And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part VIII (Prayer is Not A Weapon)

My latest article for the Orange County Record. It seems to fit in my “And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians” Series as well.


As the Republican and Democratic National Conventions have come to a close, we are officially in election season.  Between now and Election Day (November 6), we will be inundated with attack ad after attack ad on why one particular candidate is better than the other.  Each will tout their record, their plans, their reasons for why they believe they can move this country into an era of prosperity and greatness.  Since the beginning of this Presidential election cycle, debates have been held, mud has been thrown, and names have been called.  To be honest, I believe it has gotten completely out of hand.  One can not access social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter without being bombarded by other people’s advertisements for the person they support.  Some have taken to engage in serious conversations, while others are advocating for Tim Tebow or even Jesus Christ himself to run for President.

Well in Victoria, Texas some one as taken upon themselves to buy a billboard in honor of the President.  No, this billboard doesn’t thank the President for his service or one promoting his policies or even supporting electing Gov. Romney; this particular billboard is one that is passive aggressive attack all under the guise of religion.  The billboard reads “Pray for Obama- Psalms 109:8 (sic)”  (Before we get into why this is an undermining of religion, I need to point out that when you refer to a particular Psalm, there is no need to refer to it as “Psalms”, rather refer to it in the singular.)

Psalm 109:8 reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office.”  This is a completely disingenuous use of prayer and use of scripture.  For starters, this piece of scripture is not referring to an American President or even anyone from the last 2000 years.  This Psalm is a cry to God from King David.  Dr. Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa stated that “The fact that the context of Psalm 109 is actually recounting the words of a righteous King David, who is complaining about the lies and threats his enemies are making against him is apparently lost on the individual who placed this ad.”  This ad was a direct attack against the President.  This is why the Secret Service was called to investigate.  Some will say that this is free speech and it should be left alone.  Others will say that is a threat and all threats should be taken seriously.  I am not a lawyer, but a follower of Christ, this is making prayer and scripture a weapon.

Is this the prayer that God wants to hear?  Is this the way that God wants humanity to act toward another person?  I do not care if you disagree with the President or even Governor Romney, the fact still remains that we are all called to live out the gospel each to our own understanding and conscience.  No one person, no one denomination, no one pastor or anyone has a monopoly on God and on how the gospel is to be carried out.  Does this mean that I agree with all expressions of the Christian faith?  Absolutely not.  Does this mean that I am going to spend money and buy a billboard passive aggressively “praying” for them.  No, I will not.  Imagine what good could have been done, how many people could have been helped, how many bellies could have been filled if that money that was used to incite and divide was used to complete and make whole.

One day while listening to the radio I heard someone call in a show and say that they believe that God was calling all followers of Christ to vote for a particular political candidate.  I believe that God does not care who wins the election of the President of the United States of America.  I believe that God has bigger things to worry about.  This does not mean that our faith does not inform our decision making, but to say that God is trying to direct all Christians in the United States to vote for a particular candidate is stretch for me.

Many followers of Christ learn from a young age that prayer is an important spiritual discipline.  People go on spiritual prayer retreats/walks to get back in touch with the Divine.  Prayer is not a weapon that is to be pulled out when someone thinks differently than we do.  No, it is a gift that has been given to us so that followers of Christ may continue to have a close, personal, relationship with God.  People refer to the ‘power of prayer’ and how prayer sustains them and fulfills them.  There a beautiful quality to prayer.  Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, once wrote, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”  Prayer is powerful when it is used to stop the disorder in the world.  I do not mean political leaders, but the disorder or disease, famine, hate and malice.  This is the disorder that Jesus Christ came to put and end to, this is the mission that all followers of Christ are called to embody.  So as we draw nearer to November 6, 2012, let us remember to at least try to be civil with one another.  It’s the only we are going to get through it.

New Beginnings

Today I begin my first day as the Interim Minister at Bethany Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Houston, Texas.  It is a mixture of excitement and nervousness all mixed together.  I have begun the process of unpacking all of my books and trying to get them in some sort of arrangement on the bookshelves.  I am looking forward to the opportunity that awaits me as I continue to journey with God in ministry.  This summer has not been the easiest but I am confident that good things are still yet to come.

Above is a picture of my office with the bare shelves.

In the mean time I am staying with a member of the church while the search committee is trying to find temporary housing for me (and possibly the rest of the family).  Please pray that the house in Orange will be sold or rented soon.  It has only been one day and I am not sure how many more days we can live as a divided family.

Here’s to the next step of the journey!

