting for freedom and return the land to God.  He explains that when Jesus answered the question about whether to pay tribute to Rome or not, Jesus was “clear ” on the argument of God ‘s sovereignty over the land.  However the author does not point out the possibility that Jesus was probably wisely preventing to fall into the trap that his interrogators were desperately trying to set for him.  It was a tricky question very difficult to answer without creating more controversy.  If Jesus answered yes to paying tribute to Caesar, then he would be seen as a traitor and friend of the Romans.  If he would have answered no, then he was publicly claiming to be a rebel and a “zealot .”   Either way, Jesus was going to be targeted as a trouble maker.  But he apparently chose a more peaceful and neutral response, avoiding to engage in a political argument based on Jewish ambition to regain the land. Furthermore, the gospels don’t agree what kind of soldiers (Romans vs. Temple guards) came to arrest Jesus, but they all agree that he was targeted mainly because of his threat to the Sanhedrin, not to Rome .  The high priests tried to use political reason to justify execution, (“he called himself the King of the Jews! ” vs. …”son of God “) which worked.  But Jesus’s true crime did not necessarily involve a pure political rebellion against Rome, but against the Sanhedrin.  His mission was mainly emphasized on rescuing and serving the “least of these” or the poor, in my opinion.

In his notes at end of the book, the author stresses that those who perceive Jesus’s response as “apolitical ” are “blind to the political and religious context of Jesus ‘s times ” (pg. 241). He also argues that the “titulus ” above Jesus ‘s head on the cross was not a sarcastic sign because Romans were not humorous.  I wonder if this author remembers all the mocking and ridicule that Jesus received by the Roman soldiers before his death, which all four gospels wrote about.  This is another example of the author’s attempt to justify his view of Jesus as a political extremist rebel and threat to Rome among many other violent rebels on his time.

In chapter seven, Jesus is described as John the Baptist’s disciple, not the other way around, which may explain further Jesus fleeing back to Galilee after John’s execution.  Nevertheless, Jesus became much more powerful and influential than the Baptist.

In chapter eight, the author makes a statement which reflects more my understanding of Jesus ‘s teachings when he writes that Jesus was less concerned with the “pagan empire occupying Palestine than the imposter occupying the temple, ” specifically Caiaphas (Pg. 99). Jesus was clearly enraged by how the temple authority treated the poor. The author  then continues to describe Jesus as a unique teacher and leader such as including women as disciples, doing exorcism for free, and speaking with authority unlike the common religious leader in spite of being a peasant.  The author further emphasizes that Jesus ‘s miracles or magical powers were “something unique and distinctive” (pg. 111). They were done, which I could not agree more, as manifestation of God ‘s kingdom on earth as prophesized in Isaiah 35:5-6.  The author explains that Jesus healed a leper, for example, to make him pure and clean enough to enter the temple and be accepted in God’s presence, without all the traditional rituals, thus manifesting the kingdom of God.

However, in chapter 10, the author points out that, in addition to being a new order where the rich will be poor and the poor will be exalted, it will also be a total overthrow of the Roman Empire.  And this could only be done through violence.  The author explicitly writes that he thinks Jesus was “not a pacifist ” (pg. 120) and then uses one biblical verse to justify this view (Mathews 10:34, Luke 12:51) but does not include verses that point to the contrary, which are the majority ( Mark 9:50;  Mathew 5:9,  5:44, 11:28, 18:21-22, 26:52; Luke 6:35, 23:34; John 14:27, 16:33, 20:21, 24:36, ) . If the gospel writers and early church members were desperately trying to distant Jesus from a violent and “zealous nationalism ” as the author points out, wouldn’t they have omitted the few verses that mention swords and war? And yes, Jesus was a Jew, but his teachings were full of invitations that included Gentiles. He prophesized to a Samaritan woman, healed another Samaritan woman and also healed a Centurion’s servant. He also commanded his disciples to spread the good news to the “ends of the earth.” Israel was NOT all that mattered to Jesus. The author only presented questions as to whether Jesus was planning to become an earthly king in the Kingdom of God.  But he wisely mentioned that Jesus was clearly the personification of the new Kingdom as evidenced by his miracles and signs.

