Tag Archives: Appreciating Diversity

Sending Spirituality into a Secular World

Sunset at Santa Rosa CreekThe divide between a believer and a non-believer has never been greater in our lifetime. Faith communities are places for us to feel safe and secure among people who share our beliefs. They shelter us away from a world that takes pleasure in challenging our beliefs. What we end up with is isolated communities that separate us from the world we are commissioned to reach out to.

So how does a non-believer full of skepticism and distrust find a way into a relationship with God when our walls of safety prevent them from finding a way in? Can there be a bridge between what is secular and what is Christian safe? In writing Life in Harmony, I hoped it would help non-believers find a way to a relationship with God. One Christian publisher told me Life in Harmony wasn’t Christian enough to be considered Christian Fiction. The book was also seen as too spiritual by traditional publishers. It was caught somewhere in the middle and that is exactly where I am glad the book is.

Christian Fiction’s audience is solely Christian and doesn’t bridge the gap between believer and non-believer. There are certain elements in Christian Fiction that are necessary to satisfy its audience. For a secular world, those elements can be perceived as being sanitized versions of reality.

Life in Harmony, while being filled with spirituality, avoids exclusionary tactics. The couple at the heart of the story demonstrates very little in the way of Christian aspects in much of the book. They are non-believers and non-Christians. They use mild profanity and God’s name is taken in vain in at least once in the book. In addition, sex plays a very important part in the book yet still within the confines of marriage.

These details were included because they are typical aspects of what occurs in our world. I wanted the book to be interesting to the most people possible. When editing the book, we looked for the balance to be as non-offensive to the widest number of people as possible. In making those decisions, wording for religious discussions in the book were specifically selected to be as non-threatening to denominational differences and non-believers as possible.

What I wanted the reader to focus on is the imperfection of the main characters. Kate and Michael are filled with lacking self-worth, skepticism, they frequently argue and show some very unflattering characteristics. I wanted the two of them to feel real and to do that they needed to sound real, talk about real things and do things that real people do. Things that Christian Publishers didn’t think matched what their audience was looking for.

I believe Life in Harmony encourages non-believers to a spiritual life. The book, I hope, demonstrates a God-filled story without hitting the reader over the head with religion. My goal with it is to send spirituality into a secular world and hopefully show a path to God in a non-judgment, non-threatening way.

If you have an avid reader in your life who hasn’t found a relationship with God in their life yet, I encourage you to share Life in Harmony with them.


LIH Cover 2015

Living in the smallest of towns with an array of hippies, farmers and artists, who are as different as they are close, can be taxing enough without the realization that some of Harmony’s residents may not be what they appear. When Michael and Kate uproot their lives in LA after a miscarriage and move to Harmony, CA (Population 18), they had no idea they’d be sharing their home with a spiritual apparition of a four-year-old girl named Ruby. “Life in Harmony” entertains the thought that the trials we face happen for a reason, and sometimes it takes supernatural intervention for us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.

Life in Harmony is available now from Pangloss Sea. Click one of the links below to purchase the book today!

Amazon Print Edition

Amazon Digital Edition

 


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One of My Favorite Political Subjects: Part 3 in the “Reach Out of Your Darkness” series

Immigration remains a hot topic today. It is one of my favorite subjects to tackle and my Examiner.com series this week really encompasses all my favorites.  This one tends to draw the most criticism (nationally and even within my family). The issue of those that immigrated here legally versus those who come illegally seems to be the tipping point for most critics of my position on immigration. I think this article addresses the points of that very well here.

The point of the article isn’t to argue what the reform should be or who should be here or not. It is more about showing tolerance for those who come here seeking a better life and suffer discrimination similar to the discrimination your ancestors likely endured as well. 

 Click here to read \”Immigration Tolerance: Reach Out of Your Darkness (Part 3)\” 

In the article, I also attached this video from School House Rock of the 1970s. I think it best simplifies the immigration culture of America’s history (although it leaves out slavery entirely). It was also my first introduction to the importance immigrants played in our nation’s growth that included my ancestors as well. 

Part 2 of “Reach Out of Your Darkness”: No Divine Denomination

I was first baptized into the Catholic faith as an infant but later my parents converted to a protestant belief system as I was growing up. One thing that has stayed with me as an adult is the fact that so much of what the church we attended believed in was about the church leaders’ personal interpretations of  scriptures. In the church we attended, the use of instrumental music was strictly restricted. A Capella was said to be God’s preferred method of worship. This belief was linked to a specific scripture (one I do not recall) that obviously ignored the countless times in the Bible where musical instruments were used in worship to the Lord.

