Monthly Archives: September 2010

Shame in Religious Fundamentalism

This Sunday I am teaching on Adam and Eve’s fall recorded in Genesis 3 for our high school youth group.  Sin is a tough topic to talk about in the church.  It is easy to jump from guilt to shame in regards to sin. Guilt is the awareness that a person violated a personal value but shame is a deeper sense that a person is worthless because of their sin.  Too often in fundamentalist Christian churches, a culture of shame is built which destroys people.  Rowland Croucher writes, “Guilt is not their issue.  It is shame.  These people need deliverance from self-loathing, not forgiveness for sins.  The very institution that was founded on the grace of God in Christ, the church, can enhance and empower this inner critic of shame.”

Croucher goes on to give eight rules of shame based fundamentalist churches in this post.  It is definitely worth a read for those who have spent time in a fundamentalist church.  The first rule is the most important, “Always give the impression of being in control of one’s life at all times.”  Interestingly, the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”  One of the fundamental ideas of Christianity is that we can’t manage our lives on our own and that when we turn our lives over to Christ, we can experience true freedom.  Unfortunately, in some fundamentalist churches, true freedom cannot be attained because we are always working toward attaining our salvation through doing the right things.

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Reflections on the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

The latest Pew Center Religious Knowledge Survey on Americans is out and it shows some interesting trends.  You have probably read the headline on the survey which says something like “Atheists Know More about Religion.”  A deeper dive into the results shows that white evangelical Christians aren’t far behind.  You can read more about the results here and take a quiz for yourself here.  As I read through the survey results, some trends stuck out to me.

First, the best indicator of religious knowledge is the length of education.  This should be obvious but can we make the jump to say that those who are most educated are more likely to be an atheist?

I also found it interesting when asked, “According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to lead a class in prayer, or not?” the highest groups that answered this right were white evangelical Christians and atheists.  This shows where the religion wars are in our public schools.

Another finding is that church attendance is not an indicator of religious knowledge.  This saddens me as a person who works in a church.  What are we preaching on Sunday mornings if it doesn’t lead to knowledge?

I do think it is interesting that atheists scored higher than those who believe in a deity.  The atheists I have met are very knowledgeable about religion and have thought the issues through.  They are very good at building a rational argument against religion and refuting the comebacks of religious people who have not been trained to think.  Personally, I would rather spend time with an atheist talking about religion than a religious conservative who just argues with me about my beliefs.  One of our students told me on Sunday night that he is scared to talk to one of the Christians in his class about religion because that student looks like he is going to punch him in the middle of the conversation.

This October, PBS is presenting an interesting series titled “God in America” which shows how religious beliefs have shaped America.  We will definitely be watching this one.  Here is the preview:

Katy Hudson: The Other Katy Perry

Photo from Red Hill Records

A college friend of mine, Tim Koons, recently told me that Katy Perry played a show back at Taylor University in 2001 while we were students there.  I was definitely surprised but wanted to find out more.  How did Katy Perry go from playing at a small Christian college to being a pop idol?

I did a little research and found some interesting tidbits.  Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson was a pastor’s kid who grew up singing in church.  As a teenager, she released a self-titled album under the name “Katy Hudson” and joined Bebo Norman on the Big Blue Sky Tour.  That is about the time when she came through Upland and played at Taylor.  Here is an interesting interview with Katy Hudson as a seventeen year old during her days in the Christian music world.  “It’s not that I’m full of myself,” she said. “It’s that I know I’ve been called for a purpose, and that God has had His hand on me.”  Then in 2007, Katy changed her stage name to “Katy Perry” and released the single “Ur So Gay.”

This post is not meant to condemn Katie Perry.  Honestly as I have read through interviews with Katy Hudson, the up and coming Christian musician, it has allowed me to see the current Katy Perry in a different light.  I wonder what led to the transformation from Katy Hudson, the up and coming Christian musician, to Katy Perry, who gets banned from Sesame Street.

Southwest Campus Folks

Here are a couple of links for those who are attending our Southwest Campus and have been following Scott’s messages during the Modern Family series.

Role of Parents in Faith Development

Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family

This upcoming Sunday I will be preaching on the role of the community in the faith development of the next generation.

Questions > Answers

Taken from ASBO Jesus

“I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”
— Elie Wiesel (Night)

Elie Wiesel begins his book Night by recalling a childhood mentor who told him that it is more important to have right questions than the right answers.  Having already spent countless hours in church, my children have become great at parroting back the right answers.  Do they really understand the answers that they are recalling from their memory?  At their young age it isn’t as important that they know the depth and reasons for their answers yet.  But we can begin to challenge them to think.

