Fightin Spam

While the legal team of Damazio, Estes and Louman might not be able to kill this blog, comment spam definitely has a good chance. As a result, we installed a couple of safegaurds in the comment section to help reduce spam. It makes commenting a little more difficult, but keeps me from spending all my time deleting comments about poker, porn and pills.

Thanks again to everyone who reads and comments. Your participation is what makes this blog popular and is what makes these new safegaurds necessary. Thank you, so much.

Here's hoping that 2007 is as successful a year as 2006. God has indeed blessed this blog.

My Tiny Book of Tithing

From David Mackin 

My Tiny Book of Tithing
 

The Mormons start their little ones tithing when they are very young! Today I researched the subject of tithing on the Mormon book store site deseretbook.com. When I entered the key word “tithing” into the search field, my search produced the following four matches on tithing for children: a tithing bank, a tithing DVD, a tithing trinket and a tithing board book (see below). I called the store to see if they had any other matches on tithing for adults and the gentleman said no, but he was kind enough to offer to do some more research for me to try to find me more materials.

I was also struck by the other products for sale or auction on the site besides the typical books, music and tapes: jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings), art & home, clothing, tickets, auctions, Mormon handicraft, engraved temple mirrors, Salt Lake City temple square folk art puzzle, posterity plates, Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites board game, angel watching over children woven afghan, Genealogical Research Essentials, Register of LDS Church Records, Yoga for Beginners videos, Brigham Young moves, and the Rewards Club.

I’m wondering…once a church movement fully adopts the mentality of the mandatory tithe – even enough to indoctrinate its little ones before they are even old enough to get their first jobs – does such an approach to religion help to lead a church movement to deeper and deeper religious commercialism of all stripes and colors? Do you think that there is any connection between the tithing mentality and religious commercialism?

1
Piggy Bank: Tithing, Mission, Savings

 by Lasercrafting
 Bank
SKU 4959612
$4.98

2
Tithing: Mariah and the Book Sale

 by FHE on DVD
 DVD Video
SKU 4956690
$12.99

3
My Tithing Bank

 by Ringmasters (Publisher)
  Trinket
SKU 4685205
$3.95

4
My Tiny Book of Tithing

 by Marion Passey and Ben Craner (Illustrator)
  Board Book
SKU 4386583
$4.95

SKU 4959612
$4.98

2
Tithing: Mariah and the Book Sale

 by FHE on DVD
 DVD Video
SKU 4956690
$12.99

3
My Tithing Bank

 by Ringmasters (Publisher)
  Trinket
SKU 4685205
$3.95

4
My Tiny Book of Tithing

 by Marion Passey and Ben Craner (Illustrator)
  Board Book
SKU 4386583
$4.95

On Faith

Newsweek and The Washington Post have created a website called On Faith. It's a site dedicated to discussing Religious issues. Think of it as this blog without all the sarcasm and profanity. (And fun. It's kind of boring.)

On the site, Cal Thomas posted a short blog discussing atheism called the Atheist Wager. I suspect this is Cal's response to Sam Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation, which makes the argument for atheism.

(Side note: So many people have mentioned it to me, I hope to read Letter to a Christian Nation one of these days. I have a short window of reading time after the college football season ends, and before March Madness begins and I'm going to try to fit it in then. Though I'll probably just get involved in the MTV trainwreck that is The Real World: Denver.)

Anyway, here's Cal's take on Atheism:

In conversing with an atheist, it is important to understand that such a person will never be brought to faith by information alone, because the same information is available to everyone. If information were sufficient to make a believer out of an atheist, then all would believe.

It takes more faith not to believe in God than to believe in Him. It is also intellectually lazy. You have to believe the vastness of the universe “happened” without a Designer and that unique things like fingerprints and snowflakes occurred by pure chance.

An atheist wagers his or her present and eternal future that he or she is right. If the atheist is right and there is no God, there are no consequences. But if the atheist is wrong and there is a God and a Heaven for those who come to Him on His terms, and a Hell for those who reject Him, then that has the most important consequences.

I do not have the power to persuade anyone that God is, but I can demonstrate the difference He has made in my life and relationships – including with atheists – and pray that the One who brought me to belief will do so with them.

