Archive for the 'religion' Category

Published by Brian Slezak on 14 May 2009

Gmail Promotes Atheism?

Yeah, well, apparently so. Or at the very least they support ad revenue that promotes atheism. Nice eh?


Published by Brian Slezak on 26 Apr 2009

All You Need

Live blogging from my phone @ Living Water Christian Church this morning. Sang a song with the lyric “Jesus you are all I need.” I looked down at my son who was grabbing a bite to eat from his bottle. For the first time I seriously questioned “all I need.” You mean that doesn’t include my son?

That is the first time I’ve ever challenged that in my mind. It is challenging to say anyone’s first-born son is greater than mine in my life. Yet I pray that my son, my wife, and I enjoy an ever-lasting life some day.

Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Mar 2009

The Brave One

Pania went to bed early the other evening, and my mind was still awake even as tired as I seemed . While she slept I scrolled through the HBO on demand movies, finally coming to The Brave One. My memory sparked as I remembered wanting to see it after watching the trailer because I enjoy Jodie Foster in most of her movies. Impressed yet again with The Brave One, I was moved to write my off-the-cuff reaction. Spoilers follow – you’ve been warned.

I loved the way this film unraveled! The storyline revealed itself like a comic book, Batman for instance, but based itself more in reality than the fantastic. No caped crusader in this film; instead a petite woman, Erica, who is transformed by brutal violence into her darker self. After her fiance is beaten to death, and herself nearly so, she is reborn not into the light but into the dark. The same face in the mirror stares back at her as did before; she has not been physically altered, but a completely different person lives behind the same eyes.

The movie takes you through her downfall as she consciously and deliberately lets evil into her heart after defending herself in a convenience store robbery. She becomes a vigilante, consumed by the thrill of doing what she feels is good and right by eliminating evil from her city. The same evil that changed her forever, and killed her fiance. Her clothing through the film changes with her from white to gray and finally to black. We struggle with her as she knows what she is doing is wrong – it is killing; it is illegal. She swings from knowing she is right, to justifying her actions, to almost turning herself into authorities, and back again. At one point in the movie she gives away the crucifix necklace that was once her fiances, and she has been wearing throughout the movie, to a woman whose life she saved a few nights back. (She obviously does not truly understand what this symbol represents.) This done right in front of police officer and right after Erica asked the woman who she saw the night, and the woman replies no one.

I felt the movie struck a lot deeper than its surface appearance. The viewer has a connection to Erica, because in our hearts we want her to exact her revenge. She knows it’s wrong and so do we. What happened to her is horrible, and we want her attackers to be punished for what they did. Erica takes us down a the road where we choose dark. The movie made me feel that the dark is not just out there waiting for you to choose to step into it. The dark wants you. It is not waiting, but wanting. The dark wants us, because we want it. It is so natural in us even when we consciously know better. Choosing the light is so much harder. This was not a story of struggling with forgiveness.

Sadly, in true moral depravity that only Hollywood can produce, Erica not only exacts her revenge, she is justified by the police officer who is on to her throughout the movie and even instructed how to perform her crescendo of violence “legally.” The movie ends with Erica running away from the bloodbath that the officer has covered up, only to later stroll through the same dark tunnel where the story began – toward the light at the end of the tunnel. A better ending would be her walking into an ever darkening tunnel.

Aside from the ending (sigh) the movie is very well done, and is a present comic book story that is, scarily, easy to relate to. The lesson is how easy it is to relate to Erica’s dark desires, how easily they consumed her, and how quickly she fell away into the darkness. There is no light at the end of that tunnel folks. Revenge is not ours. If you found it easy to relate to Erica, you are not alone, but that does not make it just.

Published by Brian Slezak on 07 Mar 2009

Online Church Fear

I’ve become very bad about reading anything, but Clif put up a post that sparked my interest and it actually sparked a post of my own. I read some of the other posts Clif linked to, and I recognized some old rhetoric applied to a new subject. The new subject is online communities, with the old rhetoric being how destructive “online church” could be to Christian community.

The old rhetoric, believe it or not, was aimed at sermons available via on-demand audio and video. I read posts and heard conversations about how this enabled people to sit at home and watch the sermons rather than “going to church!” People were essentially asking, “What if people stop coming to church,” or to freshen this question, “What if people stop having a full and authentic Christian life?”

