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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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A mentor knows how to stretch without insulting, affirm without flattering, release without abandoning us.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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I once was (pretty) blind, but now I see (better). Part 3

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 View Comments Comments (1)

          I’ve been reading several books recently (imagine that! – I’m a book-aholic) that explore how Christianity is viewed by young adults in the sixteen to twenty-nine years of age range.  It isn’t a pretty picture.  Careful surveys by The Barna Group have produced reliable but disturbing results.  The Barna Group has a good reputation for doing dependable research and surveys in the field of religion.  Their findings aren’t just based on a few interviews with questions slanted to produce certain results.  They found that young adults in the United States perceive Christians as hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, out of touch with reality, too political, and judgmental.  People who consider themselves to be outsiders hold these opinions in high percentages, but churchgoers in this age span also have these perceptions of Christians in smaller but still significant percentages. 

            At first I was shocked.  Then I remembered that I had some of those same feelings when I was in that age range.  I still feel that way about some of the fringe groups in Christianity.  I also supposed that perhaps much of all this could be attributed to exposure to fanatical televangelists or news reports on the latest weird or atrocious behavior of Christian leaders as reported on the TV news programs.  But as it turns out, the vast majority reported that their negative view of Christianity came not from the media, but from their firsthand experiences with Christians.  I then remembered times when I had experiences with Christians who were judgmental, pushy, and self-righteous.  For all of you who have had experiences that have given you reason to feel that Christianity is all of the negative things listed above, I offer my apologies.  The Jesus I find in scripture hung out with those who were oppressed, the suffering, and the misbehaving.  He seemed angriest and judgmental with self-righteous and pompous religious leaders who were disconnected from those who were showered with grace and love by Jesus.

 

What’s been your experience?

 

Mike Lamm   

Assassination in Tucson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 View Comments Comments (0)

Over and over the past few days I’ve heard reporters and those they have talked to say that the killing of six people and wounding of others outside a Safeway grocery store leaves them with no words to describe how they feel.  But, of course, they – and we – must try to find words in order to find our feelings, locate our thoughts, and see our way forward.  Once the horrifying shock subsided a little bit, old arguments about guns and political posturing began to be presented with new vigor.  That generates a lot of heat and sheds very little light.

            Some time back we told each other that it wasn’t whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.  We moved to believing that winning wasn’t the most important thing – it was the only thing.  We bought into win at all costs by all means in sports, in business, and in social relationships.  It matters little how much you exaggerate, bend the truth, assign the most vile motives to your opponent, or publically disrespect others, so long as you win the argument, the vote, or the political office.

            People will argue about whether our society would be safer with more powerful weapons or with fewer weapons.  People will speculate on how much a deranged and troubled mind was or was not influenced by heated rhetoric spewed forth by persons on the left or the right.  I would suggest that we need to work on civility and reasonable discourse for another reason.

            When I studied geography and world history in junior high or high school, I remember reading that the reason for the very formal and highly developed courtesy and etiquette in Japanese culture was because Japan was so densely populated that only highly refined courtesy could lubricate social interaction enough to prevent friction and dangerous behavior.  Whether that was a fair assessment of Japan’s culture or not, I can’t say with certainty, but it does sound rational. 

            We need to return civility and respect to everyday speech, not because we would not then incite people to irrational behavior, but because if rational and courteous speech were the norm again in our culture, the unbalanced, crazed, and delusional among us would not be so much like everyone else and would be more easily spotted and treated.  In a world where everyone shouts and blames, it’s hard to recognize the ones who are unhinged and who hate and blame others irrationally.  Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called-- that you might inherit a blessing.  (1Pe 3:9 NRS)

I once was (pretty) blind, but now I see (better). Part 2

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 View Comments Comments (0)

It was with fear and trembling that I realized that I had questions about the teaching that had been presented to me as the “true Christian faith.”  It was even more troubling when I began to have doubts.  In the religious training of my childhood and youth, it was of absolute importance to believe exactly the right things.  Everything was true or false, black or white.  If you questioned or doubted any segment of belief, then your whole faith would crumble into a pile of rubble.  Questions or doubts were the devil’s way of destroying your chance of heaven and enlisting you in his legions of evildoers.  While some might call it blind belief, unquestioning belief was the only sure path that would lead to eternal bliss.  In its most extreme form, this can lead people to mistrust not only science, but history, and other branches of education and lead to an anti-intellectual and anti-education position.

Having questions and then doubts greatly troubled me.  I was, frankly, scared.  I was sure that my immortal soul and my eternal destination were at stake.  Only gradually did it begin to occur to me that dealing with my questions and my doubts could lead me deeper into faith, could broaden my understanding, and make my relationship with God stronger.  It isn’t a perfect comparison, but it was something like the difference between an arranged marriage determined by my parents and having a friendship that deepened into love and marriage.

I think I used to understand faith as digital – you either had it or you didn’t.  Some people saw baptism as a switch in life that flipped you from “damned” to “saved.”  Others would tell me that I had to have a discreet extra-sensory experience of the Holy Spirit to be “born-again” which would sort of flip me from “off” to “on” in some spiritual way.  But I have come to see my spiritual life as a journey, a continuing growth rather than a specific moment. 

 

How is your journey going?

 

Mike Lamm

I once was (pretty) blind, but now I see (better).

Thursday, November 11, 2010 View Comments Comments (0)

True confession time: I grew up in a very conservative and very devout Christian faith.  My family went to worship every time the church doors were open.  The singing, the praying, and the sermons were all fervent and heartfelt.  There was strong emphasis on being certain that you believed the right things and that you knew exactly what was sinful and avoided it. If you did those things and prayed frequently for forgiveness, then, since you were a member of the “true” church, you would go to heaven when you died.  But, if you weren’t careful, if you strayed off the path just a little bit, then you would roast in the fires of hell forever more.  All in all, it wasn’t much different from what you might see and hear on many Christian television or radio broadcasts today.  If nothing had changed, I would still be living in anxiety of damnation or would have eventually rejected Christianity as mean-spirited.

What changed my understanding of the life that Christ calls us to live?  There were at least three things.  First, I began to wonder about some assumptions that seemed to be the foundation of what I believed for the first twenty years of my life (and continued to be an influence for decades more).  I realized that we seemed to treat the King James Version (and the Revised Standard Version that followed it) as if it had descended from heaven, bound in black leather.  Second, a bit of study of history helped me understand how we came to have the Bible that we have today, and appreciate the deep faith of writers and translators who were involved.  Third, I came to realize that science and religion weren’t enemies but complimentary, each giving us greater appreciation and understanding the Divine.

More later.  What’s on your mind?

 

Mike Lamm

Christianity has a bad reputation

Monday, October 11, 2010 View Comments Comments (0)

Christianity has a bad reputation in lots of places and in the thinking of a lot of people.  I’m not surprised, partially because bad news travels on wings but good news arrives on a limping donkey.  So, when some pastor misbehaves, it’s news.  When some preacher preaches hate, bigotry, and greed, it gets lots of attention.  When self-proclaimed Christians picket funerals or advertise that they are going to burn books that others think are holy, it gets a lot of attention.  If you form your understanding about Christianity based on what’s on the news, you get a pretty ugly picture. 

It doesn’t help that a lot of churches have very loudly reduced all of their time and energy to two issues – homosexuality and abortion.  From the outside, it must look like Christians spend most of their time thinking about sex and genitals!  It may come as a surprise to some that many Christians think that (a) sex isn’t always bad, dirty, forbidden, or sinful, and (b), there’s a whole lot more to being a follower of Jesus than being focused on the use, misuse, location, and treatment of genitals.  The way some people talk, you’d think they were something that the devil added after God finished creation and had turned the divine attention to some other project.

It seems to me that some issues are detrimental smoke screens that keep us from dealing with other important things.  Jesus was concerned with lots of issues, especially things like showing compassion, relieving suffering, and deflating people who were pompous and self-righteous.

How would you describe Christians from where you sit?

Mike Lamm

A Reluctant Reverend part 2

Thursday, September 30, 2010 View Comments Comments (0)

A Reluctant Reverend, part 2

I said that I thought that being reluctant to be a minister might be a good thing.    It’s possible that I feel that way partially because that was my experience.  But there’s more to it than that.  As I looked at many of the figures in the scriptures, I noticed that reluctance is quite common.  Moses really resisted God at the burning bush.  He kept protesting and raising objections about why he shouldn’t be a leader of the Hebrews.  Gideon in the book of Judges resisted God’s call for as long as he could.  And many of the prophets were reluctant to leave their current life to go challenge people with God’s messages.

 Thirdly, despite my generally optimistic outlook, there’s a bit of a cynic in my makeup.  I’m a little leery of people who are especially eager to hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and are absolutely sure that everyone should fall in line behind them.  There’s an old description of ministry as “the care of souls.”  That’s a fearsome responsibility!  It seems to me that it requires one to think carefully before speaking and to avoid simplistic answers to complex questions in our lives.  At least that’s my occasionally achieved goal.  We are each a work in progress.

 What’s on your mind?

 Mike Lamm 

A Reluctant Reverend

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 View Comments Comments (0)

That’s me.  I admit it.  In fact I’ve come to think it may be a good thing.  I didn’t want to be a minister.  Quite frankly, I was enjoying life, enjoying the freedom of doing what I wanted to, when I wanted to.  For several years I worked in construction and spent some of that time in Alaska and overseas.  I could quit and find a new job whenever I wanted to do so.   

Then I worked in audio as a recording engineer and speaker designer.  It was fun.  Sometimes it paid pretty well, too.  Business took me to the Orient and Europe and that was exciting.  My faith was important to me.  I was active in worship and found real meaning in projects that relieved suffering and poverty.   

But I didn’t want to be a minister.  I was too earthy.  I wasn’t good enough or “pure” enough.  Well, I still am not those things.  But I realized that most of the heroes in the Bible were pretty rough characters who still managed to be loved by God and useful in doing God’s work.   

So, here I am, trying to be useful.  Trying to study and learn God’s hopes and dreams for us all, and trying to tell other people what I’ve learned.  This feels meaningful and fulfilling.  But I’m still not comfortable with the “Reverend” title.  All reverence belongs to God; I deserve none.

 So, what’s on your mind?

 Mike Lamm