Religous Rudeness

This story drove me crazy (click here).

i don't really want to get into the idea of Lord's Day in Christianity or Sabbath in Judaism. Instead, I want to focus on why so many religious people use their faith to be rude, inconsiderate, and nasty. It seems to me that our faith ought to lead us to be more loving, better customers, and down right nicer people.

What do you think? Have you heard about this kind of behavior?


Thursday Nights

The unTapped disscussion group meets every Thursday night at Short's Brewing in downtown Bellaire.

Last Thursday we discussed cynicism in our lives - where it comes from and how it affects everything from our ethics to our choice of music.

Join us next week!
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Greatest Generation

There has been a massive call to arms, as of late, to be servant leaders in our communities. I have heard and overwhelming response in wake of Obama's election by people who feel called to serve.

I'm not sure I buy it.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE this idea of service to others and trying to get out of our consumer-based, me-first mentality. But is a change really happening?

I was fascinated by a friend of my recently who was volunteering with the United Way for a soup kitchen project. My buddy just turned 30, isn't married, and to me, seemed an unlikely character to offer his time this way. I don't mean that as insult, only that I don't see this sort of selflessness around me very often. He was serving because he wanted to help. It wasn't to impress someone, to meet and obligation, or to meet a girl...he was just serving because there was a need.

Does the Gen X/Millennial gen serve in the same way their grandparents did in the oft quoted times when "life was harder, people were more connected, and the world needed them?" Do we serve more? I want to believe we respond to the call to be the hands and feet of love in the world, but I seem to doubt.

Help my cynicism and correct me on this one.

The Challenge of Ascendence

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off. I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery.

-President Ronald Reagen, January 28, 1986

Twenty three years ago today at about 10am, I was a six year old school boy, watching a television screen with two dozen other kids in a suburban school outside of Houston. On the TV screen, a rocket-powered space shuttle pushed itself towards space. It almost poetically rolled as it ascended. Then, it exploded.

I watched as white smoking pieces of debris fell and fell and fell from five miles above the earth. I watched as the rocket boosters spun away in a mad, spinning panic. Even as a first grader, I knew something had gone terribly wrong.

Just weeks before the explosion, I recall visiting a space museum and actually seeing moonrocks. The idea of traveling through space was fascinating. The stars seemed closer. But, it all was so surreal at the same time. The stars weren't closer and the moon was a million miles away. How could this paradox be?

I had not yet gotten used to the split custody between my parents - Dad on the weekends, Mom
on the weekdays. Holidays were negotiable. There was fighting and yelling. Sometimes I wondered if the Moon was such a bad place to live.

Watching what remained of Challenger get reclaimed by the force of gravity, I realized that the Moon was too far away. I experienced my first taste of cynicism. I knew that the tragic was the real.

A year later, my mother passed away. Even as a second grader, I knew something had gone terribly wrong. The Moon was too far away, and outer space was something beyond my reach. All kids have wild hopes and dreams, but at that time, it seemed like mine were descending in a million burning pieces back to the ground.

When did you have your first experience with "gravity?" When did life reclaim your stratospheric hopes or dreams? What was that like? Have you changed since then?



You know, one of the things that faith traditions fear most is doubt. For some people, doubt is debilitating and difficult. It can crush a person's spirit.

However, other people find a lot of depth and insight by exploring their doubts. Some spiritual seekers can learn more about life and faith through questions than answers.

Where are you at? Have you ever struggled with doubting your beliefs and values? Is doubt a good thing?


Torture and Faith

Disclaimer: The following is one person's opinion and not necessarily yours or any organization's. It belongs to the author, alone.

Some people carry around the tag "American" like it is a woeful burden. Not me. I love my country. I always have. However, there are times when my country's government does things that are hard to accept, times that seem shameful.

I was hopeful that the previous administration would have ended the dreadful practice of torture and inhuman interrogation. However, I had to wait until our current administration to see such an injunction come to pass. I am glad that the president signed the injunction and hopeful that our country can leave such madness behind.

What does this have to do with faith?

Faith should remind our leaders of basic moral rights that God gave to every human being. Without faith, I worry how our moral compass will work. America has faith and should look to its faith(s) to inform it s policies.

No matter where you are at politically, I believe that the idea of torturing another human being should shock and nauseate. It is sad to me that America would allow things to be done to other humans that we have outlawed against animals.

The notion that national security is a legitimate reason for such acts is also an inadequate reason. For, every act of torture lessens us as human beings. No matter what an inmate has done, does he deserve to be treated as less than an animal - like a lab rat? Additionally, can we really expect good to come as a result of an evil deed?

