If You Want to Convert People, Don’t Throw Dirt in Their Eggs

Long before New Mexico was a playground for the rich and famous, it was a playground for my family.

My Daddy’s family hailed from there, going back to before statehood, when it was a dangerous and unsettled wilderness. Edward Arlington Robinson’s line “We count our past backwards by the gravestones and the apple trees” fits my feelings about New Mexico perfectly. All I have to do is change “apple trees” to cacti.

My Daddy’s family liked to go camping, again long before camping was an in thing to do. It was a time when the mountain roads were not paved and the winter air was so pure and cold you could see all the way to tomorrow.

The whole bunch of us — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — went on one of these camping trips when I was a toddler. I have no memory of this event, but I’ve been told they cooked breakfast. I have experienced a lot of these campfire breakfasts, eating scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, all cooked over a propane stove. The taste of food like that, when you’re shaking with the bone-numbing morning cold and your family is all about you, surpasses any other gastronomic delight I have ever experienced.

Even though I have no memory of what happened that day, I’ve heard about it often enough to feel as if I remember it. Right in the middle of the cooking and laughing and sleepy-morning good times, I picked up a handful of gravel and tossed it onto the cooking eggs.

Fortunately for me, my family wasn’t prone to spank children. The adult consensus was that I had gotten tired of not being the center of attention and made a move to focus attention on myself. So, they picked me up and laughed about it, tossed the eggs and had a breakfast of hash browns and bacon, instead.

That was also the camping trip in which my cousin, who was six months older than me, fell into the ice-encrusted mountain stream and had to be rescued and cuddled for warmth. There was evidently a lot of baby cuddling and laughter on that trip and it was the beginning of glorious memories of the mountains before they were trendy for both my cousin and I.

I’m telling you this story, not to confirm your suspicions that I was an indulged and adored child (I was) but to point out that two-year-olds behave a certain way, and when they behave that way, it’s ok … for two-year-olds. Anyone with half a brain knows that baby people act out the primitive cravings for attention that never leave any of us in primitive, baby people, ways.

Anyone with half a brain also knows that certain maladjusted people, who maybe didn’t get their fair share of cuddling and adoration when they were babies, don’t grow out of this. Back before the internet, these jerks (there is no better word) visited their boorish behavior on those long suffering souls who had to work with them or have them over for Thanksgiving dinner. In short, the same families who’d messed them up in the first place had to pay the price of putting up with them for life.

But family fracturing and social isolation has deprived these folks of their traditional outlet. At the same time, the internet has given them another one. Far from being isolated on line, they’ve formed themselves into virtual clubs for the socially inept. They hang self-congratulatory monikers on themselves and spend a lot of time telling each other how special they are and how totally second-rate the rest of the world is.

But this constant verbal back-slapping and repetitive proclaiming of their own superiority to one another doesn’t give them enough attention from the larger world. Staying in their own little clubhouse and high-fiving one another until their palms bleed doesn’t — nothing can — satisfy their hunger for attention. They need more.

They sally forth from their little enclaves to toss verbal sand into everyone else’s eggs. Then they go hopping home to brag about their exploits.

One of their members recently wrote an accidental confession of sorts, based on his astounding discovery that you can’t get people to dine with you if you throw sand in their eggs. What worked for me when I was two, just doesn’t get the same loving tolerance from people who aren’t your adoring family and who are operating under the (evidently inaccurate) assumption that you are an adult.

This little essay, titled “Why I’m quitting the online atheism community,” is one atheist’s discussion about how he has learned that he can’t “convert” those “morons” who believe in God to his way of thinking by dashing onto our blogs and inserting himself into our conversations and calling us, well, morons.

I don’t know exactly what led this young man to this flash of astounding social enlightenment, but, to be honest, I am more than a little amused by his belief that he’s had some sort of interpersonal epiphany. I keep wanting to ask: Who raised you fella?

This atheist’s essay interested me for a couple of reasons, other than the fact that it’s accidentally funny.

First, it is a frank admission of what I think most of us already know. These clumsy trolls are trying to convert us to their way of thinking.

Second, these clumsy trolls actually think that their insults and tiresome verbal wanderings are some sort of discussion rather than an affliction and an intrusion.

I imagine that the idiotic billboards they hang up at Christmas fall into the same kind of activity. They think billboards with insults on them are saying something to people of faith. For our part, all we see are a bunch of adult two-year-olds, running around, pulling their pants down and tossing sand in our eggs.

When they cross the line from insults and adolescent grandiosity into coercion and discrimination, the laugh track dies. But that is a discussion for another post. Right now, I’ll confine myself to the question of questionable behavior by those who are so lacking in social grace that they think yelling insults and annoying people will appeal to and “convert” them.

