religitainment

I went to church this morning with one of my blogging friends. We went to the 9:15 service at the Northridge Christian Church, a post-denominational mega-church in the booming community of Plymouth, Michigan. (See the entire list of Michigan mega-churches here.) I don’t suspect that he has anything up yet, but if you check his site later in the day, I’m sure he’ll be sharing his thoughts as well… I’d like to say that we went into the experience with open minds, but I can’t deny that there was a certain amount of trepidation. The last thing that Jan (pronounced “Yawn”) said to me as we merged with the evangelical Christians and made our way into the new shopping mall-type structure was, “Kill me if you notice that I’m beginning to change.”

Before setting out, I’d called the church and asked a few questions… According to the man I spoke with, the weekend service is essentially an intro to Christianity, built for the kinds of people that never thought they’d find themselves in, or, for that matter, be welcomed in, a church. (He kept saying that I could come, even if I’d always thought that I could never step foot inside a church without it crumbling down around me. He said that the church was full of people who had thought the exact same thing. (Which, by the way, caused me to think that the place must be crawling with pedophiles and murderers.)) He called the weekend sermons “Christianity 101” presentations, and stressed that they were heavy on the entertainment and light on the scripture. He mentioned that there were things taking place at the church every day, however, and that if I wanted a deeper relationship with the Bible, that I might want to come back for one of their weeknight “202” classes. When asked about the history of the church, he said that the complex in Plymouth (complete with a k-5 school, a coffee shop, and a gift store) was built in 1997, but that the church itself dates back to 1921. He was unclear as to the specifics, but apparently they’re operating under the charter of a Detroit-area church that was incorporated in 1921. The name of that church was “Temple Baptist.” He said that they changed the name to “Northridge Christian” in order to be more contemporary. (As we’d be reminded on several occasions this morning, it’s all about marketing.)

When asked what denomination the church was, he said, “generic Christian.” He then went on to say that it was your standard, “praise and worship” operation. When asked about the particulars of the version of Christianity that they are promoting, he said, “If it’s in the Bible we believe it.”

If you’ve read this site before, you know that I have my biases against so-called “mega-churches.” From the research that I’ve done, I’ve come to form an opinion of them as relatively shallow and vacuous institutions built, as many successful businesses are, to fill an unmet need in the marketplace. Again, it’s just my opinion, but they seem to primarily commoditize generic religion, market it, and sell it to isolated suburbanites. (“Jesus as drug,” seems to sum it up pretty well.) They sell community. They sell a sense of belonging. They sell moral superiority. And, it appears as though they’ve been wildly successful in the newer suburban (or “exurban,” as some are referring to the more upscale, new communities forming on the most remote edges of suburban America) areas, where there perhaps isn’t an indigenous religious culture/infrastructure already in existence. Again, it’s just my opinion, but it seems to me that they primarily serve the purpose of reinforcing among upper middle class, primarily white Americans, and those who aspire to enter their ranks, that they deserve success, and that Jesus doesn’t want them to feel guilty for what they have, and what they want.

Jan and I went this morning with the purpose of either confirming or denying those, and other, suspicions.

And, before I get into my notes about what we saw, I want to make sure I make it clear that I’m not suggesting that these people not be able to worship as they see fit. That isn’t my intention. I believe in freedom of religion (as well as freedom from religion). I also believe, however, that we have a duty as citizens to educate ourselves, and take preventative measures when they’re called for. In other words, if the mega-church demographic is growing, and if the individuals within these churches are exercising their newly found strength in order to implement laws that curtail the freedoms enjoyed by others, then it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to understand how they’re organizing, and what people are finding so appealing about the vision of America that they’re presenting. Only then can we lay out a course for action that sees viable alternatives created… Clearly, people need to feel as though they belong, and clearly we’ve been doing a damned poor job of it on the American left.

In the interest of saving time, I’m going to present my observations as bulleted items.

– A volunteer greeter stands inside every doorway and shakes the hand of every man and woman entering. Other volunteers direct traffic, coordinate shuttle busses, and man information kiosks. According to the website, Senior Pastor Brad Powell has a staff of over 20. (Another source says there are 30 on the staff.) There’s no mention of how many other administrative and support personnel might be on the payroll. Most of the work, it seems, is done by volunteers. Several times this morning we’re reminded by people on the stage, and by signs placed around the facility, that individuals should volunteer in the areas where they have expertise, whether it be on the stage, in the classrooms, on the grounds, or in the business office. They are, we’re told, starting a new special interest group for local business leaders.

– We make our way in from the parking lot to the amphitheatre, where there are probably well over 500 people already waiting. I believe a video is playing as we make our way in and settle into a pair of large theater-style seats. Quite a few people, myself included, put their coffee cups into the built-in drink-holders. (I brought my coffee with me, but it looks as though free coffee is available from stations positioned around the outside of the amphitheatre.) I notice that, unlike most other churches I’ve been in, there are no Bibles or Psalm books.

– The minister takes the stage and says something about high school, the lights go dim, and several scenes from the film “Napoleon Dynamite” play. People laugh. The lights go up and the minister asks if we’re all glad not to be in high school any more. We all say, “yeah,” and then he brings out onto the stage all the students in the congregation who are graduating from high school this month. He implores them to stay true to their values… I wonder to myself if they have the rights to show “Napoleon Dynamite” on the large video screens.

– They’ve got a house band. They run through two numbers. It’s uplifting. The woman next to me keeps throwing her hands into the air during the chorus of one song, which repeats a phrase like, “Hold me, Jesus.” It dawns on me a few minutes into it that I’ve heard the song before, a few weeks ago, when my sister was staying with us. She was watching a video of a band on her laptop. It was the exact same song. I’d asked her what it was, and she said it was the house band at her church. (She just joined a church in Atlanta. I didn’t ask her which one, but I believe it’s Northpoint, the huge mega-church slowly taking over the region.) It makes me wonder if perhaps, even though there’s no denominational affiliation, there might be a connection between the two churches. “Is it possible,” I wonder, “that this is a franchise?” “Are they following a script here in Plymouth that was written somewhere else? Or, as with ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ are they just stealing content?”

– I feel like I’m inside an infomercial. Everything is calculated down to the second. Everyone on stage wears an earpiece and a wireless mic. At different points, the background changes. At one point there’s a projection of a stained glass window. At another, giant wooden window frames, reminiscent of ones that might have been in early 20th century churches, are lowered from the rafters. Somewhere near the middle of the presentation, a series of characters in a skit fall through a trap door. There is a disco light, and a smog machine. Cameramen roam the audiences and everything’s projected on 5 giant screens. “It’s Broadway,” I think, “in what used to be a farmer’s field.”