Mutant Sub-ChristianMy opinion is that this thinking is founded in fear. Fear that providing a church experience consumed while sitting at home will create some new sub-human mutant race of almost-Christians with hideous skin quality and large eyes adapted to viewing 320×200 video in low light who sit around in tattered underwear. Aaaaahhh!

I am certain that just as many people were fearful of projectors in the sanctuary and on demand audio streams as are now fearful of churches providing fuller online experiences.

So what have churches learned from providing sermons online? I can tell you that Resurrection has found that it reaches people in ways no one could have ever imagined. People around the world, not just in the nearby state, are able to connect to a Christian message and find the narrow path, some for the first time. I wish I could post the hundreds of positive, uplifting thanks we have received by providing this service.

I will suggest that if you are out there discussing the negative ramifications of providing church experiences online, you must recognize that you can not imagine all the amazing and powerful ways God may use that experience.

Acts 5:38-39 – “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these people alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these people; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

I admit that fear aside, the remaining question needing an answer is whether an authentic community born and maintained solely online can be a theologically grounded authentic Christian community. If inauthentic online Christian communities could exist, should we be paralyzed with fear that they might happen? Can’t they be horribly inauthentic offline as well?? What might also happen is that God uses those experiences in profound ways that we could have never imagined. Do this for godly purposes, not human purposes. Leave the imaginary sub-human mutant Christians behind and hand it over to God to throw down or lift up.

Published by Brian Slezak on 08 Jan 2009

America's Cross to Bear

I sometimes listen to Marketplace on NPR on the way home because it is typically on during the time I leave for home. Tonight I heard a great quote that made me think of a conversation I had with a co-worker within the last month. We were discussing the major factors of US economic fallout and how to view it in positive light. We both agreed that these times will be our cross to bear as a nation, state, city, or family. Things will right themselves, and this is a time for growth.

The quote was by Charles Handy, the “London Business School founder and Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker School of Business Professor.”

[Referring to the US econmic situation] But there may be some good news in all of that and we may get back to a saner kind of world — what Adam Smith [author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations] called “cultivation” or “civilization” — where we don’t all sort of spend our life trying to make money, to buy things we don’t really need to impress the neighbors, and so on. But we actually do work not 60 hours a week, but 40 hours a week. Where we actually do take holidays. Where we actually get to know our kids again. ….

How tragic does that sound?

Published by Brian Slezak on 11 Nov 2008

Morality FAIL – Health Care

cross 1Is the over-inflated cost of health care in the United States an instance of capitalism gone bad?
Is it the role our government to intercede when anything goes bad?

These were a couple of questions that went through my mind the other night as I was doing a poor job at falling asleep. I think I ended up generating more questions than opinions. 🙂

There is money to be made off the sick. Doctors are highly paid, and hospitals have boards and stake holders that receive compensation in non-profit and for-profit organizations. When the actions of a non-profit hospital become about maximization of surplus, (non-profit lingo for ‘profit’,) and inflated reimbursement to executives rather than providing health care for the community, I think they put their 501(c)(3) status in jeopardy. The government collects taxes, and if your organization’s purpose is to provide charitable services, they can waive those taxes.

The previous paragraph aside, and assuming everyone agrees that all people deserve access to medical care, how do you build a system that allows equal access to that care regardless of a persons station in life? Some may measure equality by the cost of the service. I think we should measure equality by the access to the service. On the surface, it doesn’t seem fair that someone with great wealth should pay more for health care than someone with little wealth. I can see how someone would look at that and say, “That’s clearly not fair,” and I suppose they would be right. It is not equitable in value, but it is honorable. I think it is a morality failure for those with more to not help those with less. It is a morality failure to abuse health care for personal gain rather than using it to care for humanity.

We need more incorrupt people managing health care rather than more legislation attempting to regulate moral behavior. Maybe the former is just a pipe dream?

Published by Brian Slezak on 12 Jun 2008

Living the Gospel

For some time now, my wife and I have been attending Living Water Christian Church, in Parkville, MO. (About a 40 min. drive for us. Ouch!) This week’s e-mail from pastor Laura held my attention pretty well. In it, she relayed a conversation with her son:

My son Rob had a conversation with me recently, in which he was bemoaning the state of “organized religion.” He said, “People in churches can’t be real, they have to pretend to be someone they’re not.” I stopped him before he could go any further and said, “Living Water may not be a perfect church, but we have lots of people who have been honest about who they are and what they struggle with. We have made it clear that we accept and welcome everyone because all of us have baggage.”

