Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


Does God Intervene?

I like much what Rev. Adam Hamilton has to say. Rather, I like his attitude about what he has to say.   He’s the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  He’s written a book entitled When Christians Get it Wrong. To hardliners and fundalogelicals he would most likely not be considered Christian.  Yet he believes the main tenets required of Christian faith and that is the deity of Christ and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

He seems genuine, compassionate, and humble.  He doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers.  He and challenges Christians to be more loving, kinder, more gentle, less judgmental, more Christ-like.

In his sermon, When Bad things Happen, he deals with the problem of suffering by saying this:

“God is God and we are not. Why bad things happen is mostly mystery.”

And there it is.  From the pulpit. God’s ways are higher than our ways.  He goes on to say:

“I don’t think that God is manipulating events on earth just to make things go one way or another. God doesn’t intervene to make this athletic team win and the other team lose. God doesn’t often interfere when a life-threatening disease strikes someone we love. 

But…sometimes God does intervene, does answer prayer, does touch our hearts. Sometimes God moves us to say just the right thing at the right time, nudges us to reach out to a particular person who is going through rough times.”

Even this pastor doesn’t believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god intervenes….most of the time.  What makes him draw the conclusion that a god intervenes at all?  The fact that he doesn’t understand why a seemingly miraculous event occurred? God of the gaps?

So at the same time he’s challenging trite Christian platitudes he offers up one of his own.  We don’t see miracles because a god doesn’t intervene but sometimes he does.  It’s a mystery.  Magic.  What does that mean?  And even what he offers up as a movement of a god in our lives isn’t miraculous.  It’s those little everyday occurrences that we write off as coincidence.  He says everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but then argues that, yes, it sort of does.  The bad stuff isn’t attributed to god, but when some tiny blessing happens it’s god’s movement.  It’s him prompting us to say just the right thing at just the right time.

If god gets no blame for the bad things that happen, and he mostly doesn’t intervene to stop them from happening, when they do stop, when tragedy is averted, why would god get the credit?  Why would it be automatically assumed that god did, in fact, intervene…just this once.

If it breaks some kind of physical, natural laws for a god to intervene on a regular basis would it not break those same physical, natural laws for him or her to intervene on a limited basis?  What makes a person make the leap from god doesn’t intervene to sometimes he does?  How does god decide when to do so?  It’s a mystery.

While I don’t agree with Rev. Hamilton’s conclusions, I do agree that if you want to believe in the Christian god you should be careful how to represent him.  Christians don’t do themselves any favors when they presume to have the answers to life’s questions yet the answers they provide are no more than that which fills a balloon that rises into the sky and floats away.  Meaningless.  Forgotten within moments.

As a Christian, if you want to represent god, just listen.  Offer condolences or sympathies, but don’t pretend that there’s a good reason, a lesson to be learned, when your god doesn’t intervene.  Unless your reason is he really isn’t there.

Rev. Hamilton gets it right when he says, “You can see why that sort of God, the God depicted by those who say, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ is the sort of God that none of us really want to worship, it’s the sort of God that wants bad things to happen to us so that we can learn something, so that we can get something out of it.  Who wants to worship a God like that?”





What does it mean if you go splat?

I know, I know…it means you went you’re own way.  What if you have no control over the journey, the destination, or the wreckage?  What about when you’re diagnosed with cancer?  What about when your child is diagnosed with cancer or born with a disability?  What about when you lose your job through no fault of your own? What about when the hurricane hits or you’re trapped by a wildfire that burns out of control? What about when you’re born in a third-world country with no resources, no choices, no options?

What about that, huh?



The Hunt for a Tribe – Part 2

The reason I don’t say that I feel lonely is because, to me, loneliness connotes a bit of melancholy.  I’m not melancholy at all.  I just thoroughly enjoy face to face interaction.  I like being a part of a group.  I mentioned before how I had a lot of friends that I did things with before they weren’t solely my friends.  They were our friends. Mine and my former spouse’s.  We had friends.  And DagoodS pointed out something I hadn’t really realized until he said it.

“As I am the extrovert, we obtained most of our friendships through me.”

The exception to what he said was that I would prompt the invitations.  “Do we have plans?  Let’s invite so-and-so over for dinner.” As I realize it now, with the exception of one couple, I wasn’t particularly close to any of them.  We just had them over for dinner or we went to their house for dinner.  I was pretty much cut off from them in anything other than a “couples” situation.

So now I’m left with a couple of options.  I can give up the thing I love to do.  Or I can get over my shyness of first meeting people and start afresh.  Given those two options I choose number two.  I see it as a challenge.  Remember I said I’m tenacious? It is in that spirit I decided to give the local Unitarian Universalist Church a go.