– We’re urged to attend the 2005 Leadership Summit, a national evangelical event that’s going to be available at the church by way of satellite. They show an ad on the big screens. Guardian Angles founder, Curtis Sliwa, I learn, will be appearing. When I get home I do a little digging and find that the Summit is being organized by an organization called the Willow Creek Association. Upon a little further digging I find that 409 Michigan Churches belong to the organization, and that each of these churches, in order to have joined the association, have “profess an evangelical Christian faith.” (Last year, this annual event featured former Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson. Known as Nixon’s hatchet man, Colson is quoted, as a member of CREEP (The Committee to Re-elect the President) to have said, “I’d walk over my own grandmother to re-elect Richard Nixon.”)

– At some point, a group of actors take the stage to perform a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” I can’t remember the point it was supposed to illustrate, but people seemed to like it. The armor looked real and the accents were good… Again, I wondered how it was that they were allowed to perform it, copyright laws being what they are. “Perhaps,” I think, “there’s some kind of exclusion for churches.” (I write myself a reminder to start a church before entering into the world of on-line file-sharing.)

– I just remembered, the Monty Python piece had a punch-line about pan-theism.

– Once everything else had happened, we got to the sermon, which wasn’t really a sermon, at least not a sermon in a traditional sense. It started with a new band taking the stage and playing the old Norman Greenbaum classic, “Spirit in the Sky.” Once the song was over, the pastor walked out on stage and began to tear it apart, using the lyrics to make his point that New Age religion is evil. I can’t remember all the points now, but I distinctly remember him saying, “The song says, ‘I’ve got a friend in Jesus.’ Well, that sure would be nice, but you cannot be Jesus’s friend.” (I’m not sure how he came to make the leap that Norman Greenbaum spoke for the entire New Age, by the way.) Logically, it was an absolute mess, but people seemed to like it. If you’d like to hear it, you can hear it on-line.

– The pastor also tried to make the case that New Age religion (as though there were some monolithic entity known as “New Age religion”) was OK with Hitler. He kept saying things like, “The New Age people would have you believe that all things, all beings on this earth, are equal. Well, I don’t know about you, but I think Hitler was evil!” It reminded me of when trolls on this site would equate my being against the war in Iraq with my being a “friend” of Sadam Hussein’s, as though one necessitated the other. Apparently, to say that mankind is essentially good and that the believers of other religions probably have the same chance at salvation as anyone else, is the same as saying, “I love Hitler.”

– He then went on to blame the so-called New Age on Hinduism and other forms of, as he said, eastern “mysticism.” Toward the end he corrects himself, however, and says it’s roots actually go much further back, to a certain serpent bearing produce. (He didn’t actually spell out the connection between Hinduism and Satan, but it was certainly alluded to.)

– Most interesting of all, somewhere in the middle of the sermon, I notice that people all around me are writing down what he’s saying on sheets that have been handed out in advance. The sheets have quotes from the sermon with blanks where certain words should be filled in, like Mad Libs. People fill them in as he goes, just like old ladies marking Bingo cards. (It’s a well known principle of Psychology, by the way, that writing things down reinforces them in the mind of the subject.)

– At some point, he goes off an a tangent about how the people of the New Age even want you to think that fish have minds and souls. He reads a press release from PETA to illustrate this, and there’s an audible gasp from behind me. “These people don’t even want you to eat fish,” he says with smirk. (I guess there can’t be Christian vegetarians.) He also says something about how silly people in India are for starving when there are perfectly good cows to be eaten.

– It strikes me as incredibly hypocritical that he also criticizes the New Age as being more about self-help and personal fulfillment than anything else, when it looks to me as though that’s exactly what I’m seeing unfold before me. There is not one mention, in the hour and a half that I am there, of “good works.” There is no mention of the community outside, except for the repeated plea to bring in others with talent and influence. There is no mention of volunteering outside of the church. Everything sounds as though it’s coming through an “us against them” filter. It’s all about self-preservation, building insular communities, and nurishing each other.

– The bottom line of the sermon is that there is a definitive right, and a definitive wrong. All men and women are flawed sinners. There is only one true God. And he will surely judge us. (CDs of the sermon are available for sale in the lobby.)

– There’s a check-box on the form we’re handed when we enter. It asks us to make an “x” in the box if we’re “saved” during the program. (I wasn’t.)

– On the way out, we pass some of the youth program rooms. In one, kids play electric guitars while others shoot baskets and play video games. It looks like fun.

– In the parking lot, I notice a man getting into an ADT Home Security vehicle and it occurs to me that the guy must be wealthy beyond belief. “It must be like shooting fish in a barrel,” I think… The rest of the way home, I consider whether or not I should just invest everything in a business that speaks to the exurban mega-church demographic. “Surely,” I think, “I could sell Amway to these people.”

– It took over ten minutes until someone would stop to let Jan and I back out of our parking spot and join the caravan of SUVs leaving the parking lot. Jan suggests that we would have gotten out faster had we thought to stick a Jesus fish on our car before heading out.

Ok, that’s all I have time for right now. It was an odd experience, but not a terrible one. Everyone seemed nice enough, and no one bothered us, or made us feel as though we didn’t belong. Yes, I was struck by the contrived, superficial nature of some of it, the pop culture references, the slick production values, and all the rest of it, but, more than anything else, I was struck by how damned seductive it all was. While I didn’t feel any urge to join up, I could certainly see how someone, especially someone in the midst of some great personal upheaval of some sort, could find this comforting, even necessary. These are confusing, isolating times, and what’s being offered here is a real value. It’s instant community, or at least the illusion of community. They “want” you. Sure, there’s a financial element, but they really want you, and your talents. That’s what people want, and that something that the left in America has been doing a damned poor job of doing… I’ve got a lot of other thoughts on this, but they’re going to have to wait until later. Right now, I’ve got a tired baby to tend to.

Oh, it’s probably also worth mentioning that, according to the religion industry insider magazine, Outreach, Northridge Christian Church is 69th on the list of the 100 fastest growing churches in America. (If I really wanted to depress you, I’d post a graph here showing membership in unions over the past decade contrasted to membership in conservative, evangelical mega-churches.)

UPDATE: Jan has his version of events up on his site now.

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88 Comments

  1. chris
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Mark, do you think it was not in the least bit foolish to post a blog entry about how you are going to be doing a tour of mega-churches with the intention of launching a critical analysis…three posts after you have down loaded pictures of you AND Clementine.

    I know that this sounds paranoid, but you just may wake up some morning with a decapitated tofurkey in your bed! Just don’t post your address.

  2. mark
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I said anything that would get anyone pissed at me, but thanks for your concern, Chris… I don’t want to put them out of business or anything. I just want to understand the appeal and think about how we on the left could meet those same very real individual needs (hopefully better).