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Two Years Since The Passing of #12

Two years ago today, a High School Senior with a bright football career ahead of them died.  His name was Reggie Garrett and he attended West Orange Stark High School in Orange, Texas.  He was #12 and was great quarterback.

After completing a touchdown pass he walked to sidelines and collapsed and subsequently died.  It was a major shock to the community. Still today you can see people with “WOS #12” or “112%” (Reggie’s catchphrase) on their cars. There is a memorial for him at the school and football field.

It it hard to believe that it has been two year ago.

Below is what I wrote for the church I was serving at the time, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orange, Texas.


WOS #12.  It is hard not to have noticed the number 12  and condolences being given around our town this past  week.  The impact that Reggie Garrett has had on the lives of the people of Orange, on West Orange-Stark High School, on the football players he called his friends and to his family, is almost palpable.  This is not limited to our little corner of the world; Reggie’s story made national headlines on the Today Show and ESPN.  Even Cowboys Head Coach, Wade Phillips, sent the school a letter of condolences.  One young man’s tragedy has in a sense, unified the town.  The barriers of school district lines and on the field rivalries seemed to simply vanish over night.  Hundreds of people from all walks of life, race, creeds, color and ethnicities gathered at WOS to honor a life taken from us.  I have been thinking a lot about Reggie and about his family.  I have been reflecting on his life and the impact that he made on so many people.  This situation is not one that comes with an easy answer to the tough and almost natural question of “why?”; “Why did God allow such a bad thing to happen?”  To be honest, there might not be an answer that will satisfy our primal curiosities.  However, in the midst of such sadness and distress, the message of God’s love and provision is evident in the scriptures.  The Revelation of John speaks of a time when pain and hurt are no more, when tears will be wiped away and a new order of things will come into being.  This is the expected hope of Christians; the hope that one day God will right the wrongs and set the world back on a course where the answers to life’s questions are not full of ones that do not hold much merit.  Revelation 21: 1-4 reads: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, „See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.‟

May we cling to the hope of this day.  May we remember the life of Reggie Garrett.  May we mourn his passing and look to the future when God’s reign will be over us.

WOS #12.  RIP Reggie Garret.

There Is No Magic Bullet

There is a pill for just about everything under the sun.  If you have high blood pressure, you take this pill; if you have anxiety, you take that pill.  There are even medicines that grow eyelashes longer.  If you have the aliment there more than likely a medical procedure, treatment or pill for it.

The constant search for ease is not just in curing what ails us.  Weight loss pills claim that the fat will “melt away” with no exercise while eating everything from pizza to ice cream.  Home gadgets claim to organize our lives, make it able for us to clean less and have more time for family and friends.  There are thousands of organization and time management apps and programs available for people to use.

People are looking for that one fire way to fix the problem they have; they are looking for the “magic bullet” or the one thing that will solve all of their problems.  Some people look for it in plastic surgery, some people look for it in money and some people look for it illicit drugs.

But just as many people look for the “magic bullet” for their own lives, congregations around the world are seeking that elusive “magic bullet.”   Churches are looking for that one thing that will bring them to their goal, whatever it might be.  For most churches that I have been a part of the one thing they are looking for are ways to get “the young people” to their church.  Their rationale is a good one; they want to ensure that the church that they have worshipped in and loved for so long will remain after they are no longer here on Earth.  Churches have tried all sorts of things to draw in this particular segment of the population.

Well friends, I am sorry to say, there is no magic bullet when it comes to ministry.

There is not special formula or combination of words that will make ministry easier, better, more effective.  You could have the best preacher in the world, the best music and the great facility but if the presence of God is not felt within the walls of the church or from the people attending, you will have a hard time filling that building each week.

For some churches they have found something that works; it might have been a specialized ministry or even a particular program.  The fallacy that many other churches fall into is that one church’s ministry and results can be duplicated at another church.    You have probably seen it before, one church builds a new fellowship hall with gymnasium, and six months later another church in the town is doing the same thing to “keep up with the Jones.”   Why?  Because they believe that is the magic bullet.

Ministry is one of those things that is similar to a lot of other churches but yet distinctly individual.  On one hand all churches believe in God and Jesus as God’s son, but how this is lived out may look completely different.  Catholics believe in the transformation of the bread and wine during Eucharist to flesh and blood, while other Christian denominations believe it more a remembrance act or a memorial.  Is one more correct than the other?  No, rather it is a matter of how ones faith is lived out.

