Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Hope I'm Not Out of Line When I Say...

I am a Christian. Four very simple words… But this statement is, perhaps, one of the most controversial and potent statements in the English language.
Say it. Walk up to complete stranger and say it. I guarantee that at least one out of three people will be either taken aback, give a knowing “Huh.”, or possibly even roll their eyes in disgust. Of course, you will run into people that will congratulate and encourage you. I will not be focusing on those reactions…not here at least; instead I would like to discuss the possible reasons for the negative reactions that will come from claiming to follow Christ and perhaps I can give you a better understanding of what it truly means to follow Christ.
But before I get into that, I would like to refresh everyone’s mind on just what it means to be a Christian. This is what Christians believe in a very small nutshell:
God is perfect. Man was created by God. Man was innocent and had personal fellowship with God. Man sinned and lost his innocence. God’s personal fellowship with man ended because a flawless God cannot stand sin. In order for God to keep his relationship with Man, God ordered that for Man’s sin to be covered, innocent blood must be shed. Animal blood was the only innocent blood, but it had a problem. It didn’t cleanse Man of sin but only covered up the sin.
So God conceived a plan. Two thousand years ago God came to earth as a man by the name of Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, making Him the only man that did not deserve to die. Christ, being both God and sinless man, chose to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He then rose to life after being dead for three days. We, as Christians, believe that the only way to get to heaven is by believing in Christ and accepting His sacrifice for our sins. Only by being “washed” with Christ’s blood are we able to stand before God.
But Theology and other such matters is not what I want to discuss. Christ tells us that after we are saved, we are to follow Him. Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God as dearly loved children. He even tells us to be perfect as God is perfect… now I may be wrong, but that is a pretty high standard to hold one’s self to! But Christ also preached something that was just as controversial, if not more so, He said that He was the only way to heaven. I believe that it is within these teachings that we find a great portion (note: not all) of the world’s dislike for Christianity: 1) they find that Christians are guilty of hypocrisy, and 2) they find Christianity intolerant to other beliefs or religions. So I ask that you open you mind for just a few minutes as I discuss these two points.
Brennan Manning states, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Through Manning’s statement we see the effects of hypocrisy, especially within Christianity. But I feel that we, humanity, don’t have the correct outlook on hypocrisy, so let me, if you will, speak first about the non-Christians and then the Christians.
But first let us define hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, to put it simply, is the act of saying one thing, yet doing another thing. But one of the most important aspects of hypocrisy is that it is relative. Take moral standards for example. If I say that I believe it is wrong to smoke a cigarette, but I do. I have committed hypocrisy. But if someone else does not view smoking as wrong, and they smoke. It is not hypocrisy because their actions follow their words.
Please note that I am not arguing moralities, in one way or the other. Hypocrisy, itself, does not distinguish between right and wrong. A murderer who openly admits of his ways and does not attempt to hide his true nature is not a hypocrite. Insane, perhaps but not a hypocrite. Whereas it would be hypocritical for one who openly detests lying to speak a lie. The morality of things such as lying, killing, or cigarettes makes no difference as far as hypocrisy goes.
It seems to me that non-Christians are, typically, quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians. But I believe that we keep forgetting that others fall short as well. I would imagine that Christians simply stand out more because we have a very high standard that we are told to live by. We are supposed to imitate a perfect God. Wouldn’t imitating someone that is perfect be the highest standard? With such a high standard to live by and being only human, it would seem that Christians would also be more likely to commit hypocrisy more often than non-Christians.
But everyone is guilty of hypocrisy. Everyone has a standard to which they hold themselves to (although some people’s standards are significantly lower than others). If you hold yourself to any standard whatsoever, I would be willing to bet that almost everyone has failed to meet it one hundred percent of the time.
So my call to non-Christians on this matter is to stop being so hard on Christians. Chances are that if you held yourself to their standard, you would be just as hypocritical as them if not more so. Even now you are probably guilty in your own right. Christians make mistakes, just like everyone else. What really counts is where their heart is. So when you see a Christian that you know is guilty of hypocrisy, ask yourself this: are they simply putting on a Christian persona, or do they truly strive to be like Christ?
Christians, we must take control of ourselves. We have got to let our hands not only match our lips, but maybe even give our lips a break. I know that we are going to make mistakes, but it seems that all too often we are using the “I’m only human, I’ll make mistakes” card to justify making them.
This should not be. We should continuously long to be like our Savior. Let our hearts belong to Jesus, and may our words and actions follow suit.