  3. Posted June 12, 2005 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    The church members aren’t evil. They are just swept up in a wave of marketing genius. I know some of the members, and some are really good people. The preacher seemed like a nice person, too. When these churches complete their takeover of our government, then we will need to be worried. Those mysterious leaders–who are they? What is their goal?

    By the way, Mark, last night Vickie tolk me that the church is on land that used to be a pumpkin patch–they will stop at nothing to do away with our pagan rituals.

  4. mark
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    So, when are you getting your post up, Dirtgrain (Jan)? I keep checking… But, then again, I have OCD and I’d be checking and checking anyway.

  5. mark
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    OK, I just checked again and Jan’s notes have been posted.

  6. chris
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    I was joking (the tofurkey/mafia reference)…but I really hope that you checked the “Saved” box.

  7. mark
    Posted June 12, 2005 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Checking the “saved” box gets you on their mailing list… If I were thinking faster, I would have jotted down Steve Cherry’s name, but I’m not quick on my feet.

  8. Posted June 13, 2005 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Mark and Jan – Thanks for taking the time to look into this phenomema and also for being just in your judgement of the church-goers.

    I grew up in Canton and went to the Catholic Church St. John Neumanns, a Vatican II church, on Warren Road. Last Christmas when I was in town, I went there with my family. I was surprised by the projections of images and text during the mass.It seemed awkward to me. I grew up going to Vatican II churches and was use to the “Jesus Christ, Superstar” bullshit, but this was too much for me. It felt like they were tryng to recreate MTV.

    When I was in my 20’s and living in Michigan, I would go down to some of the Catholic Churches in Detroit that still “performed” pre- Vatican II masses in Latin. I loved it. Everything was in Latin and it was purely sensory. The priest didn’t face the congregation and there was no interpretive scripture rant. All that was required was that I follow the routines. The cleristory let light in while everything from the stations of the cross down blocked out the terrestrial. The Apostolic Creed was only voices chanting- the line “and he will come to judge the living and the dead” only an intonation.

    Now I wonder what the hell is the rule by which people believe that Jesus is supposedly going to judge us by? I can’t agree more with Jan that Jesus was :”a model for how one should be”. You read the New Testament and it strikes a harmonious chord. His best friend was a prostitute for Christ’s sake! He judged no one except the greedy.

    There is a re-occuring theme of the search for Grace as an ultimate goal through many religions. I just don’t see making the Church into an MTV video as conducive to that end goal.

  9. Posted June 13, 2005 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    …and for whether or not Jesus was a pantheist, he is repeatedly quoted as saying ” the kingdom of God is within you”.

    “Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” – Blaise Pascal, early contributer to probablility theory.

  10. Posted June 13, 2005 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Ok. I have been reprimanded on the “Mary Magdalene was a prostitute” statement. Apparently that may not be historically accurate. The story of the stoning is still pertinent.

  11. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Bible police here! There’s nothing in the Bible identifying Mary Magdalene as a prostitute; the idea was suggested by Pope Gregory c. 600.

    As to Jesus’ “best friend”: there are several references to the “favorite disciple,” who is never named. Most scholars are divided between John, Peter, and the mysterious “naked youth” of Mark 14:51-52.

    There’s nothing new in a church trying for MTV-style religitainment. Just stroll through the Vatican; it makes MTV look ascetic!

  12. Posted June 13, 2005 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Hey Doug. I got caught on the prostitue mistake just a few moments ago. Serves me right for not taking my time to back up my statements.

    I do prefer the old style religitainment though. It is more interesting and less intelligible.

    Any thoughts on the “Jesus was a pantheist?”

  13. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Dave — For the old-style religitainment, I’ll take the small cathedral in Assisi, which is covered with Giotto frescoes depicting the life of St. Francis. It’s like being inside a picture book. That beats recycled Python bits any day.

    I don’t know if Jesus’ theology was pantheistic; his teaching is so cryptic and contradictory. His main impulse seems to be primitive Judaism, stripped of its later refinements; he had a mystic side, though. Mostly he seems to recommend repudiating your family and living by beggary, neither of which seems particularly admirable to me.

    Any thoughts on the puzzling “naked youth” in Mark 14:51-52? On the rather flimsy evidence that Jesus really existed? On whether Socrates (or someone else) is a better role model?

  14. Kristin
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Mark had a naked youth in him? Eew!

  15. Teddy Glass
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    It was actually a naked mole rat. He and Richard Gere shared custody.

  16. Posted June 13, 2005 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    My favorite church experience to date is Holy Redeemer in Detroit. They did the mass in Polish and Spanish. It had that nice smell of burning votive candles too.

    My thoughts are that regardless of whether or not Jesus existed, some of the ideas the stories embody seem to be worth contemplating and adopting as guiding principles. It doesn’t even really matter if Jesus said them himself. The ideas are still good. I would not hesitate to agree with you that some of the things he said and did were questionabe. I don’t believe he walked on water. I don’t think that rejecting one’s family is a noble act. I don’t think he rose from the dead or that he is coming back.

    We pick and choose. Even the most devote do.

    Socrates method of questioning, I think, is worth adopting. It is humbling to realize that to know something is tentative a best. But questioning everything to the point that it all becomes meaningless doesn’t help with facing the day.

  17. [steph]
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Good entry, Mark. Way to bravely enter a world some of us (me) are too frightened to go near.

    I find the use of Napoleon Dynamite clips amusing. Given the film’s connections with Mormonism, it makes some sense. I don’t know whether Mormonism and “general Christianity” share their materials, but if they do, that could be the answer to why they didn’t need the rights to the film.

    Nearly everyone involved with the movie is Mormon. There is also this info from Wikipedia:

    The film also displays many quirky references to Mormon popular culture. Napoleon uses the word flip instead of the more common expletive fuck. (same for ‘dang’ instead of ‘damn.’) He wears a t-shirt for Ricks College, the former junior college located in Rexburg, Idaho now known as BYU Idaho. In the DVD extras, there is an interview with Jon Heder in which he jokes that perhaps Napoleon and Deb may be joined “for time and all eternity”

  18. Teddy Glass
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Dave, have you thought of looking for a chapter of the Socrates Cafe where you are?

    http://www.philosopher.org/

    And thanks, Steph, for the info on the connection between Mormonism and Napoleon Dynamite. To think – all this time – I thought the only funny thing about them was their special underwear.

  19. chris
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    OK, I give…special underwear?

  20. Ken
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Temple Garments

  21. mark
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    That’s a great image. Where’d you find it, Ken?

  22. Ken
    Posted June 13, 2005 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I did a google image search for temple garments and it is the first one that comes up.