I got up one Sunday morning, put on my Sunday best, and made the trek just outside of town to their nice wooded locale.  I’d arrived a few minutes behind most everyone else, thinking I’d have a chance to speak with, perhaps, a few people after the service.  As I drove into the shady dirt parking area it was pretty full, mostly with cars with out-of-town tags.  They were Honda Civics and Toyota Priuseses.  Is that even a word? How do you pluralize Prius? Here I came bustin’ up in there with my crossover SUV.  There were even a couple of cars that had Flying Spaghetti Monster and Darwin emblems stuck to the trunk where an Ichthys usually is.  I would have snapped a couple of pics with my phone but a)I was running a little late and b)I was afraid the folks might think I was up to something.

Dashing inside to get seated before the services started I rushed past the table where they asked for visitors to sign in.  They began with Children’s Church the children’s feature where they had all the little ones in a circle with a story time.  This was Conservationist Sunday so the story was, accordingly, about how God had left a well for all the animals to use.  But he or she felt the need to appoint a guardian of the well.  A lizard.  Who was selfish and wouldn’t allow any of the other animals to get water.  So God, he or she, banished the lizard from the well and appointed the frog in it’s stead.

Then there was a bit of music.  Traditional sounding hymns sung in praise of mother earth and how we are destroying her.  Instead of praise reports and prayer concerns there were joys and just plain ole concerns.  In the middle of the congregation were votive candles where, during the allotted time, members could light a candle for a joy or a concern.  After the candles were lit, instead of prayer, there was a moment of silence which was probably about three minutes but felt like ten.  We just sat there, our heads bowed, our eyes closed.  Well…they were supposed to be closed.  I got antsy and opened mine and began to look around.  I know. I’m bad.  I couldn’t help myself. I was way overdressed.  Everyone else had on shorts and flip-flops or jeans. There was one couple that wore something that appeared to be traditional cultural dress but I don’t know which. Then a lay-member snuffed each candle and allowed the smoke to rise into the air as a sacrifice to god the universe I don’t know what.

Then there was the sermon lecture talk.  Yes, talk.  A lay-member spoke about water conservation and what that means for our city and our state.  It was really rather interesting.  Our state’s water supply is fed off of the Flint and Oconee Rivers and there has been a big tri-state fight over water rights.  It’s a mess really.  But she showed us some interesting maps of places that are water rich now and what they well be like ten and twenty years from now.  The maps made it appear that within twenty years we’ll all be a desert land. Then we sang another song to mother earth and it was over.

I had first thought I’d hand around for a few minutes to socialize, but that particular Sunday they were having a business meeting following the service, so I spoke briefly to the minister of the church and then made my exit.  If I’m honest with myself I don’t think that was particularly for me.  It felt strange to be doing worshipful stuff but not really worshiping.  Not that I wanted to.  I don’t feel inclined to.  It just was odd to me to be all worshippy without worshiping.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll give it another go.  Maybe it would grow on me.  Or maybe I should give something else a try.  Yeah, I think it’s that one.  Something else….what will it be?






The Hunt for a Tribe – Part 1

There’s no denying it.  When we begin to question our faith, moreover, when we lose the faith we formerly knew, we can also begin to feel isolated.  People can scoff at cults all they want to, and they are harmful, but going your own way has it’s down side, too.  Marching to the beat of your own drum can seem trailblazing and brave, but it can feel scary and…well…lonely isn’t exactly the right word.

No, I can’t really say I feel lonely, but I do miss community.  When I was an integral part of church I saw the same people week in and week out.  We had fellowship and a like-mindedness.  We could share our lives, the good and the bad, encourage one another, rejoice with one another and sometimes even cry with one another.  We “lifted” one another up in prayer and sang together.  We helped each other with physical needs and emotional needs.

That all comes to kind of a screeching halt when you no longer share that like-mindedness.  When you discover that sharing the good and the bad doesn’t include loosing your faith.  Well, then you become somewhat of an outsider.  It’s not the brethren’s doing either.  I could go into church and smile and pretend like I haven’t had a crisis of faith and no one would be the wiser.  Now I feel like I’m infiltrating their camp.  I feel out of place, like I don’t belong.  Like I’d be a tare among the wheat they’ve so carefully cultivated.

I used to desire to be a part of that community because I truly loved God and Jesus.  Now I’d just like to be a part of it because I’ve lost my tribe.  I’ve got no like-minded friends, outside of The Tour Guide(who is absolutely great), that I can sit and share a cup of coffee with and my thoughts about what I believe.  That community wouldn’t get it.  Even if I did try to fake it I’d still feel like an outsider because I couldn’t be who I really am.

You see, I’m a weirdo.  I’m shy, but a social butterfly at the same time – if that’s possible. It’s a bit difficult for me to meet new people, but once I’ve warmed up I’m in hog heaven. In my church I had a built in community.  A group of people who already knew me with whom I could fellowship and break bread.  I’m used to having a large social circle. One of my spiritual gifts* is hospitality.  I love a good dinner party.  You know, those really cozy ones.  Better yet, I love to host a good dinner party.  I love to cook.  I love to make others feel comfortable and at home.