That spurred this post, which is somewhat my own response to the Robs of this world. I wholly agree with Laura about Living Water, though I know where Rob is coming from, even though my “old guy” years give me a different perspective. For what I would guess is the majority, there is the life we live outside of church, imperfect, flawed, sinful, and via the human condition we simply accept this, and just drudge forward. Rarely we change our ways, or even acknowledge our failures. Then there is the life we live at church, where we are baptized in Christ, eat the bread and drink the juice, act as a better Christian for an hour or two, and try to befriend people we don’t know and build a community.

So what’s with the double-agent lifestyle? Where is the accountability? Why can’t we be like Rob and others envision, where if we say we buy into it … we actually BUY into it? To err is human.

This made me recall a conversation I had with Chuck Russell regarding accountability groups. Essentially these are small groups where individuals hold each other accountable to a very high degree for living a good Christian life. Why are these groups not wildly popular in every church? I think it is because people don’t want that. It’s to effective! “I seriously have to give up my sinful ways behind closed doors and live *that* life? For the love of God that sounds boring!” 🙁

For the love of God, we turn away, and are loved regardless by His grace.

Our flaw may be small, only a seed, or it may be a full grown tree with deeply set roots. Christianity is a walk – not a switch that is turned on and off. We accept Christ as our savior, strive to overcome our weaknesses, but we do not change overnight.

How does today’s church affect our lives in practicality? It may start with that person in the mirror.

Published by Brian Slezak on 27 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 2

In my previous post, I described my experience and opinions on day one of the Everything Must Change Tour that took place on Friday evening. Saturday morning, the conference began again at 7:29 am. I have to say that is really early to get postmoderns out of bed, but plenty were awake enough for good conversation. The morning started with break-outs, and we attended McLaren’s session on church plants. It was essentially just a gathering of people involved in church plants, young churches, or those trying to do something new in established churches. We sat in a circle of chairs and people commiserated about the difficulty of those tasks.

My wife and I connected with trying to do something new in established churches. Most people talked about how the old guard would work against them, and in some extreme cases just kick them out of the church. McLaren led the discussion and would interject his experience where appropriate. The conversation followed natural peaks and ebbs, and everyone seemed comfortable to participate. My wife and I agreed later that this was by far the best part of the event.

We talked about what “church” meant and how that differed from traditional ideas and the difficulty in reaching the unchurched. Brian used a phrase that stuck in my mind, “Leadership By Anxiety,” to describe using the natural energy around an idea to push through making a change. It reminded me of Adam Hamiton’s “Decision by Nausea” concept, which he uses to discern which of many paths he should to choose. The path that God leads you down is often the most challenging, and frightening.

Over all it was good, but here is my constructive criticism: The buzzword “narrative” was used quite a bit through the discussion. I don’t understand why we as people take simple things and make them complex in order to feel more enlightened. Other than that minor criticism, the only unsettling thing about the discussion was a strange quietness about what to call what they were doing. People used phrases like, “where we are”, “what we are doing here,” “how we were led to this.” To be honest, it made me feel like I didn’t really know what was going on, like I was sitting in some sort of cult-ish or secretive meeting. Kind of weird.

Other than the morning discussion we had a morning of worship. The songs were chanted, and very meditative. So much so we almost fell asleep. After we finished, we had to leave early to attend our nieces birthday party.

Overall, still just ok. Swag was good. :-/

Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 1

This evening I attended the Everything Must Change Tour, presented (I supposed), by Deep Shift. I live-tweeted the event, if that’s what you call it, which was my first attempt at using Twitter. It was very one-directional, as I did it through my cell phone and didn’t have device updates on. New guy – my bad.

I registered for the event late last year after hearing of it somehow. My wife and I had heard Brian McLaren speak at one other occasion, knew he was associated with this, so we signed up. It wasn’t cheap – $75+ per person at early bird price, but if you got in on the early bird deal you got a copy of Everything Must Change, one of McLaren’s books. Oh, and it ended up you got a compact fluorescent after showing up. “Yeah. Check out my totally enviro-friendly bling, yo. 1200 lumens for only 20 watts dawg.” So you got swag for $75. Not all bad.

I had a creepy feeling about the event from the time I registered though because of some of the language surround the event. To be perfectly blunt, it felt very bleeding-heart, tree-hugger, all we need is love … ish. Oh well, at the very least it’ll be a good experience for my wife and I. This feeling was intensified after getting to our seats and thumbing through the handouts. Let me extend this feeling to you by way of quoting some of the material:

…. Therefore we will practice ‘listening one another into free speech,’ ‘building bridges of empathy,’ ‘creating safe spaces,’ and other strategies of revolutionary communication.