  23. Posted June 14, 2005 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Mark – You and Jan are brave men. And how could anybody be “saved” in that environment. Seems like it’s directed at those among us with ADD. I went to St. Thomas Aquinas on the Detroit/Dearborn Hts/Dearborn border once and the crucifix behind the altar had been replaced by a projection screen and it just seemed wrong! And how on earth can you feel a sense of community with that many people??? I have a sense of family from my church but we’re small (less than 100 families) and in danger of closing, but it makes me want to go to church every Sunday. The word mega-church just doesn’t seem like it should exist.

    I read a book a few years back called Sacred Ceremony: The Diary of a Mormom Woman or something like that. It was very interesting to get an insider’s (but then outsider’s) viewpoint. I highly recommend it.

  24. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 14, 2005 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Dave — Questioning everything does help me face the day. I don’t think Socrates said that everything is meaningless, only that he didn’t understand it — very different!

    If you reject Jesus’ miracles and resurrection, you’re left with his teaching and example. I find Aesop’s fables wiser than wittier than Jesus’; I don’t think a career as a homeless celibate beggar, preaching religious zeal and chewing out anyone who has no faith in you, is really responsible or desirable.

    Many men and women throughout history have said and done greater things. What’s so great about Jesus?

  25. Posted June 14, 2005 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Good points Doug.

    I think what many people feel makes “Jesus” the myth so great is the idea of self sacrifice. ( I imagine a lot of jokes could be made about that statement, but I’ll let it stand. ) I’m sure that the idea is found in other sources of literature, but the new testament was the most heavily promoted- due mostly in part to the church’s use of select text as a way of supporting their authority. You take the good with the bad. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Although literature contains ideas like Truth, Liberty, Wisdom, Justice, Self Sacrifice, Grace, etc. – they are only ideals that we can decide to pursue or not pursue ( or decide to consciously pursue their opposites ) with varying degrees of success. Literature and oral tradition are only conduits for distributing these ideas. They help guide our thoughts, actions and interactions.

    My inspiration comes from the many people that “speak through their actions”- the people who actually are making the sacrifices of time and energy to pursue these ideals.

  26. john galt
    Posted June 14, 2005 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Oh the horrors you have endured. Anyways I’m glad I’m a methodist. Our services lack rock bands but we do have a kick-ass pipe organ and the sermons are far from the hell and brimstone type and usually offer valuable insight into everyday problem, last weeks was about dealing with stress. I’m not one for the last days types of churches but how can you castigate people for not accomidating one religion (Islam) while you make fun of theirs (yes mark the tone of the article was mocking, and one of moral superiority)? Religion (even though you might not want to subsribe) does and has played a vital role in the development of the civilization we now live in. Its like anything else there are good and bad churches, the type of grandious displays you mock have been around at least since the greeks. What is important about faith is that people are given hope to aspire to be better than they are… I don’t think thats such a bad thing.

  27. john galt
    Posted June 14, 2005 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Just continuing a thought.. How is religion any different from psychiatry? They both involve accepting a belief system. One is mostly free (religion, they ask for money but in my church they’ll never shun you for not giving enough).. With a church you have fellowship with others and establish social bonds (I doubt your shrink will sit with you in the hospital and offer comfort for free). If you take the dogmatism out (which some “churches” involve themselves with) What is so wrong with caring about others and helping them out when they reach out. I’ve certainly seem some evil churches whose whole purpose seemed to be the fleecing of the flock. I have also known several individiuals (pastors) who have gone out of their way to make a positive impact in my life and offer me hope during a time of tragedy (death of my parents). Just because one system is based on “science” (I put in in scare quotes because I think most of modern psychology is Not based on science, show me a reproducible model of intellect and I will change my mind) and one on faith, why is one invalidated in your thinking.

  28. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 15, 2005 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Not only is most psychiatry not based on science, neither is most medicine. “Evidence-based” medicine (the technical term for practices based strictly on the scientific method) is in the minority. One doctor pal of mine estimates it at 30%. The human body has too many variables; too many responses (like pain relief) are too subjective to be quantified. Psychiatry is no better, and often worse.

    (Of course, the scientific method itself is only an application of human observation and analysis, both of which are deeply flawed.)

    Probably the only difference between psychiatry and religion is that churches are tax-exempt. So should churches pay up, or should shrinks also get a free ride?

  29. Tony Buttons
    Posted June 15, 2005 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Who would Jesus hate more; Muslims, gays, evolutionary biologists, or drivers of small cars without flags, buttons and ribbons? That’s what I keep asking myself.

  30. john galt
    Posted June 15, 2005 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Jesus would hate at all.. Jesus did get pretty pissed off though, at the sight of moneylenders in the temple fleecing the faithfull. Jesus wouldn’t condone preachers telling people to cash in their 401K’s to give it to the church. Another reason why I like the methodists, on the whole they teach personal responsibility and try to help their members.. versus the evangelicals which seem more interested in buying the preacher a bass boat. I’ve been to several evangelical churches and a lot of the service seemed to be aimed at inducing a hypnotic state in the congregation (lots of slow chanting type music).. I walked out of one service I thought was sacreligeous.

  31. john galt
    Posted June 15, 2005 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Doug,

    I could be wrong but I think the reason churches are tax exempt is because the constitution prohibits the Govt from establishing a religion or preventing the free excercise of religion. If you could tax religion then why not tax it 90%, that would effectively prohibit it.. I guess the question is what actually defines a religion.. Scientology is classified as a religion for tax reasons.. And is much more dubious than psychiatry.. I need to go sit in my orgone generator now.

  32. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 16, 2005 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I think religions are tax-exempt because they’re classed as non-profit, educational, charitable organizations (as are many non-religious groups). Obviously, some groups (like Scientology, which is about as non-profit as General Motors) abuse that.

    There should be clearer criteria; we could use the revenue.

  33. Posted June 18, 2005 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Doug-

    Thank you for pointing out the difference between knowing and understanding. I have been thinking now about the relationship of knowing to proclaiming, and understanding to dialogue. Very interesting.

  34. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Dave — A friend of mine once pointed out the difference between knowing and believing: “You don’t believe you drive a car; you know you drive a car.” An exacting philosopher could probably refute that, but it’s not a bad rule of thumb for daily life. Neither is another of his pronouncements: “Belief is the enemy.”

    The Greek philosopher Pyrrho (patron saint for all doubters) had some zesty ideas on knowledge and our attempts to get it. You might enjoy him!

  35. Posted June 20, 2005 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I was just wondering if your (and Jan’s) excursion into religions only includes megachurches? As I was sitting in church yesterday I was thinking that you might actually enjoy my little church (not for the religious aspects) but for all the other things. And since it was Father’s Day, we had a get together afterwards for which all the ladies of the parish brought a dish (the men had done the same for Mother’s Day). It was just a thought and I figured I would extend an open invitation.