In addition to what this church believed, it also professed to know what other faiths believed. As an adult, most of what I was told about other faiths and beliefs has turned out not to be true. For this reason, I have always been skeptical of one faith professing to know what the intent and beliefs of another religion is. In particular, I have written several cautionary articles about Christian condemnation of Muslims. While I do not claim to understand the Muslim faith completely, I am always concerned when others villianize Muslims based on what they have heard from non-Muslims. None of us knows the depth of God’s divine grace and justification. Who is to say the Muslim, Mormon or Jew aren’t entitled to the same heaven Christians believe in? Only God makes that determination. 

In part 2 on my Examiner.com series of “Reach Out of Your Darkness”, I encourage every believer to practice the very Christian value of love toward others no matter what their beliefs are. No matter who we are – God loves everyone.  Click the link below to read my article on the subject. The article also has a link to a survey where you answer a series of questions that determinewhat Christian denomination you are most aligned with. You may be surprises at your results.

Click here to read \”No Divine Denomination: Reach Out of Your Darkness (Part 2)

Reach Out of the Darkness: New Examiner Series

With this week being the start of the Holy Week of Easter, I am relaunching a popular article series that ran locally on Examiner.com last year. This year the series is entitled “Reach Out of Your Darkness” and is about appreciating differences. The series first ran this time last year as “No Matter Our Differences: God Loves Us All” and was hugely popular. 

This year, I am using the old Friend & Lover song, “Reach Out of the Darkness” as my inspiration. It’s a great song about peace and learning to appreciate our differences. So much of what we focus on these days is what divides us (our religious differences, our political differences, our sexual orientation, our citizenship status, etc…). What the bible reminds us time and time again is that we are all God’s creation. All created for good. This needs to be our theme for this Easter season.

Who did Christ die for this Easter season? A select group? He died for the salvation of everyone. In the spirit of this, I launch this series this week.

Click here to read \”Reach Out of the Darkness: God Loves Everyone!\”

“Grilled Cheesus” Episode on “Glee” Still Stirs

Fox recently reran Glee’s “Grilled Cheesus” episode and I received some new comments and e-mails about my article that came out on Examiner.com when the show originally aired. Click here to read the article.

I am not a fan of “Glee” and certainly think the show is overtly sexualized. Yet, the some have called my praise for the episode misguided. One comment on the article pointed to the fact that the episode makes fun of religion and portrayed religion in a negative light. I didn’t see it that way and responded to the comment. I am posting my response here because what I wrote pretty much sums up what the show was attempting and what I attempt with my Examiner column. Here’s my response:

Dennis,

I think you are too focused on what they didn’t say and less on what they did. This episode basically said that a non-belief in God comes from having been hurt by religion/God and that can be overcome. I also think you missed that they sang “What if God Was One of Us” at the end so God was definitely mentioned. I think that song summed up the intent of the episode that we need to live as if God was one of us.

The fact that people (not just characters on the show) think God and the “moral authority of the universe are bigoted homophobic idiots” is a sad commentary on what you and I are doing to bring those people into belief. Dennis, you are a sinner just like I am…just like the homosexual kid watching the show who feels shunned by religion. Are our sins less then his? Shouldn’t there be a place for him in God’s house every week? If we make room for the adulterous man, the divorced woman, the cheerful alcoholic, the married pedophile, the chronic tax cheater, the girl who aborted her baby and even a murderer every week – shouldn’t religion accept everyone? The fact that gays and others (who feel shamed by their choices in life) are kept away from the church is a saddest part of religion. Add in the fact that we don’t willingly accept believers of other faiths into ours as the greatest cause of war and misery in the world and that is what is wrong with religion today.

While you point out that a kid praying to a sandwich is a slap against belief in general, what about the fact that the two who don’t believe in God were shown what believing can do. Isn’t there hope in that? I think that was the point of the show and my article.

If you read my article, I did criticize the show for its sexual overtones. The show is in no way a religious show (just ask all the pre-teen kids who make up the largest demographic for the show…better yet ask their parents who allow them to watch it).

I simply choose to be more open-minded than others. Sometimes you need to look at the good that can come from a non-religious specific morality tale and see that there is some good there to be gained. Sure it’s not perfect but neither are we. I think (as a religious observer) more was achieved in the episode than wasn’t for believing in religion. Sorry you missed that.

 

Hope for All in Loving Your Enemies!

I just had to share this verse and commentary today. I receive daily scripture emails and this one really struck me this morning. I like what Whitehead says in his commentary about how loving your enemies creates hope that God loves everyone. No matter what wrong we do, what we believe or don’t believe, God is still there for us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Matthew 5:43-45

Jesus was stretching the imagination of the Jewish listeners. To love your enemies is to acknowledge that God loves them too. This is another way of saying that there is hope for anyone. No matter how evil or unrighteous someone may seem, the sun still shines upon them. We are challenged to live in the love of our heavenly Father, who wishes for none to perish and all to come to repentance. 

by: Dave Whitehead, Senior Pastor, GraceNYC.org