When I see or hear ___ I feel ___, because my need for ___ is/is not being met. Would you be willing to ___.

When you said ___, I felt ___. Can you understand why I would feel that way?

A short commentary: Umm – Wow. 1. Revolutionary? Really? Seriously? 2. I’m building my bridge of empathy to solitude, and I don’t care where your bridge goes. 3. If I “felt” that much all the time, I’d be in therapy, or I’d be a woman. (I do not mean any offense to women, I am just a guy that’s all. But if that made you feel ___ because it was ___, I would suggest ___. No ___ intended.)

During one of the discussion times, I met Al. Al asked me what I thought of this so far. (Thus far we had experienced good music, a Sierra Club video, and some speaking by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw.) I admitted I had little expectation, not doing any research about it beforehand, but felt “like it was a bunch of liberal stuff.” Al gave me a concerned look, a nod, and agreed.

Brian McLaren spoke. He’s a good presenter, and a good speaker, so you can’t go too wrong. One thing I like about Brian is that he loves circles. Two dimensional circles. The man can explain anything he needs using circles, usually three or four … and maybe a box. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but that was ok because I wasn’t supposed to. He told us that before he started, and I happened to agree with him about that, and some other things too.

We broke into another discussion time to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and Al turns around to me and states, “Yeah, I’m afraid you were right. He is off base, and just wrong about ….” Unfortunately, Al and I were on the same page. This wasn’t the McLaren we knew, and to my initial concern; McLaren was veering hard left toward the target audience.

Overall, the evening was OK. The music was great, McLaren wasn’t at his best, and the evening was much like a sub-standard worship service. If I didn’t get books and swag, I would have been very disappointed. My wife tolerated it. That is to say she didn’t go postal on me, but sternly said I owe her something in return that is better than ice cream. She and I agreed that the time progressed much like a mainline worship service. Singing, greeting, prayer, shake some hands, singing, listen to preaching, prayer, singing, benediction. There was more discussion thrown in than usual. Oh – we did miss communion, but it wasn’t the first weekend of the month. 😉

It may sound like I’m vehemently against the left, but I am really not. I have some liberal views that get me chastised, and I’m fine with that. I just take the extreme left less seriously. You kind of have to, because when they state in the materials that Brian will intentionally avoiding using male pronouns when referring to God because the bible reflects God in feminine images as well as masculine; you have to call that out. At what point were all those “He” references misleading? Did I miss it when Jesus pulled out, “whoops, I meant Mother, not Father. My bad.”

Regardless, we’re attending tomorrow’s morning session as well, and Pania (that’s my wife) is even going with me when I expected her to bail. If tomorrow is blog-worthy, I’ll post about my experience.

Published by Brian Slezak on 15 Feb 2008

Spiritual Health in Relation to The Dying Church

Yesterday in Resurrection’s staff chapel, the message was given by a congregant who detailed how he and his wife visited Resurrection, got connected, and started an amazing God-inspired journey. Without going into the detail of his entire story; it was quite good; one thing he said stuck me and got me thinking. When describing his first visit to Resurrection he stated, ” … and they seemed like they actually cared that we were there [that day].”

What struck me about that statement was the simplicity. Somebody cared that they were there. I immediately thought back through my journey of visiting churches. …. He’s right. At most churches my wife and I would visit, the people other than the “assigned greeter” and the staff did not care if we were visiting. By a very high majority, the other people of the church had come to church only for themselves, and were not interested, maybe even scared, of making us feel welcomed.

And I don’t let myself off the hook so easy either. I’m a confessed computer geek and introvert. I’d rather develop a web application than walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation. ;-( But sometimes when I walk into church, I need to forget myself, remember my assignment, and follow Christ.

So now I’m thinking the root problem with The Church is an epidemic spiritual decline. Too many churches are developing immature Christians who never grow into a state of following Christ. Primarily people start going to church to satisfy themselves, and it should be the job of that church to stimulate growth from that stage to the next – going to church for someone else. It seems ironic that a religion rooted in a truth that the life of Christ was not lived for himself but for everyone else, that we have such a hard time teaching Christians to live not only for themselves.

Although I have not read a word of Reveal, I have heard many Resurrection staff talking about its message. Time for me to do some reading perhaps.

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