  36. The Doctor
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I am a member of Northridge Church, work in the ministry and have attended there for the last ten years (since it was in Redford, MI and called Temple Baptist.)

    I find your comments hysterically paranoid and full of the kind of passsive-agressive snarkiness that’s the hallmark of most Christ-haters.

    Other than that I thought your analysis of our demos was spot on.

    TD

    Ps We do have about 3-5% black population but they are every bit as UMC as everyone else here.

  37. Teddy Glass
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t want people to view your activities with suspicion, you might want to stop calling them “Christ-haters.” That might be a good start.

  38. chris
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Amen Teddy, yeah Doctor, you don’t own Christ. In fact, my interpretation of Christ’s teachings are the only valid interpretation of Christianity and all of it tenets to me. By the way, Christ is gay.

    Let me guess, you are Dr. Brad Powell, PhD. Don’t you have better things to do, like telling your flock what to do or they will burn in hell, than to surf the web looking for adorations and testimonials.

  39. The Doctor
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t want people to view your activities with suspicion, you might want to stop calling them “Christ-haters.”

    Hey, I’ve got a better idea!

    How about stop hating Christ and pretending you don’t.

    Jesus’s word may mean nothing to you but they mean a lot to me.

    He said if they hate me; they’ll hate you. Period.

    A psychiatrist would have a field day with all the passive-agressive ways you masquerade your disgust ex: ‘My friend says if only we had a Christian bumper sticker the Christians wouldn’t have forced us to wait so long to get out of the parking lot’ etc etc.

    Your mock outrage at me simply keeping it real is laughable.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take people like this seriously.

    But I do condemn the rhetoric of hateful religious bigotry wherever it rears it’s ugly head. And that head has sprouted horns in this blog.

    I only wish others had spoken up when your idealogical soul brothers (the Nazi’s) published the same contemptable hate speech against the Jews in the early 30’s.

    I realize people of your ilk are not likely intelligent enough to see the parallels.

    But, fortunately for the world…

    …the rest of us do.

    The Doctor

  40. chris
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    John…is that you? I know it is… c’mon out John, we won’t hurt you…I promise.

    Monotonous John themes:

    sophmoric spin (we’re Nazi’s)
    incongruous references to psychiatry (Besides isn’t psychiatry the devil’s playground?)
    claims of superior intelligence
    etc etc etc

    Although the attempt at paragraph structure is definitely a throw off.

    If it is not John he might want to check out a grad school program at Oral Roberts U, hear they’re handing out PhDs for every asured Republican vote. Cause, the doc and he have so much in common. Check out that ISP address Mark or Steve.

  41. mark
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Before you call someone a “Christ hater,” you might want to first find out what he believes in. Isn’t it possible, Doctor, that I believe in Christ, but that I don’t feel as though the mega-Church “Jesus as spritiaul savior, entertainer, justifier of excess, and self-help guru” movement reflects his teachings? The Jesus I grew up learning about was a man of peace who taught of love and self-sacrifice. And, I believe, if he were here with us today, he’d want for his followers to engage in thoughtful debate and not simply lash out and call people “Nazis” and “Christ haters.” If you read through my post, you’ll see that I made no such comments about you. In fact, I defended your right to believe whatever you wanted to believe, and I think I did so respectfully. I’d appreciate the same in return.

  42. mark
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I know you’re excited, Chris, and I appreciate your jumping in to defend my honor, but let’s not escalate this unnecessarily. I’m not going to hunt down the Doctor’s IP address, and I’m going to take him at his word when he tells me that he’s a member of the congregation… And, I’d welcome him to have a discussion about the mega-church movement here at the site… Seriously, I can put aside the fact that he called me names. I would, however, if he’s up for it, welcome a discussion about the issues.

    I need to go back and read my post now and make sure I didn’t say anything offensive. I don’t think that I did, but I occasionally fall victim to my stupid sense of humor.

  43. chris
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Excited? Playfully antagonistic maybe, but excited? No. Actually I just went to the Northridge website and it doesn’t present as the place that would harbor folk as judgemental as the doc. I would not think that they would call me a Christ-hater for being apprehensive and critical by looking at all the faces of the happy (and very well-coiffed and diverse too!) of the parishioners on their web site.

  44. Ken
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I can’t believe I didn’t see this site for what it was

  45. The Doctor
    Posted June 20, 2005 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Whooo Hoooo! You guys know how to check out isp addresses. Scare me tiger! lol!

    It’s only a matter of time if it hasn’t happened already that I’ll be called a ‘troll’ or a hater merely for pointing out the perverse hate that marbles almost any take you have on Christians.

    If you ever want a dispassionately objective point of view how vitriolic you are in your madhouse hatred, just go back thru this post and replace the word ‘christian’ or pronouns referring to such with the word Jew and see how it grabs you.

    Hey, I’m in a charitable mood. I’ll do one for you –

    “The last thing that Jan (pronounced

  46. Posted June 21, 2005 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Look who’s snarky now..

    I’m not sure what type of “fraud” the doctor believes Mark is trying to be or what kind of scam he is perpetrating. Who is he trying to fool? I totally believe the doctor in everything he says about “not getting it.” I don’t get him at all. If he denies the “liberal boilerplate propaganda” (I guess I missed that meeting) that Jesus was kind and loving, then I really have no interest in getting it anyway. If Jesus wasn’t these things, then why is anybody interested?

    What stikes me about this thread are the comments about positive religious experiences and how these experiences were meaningful and inspirational.

    The Doctor also did not comment on the hindu references at his church as being rhetoric of hateful religious bigotry. I would be intereseted to read his views on this.

    The incredible argument (or non-argument) from conservative religious propaganda is “You don’t get it.” Is this the evquivalent to throwing your hands in the air and saying, “I’m right and I refuse to explain it to you because I can’t really explain it anyway,” or “I’m right and you are too stupid to ever get it so I’m not going to waste my time.”

    Let me share a positive religious experience.

    I recently spent a few days in Mississippi. There are precious few reasons for anyone to travel to Mississippi. Tupelo is a quick stop on the way to Memphis to visit the house where Elvis was born. Buloxi on the coast hosts some casinos. Other than that, Mississippi doesn’t appear to have much going for it. The Mississippi Delta is the most impoverished area of our country. Once cotton was no longer king, there was nothing to take it’s place, and so unemployment is in the double digits. This is a level of poverty that I don’t think most Americans really appreciate. At the same time the history and culture is rich, if not always pleasant (Mississippi Burning).

    Luckily the CIA infiltrated Grenada, MS while we where there. Truly an unforgettable experience and performance.

    View photos at: http://towardthedynamic.blogspot.com/

    The Christians In Action Drama Team made their debut at the Thunder on Water Festival among a muddy field and persistent rain.