This is the same understanding that must be applied when it comes to ministry.  Every church even within the same denomination or even the same town will have different ministry focuses.  One church might more international mission minded while another congregation might be more focused on the homeless in their town.  Both churches are trying to live out the gospel in their own unique way.

For congregations today, the focus must not be on what another church is doing to bring in people but rather on what God is calling that particular collection of followers of Christ to be and become.  This is no simple task, rather is one that will take serious time and devotion.  However, once the time is invested I believe that God will reveal in time the direction a congregation is to go and do not be surprised of the answers you receive.

Christianity and 9/11: 11 years later

Below is an article I wrote for the Orange County Record. It will be published tomorrow but I thought I would post it today on the anniversary of September 11, 2001.


Yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the terror attacks that took place across the country on September 11, 2001. On that day nearly 3000 people lost their lives. Every year the country is called to stop and remember those who perished in a senseless act.

Since then the world is a much different place. Wars were fought in remembrance of those who died; soldiers gave their lives defending the freedoms that we have here in this country today. But one of the biggest things that happened because of 9/11 was that Islam was put on the map and under a microscope.

Christians have had a choice to make sense that day: live in fear and hatred of another religion or learn and find way to connect via common ground. Many people, many Christians have made all Muslims the enemy of the United States and even of Christianity itself. This is a tragic outlook for Christians to take; this makes all followers of Christ look bad and it is still happening today.

Since 9/11 a number of anti-Muslim websites, rallies, posts and possibly sermons have taken place. Most of them have been based in the fear, assumptions and thinly veiled truths. The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read “Mohammed is dead, Jesus is Alive!” This got me thinking, would this sticker have ever been produced if 9/11 never happened? Why are some Christians so afraid of this particular religion? Why are debates being held on whether the President of the United States is or is not a Muslim? It is unfortunate that all peaceful Muslims here in this country are lumped into a class of people that advocate to the death of innocent life. Most Christians do not want to lump together with Westboro Baptist. If we do not want to have this done to us, then why are some so quick to do it to others? Where is the grace? Where is the love? Where is the notion that all of humanity is created in the very same image of God that you and I are created in?

Islam has been around for centuries but until 9/11 I really did not know much about the religion. I knew that Islam’s holy book was called the Koran, followers of Islam or Muslims had a very strict prayer life and their prophet was named Mohammed. That was it- like many I was pretty limited on my understanding of this particular religion. Some have still not taken the time to learn more or get to know their fellow Muslim neighbor. Protests and rallies are held across this country to stop the building of mosques. Remember the big uproar that was caused when an Islam Center was going to be built near where the World Trade Centers once stood? People who were against the mosque cited that it was because of Islam that the towers fell. This is a poor analogy. If that is the case then across Europe there should be no new churches because of the atrocities of the Crusades.

When I was in seminary in Kentucky I took a World Religions course. As part of the requirement I had to visit various centers of worship across different religions. Next door to the seminary was an Islamic center. The class was invited to visit the center and witness daily prayer. After the prayer session I was able to speak to the Imam about Islam and the center itself. One of the questions I asked was “Since 9/11 how have you seen a change in the way you are treated here in Kentucky?” The Imam stated that he wished that more people understood that the terrorists did not follow what was written in the Koran and that not all Muslims acted the way they acted. He followed that up and said, “Never before have I ever had to defend my faith.”

This country was founded on the notion of religious liberty and freedom. Christians are called to be the hands and feet of God in the world at all times and to all people even those of other religions.

September 11, 2001 was one of the worst acts of violence ever enacted and we should remember those who lost their lives. But making all of Islam the villain of freedom and Christianity is wrong.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

August 2012 Top Posts

August was a HUGE month for the blog.  Even though I did not blog that often due to the busyness of my schedule, records were still set!  During the month of August the blog was visited 4354 times!  That is more that the previous 6 months COMBINED (4335)!

A GIGANTIC thank you for reading, supporting and sharing!!!

Here are the top five posts from the month of August

  1. The Problem With The Chick-Fil-A Debate
    • My thoughts about the “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”
  2. Robots, Arrogance and the Gospel
    • This is an oldie but a goodie… people are still receiving robo-calls from Prophet Mannesh and they are googling the number…
  3. When Did We Stop Caring for People?
    • My thoughts on the amount of press “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” received verses the amount of reaction people gave to Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.
  4. And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part VII
    • A church cancels a wedding due to race
  5. Opening Ceremonies = Acceptance?
    • What can  we learn from the Opening Ceremonies?

Thank you again for supporting me and I hope to post more in the coming future!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan