Let’s Talk About Jonah

I am not a Bible scholar. I hesitated to write this post because of that. Perhaps someone will tell me I have it all wrong. Perhaps no one will read it. I’m doing it anyway.

I used to teach middle school Sunday school. I would talk about Jonah with every group. I used to have a very basic understanding of Jonah. God called him to service. He ran. He was swallowed by a whale and then spit up and after followed God’s call.  I didn’t know the rest until another youth leader did a lesson on it at camp.

Jonah was called to God to go and preach to Ninevah. Jonah ran because he didn’t want to go to Ninevah. Why didn’t he want to go to Ninevah? He hated Ninevah and knew God would be merciful and save them. He didn’t want them to be saved. He wanted them to be destroyed. So he ran. He ran because he wanted to decide who was welcome to God’s grace. He ran because he hated the Ninevites enough to want them to be destroyed. He only followed God’s will after he was thrown overboard during a storm, saved by being swallowed by a fish and then vomited up on shore.

So, Jona went to Ninevah as God asked an as expected, God saved them. Was Jonah happy about this? No. Jonah was so angry he wanted to die. He knew this would happen and that is why he ran. He didn’t still didn’t think the Ninevites deserved God’s grace.

Can you imagine disliking people so much that you thought they didn’t deserve God’s grace? Disliking them so much that them receiving God’s grace makes you so angry you want to die? Do you have Ninevites in your life? Does God need to send a big fish to swallow you?

 

 

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Freedom of Religion

I almost didn’t write this one, but as I said before I’m tired

Once again I saw a post from a friend on Facebook regarding Islam. The last time, it was someone saying the religion should be illegal in the United States. It resulted in me writing about the slippery slope of allowing discrimination against a group with which you disagree. This time, the post was complaining about a tweet from one of our new Muslim Congresspeople. This complaint had multiple people agreeing that people who are Muslim should not be allowed to hold office. People agreed that they should not be allowed in the United States. They all apparently agree that every Muslim should be judged by the actions of other Muslims. There are many, many issues with all of this. I will highlight a few.

The first amendment gives us freedom of religion. Many of the same people who want to take away a Muslim’s first amendment rights also rant quite a bit about their own second amendment rights. Seems to me if the second one is important, the first one, by virtue of being first, should be even more important. People like to scream about how this is a Christian country, but one of the very basic freedoms we have as Americans is the freedom to worship as we want. This includes Muslims. You can’t pick and choose who gets this freedom. We can’t pick and choose which amendments are important.

If we are going to judge all Muslims based on the actions of a few, I guess we can judge all white men who own guns by the actions of the mass shooters? Should we assume all white men with guns will eventually murder multiple people? Should we judge all Christians on the ones who bombed abortion clinics? On the televangelists who take money from gullible old people and spend it on private jets? Again, you can’t pick and choose. You can’t declare all Muslims are terrorists if we can’t declare all white men with guns are mass murderers.

In one post someone said that Islam is not a religion. It is a political ideology. For some, that may be true. It is also true for some Christians. There are plenty of self-proclaimed Christians out there who are political, not religious Christians.  Christians who care about power above all else. Christians who will denounce a Democrat for not being “Christian” enough for office, but will justify electing an adulterer and liar because he promises them political power. Every religion, to some, is more political ideology than a religion.

Generally, I think the problem is the fear of other We don’t like people who aren’t like us. We fear things we don’t understand. It’s easier to want everyone to be just like us, but that’s not America. America is great because we are all free to be who we want to be, worship how we choose to worship, love who we choose to love. I’m tired of people demanding people not like them be declared illegal and unwanted.

Tater Takes on Power Seeking Christians

I meant to write today’s post last night when the thoughts were fresh in my head and I had more time to work on it. Instead, I watched the Braves lose and then watched two shows we had recorded and went to bed early. Now, I am having trouble getting started with the post. I don’t know that it would have been better had I written it last night, but I can say that this morning’s version is not great.

I was thinking last night about the people who are willing to overlook any issue with the latest Supreme Court nominee as long as they think he will side with them on Roe v Wade. If you want to read a full post on my thoughts on pro-life you can click here. Today’s post is a more general post about the “Christian” people who have stopped caring about anything besides political power. Those represented by Jerry Falwell, Jr who is on record saying he thinks Christians should stop electing nice guys and elect more “street fighters” like Trump. A large number of people who supposedly follow a God who’s two greatest commandments are about love(love God, love people) now only care about power and getting what they want. They say they care about people and that is why they are all about overturning Roe v Wade, but they only care about people until they are born and then they be come the “I don’t care” Christians.

Kids are being put in cages – we don’t care

Families are being ripped apart – we don’t care

Students are being murdered in school – we don’t care(thoughts and prayers)

Unarmed black men are being shot by the police – we don’t care

Women report sexual assault – we don’t care

The president is brags about sexual assault – we don’t care

The same president’s Supreme Court nominee is accused of sexual assault – we don’t care

What do they care about? Political power. Willing to overlook all of that in order to have politicians who will vote their way on the issues.  Willing to be OK with guilty until proven innocent in the case of a black man shot by the police, but all about the “American way” of innocent until proven guilty when a rich white Republican is accused of sexual assault.

I am in no way a perfect Christian. I am far from that. I do know that we should not be sacrificing the commands of God’s kingdom in order to gain power in our earthly kingdom.

Tater Takes on a Marriage Quote About Becoming One

I saw the following quote on Facebook this weekend. It was directed at Christian couples on the topic of “becoming one”:

“Separate bank accounts, individual political views, clashing parenting styles, and private friends is not “becoming one.”

I am going to make an effort to coherently give my opinion on each of these areas.

Separate Bank Accounts:  I have mixed feelings on this one. I can how separate bank accounts could be both good and bad for a marriage. It could be good in a case where the only major difference you have is on how you spend your money.  In a perfect world, you would just say you could compromise and come closer in your  ideas of how to spend your joint money.  This is not a perfect world and we are not perfect people. If a separate bank account can help a couple get along better and avoid major money arguments I think it would be a good thing. The bad side is that a separate bank account could lead to suspicion and distrust, especially if it comes later in the marriage. It could lead someone to think there are nefarious reasons why their partner suddenly wants a private bank account.  I think the bank account thing has to be a couple by couple decision. One size does not fit all.

Individual political views: This is an odd one. Are you saying that one person has to change their political beliefs in order to make a marriage work? I don’t think “becoming one” means giving up your personal beliefs. Are you saying that you should never marry someone who has different political views than you?  I can see this in extreme cases. If you are strongly anti-gun you probably shouldn’t marry a gun owning NRA member. If you feel so strongly about an issue that a disagreement would be a deal breaker hopefully you know where the other person stands before you marry them. In general, though, individual political views are not a bad thing. Becoming one does not mean you become less of a person.  You should still be able to have opinions and views that are different from your partner’s.

Clashing parenting styles: I can mostly agree with this one. You have to be in agreement on how you are going to raise your kids. You can’t have one parent undermining that other when it comes to raising and disciplining your kids. Again, this is something that should have been discussed before marriage. It shouldn’t be a surprise if your partner is for or against spanking. Again, though, there are going to be differences. Even if you agree on the basics of how to parent, you each are going to do it a little bit differently than the other. Even if you become one, you are still not going to be robots. There will be differences. I agree that the overall parenting style should be similar, but it can’t be exact.

Private friends: Again, it depends on what they mean by private friends. If the private friends and people who your partner doesn’t know about and you are spending time with them without their knowledge that is likely a red flag. Why would you keep that from your partner unless you are hiding something? If your partner doesn’t want you to ever meet their work friends, but they are going out with them on a regular basis, there might be reason for concern. If you’ve met these friends and your partner is going out with the alone because you don’t want to go, that is a different story. I think it is healthier to have some couple friends instead of each person having their own individual friends. I have friends I spend time with on a regular basis without my wife, but she has met all of them and knows when I am going out with them. This is normal behavior.

In general, I think it is not a good idea to try to fit each couple in to a standard box. Everyone is different and every couple is different and what works for one won’t work for another. Also, unfortunately, there are churches out there that think women are not equal to men and a lot of this is a way to make sure they are kept in their place. You marriage should be patterned in a way that works for both of you.

Things That Should Be Obvious

Apparently, I did have a fresh post for today. Some random, obvious thoughts below.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault should not be a partisan issue. I don’t care what your politics are, you should lose your job and be considered unqualified to serve in office if you are guilty.

Supporting an alleged child molester for Senate because he is a Republican is bad. Being a Christian pastor and doing so is even worse.

Nazi’s are bad.

Someone wishing you Happy Holidays is not religious persecution.

Someone saying Merry Christmas to you is not violating freedom from religion.

There is no “War on Christmas” If there is, judging from what I saw in NYC and the commercials on TV, Christmas is winning.

Shoplifting is bad. American students shoplifting in China is stupid.  Saying you should have left them in jail because you didn’t feel appreciated enough makes you an asshole.

It is not OK to hate someone because they are of a different race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc, etc, etc.

OK. That’s all I’ve got. Feel free to add some more in the comments.