    The show consisted of four skits featuring 10-15 kids and their two leaders (the leaders of the group featured prominently – they each got their own solo plus one skit they did together.)

    The Skits:
    1. Psychologist and patient lip-synching to a comedy song about lips.
    2. A skit about the devil convincing some sinners to come on down to HELL.
    3. A western song in which a cowboy hero rides into town to take the devil down (all lip-synched & dramatized)
    4. A dramatization in which Paul is brought before the authorities for evangelizing and would sooner take a beating and land in prison than deny that Jesus is the Messiah (all lip-synched)

    What these performances lacked in polish and professionalism they more than made up for with enthusiasm, energy, and dedication. The first skit was performed for an audience of 50 or so strangers, festival attendees, and vendors (I got a front row seat). By the time the full show was done there were 7-10 people watching in the drizzling rain cheering, laughing, applauding, and celebrating the show, the performances, and their savior.

    This was the antithesis of the new MegaChurch Christianity so prevalent now. This was a small dedicated group of young people trying to make a difference in their world with what they had or could make. They were earnest and true and full of confidence, but not arrogant.

    When the show was over, the leaders each made a speech addressed to the remaining five audience members. They praised their group, each other, and Jesus. More than anything I left the show thinking that this was really inspirational. Not that I was re-born or anything even close, but I can appreciate the work and dedication and love these folks put into their show and their faith.

    It seems to me religion should always be about what the individual can do through fellowship and belief.

    Two final points:
    Mark had nothing to apologize for. As soon as we apologize for our thoughts OR the way we express our thoughts, then we begin to be dishonest. All you need to do is ask if the WAY you expressed your thoughts was honest to yourself and to your experiences.

    Finally, it was telling in The Doctor’s final comments:

    “It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be nice to you in real life. Just like you were nice to the people you met at church.”

    At least he acknnowledges his hypocrisy.

  47. The Doctor
    Posted June 21, 2005 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    “It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be nice to you in real life. Just like you were nice to the people you met at church.”

    At least he acknnowledges his hypocrisy.

    Too bad you guys are unable to acknowledge yours…

    TD

  48. Posted June 22, 2005 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    This comparison to Jews, Judaism and anti-Semitism is misapplied. Key are the intertwined typological and ideological aspects that make a Jew a Jew. Are you a Jew because you are born a Jew (it’s a race)? Or are you a Jew because of religious beliefs? So, when Herr Doktor (Frankenstein? Frankensteen?) claims that the ADL would be all over Mark’s post if he had written the same about Jews, I think he is confusing the racial identity of Jew (anti-Semitism) with the ideological identity of Jew. Criticizing a race would clearly be wrong. However, ideology is fair game (insofar as it affects others), be it that of a Jew, a Christian or whomever.

  49. Mike
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Doctor-notice the contempt Mark displayed towards the words “mega church?” I doubt Pastor Powell coined that term, but my point is that Mark and liberals like him look at a large church as though it was a cancer, as some weed growing out of control and shouldn’t be big. They look at Christ’s word spreading and reaching a “mega” audience and instead of thinking, (as a Christian would) “Wow, look at all these people here, this is truly glorious that God’s Word is reaching so many people,” he whines about them using Napolean Dynamite clips! Also, notice how he seemed so suprised that the people at Northridge were actually decent people? Not quite what Mark was expecting, obviously. He had pre-concieved notions that he was going to get hit over the head by Bible thumpers or something, judging by his reactions. And the other so called wishy-washy Christians who won’t call Mark on bizarre “tour of contempt” need to realize that being lukewarm when it comes to your faith doesn’t work. Not everyone is going to like you, Christ-haters are not going to like you, so if you try to make them like you by watering down the message or not wanting to ‘offend’ them by calling them on their hate, then you aren’t helping anyone. Mark may indeed be Saved someday-but it won’t happen with spineless Christians telling him what he’s doing is ok. He needs to be told that what he was doing is wrong-the kindness shown to him by the people of the “mega church” is just one example of why he was wrong.

  50. Posted June 24, 2005 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “They look at Christ’s word spreading and reaching a “mega” audience”

    Actually, Christ’s word was conspicuously missing from the church’s show. I dislike it when people wield the symbol of Christ to achieve their own goals, all the while never heeding or spreading what Christ’s words actually were. That is not Christ-hating at all. Of course, Doug Skinner has the lowdown on the inconsistencies of Christ as portrayed in the Bible, but that is another story.

    “He needs to be told that what he was doing is wrong”

    Is faulting a church for misleading its members wrong? For using its power and propaganda to manipulate its faithful to work against the spirit of the Bible (sure this is often debated, but Northridge has strayed way too far, I think)? For spreading like a virus into all facets of our society to achieve political goals–goals which are never overtly stated? Organized religion is a scary thing. It all too often is a form of control (not by God but by man, preachers, charlatans, . . .).

    All groups suffer from corruption. It should not be our goal to do away with the groups; rather, we should do away with the corruption. But this mega-church/spiritual-shopping-mall movement is taking over. The least we should do is attempt to stop it from spreading–to stop the corruption from spreading. How? I’m not sure yet. As for getting the corruption out of such churches, that might be even more difficult. A good place to start: the truth shall set you free.

    There is a lot of good will and a lot of good intention focused on Northridge Church by its members. It’s misdirected, however.

  51. Mike
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Comment from: Dirtgrain [Visitor]

  52. Doug Skinner
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Mike — The Gospels were written at different times, by different people; they were passed along in manuscript in different versions. Every Bible student notices their contradictions and inconsistencies. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a natural result of their long and rich history.

    For one article listing some of the historical discrepancies, see http://www.questioningchristian.com/2004/10/troubling_incon.html

  53. mark
    Posted June 24, 2005 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Mike, I’m afraid you read my post incorrectly. When I used the term “mega church,” it wasn’t done with “contempt”. I called Northridge a mega church because that’s what it is. It’s the same as if I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and made the comment, “Hey, I’m eating a peanut butter sandwich.” There’s no judgment there… As for your criticism that liberals are too lukewarm in their religious beliefs, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. It sounds as though you’re saying there is no legitimate expression of faith except for that of the confrontational fundamentalist. I’m wondering if you’d say the same thing to people of the Muslim faith. So, should we be discouraging religious moderates across the board, or is it just Christians that should be encouraged to be zealots?

  54. Posted June 25, 2005 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    “How would you know? I’ve been to Northridge several times and it is nothing like what you are saying now.”

    This might be a good time for you to actually go into specifics about what you experienced in the church

  55. Mike
    Posted June 25, 2005 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Fear of violence? From who? You need to get help, your hatred of Jesus has manifested itself in paranoia.

  56. Posted June 25, 2005 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    From you.

  57. mark
    Posted June 25, 2005 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Mike, is that all you have to say in response to Dirtgrain’s comment?