In chapter eleven, the author repeatedly points out that Jesus did not openly call himself the Messiah, which, as the author says and I agree, may have different definitions according to the time in history.  It was most commonly used to describe an earthly king who would deliver the Jews from earthly foreign domination, which Jesus did not accomplish.  The Son of God was also a title given to past kings such as David and Solomon (Psalm 2:7, 1 Chronicles 28:6).  Son of Man, on the other hand, was a self claim title more frequently stated by Jesus, which may have been a humble way of Jesus referring himself as a mere man, thus manifesting his humaneness. In chapter twelve, the author insists that most of what the gospels say about Jesus ‘s last moment is false, simply because he believes that early Christians were trying to avoid appearing as zealots themselves to the Romans after the Jewish war and so they’d depicted Pilate as a considerate governor manipulated by the “blood thirsty ” Jews.   It is more credible that early Christians invented some details to depict Jesus more as a Messiah.  But it is ridiculous to assume that early Christians chose to change Jesus from a violent revolutionary to a pacifist leader.

The author starts Part 3 by emphasizing that most of Jesus’s followers and writers of the New Testament did not meet Jesus or lived in Jerusalem during Jesus ‘s a time, which is an important key to point out.  In spite of this, this fact does not necessarily discredit what these authors wrote about what Jesus could have really represented. In Chapter thirteen the author interestingly points out that no where in the Old Testament is the messiah prophesied to suffer and die, like Jesus claims about himself.  The image of Jesus must have been evolved from being an earthly messiah to a celestial king seating at the right hand of God. The author is right by stressing that Paul perceived Jesus as not human , distant from the Jewish background and more like a cosmic being. And this makes sense since Paul admits he did not learn from any apostle but claims that God himself revealed it to him (Galatians 1:15-17).  Paul, in my opinion , created his own version of Jesus based on Roman pagan religion.   I agree with the author that Paul’s version of Jesus is the standard doctrine of today’s church.  In chapter fourteen the author is right when he  stresses on James ‘s role in the early church as the most accurate version of what Jesus is all about: helping the poor.

We  are all  guilty of interpreting, choosing and dismissing verses according to our preconceived ideas of what Jesus really taught and  who he was.  What must be kept in mind, however, is the inevitable conclusion that Jesus’s presence in human history, with or without some fabrication and embellishment in his story, has surpassed all other historical figure in the last 2000 years. Whether we perceive Jesus as a violent rebel (which I personally doubt), the messiah (which he did not fulfill according to Hebrew Scriptures), the son of God (which title was also given to king David ), or a peaceful rebellious leader concerned for the poor and sick of the whole world and not just Jerusalem,  Jesus was (or is) the manifestation of what God represents... Unconditional love.


Let’s just Be

Being is a scary state of existence.  It is a challenge to experience acceptance.

Acceptance is a hard pill to swallow.  Resistance is more common, but damaging. Why is it damaging? Because it leads us to suffering, tension, and self-deception.  Resistance creates hatred, anger, and conflict.

Resistance is manifested when we judge and discriminate.  It also happens when we avoid, ignore, and ridicule.  Resistance also takes place when we pray and wish for a convenient circumstance.

But simply being and surrendering to what is, leads to peace and joy.  It is not easy.  That is why I also call it the “narrow path” and our “salvation.”

It is equal to denying the self.  It is the same as living in the moment.  It is also being one with the universe.

Being is wanting what we already have, which leads to joy. It is not convenient.  It does not indulge.  It is far from satisfying our desires.  It is rather peace and joy.

So when I am hungry, I will embrace it.  When I feel discomfort, I will observe it.   When loved ones are lost, I will nourish the memories.  When I see unfairness and abuse, I will acknowledge its pain and suffer with the victim.  Almost as if I am turning the other cheek.

When others judge me and criticize me, I will accept it, learn from it,  and prevent from doing the same to others.  When others show contempt and hatred towards me, I will remain calm and wish them well.  The same as loving my enemies.

It is not natural or pleasant.  But it brings peace and joy.

So I challenge you.  I plead you.  Don’t resist life’s uncomfortable circumstances. Don’t judge or criticize.  Accept and observe.

Let’s just Be.