 

The Joel Osteen Situation

There have been numerous reports from Houston about Joel Osteen closing the doors to his church instead of offering shelter to residents. There have been conflicting reports about the situation and now reports that after the backlash he did open up to offer shelter. I am not there, so I can’t speak to the situation. I don’t know the reasoning behind the initial decision or if the reports of that decision were accurate. I’m not going to judge based on social media posts.  I do have some thoughts:

  1. Someone on Twitter made the comment that he should not open the doors of the church because it is a house of worship, not a shelter. I could not disagree with this more. The church should, if possible, offer shelter to those in need. If you care more about your precious building than you do about the community you have no business calling yourself a church.
  2. Joel Osteen is not doing himself any favors by blocking people on Twitter when they question his decisions. Interaction and conversation would be a better way to deal with the situation than blocking people. Maybe he’s only blocking the people who are abusive, but many mentions from people saying he is blocking his critics makes it look worse for him.
  3. I’m tired of the bandwagon outrage on social media. I would bet that 99% of the people jumping on the outrage train have not spent any time trying to determine the veracity of the claims before going on Twitter to insult him. I’m not a fan of the guy, but I’m not going to go online and accuse him of something just because someone else on social media said so. We need to stop this piling on just to be part of the “in crowd.”
  4. We all, myself included, need to spend less time  looking to catch other people doing something wrong and more time doing something right ourselves.

On Marches and Life

Last weekend was the women’s march in Washington. I had a lot of friends go down to march and I support them and their right to march. I had other friends who did not support the march because pro-choice organizations and people were involved. Today is the march for life. I’m sure I have friends who are in Washington for that as well. I also support them and their right to march. I hope that regardless of how you feel about either march you understand that the right to march is a fundamental part of America. You can disagree, but you have to support the right to free speech.

Now, the next part has been in my head for a day and I have hesitated  writing and posting it because I think people will be angry with me. I am operating on 5 hours(split into two 2.5 segments with 9 hours awake in between) of sleep and my judgment is impaired so here goes:

I respect the idea of the pro-life movement and agree that in a perfect world there would be no unwanted pregnancies, no dangerous pregnancies and no reason for anyone to consider an abortion. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and even if abortion were illegal they would still happen, just in a more dangerous and life threatening manner. I also believe that there is a fundamental flaw in the thinking of a lot of the pro-life movement. I don’t think everyone who is pro-life fit the following, but enough do to make it troubling.

I am pro-life – unless you are a refugee trying to flee a war zone and then I will refuse to help because your religion is scary to me. I am not pro your life.

I am pro-life – unless you are an African-American man who may or may not have committed a crime and may or may not have a weapon. If the police shot you, you probably deserved it. I am not pro your life

I am pro-life – unless you have a pre-existing condition and can’t get insurance once the ACA is abolished. I am not pro your life.

I am pro-life – unless you committed certain crimes. I don’t care that the system is flawed and innocent people have been sentenced to death. I am not pro your life.

I am pro-life – but don’t ask me to support my tax money going to welfare programs for poor single moms to be able to support the child once they are born.

I am pro-life and family – but I support tearing families apart to get rid of all of those brown people who have invaded my country. I’m not pro your family.

I am pro-life as long as we are talking only about an unborn baby and then who cares after that. I believe it was Trevor Noah who compared it to collectors. It is priceless until it is removed from its wrapper and then we don’t care any more.

Be pro-life. Just be pro everyone’s life at all times of life for every life regardless of who they are, who they worship. who they love.

Am I Getting Too Old For This?

I was thinking about my upcoming personal schedule and I’m tired just thinking about it. I work today 11-9, tomorrow 9-5, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 1-5. Thursday night/Friday morning from midnight to 7am I will be at church acting as a monitor for the winter relief homeless shelter. I will come home, try to sleep while my family is home and then, Friday night, go to a friends house and probably stay out too late. I then work 7 days in a row Saturday to Friday, leave work at 3 on Friday to drive home, pick up my daughter and head to church to leave for a youth weekend retreat in Ocean City. We get back in time to stay up late again to watch the Super Bowl and then get up Monday morning to start the work thing all over again, including my speed friending event at my old branch that may or may not get any attendees. I guess maybe mid to late month I might get a chance to just relax. I think I’m getting too old for all of this. I should retire.

The upcoming youth group trip started me thinking about the difference between when I first started working with a youth group and now. My daughter doesn’t believe me when I say the kids in the youth group I worked with at our old church actually liked me. She’s just kidding, but there is a big difference in then and now. When I was first asked to help with the youth group at my old church I was a 26 year old with no kids of my own. I was closer in age to the teenagers than I was to their parents. I was willing to stay up all night at lock-ins, play football, capture the flag, etc. I’m still willing to do all of that. I’m just old, tired and fat now. I also spent more time with the kids back then. I wasn’t just occasionally going on a trip with them. I was teaching Wednesday night Bible study and/or middle school Sunday school, so I saw the kids on a regular basis. It also helped that I was not related to anyone on the group. The dynamic is different when you are a younger adult volunteering than when you are someone’s dad. I still have difficulty adjusting to this new reality of being a random chaperone and not something more.