The moral of this story is that if you want to convert people, don’t throw dirt, including verbal dirt, in their eggs. It applies to rude Christians as well as atheist trolls.

If you didn’t get your loving as a child and feel an aching need for it that won’t fill, turn to Jesus. His love is the love you were made for. Everything else is a faint copy.

 

Christian Bashing: Are There Any Limits?

Michael Weinstein, Esq, the Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is living proof that anyone with a word processor can call themselves a civil rights activist.

He’s also living proof that you can say just about any Christian-bashing thing you want and get away with it.

I ask you, what would happen if you substituted “Jew,” or “black,” or “Muslim” or just about any other group of people for Christian in this little diatribe:

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you of monsters and monstrous wrongs. And let me tell you what these bloody monsters thrive on.

I founded the civil rights fighting organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to do one thing: fight those monsters who would tear down the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal entity ever created by humankind, the U.S. military.

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces. Oh my, my, my, how “Papa’s got a brand new bag.”

What’s Papa’s new tactic? You’re gonna just love this! These days, when ANYone attempts to bravely stand up against virulent religious oppression, these monstrosities cry out alligator tears in overflowing torrents and scream that it is, in fact, THEY who are the dispossessed, bereft and oppressed. C’mon, really, you pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers? It would be like the utter folly of 1960′s-era southern bigots howling like stuck pigs in protest that Rosa Parks’ civil rights activism is “abusing” them by destroying and disenfranchising their rights to sit in the front seat of buses in Montgomery, Alabama. Please, I beseech you! Let us call these ignoble actions what they are: the senseless and cowardly squallings of human monsters.

Queasy with the bright and promising lights of the cultural realities of the present day, those evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures and their spiritual heirs have taken refuge behind flimsy, well-worn, gauze-like euphemistic facades such as “family values” and “religious liberty.” These bandits coagulate their stenchful substances in organizations such as the American Family Association  (AFA), the ultra-fundamentalist Family Research Council (FRC), and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty(CARL). The basis of their ruinous unity is the bane of human existence and progress: horrific hatred and blinding bigotry. However, when the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and others correctly characterize them as “hate groups,” they all too predictably raise a deafening hue and disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are. (Read the rest here.)

Idoppersecution

These lovely words did not come from some seldom-read little blog run by a nut and his pals. They were right up front on Huffington Post, with its huge circulation.

I ask again: If the group which is the object of all this hatred was any other than Christians, what would the reaction be? But since it is about Christians, I ask you to notice the deafening silence.

When it comes to discrimination and persecution, speech precedes action. Talking about people like this wears away the resistance to thinking about them in this manner. Thinking about them this way wears away the resistance to legal discrimination and ultimately, violent persecution.

Zeke Pipher, who blogs at Man on the Run, has written an excellent article on Mr Weinstein’s Christian-bashing rant. You can find it here.

My question: How far does this have to go before Christians wake up, stand up, and say, Enough! 

Persecuted

Why Don’t Christian Bashers Ever Get Tired of Themselves?

Why don’t Christian bashers ever get tired of themselves?

I don’t read atheist blogs. But I am aware that at least some of them appear to have no purpose except Christian bashing.

Based on the topics I see posted, it appears that all they do, day after day, post after post, is churn out one attack on Christ, Christianity and Christians after another. I don’t claim or want to be an expert on atheist blogs, but from what I see of these, they are negative to the point of implosion.

They offer nothing — nothing — on which to build a life or a society except broad (and baseless) claims that they represent “reason.” There is nothing reasonable, healthy or sustaining about a life built on attacking other people.

And that, of course, is the trouble with atheism as a philosophy. It’s a zero. There is no “there” there. When you get past the constant attacking and tearing down and destroying of Christianity and Christian social structures and morality, all you have is … nothing. You cannot sustain a society or a person on nihilism and negativity. It’s like trying to stay healthy by eating styrofoam.

You can make good money preaching hatred of Christians and Christianity. You can become a legendary folk hero to people who want to be told that there are no limits to what they may do to other people. But you can not build anything based on a philosophy of tearing down, attacking and destroying.

I am not writing this to encourage atheists to become pretend Christians so that they can avoid looking off the side of the cliff they’ve built and seeing the nothing that their philosophy leads them to. I am writing it to encourage Christians to stop being intimidated by these little thinkers.

They offer nothing except the emptiness of what is left when your whole purpose is destruction. 

The question isn’t how to answer them, but why don’t they ever get tired of themselves? How many times can you write the same tripe attacking other people and other people’s beliefs before the echo chamber of your own repetitiveness begins to bore you?