Too often in youth ministry we tell students WHAT to think instead of HOW to think.  Then we wonder what happens when they go to college and are challenged on their answers.  They fall apart because they don’t know how to think and come to their own conclusions.  Why do we concentrate so much on telling students what to think?  Because it is easier to create robots who can repeat back what you just said.  We need to challenge students to go to a higher level of knowledge.

I love the movie Dead Poet’s Society because it is all about training students to think for themselves.  The movie portrays very well the fear that is inside some who think that training students to think will lead them astray.  If we truly believe in what we believe why are we afraid that training students how to think will lead them away from the Truth?  One unforgettable moment is when Mr. Keating stands on his desk and exclaims, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”

Our youth ministries should be a place where students can question the beliefs that they were brought up with.  We need to stand up on the desks and view our beliefs from a different angle.  Together we can dialogue and hash it out in a loving, caring community where no question is out of bounds.  This will strengthen and solidify the beliefs of our students.  Kurt Johnston, the Junior High Pastor at Saddleback Church once described children’s ministry as putting beliefs and practices in the mental suitcase of child.  Then he described student ministry as dumping out that suitcase and helping the student decide what goes into their suitcase.

How are we teaching students HOW to think in our youth ministry?  How are we creating an environment where they feel safe asking the right questions?

It Takes a Village

An ancient African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Our individualized American society works against this idea but I believe we can be intentional about seeing it become a reality.

The current neighborhood we live in is full of kids. Hillary and I noticed right away that our new neighborhood was different than where we came from in Colorado. Like clockwork, around 4 p.m. the kids would start coming outside with their parents who were getting home from work. We all just hangout in someone’s front yard and talk while the kids play. In Colorado we just pulled into our garage, closed the garage door and spent time on our backyard deck. There is definitely a benefit to not being able to pull into our garage. This is the type of environment that I grew up in but unfortunately this type of neighborhood is becoming harder to find.

Next Sunday I am preaching on the role of the community in the faith development of children. How have other adults helped play a role in the faith development of your children? How can we build relationships in our neighborhood so that it can be a caring community for all?

Waiting for Superman

Now that Anna is in kindergarten in a school district with some pretty interesting dynamics, we are seeing first hand some of the issues in education today.  It seems like education is always a hot topic in the news especially around election time.  Today  a movie highlighting the current education climate, Waiting for Superman, is making waves.  The movie follows five different children as they struggle to succeed in the American educational system.  In big issue discussions on topics like education, we hope to find one magic pill that will fix everything. Maybe if we had enough money our educational system would work.  Maybe if we had more well-trained, creative teachers students would graduate high school. It is hard to say that one thing will fix education in America.

In my mind, it once again comes down to the parents or guardians of the children. We have a big influence on our child’s education even before they go to school. When they are in school, we play a major role in supporting and supplementing what the child is learning at school.  Even with great teachers, innovative curriculum and state of the art facilities, can a child with unsupportive parents succeed?  I would like to see the statistics on a scenario like that.

The hard part of parent involvement in education is that some parents are working two jobs just to pay the rent and come home worn out at night.  The current economic climate and its impact on lower income families makes education tough.

All of this is to say that communities need to rally to support our public schools. Volunteer to read to kids in the classroom.  Bring homemade cookies to the teachers’ lounge.  Send your child’s teacher an encouraging email.  Teachers are saints and we need to let them know that.

Below is the trailer for Waiting for Superman:

Role of Parents in Faith Development

Our southwest campus is currently going through a series called “Modern Family” which is focused on this next generation of Christ followers.  This upcoming Sunday, our pastor, Scott Keeble will be speaking on the role of parents in faith development.

This morning Mark Oestreicher provided a link to this Open Letter to Parents which is pretty honest and hard to swallow.  In the post Scott Linscott speaks honestly to how parents put sports and education above faith development.  It is definitely worth a read.  The hard part is application.  Scott, thanks for sharing your heart for this next generation.

Thought for the Day

A person will worship something, have no doubt about that….That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character.  Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

5 Shows Saving TV

Relevant Magazine

Now that the fall seasons for our favorite TV series are starting, here is a great article from Relevant Magazine titled 5 Shows Saving TV by Ryan Hamm. Two of our favorite shows, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock are featured.

The other reason I wanted to spotlight this article is because the medium for the article is a digital magazine.  Instead of buying the magazine and wasting lots of printing resources, you can flip through the magazine on your computer.  Check it out.  It’s pretty sweet!