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)
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!\”
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:
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.
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
This series is a gem because it combines political and religious issues stereotypes in a humorous way. It’s unfortunate that our country, founded on religious freedom, didn’t produce this show first. Canadian CBC airs the hit sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” now in its fourth season (episodes are currently available on Google Videos and YouTube). I recently read an article about the series and the delays in bringing to the United States and decided to check the series out for myself.
The series revolves around a tiny Muslim community living in a small Canadian prairie town. While the humor of the sitcom can be mild, the way the series deals with religious stereotypes is incredibly real and amusing. The show doesn’t shy away from finding humor in stereotypes which have become far too taboo in the politically correct climate in this country. It works for this series because the show’s seven Muslim characters offer a wide range of believers of the faith that include a sexist traditionalist and a white Canadian convert.
The show doesn’t shy away from dealing with non-Muslim stereotypes either. The cast includes a local radio Rush Limbaugh-type who attacks the Mosque with stereotypical rhetoric and a local resident who always seems to hear something that could be construed as “terrorist chatter”. The show also succeeds in turning the religious stereotypes on its head as some of the Muslim characters make comments about those in the Christian faith in a similarly stereotypical way that Christians make about Muslims.
At the heart of the show is the relationship between the Islamic Imam and an Anglican Reverend who rents out part of his church to Muslims for their new mosque. Both the show’s premise and ideology promote peace and understanding of a religion most Canadians and Americans don’t really understand.
To stereotype an entire religion as if the entire masses of the faithful is represented by a few extremists is morally wrong whether it be Christians generalizing about Muslims, Muslims generalizing about Christians, or even one race against another. This show uses humor to show its audience that no matter the stereotype, it’s better to get to know a people as individuals so you can better understand their perspective.
As the protests turn violent today, the question of the United States not actively supporting democracy in Egypt seems hypocritical. Supporting dictators never seems to be in the best interest of the United States. Whether its support for the Shah of Iran, Saddam in Iraq, or now the Egyptian president, when will the U.S. learn that when we don’t support and push for democracy, we end up the villain.
I’ve written a two-part article today for Examiner.com where I talk about how hypocritical it is for the U.S. to sit by and wait for an outcome in Egypt. Read today’s article and let me know what you think.
Click here to read \”Is the U.S. a Democracy Hypocrite?\”