  58. chris
    Posted June 26, 2005 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I saw the funniest t-shirt the other day. It said, “Jesus loves you…the rest of us think you’re an asshole”. It made me think of somebody but I can’t remember his name.

  59. dan from austin
    Posted June 26, 2005 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I like the bumper sticker “Jesus loves me, but he hates you.”

  60. flamingoinny
    Posted July 13, 2006 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    So Mark…are you a Christian or a Christian wannabe?

    Don’t know what the point is of all the above. I am inclined to say “So what?” Are you bashing the “mega-churches” in the US or are you bashing Christianity? The purpose of any Christian church, as far as I can tell, is to bring souls to Christ. If you are the type to whom “religitainment” does not appeal… perhaps you would be better served in a good ole southern style Baptist church. If that does not appeal…perhaps an Episcopalian church with a gay female minister will appease you.

    My point is that there are churches for all who seek the Lord. Seek Him and you will find Him. Having visited this particular Northridge church in person, I know that many have found the Lord here at Northridge. And just as many have perhaps found the Lord elsewhere. Again…I must ask, so what?!?

    Christianity, unlike many of the other world religions is not about “how” one worships…it is a personal relationship with our Lord and Creator. If one finds fulfillment in the “religitainment” type churches and it leads them unto a more fulfilling relationship with the Creator, why knock it? Because you think they’re out to “make a buck?” If you were really interested, you’d go back and have a look at their balance sheet. It appears to me that like many churches, they are operating well into the red.

    But in the end, all that matters to me (and I imagine most others like me) is that if you haven’t yet had your salvation experience, I’d be happy to invite you to my church. If that is impossible, I’d be happy to invite you into my own home for an evening of Bible study and fellowship. Not only would I love the opportunity to share the Scriptures with you, I’d welcome the oppurtunity to discuss the role of the modern church in this “post-modern” society of ours.

    Feel free to contact me at any time Mark.

    Yours,

    Flam (now in Detroit)

  61. flamingoinny
    Posted July 13, 2006 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    BTW Greg Smith….while I am very much inclind to express my support of your discussion regarding your wonderful experience in Mississppi (I have had many wonderful spiritual experiences there myself) I must take issue with a couple of your statements;

    First of all:

    “Mark had nothing to apologize for. As soon as we apologize for our thoughts OR the way we express our thoughts, then we begin to be dishonest.”

    I do not agree that an apology is an act of dishonesty. People will frequently speak without thinking. Often times, a statement made in response to another’s will have an emotional aspect to it that might, after further consideration, be deemed impromptu or inappropriate. Perhaps something Mark said is weighing upon his conscience and is worthy of an apology.

    And secondly;

    “All you need to do is ask if the WAY you expressed your thoughts was honest to yourself and to your experiences.”

    This statement is such a perfect example of the typical “post-modern” philosophy which began to permeate our culture around the turn of the century that I must ask why are you knocking a church that utilizes post modern techniques in it’s services? You are, in affect saying, “as long as what you said was an honsest reflection of what you felt then it is perfectly okay and should be accepted by all others as perfectly okay as well.”

    On the one hand, you admire and respect the intimate encounter you had with a small youth group performing for your pleasure and entertainment yet you disdain the very same tactics applied on a larger scale (i.e. the “megachurch”). Hypocrisy or confusion Greg? Only you can tell us.

    I’m inclined to pose the same question to you that I posed to Mark…What is your area of discontentment? Are you opposed that the “mega churches” are saving hundreds of souls using the methods that they do or are you opposed to the notion that no church seems to have the right “script” for you?

    I’m sorry you did not come to salvation through your experience in Mississippi, Greg just as I am sorry that Mark has not come to his. Nevertheless, the comments of those who do not believe in Christ will never alter the facts of who Christ was, why He came to Earth, what He did for each and every one of us who chooses to believe, or why those of us who are alive upon the face of the Earth today and believe in Him perform the daily skits that we each perform.

    May God Bless you and may you continue your search for Truth.

    Flamingo

  62. mark
    Posted July 13, 2006 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    If I’m not mistaken, you’re suggesting that a church can say absolutely anything that they want about Jesus and that it would be equally as vaild. My point simply was that what I saw at Northridge was not the Jesus I grew up knowing. There was no talk of good deeds. There was no talk of turning the other cheek. There was entertainment and talk of “deserving” all that one had. There was talk of Jesus “wanting” you to be successful and finacially secure. It was a self-help infomercial punctuated by musical numbers and stolen video clips.

  63. Ted Glass
    Posted July 14, 2006 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t matter what kind of Jesus you believe in, as long as you call him “Jesus.” The only thing that matters is that you accept him. It’s like saying a “Abracadabra” and having a giant mountain vault crack open to reveal jewels and bars of gold. It’s like magic!

  64. flamingoinny
    Posted August 3, 2006 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    If you had a room full of Biblical scholars and teachers you

  65. egpenet
    Posted August 3, 2006 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Why does every human decision to act in a just way have to bear a religious significance? We learn as humans that to do a just or right thing is a good in itself, whether the gesture is returned or not, or whether the end is a success.

    This is where scientists like Darwin and those writing today, like Dawkins, make me nuts. They do good, even great science, then they leap off a cliff to make philosophical/theological statements that are neither science nor correct.

    That the Dodo became extinct is not God’s will. Nor is global warming some type of punishment from God. Intelligent Design is not science. And Genesis …

    A very good friend was walking the early morning beach along Miami’s shore when he met up with Billy Graham, also walking the beach that morning. As part of their conversation, Rev. Graham offered that he thought the “secret to understanding the mystery of creation was somewhere in Genesis.” As far as Genesis goes and is what it is, I think he’s right. Life is what it is and is driven in various ways to survive, almlost blindly. I think the operative word in Genesis is “multiply.”

    Multiply in numbers and multiply in variety. God’s will? Good? Bad? Is multiply the operative word to explain evolution? Perhaps. Is that drive an explanation for the insistent re-emergence of life after an eon of planetary chaos? After fires and floods? After wars? After genocide? I think so.

    God’s will? God? Interesting questions, but irrelevant. Life simply is. Or as I’ve said it before: Life Am That Is, Baby. And you waon’t hear that from an Evangelical pulpit.

  66. schutzman
    Posted August 4, 2006 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    there would be no persecution for pursing the religion of one

  67. flamingoinny
    Posted August 4, 2006 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Dear Eg,

    Just as one might ask which came first

  68. flamingoinny
    Posted August 4, 2006 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Dear Schutzman,

    Yes, I am fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the lynch mobbing of J. Smith. However, I wonder if their persecution deserves greater sympathy than the persecution of Christians in the world today…or Muslims, or Jews? Just a thought….