Martin Luther King JR said,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
This nation has unprecedented dangers and threats to respond to. It is our government's responsibility to keep its citizens safe. However, we must be careful not to violate our most intrinsic values in the process of securing our lives and our liberty. we cannot achieve morality through immoral means, and if we do, what have we really gained?

We have tried for years now to pursue a means of securing our nation that resembles the tactics of Jack Bauer more than the high ideals of our greatest spiritual leaders. As a person of faith, I am thankful for the wise and moral decision of our current leader, and I am not alone in this gratitude.

So, what do you think of torture and faith's role in the conversation?


I Believe in God

On a regular basis, I enjoy having conversations with various friends about faith, belief, and the reality of s supreme deity. As you could probably guess, these conversations can get heated. They also tend to be unhelpful, since they tend toward predictable patterns like this:

"You prove it!"

"No, you!"

As you can see, pretty pointless.

I think one of the dirty little secrets that many believers are hiding is the fact that in an age dominated by postmoderns, the old apologetic just doesn't work anymore. In fact, it didn't work all that well in the first place. We have reached the limit of our logical arguments, our persuasive pitches, and our philosophical rhetoric and we have failed.

Now, mind you, faith has not been disproved. Instead, both arguments for and against faith have been put in doubt to the point that apologists on both side of the argument have fallen victim to apathy. I am one of these.

For many believers, this has caused a crisis of faith. Many have turned their backs on faiths and traditions. They have seen the failure of argument, logic and traditional claims and just walked away. I am not one of these.Instead, I am the father of Caedmon.

You see, the many who have lost their faith have actually lost faith in a logical system, a philosophical perspective. I have found that faith can remain strong while the arguments and the systematization erodes. This is because our faith

Today, I came home at lunchtime and my son was waiting for me at the door. He looked at me, beamed and said "hi." To me, his simple miracle transcended every objection I could raise.

I believe in God. I believe that there is truth in hope.


This I Believe

National Public Radio hosts a wonderful conversation called "This I Believe." This project encourages people to write in and share their values, and the things that life has taught them to passionately believe in. While it is not an inherently religious conversation, spirituality is covered.

The project features the perspectives of people as diverse as Albert Einstein and Tony Hawk. There is even a spot where you can contribute your own perspective.

What I like about the site (other than the wonderful content) is that the site recognizes that belief is a conversation, a comparison of perspectives, and an opportunity to learn from one another. In our world, we are forced to watch the pain and suffering brought about by people so passionate about their own perspective that they are unable to listen to any other viewpoint. Dialogue is a better way.

So, What do you believe? What do you believe in? What are those things that are the core of who you are?


Media Pawn? Me?

iMonk wrote an interesting post (rant) that you can see here. He writes about the media saturated world we live in now and compares it to the world of his parents, where media was not so encompassing. A snippet:

No…I think their world was better. And I say that with full knowledge that I never saw my parents read a book or listen to music that wasn’t on the radio. They were deprived of a lot, but their world wasn’t utter and complete chaos.

They didn’t believe the nonsense we believe. They weren’t enslaved to the consumer religion. They didn’t judge their children in comparison to anyone other than Wally and the Beaver. They didn’t judge their lives in comparison to the houses on the Better Homes Channel. They didn’t judge a meal by Rachel Ray or a church by Joel Osteen.

Media occupied its place in their world. They didn’t serve as pawns in the world of media.

And that’s what many of us have become. Pawns in a game where we hardly exist except as an audience for the information, consumer and entertainment establishment.

I hope you go and read the entire rant most of the post. What do you think? Is our world so dominated by media, information, and news that we have become pawns for them? Are our livesd increasingly defined by the ebb and flow of the information current?



"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
- Albert Einstein

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that God supernaturally intervenes into our lives and our world?

Einstein seemed to have thought that typical religous coneptions of the miraculous would hinder from recognizing the truly miraculous, which is all around us.

Another perspective on this comes from Michael Spencer who blogs over at iMonk. He wrote a post about a conversation he had with a friend about signs and wonders.

"I believe that religion, as a human phenomenon and by its very nature, creates a world where people believe that things happen that haven't happened. The line between fact and reality goes very thin and takes a good bit of the week off."

While Spencer us probably correct, I don't know if that is such a bad thing. What's wrong with living with a perspective that anything can happen, even if it is not true?

What do you think?
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The newspaper in the town I grew up in used to have a section of their classifieds called "Happiness Is..." For a small fee, you could tell the readership about something that had made your day by finishing the sentence "happiness is."