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I thought I'd throw this out to our readers to get their take. Let me just say I think Cal oversimplifies Faith. Also, Cal better hope that the Muslim's are wrong. Because if they're right, he's still going to Hell.

Blender: 1 Samaritan: 0

This time of year we love to make soup for supper; tonight's menu was cream of acorn squash. While the flesh of 2 baked squash was turning in the blender with chicken broth and spices, I thickened milk, margarine and chicken broth over the stove. I glanced back at the blender just in time to see the glass pitcher begin to spin and unscrew from the base – like a barber shop pole gone berserk. In a dive that would have made a John Madden highlight film, I grabbed for the cavorting cylinder of cultivar mere milliseconds after it launched from the base and cartwheeled after contacting the whirling blades of the blender base, thereby turning the pitcher into a spinning shower of succulent slurry. Again I grabbed for the cartwheeling cannister but the splatter from lift-off covered my hands and I succeeded only in batting the pitcher back up in the air for another slathering of squash. Finally, the pitcher came to rest on the counter top, next to the blender base. Squash covered my hands, face, hair and clothing, the lazy susan, countertop, cupboard doors, drawers and floor. Clean up took 30 minutes.

Unlike Catalyst ( Dishwasher: 1 Catalyst: 0 ), I did not need stitches after cutting my hand on the spinning blades. 30 minutes later, we enjoyed a DiGiorno's pizza for supper.

Sam

Jesus = $$$

Locutus sends in these two articles on the Prosperity Gospel.

Locutus writes, "Nothing we haven't all read before, but this guy seems to be a couple of steps ahead of Frank in milking "business opportunities" from the church."

Here is a key section from one of the articles that discusses how the Pastor of a local Denver church uses the prosperity gospel:

While many of his church members live on the edge financially, Leonard enjoys a luxurious lifestyle, living in a $1.4 million home in the gated golf community of Castle Pines Village, driving luxury vehicles and vacationing at a condo in Mexico. The bishop also flew across the country on a multimillion-dollar church-owned jet, angering some church members, before it was sold.

I certainly hope those angry church members approached their pastor in a Biblical way. You know, because it's okay to use the Gospel for personal riches, but you accuse a pastor of being greedy, well… that's just going to far.  

And please read both of the articles. They'll make you feel better about the faults in your own church.

American Sex

According to a recent AP article on pre-marital sex, most Americans "get busy" before they "get hitched".

More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study.

The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews conducted with more than 38,000 people – about 33,000 of them women – in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey of Family Growth. According to Finer's analysis, 99 percent of the respondents had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had done so before marriage.
Even among a subgroup of those who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44, the study found.

Now, I don't want to tell you that we are all going to burn in hell, but… can someone explain to me again why "we" are so much "more deserving" of heaven then homosexuals? Kinda sounds like the Pot calling the Kettle gay, if you ask me.

"The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds," Finer said.

Under the Bush administration, such programs have received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
"It would be more effective," Finer said, "to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active – which nearly everyone eventually will."

Sex-Ed… this reminds me of a family story. While it's true that I did pass out once and piss my car (and self), my younger brother Joel once passed out during Sex-Ed. Apparently, he couldn't handle seeing a condom being wrapped around a banana. Joel if you are reading this…penis…STD…vagina…and he's out.

Moving on:

Horn said he found the high percentages of premarital sex cited in the study to be plausible, and expressed hope that society would not look askance at the small minority that chooses to remain abstinent before marriage.
However, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group which strongly supports abstinence-only education, said she was skeptical of the findings.
"Any time I see numbers that high, I'm a little suspicious," she said. "The numbers are too pat."

I've never been one to put too much stock in statistics, but it sounds about right (not in our churches of course…).

Faith and the Student

The NYTimes has an intruiging opinion piece about teaching Religion to college students. The professor writes about the difficulty in teaching Students how to think about Religion.

For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed. A growing number of religiously correct students consider this challenge a direct assault on their faith. Yet the task of thinking and teaching, especially in an age of emergent fundamentalisms, is to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.

Any responsible curriculum for the study of religion in the 21st century must be guided by two basic principles: first, a clear distinction between the study and the practice of religion, and second, an expansive understanding of what religion is and of the manifold roles it plays in life. The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices — though some secular dogmatists wrongly cross that line — but to examine the conditions necessary for their formation and to consider the many functions they serve.

