Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Alternative Christmas Message

Any thoughts?

Iran's Ahmadinejad to give alternative Christmas message

Ruth Gledhill's comment | Full text | 'Christ would be on our side'

Jewish groups were up in arms today when it was revealed that Channel 4's "alternative" Christmas Day broadcast is to be delivered by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad's speech will go out at 7.15pm, four hours after the Queen's traditional Christmas Day message is broadcast on the main channels. His message is a spiritual one but includes some more nakedly political elements - including the implicit claim that if Jesus Christ were alive today, he would oppose US hegemony.

“If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers,” Mr Ahmadinejad will say in a speech to be shown in Farsi with English subtitles.

“If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over. If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime.”

It is no the first time that the broadcaster has courted controversy since Quentin Crisp delivered Channel 4's first alternative Christmas message in 1993. In 2006 a fully-veiled British-born Muslim woman used the message to attack Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, for his criticism of the niqab (face veil) earlier the same year.

Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, said Mr Ahmadinejad's message should be treated with caution. The Iranian President has repeatedly called the Holocaust a “myth” and called for the annihilation of Israel.

Mr Smith said: “Many of his political and historical views are very dangerous and do not uphold the views in his message. I think this benign message is deception. People need to be alert to the fact that this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Henry Grunwald QC, president of the Board of Deputies, added: "The appearance on our television screens of a man whose prejudices are so well-documented and who has openly called for the eradication of another member country of the United Nations is an affront to decency.

"To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust. Whatever he may say in his 'message', his words on other occasions and his actions towards minority groups in Iran should have disqualified him from filling this television spot."

But Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, defended the choice. "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential," she said. “As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

A Channel 4 spokesman said that the message was filmed in Iran but it was kept top secret in case it fell through at the last minute. The message will be broadcast several hours after the Queen's to avoid any implications of equivalence between the monarch and the Iranian leader.

Britain and Iran have rocky relations, particularly over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.

In October, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, warned of a possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran was allowed to press ahead unchecked with a uranium enrichment programme.

In response, Tehran accused Miliband, who is Jewish, of having “strong ties with Zionists”.

Relations between the two countries hit a low last year when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in disputed waters in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq. The troops were released safely nearly two weeks later after a televised meeting with Mr Ahmadinejad.

The Queen is to use this year's broadcast to acknowledge the impact of the credit crunch on many families as recession starts to bite.

“Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many,” she will say, emphasing the need for cutbacks. “Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and naturally give rise to feelings of insecurity."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Topics of Discussion

With a new year fast approaching, I am looking for new ideas.  Initially, there were some posts and topics that provoked some discussion.  As of later, however, the board has been relatively silent.  I am open to hearing what you would like to discuss.  If you have suggestions, please post them as a comment, or drop me an email @

Additionally, if you have expertise in a certain area and are interested in writing a piece for debate and/or discussion, please let me know.  I would love to have some guest writers in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

$3 Worth of God, Please

Wilbur Rees mused:

“I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please,

Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep

But just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the


I don’t want enough of him to make me love a [a person who is different than I] or

Pick beets with a migrant.

I want ecstasy, not transformation;

I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.

I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.

I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.”

This is the attitude that many Christians have.  It's an attitude that has resulted in the commonly held belief that Christians are hypocrites.

What if Christians were to quit embracing this kind of faith?  What if they were willing to allow their faith to the core?  What if, rather than being intellectually naive, Christians thought through and wrestled with their faith?  What if, rather than blindly following the crowd, Christians took the radical nature of faith, hope, and love seriously?  What if, rather than overlooking their own faults and sins, Christians set aside their castigating of homosexuals and pro-lifers- instead looking at their own tendencies to overeat, be judgmental, and apathetic?  What if, rather than just talking about what God can do and how he can change peoples' lives, Christians actually joined God in his redemptive work- restoring our communities, helping people to kick the addictions that are ruining lives and marriages, etc.?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Don't Know If I Like Christians...

Tony Morgan, a pastor, posted this on his blog this morning...

After going back and forth on this for a couple of weeks, I’ve decided to just do it. I mentioned recently that I’m not sure I like Christians. With the help of some of my friends, here are the top…