People would put all sorts of stuff in there. "Happiness is attending our family reunion." "Happiness is visiting my aunt's cabin on the lake." "Happiness is catching up with my old friends." You get the picture.

Happiness is something that we can all agree on its value - we all want it. We can also agree on its elusiveness - we all don't quite have it yet.

What is happiness to you? Is it something you can achieve, or is it a state of mind? Do we have a responsibility for others' happiness or just our own?

What is happiness?
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Dalai Lama on the Economy

I found this story over at Bloomberg's site (link).

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, blamed a lack of spirituality among people today for the global financial crisis.

The Buddhist monk, speaking during a weeklong religious seminar in the Indian holy city of Varanasi, told followers that “rampant corruption in the world” is due to a decline in culture and spirituality.

“People have become selfish and materialistic, which has led to the economic slowdown,” the 73-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner said in an address at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies yesterday, Indian state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported.

What do you think? Is there some sort of spiritual conection between spirituality and the economic crisis? It seems to me that there is an undeniable connection between the crisis and ethics (or lack thereof).


“How’s the weather your way?” my Dad asks. He always wants to know about the weather. I answer and then ask him “How’s the weather your way?” I always want to know about the weather. You see, he lives farther in the North.

There is a strange enchantment that surprises me and my neighbors every year. It is the Cold. The Cold waves a wand over our North and the ground turns to white. The Cold waves its wand and the precipitation turns to snow. The Sun disappears.

In the North, the cold is the crisp climate greeting that meets me as I walk out the morning door. This cold permeates every part of life. It is a part of the atmosphere, the air. This cold is not alone, though; it also brings the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of of trudging footsteps and the sight of my breath exhaled.

Today, I left the house coated, sweatered, and hatted. The drive to this coffeeshop was slow as car’s tires slipped and tended toward the ditch several times. But, upon arriving, the coffee was hotter than in months gone by. Everything I touched had a warmth that has always been there - my skin had just forgotten how warm the world actually is.

My perspective has been skewed from a lack of winter. I am grateful for the unfamiliar magic, for the Cold.

I’ve removed my jacket now and Billy Collins is in my cold hands:

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.

We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

-Billy Collins, from “Shoveling Snow With Buddha”
read the whole poem here


The Other and the We

According to a 2006 study, Americans have less close relationships than ever. We are more socially isolated, and less inclined to form friendships that at other times in our history. Some people don’t mind this. They don’t want to have any identity with a collective.

I am re-reading Ayn Rand’s Anthem. She is trying to call people to throw of societal bonds that link us to a collective “We.” True freedom for her is found in individual accomplishment and personal choice. Any infringement upon a persons free choice is slavery and evil to her.

I was reminded of Jean Paul Sartre’s famous aphorism - “Hell is other people” (original Fr. - “l’enfer, c’est les autres”). Sartre thought we committed sin if we allowed ourselves to be defined by another’s perspective. So, in the play, Huis Clos, three people examine eachother’s lives - all the wrongs, the sins, the mistakes. It is an existentialist’s nightmare!

Rand and Sartre usually get idiot undergrads all riled up. They run out of their philosophy classes, buy a beret at the hat store for pretentious people, and vote for Ron Paul. But, soon, they graduate; they get married and have kids. They take off their berets and look into the eyes of an infant, wondering just who they really are.

I have found that only my son really knows me, because he does not. He just loves.

I have found that I am more when we are together. I have found that there is a joy in “We” that frees me and it abounds.

What about you? Do you feel like people in our culture are more isolated? Or is this a good thing? Are we more inclined to focus on fewer relatinship for higher quality?

cross-posted at thirdwatch

deviant art image link



In 1987, George Michael sang "I've got to have faith faith faith."

Faith in what?

I was in a group discussion one time and a professor was ripping the idea of faith. A girl raised her hand and said "I have faith." The professor then asked the strangest question, "Faith in what?"

I realized I was assuming that everybody shared my faith and that my spiritual tradition had some sort of monopoly on the word. My fellow student's response further expanded my perspective. "I don't have faith in anything; I just have faith."

Do you believe in faith? Do you have faith? Faith in what, or whom?


In order to live man must believe in that for which he lives.
- Huston Smith
unTapped is a conversation about faith and spirituality. There are many people frustrated by being forced to think of faith in the same old patterns, and would prefer to explore spirituality in different ways.

Anything goes here. No matter where you are or who you are, we want to hear from you. Feel free to join in the conversation!

You can also join us in person, every Thursday night at Short's Brewing Company in Downtown Bellaire, MI.