As someone who grew up in a Christian School and was never encouraged to question my Faith, I think he's right here. Questioning something only serves to make your beliefs stronger. You can tell the Christians who just spit back what they've been taught, from the Christians who have geniune questions and know what they believe. I prefer the latter.

Matching Game

Just to help show that we are not above mocking ourselves (and since my posts are boring ever since I turned over this new leaf)  I’d like to play a game. I call this game Match the Morton (btw, the "t" is only silent if you are living in Corsica)

First I will list a Morton moment and and then underneath I’ll list some Morton names to match to the Moment. Let's play MATCH THE MORTON.

First the Moment:

1. Thinks the closet (or dishwasher) is the bathroom

2. Passed out and pissed pants (and car)              

3. Nickname is Jona-not-so-thin                           

4. Fainted during sex-ed class                              

5. Grew up thinking he was cow (named Besse)       

6. Also pissed pants (while trying to puke)               

 Then the Morton: 

A. Jesse

B. Sharon

C. Justin

D. Johnpaul

E. Jonathan

F. Joel

Yes, there are a lot of passing out and pissing one’s self (or closet) stories in the Morton family. None of us will deny how trashy this really is. My apologies to Sharon…you really don't deserve this.

Ted meet Art. Art, Ted

My friend Sister Paula and I were discussing gays in church a couple of weeks ago. As a follow up, she forwarded me the thoughts of A RETIRED GAY MCC MINISTER.

I thought they were interesting enough to share.

Here are my thoughts today on Ted Haggard and his confession:

Rev. Ted Haggard confessed in a letter to his 14,000 member congregation in Colorado Springs that he is "a liar and a deceiver" and that he has had a "lifelong sexual problem." 

Rev. Haggard has a lifelong problem all right, but it's not his sexuality.  It is his religion.  The rigid, moralistic belief system of fundamentalist Christianity has prevented him from being honest with himself in a way in which he could have meaningfully integrated his sexuality into the fabric of his life.  Instead, his sexuality occupied a hidden compartment, divorced from his public self and even most of his private life.  The shadows of the closet not only hide much of who a person is from others; they also hide a person from oneself. This divided life breeds a kind of pathology that corrupts the soul with guilt and fear of discovery and exposure.  In such a state, one never acts as a whole person in any arena of one's life.  Every act, in public and in private, becomes a lie.  I should know: I lived that way for the first half of my life and for many of the same reasons that Ted has.  Having grown up in the same kind of fundamentalism, I know how difficult it is to break out of the prison of one's lifelong conditioning. 

Religious fundamentalism is every bit as addictive as alcohol, gambling, food and sex can be.  And it can be very difficult to break free from until one faces a crisis or "hits bottom" in a way that the truth becomes unavoidable.  Fundamentalism is poisoning Ted Haggard's life.  Like all addictions, it poisons the soul in ways that the addicted person often does not realize until they are free from its power. 

I'm sure the evangelical friends surrounding pastor Ted will try their best to get him cured of what they see as his "problem."  But if you think the person has one disease and they in fact have another, and you treat them for the wrong condition, the patient gets worse, not better.  Ted Haggard's only hope is to become liberated from the brainwashing he received in his early religious life and to begin to view himself and all his impulses with honest compassion and compassionate honesty.  Because his moralistic beliefs unmoored his sexuality from his capacity to love and be loved, his sexual desires occupy a kind of wasteland of physical gratification without emotional and spiritual fulfillment.  He has created for himself the worst of all possible worlds – a life where every option creates more suffering. 

Right now, inflexible religion is Ted's greatest obstacle to healing and wholeness.  If Ted Haggard can find the strength within himself to get honest, jettison his fundamentalism and begin a journey toward becoming real with himself and others, including his family, he can discover the true spirituality that will enable him to be a whole person.  Then his homosexual feelings can become part of what he loves about himself, instead of what he hates.  In a climate of self-acceptance, he can compassionately work out his relationships with others.  And in the process, he might even rediscover the Jesus who reached out, without condemnation, in such deep compassion to those whose lives were broken. 

Ted used the name "Art" when he communicated with his male "escort."  It turns out that Arthur is, in fact, Ted's middle name.  Let's hope that Ted and Art get to know each other and that they become one person.