Author: smcintos

Zoroaster temple in Iran Credit: Bastian/Flickr/Creative Commons

So Who is Zoroaster?

About three thousand years ago, probably in the times of David and Solomon in the Bible, a man named Zoroaster or Zarathustra began preaching about one God, and one great force of evil in the world. His home was probably near Afghanistan and his teaching came to dominate all Iranian people, from northern India to Greece, in Europe. Information about times and places is mostly lost, but scholars agree that someone tried to turn people to God, in central Asia, many centuries ago. According to Tabari, a Sunni Muslim who lived about a thousand years ago, Zoroaster the ancient prophet of Iran was from Israel and a disciple of Jeremiah, or he travelled with a Hebrew prophet. We know the Persians were often kind to Israel and their temple in Jerusalem. Kings of Persia (Iran) ordered the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem: “Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “The …

Hitler in Finland Credit: Wikipedia/SAkuva/Creative Commons

Those Pictures of Hitler

A few days ago I met a man who saw Hitler. He told a small group, including me, that he was four years old, in Czechoslovakia, and he remembers shiny black cars and a man in the distance. He says the memory is still clear. If you follow news on the Internet, there are several photo albums and collections of pictures that show the ordinary life of Hitler. For some reason, this information seems to be in the news now. I don’t know why some of these pictures were kept hidden, and have emerged this year. One example of a photo collection is a recent article with a free discussion by the readers: 50  rare photos of Adolf Hitler. There are several other sources of these pictures of the “human” Hitler: Unseen photographs reveal the private life of Adolf Hitler Never before seen photos Adolf Hitler found in an album in mistress Eva’s bedroom These pictures of an ordinary man, doing ordinary things, have generated angry debate. In the discussions, some people openly speak out …

Credit: Brandon Watts/Flickr/Creative Commons

Post Modernism: The Case for Rachel Dolezal

You might have heard of Rachel Dolezal, also known by her new legal name Nkechi Amare Diallo. She was once the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington. Her parents, who apparently had been Pentecostal Missionaries in Africa, exposed her as a white woman with Czech, German, and Scandinavian ancestors, and she was forced to resign in disgrace. Today Rachel, or Nkechi, is labeled as a liar and a fraud and life is difficult for her. She is famous enough to have her own article in Wikipedia, and you can read more about her interesting life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Dolezal Rachel is someone I have never met, and probably never will, but I know there are some lessons for us in her story, and Christians should be careful with their judgment. Rachel Dolezal is an expression of a philosophy called Post Modernism. Most of us live in Modernism, with the idea that people belong to groups, them and us, and the differences between groups never change. With that thinking, …

Credit: Domiriel/Flickr/Creative Commons

UFOs and Christians

Do you remember movies like ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The concept of aliens from other planets has been entertaining us for years. And sometimes the belief in flying saucers with strange passengers, and alien abductions becomes like a religious cult with true believers. Also, life on other planets is a mainstream scientific theory. One of the hottest things in modern astronomy is the search for Earth like planets. When I was a boy, probably about eight years old, my big brother found a new hobby. He became a UFOlogist. He found a source of cheaply printed books with blurry pictures of weird things in the sky, and he let me read them. For a little boy, that was the best hobby ever. I still remember those stories about visitations and abductions, and things in the sky that the Air Force denied. Eventually our mother learned about this and she was not happy. The tension was broken one Sunday, in church. The pastor said something about UFOs, in his sermon, and I …

Credit: kaushik panchal/Flickr/Creative Commons

666 and all that

I was stopped by the police the other day. This was the second time in my life, so I was surprised. The officer explained that my driver’s license had expired on my birthday. I thought I had until the end of the month, but I didn’t. He let me off with a warning and I fixed the problem at a registry, right away. A few years ago I saw a car in a handicapped parking stall outside a Halal meat store. I told the female driver about the problem and she basically went ballistic. I thought this new immigrant needed some direction, but she thought I needed something from her. I just walked away. We all know about refugees and migrants who are crossing borders to find a better life in a wealthy country. There are stories now about people walking across the border from Minnesota to Manitoba, the U.S.A. to Canada, in the winter. I appreciate Winnipeg, one of my sons is there and he is doing well, but walking to Winnipeg, in the …

Church in Flesch, Wallis, Switzerland Credit: Oliver Regelmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

How Dangerous are Religious Radicals?