10 Reasons I Don’t Like Most Christians

  1. They consistently seem angry and bitter and worried. I thought Christians were supposed to reflect joy and kindness and peace.
  2. They don’t dream big dreams. That seems odd given the fact that we’re supposedly worshiping a God who is “able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare ask or hope.”
  3. They seem to worship their theology more than Jesus. For whatever reason, this appears to be especially true for folks that come from a reformed theology.
  4. They don’t like it when other people or ministries experience success.Think about it. There are Christians who would be overwhelmed with joy if NewSpring experienced fewer salvations, fewer baptisms and our attendance dropped.
  5. They use prayer as an excuse for inaction. They’re waiting for God to do his thing, but they aren’t willing to step out in faith and obedience.
  6. They’re more concerned with the BMW next door than the lost person who drives it. Christians hate people with money. They’re willing to sacrifice time and money for those without it, but they’re satisfied to let “rich” people go to Hell.
  7. They would rather people live life without Jesus than give up their personal preferences. What happens when your preferred teacher doesn’t teach? What happens when your preferred worship leader doesn’t lead? What happens when you don’t like the music?
  8. They are fake. They dress up a certain way on Sunday and they live as completely different people the rest of the week.
  9. They think they’re better than other people. That’s why they create rules to follow. It helps differentiate why they are holy while others are not.
  10. They’re comfortable with mediocrity. Doesn’t matter where. Think Christian music and movies. Think how we invest our time and money. You don’t seriously think God deserves our best do you?

The reality is that I’ve sinned in just about every one of these areas. It pains me to say that, but it’s true. If people hear the Gospel and reject Jesus, that’s one thing. If I’m the barrier to people accepting Christ because of me and my sin, that’s a completely different deal. Fortunately, God’s much bigger than my stupidity.

When does your humanness get in the way of people knowing the hope, forgiveness and love of Jesus? Does your life make people curious about the claims of Jesus or does it make them flee? What would you add to the list?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Traditions

With different cultures and world-views come various traditions.  This week, families across the United States will join one another around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As my family joins together there will be the singing of worship songs/hymns, a recitation of what we are each thankful for, and a blessing.  To round out the celebration there will be turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles, rolls, corn, beans, cranberry salad, and maybe even a healthy dose of football.

Our celebration will be a mix of family, cultural, and religious traditions.

As you gather together: 1) How will you celebrate? 2) What traditions combine to make your Thanksgiving celebration uniquely yours?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Battle for the Ages: "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" XIII

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching... The Christmas shopping season is about to be in full swing, as well.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the angst over store employees saying "Merry Christmas" and/or "Happy Holidays" is in full swing as well.  In recent weeks, I've begun to receive emails from Christians that contain lists of stores that we should not support since they are instructing their employees to say "Happy Holidays".  

I have also read some recent editorial pieces in local newspapers that suggest it is wrong and intolerant for stores to allow their employees to say "Merry Christmas".

Personally, I don't really care one way or another.  I won't be boycotting any stores just because they refrain from wishing shoppers a "Merry Christmas," nor will I be writing a letter to my editor explaining how I think the loss of this phrase signals the end of America as we know it.  In other words, I'm not offended about this shift.

Many, on either side of the debate, however, seem to be rather incensed- feeling like this is an issue of ultimate importance. 

My questions to you are: Where do you stand? Is it intolerant to wish someone "Merry Christmas"? Does it really signal the end of all that America has stood for, simply because someone will wish you a "Happy Holidays"?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Becoming an Atheist

The other day, as I was perusing the internet, I came across this draft of a chapter from an upcoming book.  The chapter is about a girl named Lily and her journey of faith, doubt, and an eventual break from the Christian faith.  I would encourage you to read the chapter and post your thoughts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Does It Make You Crazy?

I live in a rural community in the north-east.  The closest movie theatre is 20 minutes away.  By-and-large the people of this area are known for their conservative values.  President-elect Obama, although winning both the popular and electoral college votes in our state, lost the popular vote (by a landslide) in our county.

I bring this up, only to provide some context for the comments that I am about to make.  Although I'm a Christian, and a pastor at that, I think that is important for people to make informed decisions about things.  On election day, I encouraged the members of my congregation to make informed decisions about who to vote for.  I suggested that we should look at all of the issues, and not just whether someone was pro-life or pro-choice.  Moreover, we endeavored to provide voter's guides that came from non-partisan sources.

When it comes to literature, magazines, and movies- I have encouraged people to explore things for themselves, rather than simply relying on what "Focus on the Family," or other reviewers have had to say.

To that end, when I saw the trailer for Bill Mahr's movie, I REALLY wanted to see it.  I've been waiting around (for well over a month) for this movie to come to a theatre near where I live.  However, it does not appear that the movie plans on coming my way.  

It's a shame really.  I would really like to encourage our church people to go see it.  Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to wait until the film hits DVD.

Until then, I was wondering what your thoughts and impressions about the film were?  Would you recommend it? and, Why?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Who Doesn't Love a Good GPS?

"Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."   ~from Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

As I sit down this morning to write this post, I think back over the years of my life.  I think back to two questions that have tortured me; two questions that I have desperately sought the answers to.  The first: Who am I?  The second: Why am I here?