  69. egpenet
    Posted August 5, 2006 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The reason scientists philophize and thologize when they run across something unexplanable is that they MUST have an answer. You, Aquinas, Pascal, Darwin, and others, all Christians, must have “a rational order” of things. It is no surprise, really, that Darwin gave a Victorian Christian slant to his “why is this tyhat way, and that this way?”

    It is a human temptation, exaccerbated by organized religion and/or government to impose a “rational order” to things social, political and economical … to keep the rabble in its place so they can be governed (fear of hell). The temptation has led to all varieties of organized religions and social themes, albeit with mostly pure Aristotlian logic. Most people want to be led … and can be led quite easily along.

    A first cause? Mmmm. Perhaps. Continual cycles of chaos followed by series of Big Bangs, interspersed with periods of “life” as we know it? Mmmm. Perhaps. I don’t know. It’s a mystery. I have no real answers. But I oppose your view of a creator because of the sologistic conclusion to your arguement,. as it is now being expressed in Washington, Beirut and Tehran. How many does your book say were saved from Sodom and Gomorah? Have all three Abrahamic religions failed to bring joy and peace to the world? Mmmm?

    What I know is only myself (still learning) and what I observe (still looking). Much of myself and my observations are mysteries to me. Internal tides. Ebbing and flowing. Very simple and primal and even glorious and surprising. I don’t own an alarm clock, nor do I wear a watch. At this point, I am satisfied that my body reflects the daily cycles well. If I need to know a clock time, I’ll ask someone who keeps a chronometric observational device handy.

    Why only two of everything? Only two explanations? Evolution has NEVER been debunked and you know it. What HAS been debunked (PROVEN to be NON-science …. non-sense) is intelligent design. No peer reviewed scientist in the history of science supported, supports or ever will support intelligent design.

    But, why only two possible explanations? Why “creation” vs. “chance?” Why “two by two?” Are you so terrified by mystery and the unknown or even the unkowable, that you devise such choices for yourself? How self-limiting! Why not waves and strings and continuums and spectrums? I love entropy! It’s a part of me! It is. Chaos is. All of nature reflects uninterrupted movement and progression and flow. Is there the one, true “Y” chromosome? Or “X”? Or is sexuality expressed as a rainbow, for instance, using a more colorfully accurate metaphor? I think so.

    Those of us who need structure, answers, problems solved, detailed specifics on what to do with the minutia of your life and posessions … you just want a line to tow … the Abrahamic traditions are three. The non-Abrahamic choices many more than that. For those of us who see “creation” as a layered continuum (house of many mansions) of spritually “safe” chaos … we have our work cut out for us, weaving and dodging through a planetary surface polluted by your angry laws, the smoke of your selfish industries, and the litter of the corpses of your enemies.

    No problem. We’ll happily stay behind after your rapture takes you up, up and away. We’ll clean it all up and start back up where we left off. Again. All the while, we’ll have our joy.

  70. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 7, 2006 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    “Yes, I am fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the lynch mobbing of J. Smith. However, I wonder if their persecution deserves greater sympathy than the persecution of Christians in the world today…or Muslims, or Jews? Just a thought….”

    Check out pre-1978 Mormon racism, from the following website: http://www.i4m.com/think/comments/mormon-racism.htm

    “‘You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

    The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings.

    This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed.’

    Brigham Young-President and second ‘Prophet’ of the Mormon Church, 1844-1877- Extract from Journal of Discourses.”

    And, from the book of Mormon, same website:

    “Example 1: 2 Nephi 5: 21- ‘And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.’

    Example 2: Alma 3: 6- ‘And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.'”

    And, “While the 1978 ‘revelation’ has opened up the priesthood to blacks who are ‘worthy’, it hasn’t changed the fundamental doctrine of the Mormon church that a black skin is a curse.”

  71. Shanster
    Posted August 8, 2006 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Eg,
    Non-science means nonsense? Truth is not limited to scientific findings. Historical facts are not provable by scientific methods, testable, or repeatable…that doesn’t make them nonsense. As zay say in Chermany, “Luegner, Luegner, deine Hosen brennen!”

  72. flamingoinny
    Posted August 8, 2006 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Good grief man! When was the last time you read a book? First, you defend

  73. egpenet
    Posted August 8, 2006 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Flamingo: I am happy for you. For myself … it’s back into the soup. Toodles.

  74. flamingoinny
    Posted August 10, 2006 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Eg(drop)soup?!? Now THAT’S funny! Thanks for the parting chuckle Eg.

    Flam

  75. 2407411
    Posted June 4, 2007 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    748471236

  76. Cleo Love Paste
    Posted June 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    8675309

  77. egpenet
    Posted June 4, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    666

  78. mark
    Posted June 5, 2007 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    (I think spys have begun using my site to exchange coded messages.)

  79. Dave
    Posted June 18, 2007 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Northridge employs about 150 people. I used to work there because I got sucked into all of the marketing, and later realized how evil it all was

  80. egpenet
    Posted June 18, 2007 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    748471236 … 7+4+11, 1+1=2, 2+8=10, 1+0=1, 1+4=5, 5+7=12, 1+2=3, 3+1=4, 4+2=6, 6+3=9, 9+6=15, 1+5=6

    No Fibbonacci mysteries here. 6 is a very nice number. Totally safe. And a real friendly number at the craps table, as are 8, 9.

    8675309 … 8+6=14, 1+4=5, 5+7=12, 1`+12=23, 3+5=8, 8+3=11, 1+1=2, 2+3=4, 4+0=4, 4+9=1`3, 1+3=4

    Four, although rarely thrown at the table is an unusual bet. Unsafe at any speed. But capable of producing a big suprise win. However, once again, no surprises or infinite wisdom sequence … just another vapid comment from the stratosophere.

  81. It's Skinner Again
    Posted June 19, 2007 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    I still can’t get enough of 5040. They don’t make numbers like that anymore.

  82. Ken
    Posted June 19, 2007 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I’m a big fan of 369. I love the number
    and the Pantone spot color. It is a nice limish
    green. I had a ’78 Pinto that shade when
    I was in high school.

  83. Posted June 19, 2007 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I’m worried about egpenet. Does anyone have his address? Maybe one of us should swing by and check on him. If someone isn’t closer, I’ll do it. But then he and I would probably end up playing craps at the MGM. He’s got that whole Rainman thing going on. I’d like to put it to good use.

  84. dosuo
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    how do you remove the mark meynard virus??? sumone help

  85. mark
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Have you tried club soda?

  86. Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow.

  87. Posted March 7, 2008 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    What a post/thread.

  88. Tim Oskins
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I am learning from you, Mr. Maynard. I am twelve years old. I am from western Ohio. My parents homeschool me and my sister. You are our US History teacher.

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