There is an interesting video of a religious conference where the speaker talks about radicals in his community. The religion, in this case, is moderate Islam. If you believe all the people who raised their hands in the video, moderate Muslims are actually dangerous radicals. Before you panic; the people in the room self selected, they were so devout in their religion that they attended a conference, and they easily made extreme statements. They also were under peer pressure to raise their hands when the questions were asked. And they were young people at the age of idealism. Life will look very different in twenty years, with a family, a mortgage, and a spreading waistline, and maybe a receding hairline. The people in the audience are probably not very scary, but the speaker has an interesting message. For him, all moderate Muslims must be extreme radicals who want to impose Sharia law on the world, including stoning of women who commit adultery, and permission for a man to have several wives. I am sure that …

Crosses overlooking Matera, Italy. Credit: Hugh Bell/Flickr/Creative Commons

Religion Doesn’t Work Anymore

In 2015, Muslim pilgrims in Mecca were caught in a human stampede and thousands were killed. The Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, is a requirement for all Muslims. A devout Muslim should do the Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once. Now, squeezing millions into a small place in the desert, for a few days, and keeping things traditional, is becoming impossible. When things go wrong with the Hajj, thousands die in the stampedes and governments almost go to war. Now the lunar cycle for setting the date has come to the hot desert summer, and it will stay on the summer for a decade. Management of the Hajj has become a crisis. Believers must go, but it’s so hard. I remember when I was in High School, my church told me to “win my friends for Christ.” I looked at my school friends and I didn’t see any way to make that happen. At church we had music with a piano and organ, and a strict Sunday schedule, and so much more. We had a …

Protestors Credit: washingtonydc/Flickr/Creative Commons

We Need More Sin in 2017?

We have a lot of complaining in the world. I wanted to give you a link to someone whining about something on video, but I can’t. This is a Christian blog and they all swear like angry sailors. Maybe try words like “millennial” or “Trump” or “Brexit” or “safe space” or “immigration” with a search engine. I’m sure you get the picture. You might see a video of a violently angry complainer, or maybe someone with an equally angry response. And I warned you about the swearing. I don’t remember people acting like this ten years ago; the world has changed. Now a democratic election is close to a civil war and people seem to hate their neighbors who vote for the other side. Arguments are loud and emotional and we win if we drown out the other side, or maybe insult them into silent shame, or steal their election signs. It’s a cage match between the Deplorables and the Snowflakes. Here’s a problem; we don’t have enough sin. We have loud emotional arguments, on …

Seshadripuram, India Credit: P.L. Tandon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you a Bigoted Conservative Fundamentalist Right-Wing Christian?

Christians need to be careful these days. People fight and bicker about politics and Christians are usually assigned to one side in the wars. Democracy includes the right to choose, and you can have any political view that you want, and you can change your mind any time, but be warned; there is a grievance industry with a script that needs bad guys, just like an old cowboy movie. Bigoted, conservative, fundamentalist, right-wing Christians are about as common as unicorns, in my experience, but that might disappoint some grievance specialists. The script needs villains, like cowboys with black hats and bad attitudes. Recently, in my city, a man-made a noose with a piece of rope and said “This is for you” to two Muslims and then he then sang the national anthem. This was one man, one time, and I guess he has mental problems. The Chief of Police denounced this offensive intolerance on the front page of the news paper saying “We have zero tolerance for hate.”  I respect that. He defused the situation …

Sameba (Trinity) church in Tbillsi, Georgia Credit: Berdo Maghularia/Flickr/Creative Commons

One More Way to Kill a Church

This is my fourth time to write about how to kill a church, and I think this is enough; I don’t want to get morbid. But it is simply true that success or failure depends on us. God hasn’t moved, and “Trust and obey” is still the route to great things. The world around us will never hold us back. I once heard about a new church in my city that met in a rented building downtown. Successful churches are usually in the suburbs, with Christian families and free parking, so I had to check this place out. I am still surprised; on a Sunday morning I walked into a huge auditorium filled with young adults, and they were all talking at once. Loud and lively conversations were everywhere. I didn’t have any young friends to chat with, so I sat down and waited for the service to start. As I waited, a young woman came and sat beside me, with her head turned to a conversation. I knew what was coming and I waited …

Harvest time is hard work Credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church – Part 3

The U.S.A. just had an election and the whole world is talking about it. I live in Canada, so I don’t want to add to the discussion; Americans know how to manage their own country. Before we forget though, Donald Trump surprised the world by winning, and Hillary Clinton shocked her loyal followers by losing. Before the vote, he labored to convince the doubters to vote for him, and she convinced her friends to love her more. We had the same pattern where I live in 1992; Nancy Betkowski was an educated, sophisticated woman who was going to be our provincial leader. Her rival was Ralph Klein, a journalist who drank too much. At the leadership convention Nancy went to bed knowing she had the majority vote the next day. Ralph stayed up all night working the crowd and trying to convince his enemies to vote for him. Nancy appeared for her coronation the next morning, and we were all stunned when Ralph won the vote. He missed some sleep and worked very hard, and …

A church in Egge, Norway. Credit: Gert Andreas Barring/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church – Part 2

One man in Japan made himself famous for a few days in October. He is probably the most surprised, but a comedian named Piko Taro made a video and millions of people watched it. He is a viral one-hit wonder. There is one thing he did not do; he did not wreck the conversation. Mr Taro did some excellent teaching, even if we learned nothing. The conversation was phatic, the teacher opened the channel of communication and maintained it. You probably watched right to the end. Everything was presented well, from the lighting and camera focus, to his costume and smile, and his dance and song, and his enunciation, and more. Also, I am sure someone did some preparation. The only thing missing is a message. I am sure Mr Taro could have added an important message to his presentation, and the world would have listened. He could have convinced us of something, or asked for money. The video is now filled with other people’s promotions and additions. They will be selfish if he isn’t. …

Church in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland Credit: Glen Forde/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church, Part 1

In the modern world, we have a culture that is dying. Follow any election news and you know what I mean. Prosperous and democratic societies are severally stressed these days. If you follow political and social commentary, you know, we listen to intelligent comments from comedians. One comedian, Norm MacDonald, tried to get serious with another comedian who made fun of Christians. But really, we don’t get intelligent comments from comedians, we get entertainment. Sometimes the comedy is intelligent, but it’s only jokes to make us laugh. Many comedians are very good at what they do, but we should be concerned about what they don’t do. If there is a problem, it’s with us. There seems to be no interest in thinking, teaching, and learning to make things better. Someone told me recently; we have this amazing Internet so we can talk to anyone in the world, about anything, and solve any problem, but we send each other funny pictures of cats behaving badly. Entertainment rules; comedians sell us what we want to buy, and …

London, England Credit: Nick Kenrick/Flickr/Creative Commons

Predict the Future with Heinrich’s Triangle

Is Christianity dying? In the future, will the religion of Jesus even exist? Well, yes and no. One critical writer did an excellent job of explaining why Christianity is dying in the USA. Many years ago I led a church planting effort in a small town. Every Sunday morning I would get up early, walk to the bus depot, and ride about 100 miles to a small town. Our lowest attendance was two other people, and two cats. That happened many times, but eventually the group grew until a resident pastor could move in. But I am sorry to say, after a few years, in that very small town, the decision was made to close the church down. Imagine; all that effort for nothing! Herbert William Heinrich is one of the great pioneers of workplace safety, and many of his ideas were expressed with number ratios. He could predict your future with the numbers in his triangle ratio 300-29-1. Mr Heinrich was concerned about your chances of avoiding injury or death in the near future, …

Israeli Defense Forces involved in counter-terrorism training in Hebron, Credit/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Spiritual Lesson in Terrorism

Where will we be in five years? What are we building now? It is easy to predict the future for our families and marriages, jobs and businesses, and churches. I met a man recently who had a five year plan with his wife, and the plan was working. The whole family was prospering in changing times. This is a spiritual lesson we can learn from terrorists. Recently an angry man Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested for several terrorist bombings near New York City. Apparently he is typical of a new threat to us all a “lone wolf terrorist” who acts without ties to a larger group. Politicians are warning us that anyone, in isolation, can become a violent terrorist and hurt us all. I disagree. There is a lot of discussion about the threat of violence and terrorism and isolated lone wolves, and one side in the conversation believes that successful people always work with a team. One analyst wrote about Ahmad Rahami and the “misnomer” of the lone wolf. People never do great things …

Credit: Rosa Lynn A/Flickr/Creative Commons

People Who Pet Dolphins

Recently, Oscar winning actress Brie Larson apologized. In 2004, when she was 14, she petted a dolphin. Now she is building a successful career in Hollywood, and she has tried very hard to clear herself of any controversy. In this case, controversy is animal cruelty. Brie Larson is a dolphin petter. More correctly, she was a petter, as a child. Now she has apologized. Movie stars with fabulous careers have corporate teams of managers, publicists, and stylists; and a public apology indicates some alarm. This dolphin petting accusation seems to be a serious threat to someone. We live in interesting times. Now, the eternal and universal moral principles that underpin everything in society seem to last about a week. Tourists used to enjoy petting dolphins, and I remember when we were not offended by oil in pipelines, and when good electricity did not always come from windmills. A few days ago someone asked me to explain the words behind the acronym LGBT. We were having a conversation about transgender access to public washrooms. It’s hard …

Mormons, Toyota, and God

Mormons: Mormons, in the heartland in Utah have an interesting problem. Young men are leaving the church in large numbers, but many young women are staying. Traditionally, Mormons marry young, and have large families. They have a belief that childbirth brings a soul from the realm of the unborn into salvation; so being born is like being born again. You can see how young and unmarried men cause a problem when they leave. Why is this happening? My best guess is the leavers follow the reasoning of all young men; they do it because they can. When I was young, Christians in my church were often called fundamentalists, and they liked the name. I once passed a line outside a movie theater, and I’m sure I saw my aunt. We did not make eye contact and I have kept her secret all these years. Christians were not supposed to go to movies, in those days. Another time, in a church library, I found a book with a chapter “Should Christians go Bowling?” I forget the …

Oakland Protest Photo: Jaegar Moore/Flickr/Creative Commons

White Privilege Christians

I was offended recently by a newspaper article from a local feminist Rosemary Westwood. She talked about white Christians like me and our privilege, and how we need to adjust our thinking, as we are “forced to listen.” White Christian culture is declining and losing influence, and people are resentful as they lose their position. There is a popular idea that Christianity is the religion of white privilege, and it will die, as the surrounding support system erodes and gives way to something new. A news video shows a race riot on Milwaukee with people stopping traffic and “beating all the white people.” I am offended but Rosemary Westwood is correct. I’m offended because most of the people I know are not privileged, we have to work for everything, and we always settle for less. I think that makes us working class, and most people do not want to be us. We have to make our own luck and build our own success, and then we have to pay our taxes, and the mortgage. All …

Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio De Janerio Photo: Artyominc/Wikipedia

Bad Idea: Keep the Jews off the Bus

A story has recently come from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lebanese participants blocked Israeli Jews from getting on a bus. Lebanese athletes were already on the bus and they refused to share. The Lebanese team in these Olympic games will always be remembered as the people who kept the Jews off the bus, and that will overshadow anything else they do. It’s all about a brief conversation at the door of a bus. This is one of those issues that will never go away. In our times, stories are recorded and published, and the interesting ones stay with us forever. Nothing can be done in a corner anymore because informal news comes from cameras in cell phones, and it travels quickly to the whole world, through venues like Twitter and You Tube. For official journalism, this incident happened at the Olympics, while the whole world was watching. The popular saying is ”all eyes are on Brazil.” The Olympics always attract large numbers of news reporters who desperately need something to write about. …

Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time by Jean Leon Gerome (1897) Wikipedia

Is Jesus Real? Philo and the Christ Myth

There is a popular argument going around these days “Jesus never existed and we can prove it.” At the time of Jesus, a Jewish writer named Philo lived in Alexandria, a large city on the coast of Egypt. Philo tried to integrate the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, to make the Jews more Greek and Roman. Historically, he was not popular with his fellow Jews. We know about him now because Christians liked his writings. It is interesting that Philo never once mentioned Jesus in his writings. This man lived when the New Testament tells us Jesus preached and did miracles, and Philo is silent about Jesus. Today, some critics are saying Christians believe in a made up character, the “Christ Myth.” You can search for “Philo” and the other terms on the Internet, but I don’t want to give links because most of the discussions are aggressive and offensive. Today, Philo’s silence encourages some people to believe that Jesus never existed. So what should we do with Philo? The argument of silence is always …

Photo: BostonBill/Flickr/Creative Commons

No, You Cannot Have a Billion Dollars

I am sure that you are here for a reason. Every human being has a purpose attached to their existence, and feeding ourselves is not the meaning of life. Building important things means more than becoming the richest person in the cemetery. Recently I had to wait in a parking lot for someone, while a thunderstorm poured water on everything. I was safe and dry in my truck, but I got bored so I drove over to a huge home improvement center and went inside until the rain stopped. Window shopping for paint, and power tools, and patio furniture distracted me for a while, and just when that got old, a friend walked around a corner and said hello. My friend goes to the church I used to attend, until I moved, and we talked for a while. One thing was clear, my friend wasn’t hiding from the rain; he was working in the mega home improvement store. The economy is in a recession, where I live, and my friend found a low paying retail …

Why do some Christians love to hate? Photo: Bart/Flickr/Creative Commons

Christians Who Hate

Wikipedia has a list of “List of terrorist incidents, January–June 2016” and it is a long list for just six months, with everything from mob violence to airport bombings. Human beings are violent and unhappy. When I check the news, someone else has died in some terrorist attack, somewhere in the world. I hope we never get immune to the fact that most killers, in these news stories, hate and kill in the name of God. The good news for Christians is that most religious violence has come from other religions; until now. So can Christians hate? Can we hate people, and not just bad things? Would the death of anyone make your life better? I know that the mean and miserable people in my life are growing older; but every time one of them dies, my life does not get better. There is no improvement down that road. My happiness is tied to God, not to them. So is there any possibility of Christian-inspired violence in the world? Yes. I have never met someone …

Photo: Leonard J Matthews/Flickr/Creative Commons

How Christianity is dying …. or is it?

There is a huge debate about Christianity these days. Many people thinks it’s an antique ideology, disappearing rapidly. I don’t want to argue, but my recent experience might help. My home city used to be the Bible belt of Canada. Our provincial premier, similar to a state governor, was also a Baptist radio preacher. My brother once went to a children’s meeting at the Fundamentalist Baptist Church, and a dignified older man said hello. That was him. We also had a mention in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” for Holy Row, or Church Street, a small area with the highest concentration of churches in the world. That Ripley’s thing might be an urban legend but we all believed it. Today, that inner city street is crowded with old churches and my personal favourite is the Danish Lutheran building. Some of those churches are still open, but Holy Row not so holy now. A few years ago my church moved to some place north of the city, into cow and chicken country, and I moved south; …

The changing face of pornography

The Economy of Pornography

When I was six, some curious boys explored an empty house that was being demolished, and I went with them. Inside, one of the older boys called us to see a mail order catalogue that he found. I remember we sat on the floor and a big boy showed us pictures of women in their underwear. I didn’t understand, but I knew we were bad boys and those were dirty pictures. I still haven’t told my parents. The world has changed since then. Now three things are true; 1) products are mass produced and mass consumed 2) sex sells everything and 3) any business that succeeds evolves and expands rapidly. 1) Success is Consumption: Mass production and consumption dominate our economy, and all we need is money. For example, people everywhere eat fast food, made with mass produced sugar, salt, starch, fat, and additives. It’s bad for us, and it’s everywhere. We are struggling to manage this new set of rules. Pornography is one of the most overproduced commodities in the world, and people consume …

Persecution coming to America. Photo: Karl Schultz/Flickr/Creative Commons

Persecution is Back

Recently, a man ordered a birthday cake for his child’s birthday, and then he cancelled the order. That’s what we know for sure. But this cake cancelling has stirred up trouble around the world. With the cancellation, someone sent a note to the bakery: “Hey actually were going to order our cake somewhere else my husband just found out your Muslim. And I’m not against it but he is because he was in Iraq fighting for our country against your people. He even changed his new doctor because the new one he was referred to was Muslim and he just said somethings and said he doesn’t feel comfortable having you make our cake. I’m so sorry.” I suspect a set up, what we used to call throwing a bomb into a quiet room. One person wrote about the motives of another person, and the original source was never quoted directly, which prevents legal follow up. I think someone was careful. Now the story is a platform for anyone, including me, who wants to make a …

Photo: John Curley/Flickr/Creative Commons

Free Dating Advice, and that MGTOW thing

I learned a new word, new for me, “MGTOW.” It’s pronounced migtow, and it means Men Going Their Own Way. “M.G.T.O.W – Men Going Their Own Way is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word:“No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is. Looking to no one else for social cues. Refusing to bow, serve and kneel for the opportunity to be treated like a disposable utility. And, living according to his own best interests in a world which would rather he didn’t.“ Note that most MGTOW Internet sites include strong language; swearing, and crude statements about women. MGTOW is an emerging movement that could change society like feminism before it. We should not underestimate this new force. Also note, Christians like Paul rejected the corrupt society around them and went another way; and claimed their rights: “Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? And …

Photo: DrOjOhn/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Big Money in Hallelujah

“Let me hear a hallelujah. Can I get an amen?” Those are popular words with some people right now. I’m no music critic, but I keep hearing a country song on the radio “My Church” with those words. The song is a huge hit and it has a powerful lesson. When I first noticed this song on the radio, I thought I was hearing a gospel song, and I liked it, without knowing the words. Who listens to lyrics on the radio? I liked it enough to learn more, and it really is a song about not going to church. A young woman,  Maren Morris, finds freedom from her sins and spiritual revival by driving her old car on back roads, and listening to country songs on the radio. Back road therapy is a big thing in country music. So it’s a feel-good popular song that is slightly offensive to Christians. That makes it like most songs on the radio. In seventies talk, the powerful lesson is in the vibes and the ripoff, which is …

Mobile Chapel. Photo: Sandy McIntosh

The church that should not be

I am a Christian, but on some Sundays I don’t go to church. A few times a year I go to a truck stop where a group “Transport for Christ” has worship services. If this truck stop chapel is a church, it has some flaws. I remember taking a course called “Church Growth” where we planned to start prosperous and stable suburban churches. We looked for communities with young families and affordable real estate, and planned for the long-term. The truck stop is surrounded by industry, with no houses for miles. The local community is truck drivers who stop for a few hours. The church is a modified semi trailer, with stacking chairs inside. This is not a pretty suburban temple with expensive windows and a pipe organ. There is a window on the door, but not even a guitar for music. That pattern was part of the plan, a chapel for industrial workers, but things have gone wrong. The parking lots have been sold to other businesses and now there is only a fuel …

The good news about burning Bibles

Recently, someone burned Bibles in the city of Mosul in Iraq. Christians have left the region, so their enemies burned their books. Someone wants to exterminate Christians, and that is bad news. It is easy to miss that this is also a good news story. Christians are suffering, and that is tragic, but part of this story is good. It’s a picture of disruption. “Innovative Disruption” refers to a new idea that replaces a “market and value structure.” It erodes critical mass which is the minimum amount required to maintain a venture. One good example is the smart phone that you probably have in your pocket. I remember when phones were mostly black and had dials. The system worked well, but now we all want the new thing. Cell phone vendors don’t hate dial phones, they just promote their new thing. Traditional phone companies had us all, their critical mass, and then lost us. Now they are free to sell antique designs to a few, but they need us all in order to succeed. In …

Donald Trump Photo: Michael Hogan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Trump, Harper, Bush, Jesus

A man stood outside a meeting room and heard the speaker say “47” followed by loud laughter from the audience. This laughter was repeated, with different numbers. The man asked what was happening, and he was told “This is a joke club. We know all the jokes, and each reference number prompts us to laugh at one of our jokes.” The man stepped into the room and shouted “four hundred and seventy-eight.” The room went silent, and then someone giggled. The giggling changed to loud laughter from everyone, and soon people were crying and falling out of their chairs, from laughter. The man was confused, and someone said, “You just told a joke we’ve never heard before.” Evoking means we wave the flag, shout out the number, and trust that the audience knows the back story. It’s a form of cheerleading. Rick Mercer is a famous commentator in Canada, and he has the fluency, articulation, and gift of the gab of a true Newfoundlander. Even when I disagree with him, I admire his skill. But …

Rwanda refugee camp Photo: Elisa Finocchiaro/Flickr/Creative Commons

Lies and Refugees

World news everywhere is about refugees and migrants. Millions of people are leaving their homes and travelling to better places. In France the “Jungle” camp for migrants who want to break into Britain is being moved, with tear gas and rock throwing. Police in Macedonia are keeping migrants out, with tear gas and rubber bullets. Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, where organized crime cartels smuggle people, and kill the surplus. And the list goes on. I live in Canada where the government promised, in October 2015, to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas. They achieved the number by March of 2016. Something is missing in all these stories. Some clues about the missing story are the delay in bringing refugees to Canada, and the strange story about refugees from Iraq, living in Finland, returning home by the thousands, and kissing the ground of Iraq when they get off the plane. Someone lied. I live in a wealthy place that is now in a severe recession; where the government …

Controversy in Chicago? Photo: Downtown Chicago -- Greg Wass/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Christian Muslim War – Or Not

A recent article in Aljazeera News comments on opposition to the conversion of an empty church to a mosque, for Muslims living near Chicago. The title describes “controversy” over the plan, and opposition in the community. The comments from readers are predictable, with hateful troll messages. “Religions in general are the work of Satan.”, “your name shouts like you need to take a bath”, and “Hope you get good sleep after spitting so much poison” are some comments I can print here. The article is long, but reading past the title shows one important thing, there is no controversy. It is true that a Muslim group wants to use an abandoned church building as a mosque, but there is no report of effective opposition from anyone. Apparently some anonymous flyers have been left in nearby mailboxes stating concerns about property values and traffic congestion. There is no mention of religious statements in the flyers. I guess this represents someone in the community with a computer and a printer. The authorities have given approval and a …

Praying during Ukraine revolution in 2014 Photo: Steve Evans/Flickr/Creative Commons

Talking to your imaginary friend; praying to God

Do you remember when people were courteous? That was before the Internet. Now we have blogs and mean trolls who express hatred that could get them arrested, or assaulted, in a public place. Hatred of Christians is one popular theme. If you wait long enough, everyone gets hated by someone on the Internet, and I don’t think we are special victims. But the experience is painful for a Christian. “Yesterday lunchtime I walked past a street preacher who was yelling through a bullhorn that there can be no morality without an imaginary friend. I felt it to be my moral responsibility to tell him that not only was he wrong, but that he is also a complete idiot.” Other comments are like: Have you had a conversation with your invisible friend lately? How is Jesus different from a pink unicorn? Children have imaginary friends, the rest of us have grown up. If one person believes in something invisible, that is insane; if many people believe together, it’s religion. There is more, and worse, but I …

The waiting harvest. Photo: Coloneljohnbritt/Flickr/Creative Commons

The silent crisis: Mormons, Muslims, and the rest of us

I have been to church many times, and I know one topic we don’t want to talk about. I can’t ever remember a sermon on the people who are dropping out. And they do drop out, including some people who are very close to me. The old people called it “not living for the Lord.” People are dropping out of most religions, including Mormonism, Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian churches. This is becoming the one big issue, the silent crisis among Mormons. Some people drop out and make dramatic statements, but most claim to belong and don’t bother to practice. Passive and agnostic dropouts number in the millions, and they don’t get persecuted. In any religion, people who convert to something else stand out and can pay a high price. A recent video recording shows teenage Muslims in Germany saying nasty things about German people. They are offensive little brats, but in their defense, when I was in high school we said lots of dumb things, and I’m so glad no one recorded …

Mural: Dig out of the drug hole. Photo: photographymontreal/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Addiction Epidemic

I know a young man who turned out right. He has a wife and two children, a career, and a good attitude. When he was a troubled teen, a man in his church met with him for breakfast every second Saturday, and that simple kindness helped him to get focused, and stay away from trouble. A news article from Australia shows how bad it can get. An entire generation is being damaged by meth cooked in local labs. I have traveled through Montana, where large billboards warn about the dangers of meth, and many towns have lost their young people. Drug impairment is an important topic in defensive driving courses. Addiction is cheap, and addicts are profoundly sick. When I worked in a college, my favorite program coordinator was a recovering addict. One day, in a business meeting, she looked straight at me and said “I will be dead by Christmas.” I gave her my well-meaning Christian denial and I was sure God and the doctors would save her, but a few weeks later I …