So, the moral of this post is that I am old and tired and need to stop thinking so much.

Tater’s Takes on Odds and Ends

Flying While Arab –A student was recently removed from a Southwest flight after another passenger heard him speaking Arabic. Just another instance of judging others because they aren’t like us. Best case scenario is that this random other passenger speaks Arabic and actually heard him say something threatening. Most likely scenario is that an Islamaphobe heard Arabic and got scared. I would rather fly with the student than with someone who panics because they heard another language. Grow up people.

Cry Baby Trump:  Anyone who knows anything about politics or had paid any attention to the  presidential race this year has known for months that a candidate needs a specific number of delegates or there could be a brokered convention. Anyone who knows politics knows this could lead to the delegates choosing anyone as the nominee even if they never actually ran for the nomination. Now that it appears that Trump may not get the delegate he needs he is crying that the system isn’t fair and that they are stealing the nomination from him. This is the way the system works. Maybe it isn’t the best system, but it is the way it is and if you paid attention you knew this going in. Crying about it now is immature and ridiculous. Grow up.

Do do, don’t don’t:  I see a lot of posts from religious people who are full of don’ts. Don’t drink, don’t use profanity, don’t let your kids read books with s-e-x in them, don’t this, don’t that. I can recall going to library conference sessions where they talk about signage and they warn against posting a lot of “don’t” lists because you want people to feel welcome. They aren’t saying get rid of the rules, they are just saying maybe don’t sound so negative and don’t lead with the don’ts. I would say this could also be said for the church Focus on the do’s and not the don’ts. When asked about commandments(which, btw, don’t mention any of the above) he didn’t go to a list of don’ts. He went to a short list of do’s. Do love God with all your heart. Do love people. Short and simple and if you do these it will generally lead to not doing the don’ts from the commandments given in the Old Testament. We tend to focus on the don’ts and not so much on the do’s. I think we would all be better off focusing on the do’s. Love sounds like a good way to go.

On Challenge Day 10 Let Freedom Ring

Today’s challenge is to write about something I feel strongly about. I could probably pick several things here, but considering there was another GOP debate last night, I felt freedom was the right choice. There has been a lot of talk this election about “making America great again.” I don’t think I have the same opinion on what makes America great. I think freedom is what really makes America great. America is the land of opportunity. America is the place where you can aspire to be all you can be no matter who you are. America is about the freedom to be you no matter who you are. If we take freedom away, we make America less great.

Donald Trump wants to keep Muslims out of America. America is not a land where we should be requiring a religion test to enter the country. Freedom of religion is in the US Constitution. Perhaps Trump and other Republicans should spend less time worrying about the 2nd Amendment and read the rest of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion is right there. Guess what? It’s number one. I’m pretty sure someone in the debate last night mentioned that these were put in a certain order for a reason and not drawn out of a hat. This was said to stress the importance of number two. So, I guess this religion thing must be even more important than the gun thing. The United States of America is a place where everyone is supposed to be free to worship or not worship however, whoever or whatever they want. I was free to be a Baptist and then leave the Baptist church and join  a Methodist church. I’m free to just stop going to church completely if that is what I choose to do. These same freedoms apply to all religions. You are free to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Scientologist, Pastafarian, etc and it doesn’t matter how I, or Donald Trump feels about that. This is what makes America great. Not an orange buffoon deciding he can restrict entry based on religion.

We are also free in other ways that some would like to restrict. I’m free to be a  man who is married to a woman. I have friends who are free to be men who are married to men and women who are married to women. You are free to marry who you choose. You are not free to tell others who they can choose to love and/or marry. I am free to live my life as a man and be called Alan. Caitlyn Jenner is free to live her life as a woman and be called Caitlyn. It doesn’t matter how you feel about that. Caitlyn’s freedom to be Caitlyn does not affect your life in any way You can’t restrict her freedom because you don’t agree with or understand her decision. You’re free to speak your mind about all of this. I’m free to disagree with you. A long as we don’t threaten or harm each other we can argue all day about it because this is America and we are free to do and think how we feel as long a we aren’t harming other or restricting their rights.

America is great because we are not a fascist dictatorship where we force people into conformity. We are great because we are not all alike.  I’m not sure how people think we can be “great again” by taking away freedoms that make us great. We shouldn’t be looking back at “the good ole days” when it was standard and legal to discriminate against people because they weren’t like us. Let’s keep America great by embracing our freedoms, not by restricting them.