The second problem that I have observed is that non-Christians often believe Christianity to be an intolerant religion. Well… It is and it isn’t. Here is why:
If I were to summarize Christ’s teachings for you, it would go something like this: 1) Christ said that He is the only way to heaven and 2) LOVE.
Now a lot people tend to not like the first one, but I believe that the second clears all concerns of Christ being intolerant. But just to be clear, let me explain myself.
The vast majority often believe that Christ was a sort of hippy-ish man. They think of Him as calm, soft spoken and a very likable guy. Here’s a news flash: Christ was not the man of the hour. He was not a celebrity or superstar (huh…). In fact He was despised by the religious leaders of that time. Why? Because He didn’t just step on their toes, He crushed their toes. Christ came along and told the men that devoted their entire lives to studying God’s Word that they were drowning in their own hypocrisy.
For some strange reason people simply do not like being told that. Yet Christ did. And He didn’t just stop at saying that they were wrong. No, He also told them that what He said was the truth, the only Truth. Apparently some people got a little upset and decided to have Him killed (a little harsh don’t you think?)
Christ was actually quite tolerant of others. He let people believe whatever they felt like believing. He did tell them that they were wrong, but he never tried to force anyone to believe one way or another. He never preached violence or any other radical means of “converting” people to His way (Spanish Inquisition anyone… anyone?).
Instead of using violent means, Christ preached love. He said to love those with different beliefs than you. He said to love those that hate you and despise you. And to love even those that want to kill you. But I feel that we, as humans, most of the time don’t know exactly what kind of love He was referring to. You see, He said that I should love other people more than I love myself. Which is tough thing to do in today’s society; where there are plenty of people that may not even know that it is possible to love someone else more than yourself (Could this selfish mentality be what keeps us from truly understanding Christ’s love, hmm? I bet it has got a least something to do with it). This selfless love means that even if I have never met you, I should love you so much that I should be willing to die for you. That is the kind of love that He was referring to.
But back to the original question, was Christ intolerant?
Yes, perhaps, in some sense Christ was intolerant but most definitely not in the way that we tend to think of intolerance today. I think that a most of the time, we associate intolerance with violence or other negative things such as that. That is simply not the nature of Christ. Narrow-mindedness does not equate to intolerance and Christ’s teachings are very narrow-minded (please note that narrow-mindedness in this sense does not have to have a negative connotation).
Instead we call Christ intolerant merely because He rebuked others. Once again, I don’t see how rebuking someone equates to intolerance. Sure it may not feel good to be rebuked, but rebukes are a very important part of love. It is through the rebukes that we receive from our loved ones that we are able correct ourselves when we are wrong. We rebuke those we love because we love them and want to see them corrected. Christ rebuked His closest friends, the disciples, on several occasions. All but one of them was killed later in their lives for telling of Christ’s love (it sounds like His rebukes didn’t push them away).
With all of that said, here is how I think that we, Christians, should conduct ourselves around non-Christians:
1. I believe that Christians should make their beliefs known and then be done with it (more showing Christ, less preaching Christ). There is absolutely no reason to constantly remind people of your beliefs (most people really do have pretty good memories).
2. Be cautious with your rebukes because people generally don’t like being told that they are wrong all of the time. That is simply common sense.
3. Sometimes Christians tend to shun people of different beliefs than themselves. If Christ befriended tax-collectors and whores, why should we shun Muslims or atheist or anyone else? Instead of separating ourselves from non-Christians or “preaching” to them constantly, I think that Christians should love with Christ’s love and let that be enough.
I hope somewhere that in my small scribbles, you may have found something to reflect upon or perhaps learned something that you had never known before about Christianity. If you have any questions or suggestions, or merely think that I am completely wrong, please let me know… but try to be nice, my self-esteem is very fragile.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Further Inspection of Cider Tables

Several factors have already changed since my note on cider tables. It is because of these factors that I am now writing another note. So please bare (bear) with me as I go along, and perhaps this note will finally help you make an informed decision in, as some call it, the Cider Wars.
The first factor that has changed is the fact that we now know that cider tables do indeed exist. Thanks to the research of my good friend Josh, there is now no question as to the existence of cider tables. This, of course, means that Joseph’s initial argument (the denial of cider tables) is proven false. But Joseph did not let the debate fall after that. No. Now since cider tables were proven to exist, we must discuss the practicality of cider tables.