Why don’t Christian bashers ever get tired of themselves? 

What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”


What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

Atheists Give Up Sleeping In On Sunday, Klingons and Tribbles

Atheists in London have started their own church, called The Sunday Assembly.

The first services were conducted by  a stand-up comedian, whose homily seemed to amount to jibes at Christianity. The whole affair appears to have been topped off with a singalong.

Trendy.

Cute.

And reflective of the deep human longings which atheism denies. People want faith. They need it. There is, in each of us, a God-shaped hole. We can try to fill it with all sorts of things, but nothing will suffice except God Himself.

I think that is why atheists are the most God-obsessed people you will ever hope to meet.They read the Bible more than Billy Graham, talk about Church teachings more than the Pope and generally talk/think and obsess over God more than a while monastery of praying monks put together.

Witness their bizarre obsession with commenting on this blog. It would appear that they want nothing more out of life than to come in here, dump off a load of mindlessly repetitive atheist rhetoric and start a few fights. Part of this is due to their equally bizarre evangelistic fervor, but most of it seems to be just a plain old obsessive/compulsive demand that I allow them to smear their insults and nastiness all over this blog.

They act like Public Catholic was the last lifeboat off the Titanic and they were standing on the tilting deck, fighting for their lives.

Now I read that they’ve put together a faux church in England, which has been so successful that they’re planning to open a branch office in Scotland. There are remarks about how they can now have the community of church without all that tiresome dogma.

Excuse me, but are they seriously contending that atheism doesn’t have a dogma? If that’s what they think, I challenge them to go to one of these gatherings and say something even slightly traditionally moral such as … ummm … abortion kills a living child. Say it and back off and watch the fireworks.

Atheists most certainly do have a dogma; and an ugly, death-dealing dogma it is.

There should be nothing odd about this, since atheism itself is based on the ultimate death-dealing dogma of turning your back on God. After you’ve done that, there’s not much death dealing left that can top it.

I don’t know if these atheist faux church services will continue to thrive after the novelty has worn off. I do know that during my anti-God period, I never once thought it would be a good idea to get up on Sunday morning and go to a singalong. Sleeping in on Sundays was one of the perks of my anti-God state, and I enjoyed it to the max.

However, if they do continue to draw crowds to these things, it won’t be long before they develop an official dogma of some sort. Atheism is not all that supportive of free thought. It’s also not all that supportive of freedom of action. My experience of associating with mostly atheists back in the 17 years of my anti-God period is that they are fiercely clannish and fiercely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with the core tenants of their disbelief.

This business of aggressively and openly attacking people of faith is new. Back in the day when I was walking with them, they shunned people of faith, made fun of them and lied to them, then laughed about it when they were together. The open attacks are a new flavor of atheism spawned mainly by the insult polemics written by a few of their tribe.

I don’t know of any sin that could have gotten me drummed out of that merry band of atheists. I mean it. Nothing offended them. Save one thing, which is what I did. I found Christ.

I didn’t have to tell them I’d found Christ for them to know it. That was my first intimation that there was more going on under the surface than any of us knew. My atheist buddies reacted to me after my conversion in much the same way that Tribbles react to Klingons. They were appalled by my presence.

That came as a big surprise to me, since I hadn’t said anything to them. I was a secret Christian at that stage, still trying to figure out what this new thing that had happened in my life meant for me. But they knew on a visceral and unthinking level that I had changed, and they reacted by getting as far away from me as they could. All they needed to add was to hold up an atheist A and shout “I cast you out, clean spirit!”

I know now that we were both dealing with powers and principalities, that atheism is not a simple intellectual choice, anymore than following Christ is a simple intellectual choice. Both of them involve a spiritual dimension that shapes our actions and reactions without our being aware of it.

I remarked once that God didn’t change what I did. He changed what I wanted to do.

The other side of this coin does the same.

In all my years of anti-Godism, I never experienced this, at least not fully. I think this was because I was never a true atheist. I didn’t actually pretend to be one. I made fun of believers, of Scripture, of traditional morality, but I always told people that I still believed there was a God. I even refused to do certain things and told people I still had too much belief in God to do them.

So I wasn’t even a pretend atheist. I was anti-God. I was also anti-religion. In fact, I would say that I was specifically anti-religion, with a side dish of God-can’t-or-won’t-help me.

God never deserted me in those years, never stopped calling me.

I don’t doubt that He’s calling many of the atheist cranks who are so frantic to climb aboard the good ship Public Catholic and lay waste to the place.

These atheist faux churches are a reflection of what St Augustine observed when he said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

I pray that these lost souls will find their way Home to that resting place before they die. How tragic for them if they don’t.

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