When this first happened, when I first began to lose my faith, I felt invisible.  I felt like someone could just blow on me and I’d disappear.  Like a dandelion blown in the wind.  But I’m stronger now.  More confident now.  And so I’m on a quest to find a community where I can just be.  Where not only the dinner guests are comfortable, but so am I.

*When I was a TrueBeliever we took one of those little tests to determine our spiritual gifts.  Now I realize it was just an assessment of the stuff you’re good at.  Because if you’re good at it, it must be a spiritual gift, right?


A Newbie in the Blogosphere

My brilliant fiance has decided to make his foray into the world of blogging. He’s started a neat little blog over at The World of LankyBrit.  If you haven’t already go check it out.  I think you’ll be entertained and amused.  He’s exploring all sorts of topics but will be documenting his move from the U.K. to the good ole U.S. of A.

*Oh and, yes, this is The Tour Guide.


Illogically Logical

Recently Eldon wrote about his difficulty in settling on a position in his faith or, more succinctly, his lack of faith.  Like many of us leaving behind what we once believed he isn’t sure how to label himself or just exactly which philosophy best describes his position. I’m not sure why a label matters so much except that we’ve had one for so long we believe we should call ourselves something.  Maybe we’ve lived in the black and white for so long we think we should know more than we do.  We should be…certain.

I’m not sure why it is that some atheists seem offended if one says they’re agnostic but don’t identify themselves as atheist. It’s as if they have as much of an agenda as fundamentalist Christians.  I’m agnostic.   I’m really not sure what I believe in regards to a higher power, some energy force, call it what you will.  Is there really no evidence for any of these?  I can understand how folks come to that conclusion, but I’m not there yet.

I’m leaning toward and, practically speaking, atheist. I don’t pray, I don’t worship a god, and I don’t follow a religious philosophy unless you can call the golden rule religious.  I wouldn’t even know which god or if any currently conjectured god, is real. How does one worship a god they can’t even identify?

Some people have never believed in a god.  I can see how someone who has never believed would not be able to relate to the journey of those recovering from religion.  There are others who seem to have lost their faith overnight.  Something just clicked with them and, poof, there went their belief.  I’m not contending it was a small something.  Maybe they learned just one part of what they’d believed wasn’t true so they couldn’t trust any of it anymore.  It isn’t right or wrong.  It just is.  But there are others who take a lot of time in coming to a decision about their faith, who are slow to adopt the name atheist.

In part we are slow to adopt that as our moniker because it is such a loaded term.  At least it is around these here parts.  Being openly atheist makes you untrustworthy, unfaithful, unscrupulous, and, in the opinion of a lot of people, quite possibly unhinged.  I know, I know.  I’m not responsible for what other people think.  I can’t control what other people think.  But I can control what they know about me.

According to one commenter on Eldon’s blog:

“The problem with saying that you don’t define yourself by what you don’t believe and saying that you are uncomfortable with the term “atheist” is to miss the point of what atheism is all about. The stance of not believing in something, per se, is not important. But the lack of belief in certain ideas which have incredible power, authority, and influence over cultures throughout history has a different matter. Te identification has socio-political import, hence the conversation.”

But why does the identification have socio-political import?  Is it that big a deal what we call ourselves?  Somehow I just don’t think so.  What is important is  taking a position on those certain ideas the commenter refers to.  Though he didn’t go into detail about what those are I can’t help but feel that there are a lot of progressive/liberal Christians who take the same exact stance that atheists do.  I just don’t think I have to label myself to be a good person, to oppose the oppression of those who need a voice, to stand up for human rights.

I see the point that if more people came out as atheists maybe…maybe…others would become more accepting.  Maybe more people would realize that atheists aren’t such bad people after all.  But judging by what I know of the fundy believers who hold such disdain for atheists I highly doubt it.  They’d either be in denial of said atheism or they’d assume Satan himself had possession of the atheist.  Evangelicals believe in that sort of thing, y’know.

I’ve been told that my logic about the whole atheist/agnostic terminology is confused and misinformed.  But truly it is not.  I’m quite well aware of the difference between agnosticism and atheism.  Advocatus Atheist has a pretty good article about that very thing.  A quote from the article:

  • Agnosticism deals with knowledge.
  • Atheism deals with belief.

I’m not conflating the terms.  I’m not misinformed about the terminology.  I simply haven’t felt like I had enough knowledge to form a belief.  I’ll readily admit that part of not forming that particular belief has been emotional in nature.  If a Christian can say I’ve walked away from God because of disappointment or anger then I suppose an atheist could say that I won’t just let go of God because because I’m afraid or I need a crutch or some similar emotional reason.  And maybe they’d partly be right.

Grundy at Deity Shmeity asks the question, “What the Hell Am I?”, and makes some pretty good points.  According to his article I’d probably label myself an Agnostic Atheist.  That is, if I wanted to label myself with, y’know, a label.  But to be honest I really don’t give a rip about labeling myself.  I’m not ready to call myself atheist.  Maybe I’m still trying to resist any remnant of my former fundamentalist behaviors.  Feeling a bit rebellious I suppose. *grin*