Admittedly, my search for answers has led me down many paths and to many a bookshelf.  I've read books on evolutionary theory, creationism, intelligent design.  I've turned to authors such as: Beckett, Sartre, Heidegger, Neitzche, and Kierkegaard. 

My journey, and search, was not an emotional one.  I'm not an overly emotional human being.  In fact, I find empathy and sympathy to be incredibly difficult.  Emotional arguments do not appeal to me.  Neither do arguments that have no supporting facts.  Somewhere along the course of that journey, I began to find answers to my questions.  I began to understand who I was, and (at least to some degree) why I am here.

My questions for you are: 1) Have you undertaken a similar journey? 2) What persons/authors/philosophies did you encounter along the way? and, 3) Have you found satisfactory answers to those questions of identity and purpose?

Friday, October 31, 2008

What Is A Christian?

Thanks to everyone who got involved in our last discussion!  It was quite interesting and, I think, helpful in clarifying a number of things.

Today, in part to those discussion as well as some emails that I have received, I would like to ask: Who or what is a Christian?  What are some non-negotiable beliefs that Christians have?  What are some beliefs that are negotiable?  What are some non-negotiable beliefs that Christians have, which you think should be negotiable?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Atheism: A Belief or Lack of Belief

Atheism, according to the dictionary, [1] is "the theory or belief that God does not exist."

Recently I have been involved in some discussions with people regarding atheism.  On one side of the discussion are Christians and other religious people.  By and large they posit the aforementioned definition of atheism.  On the other side of the discussion, however, are some atheists.  By and large they view their atheism as a lack of belief, rather than a belief.

Admittedly, I am speaking in generalities and have failed to provide a fully nuanced discussion about the subtleties of the discussion.

Regardless, I would like to hear your thoughts.  As a Christian or religious person how would you define atheism?  As an atheist how would you define atheism?

[1] Brian Westley aptly pointed out that not every dictionary provides this particular definition. However, many that I consulted provided this definition or something akin to it; which is why I have used it as a starting point for our discussion.  If you think this definition is incorrect, I would be interested to hear your thoughts or see what dictionary (and definition) you would suggest that I use.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The God Delusion

I've been traveling a lot lately.  That means spending a great deal of time in airports, planes, and restaurants.  Being in these public places gives one the opportunity to engage in conversation with people that one would otherwise never have the privilege of talking to.

During the course of my travels, I've met a lot of people who have read (or are reading) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  In the wake of those conversations, I went out and purchased a copy.  Admittedly, I have not yet read the book, but I have heard a lot about it; and before I dig in, I would like to know what you think.

Have you read the book?  What did you think of what Dawkins had to say?

Friday, October 17, 2008

'08 Election

The presidential election is less than a month away.  Excitement seems to be in the air.  Who will win?  That is yet to be seen.

The question, however, is... What criteria will you use to make your decision?

It has been said that the litmus test for a candidate for conservatives are the issues of abortion and homosexuality.

It has been said that the litmus test for liberals is the environment.

Are these stereotypes true?  If you are a conservative what issues matter to you?  If you are a liberal what issues are close to your heart?  If you fall somewhere in between, what issues will you be looking at?

(While matters of issue and policy are important and open for discussion, please do not endorse a candidate or plug an agenda.  Please confine your comments to what issues are important for you and why they are important.  If you endorse a candidate, your post will be removed.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

College Campus Reflections: Post 2

I spent 45 minutes this week talking to students at an area college campus.  

One of the talking points was:
  • What has the church most often got wrong?
Some of the respondents suggested that the church has been too judgmental.  Others have said that the church has become too political.  A few went so far as to suggest that the church has never made a mistake.

What do you think?  What has the church MOST OFTEN got wrong?  Where has she most often gone astray?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

College Campus Reflections: Post 1

I spent 45 minutes this week talking to students at an area college campus.  

One of the talking points was:
  • What comes to mind when hearing the word "church".
Responses were wide and varied.  Some expressed that when they heard the word "church" they immediately thought of "pompous" and/or "hypocritical people," who are lousy when it comes to loving others.  Others indicated that they thought of a building or religious meeting place.  Still others indicated that they immediately thought of "good, caring people" or "the place where I was on Sunday."

My questions are: 1) What is the "church"?  How would you define and/or describe "church"?  2) What immediately comes to mind, for you, when you hear the word "church"?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Inability to Post

If you would like to post, but find yourself unable to do so, please drop me an email and I will try to make sure that it gets posted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Share Your Story

The purpose of this website is to engage people of all different backgrounds in an ongoing discussion. Many people have been hurt by the Church or by a Christian. Yet, for whatever reason, Christians are reticent to acknowledge such hurt and pain.

In order for that to change, the Church needs to hear the stories of those that have been trampled on, beat up, and hurt by Christians.

So please, share your story.