Joseph and some of those that support him have said that it is simply impractical to have both a coffee table and a cider table. My answer to this is: yes, for some people it is. I believe that if you drink mostly coffee then by all means get a coffee table. If coffee is your drink of choice then it won’t matter if you have a cup of cider at a coffee table every once in a while. But if you drink more cider than coffee, do not refrain from getting a cider table. That sort of reasoning seems completely logical to me: mostly coffee= coffee table, mostly cider= cider table. But if, for some reason, you drink quite a lot of both then I would find that as justification to get both tables. I, of course, personally don’t like drinking cider at a coffee table or vise versa, but does that mean that it is wrong? No. That is merely my opinion; I would like to drink coffee at a coffee table and cider at a cider table.
So you should now see that I don’t discriminate against coffee tables, I am not telling everyone to destroy their coffee tables and go buy cider tables. I am merely supporting those who would wish to get a cider table. Forgive me, but I believe in free country were a man has the right to get a coffee table, cider table, or both, if he so chooses. I simply feel that Joseph is trying to tell us that we should not be allowed to have cider tables. That, my friends, is a violation of our freedom. Joseph is trying to stand up and tell us what we can’t spend our money on. That should not be.
I would like to bring up one more issue that has been brought forth by several people: that there are “children in remote countries of the world who cannot even pride themselves in owning a coffee table”. First of all I agree with Mr. Chance Gibbs when he said that “if a starving person in Africa decides to eat off of a coffee table, so be it.” Indeed, Mr. Gibbs. If someone is truly that poor then a table, of any kind, should be the very least of their concerns, that is just common sense!
Also the frivolous expense of buying a cider table was brought up. Yes, perhaps it is frivolous, but once again let us not bring forth the argument of the poor into this. By even bringing up that argument, we are doing an injustice to those of a lesser means than us. I say this because I know that no one who has talked about the poor or the children in third world countries plans on doing anything to relieve them. I say that cider table discussions are not the correct place to start these debates because we already spend money on things that are far more expensive and just as frivolous. It is our materialism, our consumerism, our humanity that is causing these problems in the world. It is nothing short of hypocrisy to claim that you refuse to buy a cider table because there are other people that couldn’t afford one, when I know that we spend money on things every day that others don’t have the money to even consider buying.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of my opinion on cider tables. I am sure that I forgot something, so if you still have questions, feel free to ask me. I pray that you will stand will me against the discrimination of certain tables, and support our right as human beings to have any table that we so choose.
God bless,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Thoughts On Cider Tables

Yesterday Joseph and I were sitting in our dorm conversing about bands that we would like to see in concert. We were discussing this because we had seen a concert the night before with Trev, Cruise, Brent, and others (so please note that, as a result, both of us go very little sleep the night before). Anyway our conversation took us to a band named Deas Vail. They are a very easy-listening indie band, and so Joseph said that he would like to see them live while drinking cider at a coffee table. I was tired and ready for the conversation to be over, so I said the first thing that came to my mind… “Why that’s preposterous. Why would you drink cider at a coffee table? You drink cider at a cider table.”
Those of you that are my close friends know that I say some pretty outlandish things. Joseph is one of those people, so I expected him to let out a sigh or roll his eyes… something of that nature. No, he says something along the lines of, “those don’t exist!” Thus commenced a five or ten minute debate as to whether or not cider tables exist. I would like to take a few words right now to explain cider tables and whether or not they really do exist.
First of all, Joseph said that they simply do not exist. My rebuttal to his claim was quite simply this: How do you know? Sure I may not be able to find cider tables on Google, but does that really mean that they don’t exist? Of course not! Google doesn’t know everything, and it never will. In order to say that you are one hundred percent sure that cider tables don’t exist, you must first ask everyone on the face of the planet if they have a cider table in their possession. Will we ever be able to do that? No, we will not!
He then asked a question, “Why would you need a cider table?” The answer is that you don’t. There are plenty of people that do not like cider, and obviously, these people would have no use for a cider table. Yet they may still want one for decoration or for their guests. Just as many people that do not drink coffee still have coffee tables. It’s the same principle.
But what if you like cider but don’t have a cider table, so you use a coffee table. Is that allowed? Technically, yes, but honestly wouldn’t you feel so much better knowing that you were drinking your cider at a cider table and not at a coffee table. I mean that is like drinking coffee at a juice table! It’s silly! It is simply silly to drink one type of drink at a table that is not designed to suit that type drink.
I honestly don’t know why Joseph has such a hard time seeing my point of view on the whole matter of tables. But I hope that you do. So if you agree with me then please help me to spread the knowledge of the cider table around. We cannot allow people to remain ignorant to such serious matters as this. But if you disagree with me… don’t be my friend anymore. If you will remember when you became my friend, I had you sign a waver that tied our friendship in with your acceptance of cider tables. So if you refuse to acknowledge that cider tables are indeed real then I am afraid, by contract, we are no longer friends.

With Love and cider,