Magic Trixter FoX

Magic Trixter FoX

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How to Win elections from now on? Take the high road like Senator Sanders

The Democratic Party is in a state of Flux.  Candidates Clinton and Sanders are running two very competitive campaigns right now for the party's nomination at the Democratic Convention in July, and the race couldn't be tighter.  However, as Sanders keeps on picking up fresh support in the next two states to vote - South Carolina and Nevada - an increasingly likely scenario emerges: that the Vermont Independent will ultimately prevail over the establishment favorite.

What has propelled this massive drift to the Left?  Largely, it has been millennial voters.  Not only did millennials overwhelmingly favor Sanders over Clinton recently in Iowa and in New Hampshire, but they are showing up as volunteers all over the Sanders campaign.  They are also giving online to the Sanders campaign, and for the first time in history, a grassroots campaign built on individual donations is actually outspending a campaign bought and paid for with money from the oil and gas industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the private prison industry, and SuperPACs.  

But an even more interesting shift is taking place, and that is that a spate of Bernie-style Progressives are entering the race for seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.   Just like Mr. Sanders himself, they are forswearing any corporate donations or endorsements and going straight to individual voters.  The approach is serving them well!  Their Facebook pages are being shared vociferously on all the pro-Bernie Sanders groups and gaining lots of likes from local voters.  Some of these likes are also translating into campaign cash: Tim Canova, the challenger to DNC chair and Florida representative Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, reports that he is seeing lots of low-dollar donations coming in to his campaign, and he's barely getting started.  It is likely that his campaign has appealed to progressives even beyond his base in south Florida due to the way millennials like and share information on candidates willing to align with Senator Bernie Sanders and his policies.

In a time when many writers are insisting that Bernie Sanders has already won over the soul of the Democratic Party, along with the overwhelming majority of its youngest voters, new candidates for Congress really ought to sit up and take notice.  An endorsement of the Sanders agenda and a refusal to participate in dirty, corporate politics as usual may very well be the way to finance campaigns and win elections from now on.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why Doesn't God Stop all the Evil?

The question is usually asked, "If God is supposedly so good why does He not intervene when all the horrible things happen?  Why does He allow child molestation to continue if He is supposedly invisible, in that very room, and powerful enough to somehow stop it?  Why does He, Himself, seemingly condone war and slavery in the Bible?  Subjugation of women in the Qur'an?  Infanticide?  Earthquakes?  Famines?"   And Believers often fall back on some version of "Because Free Will."  That answer doesn't usually satisfy right away.  But it is the right answer.  We just need to think it through.  In other words, here's my version of "Because Free Will."

If you were God, and you wanted to create a perfect universe, you would do it.  Obviously, you would stop the suffering and the cruelty if you had unlimited power.  But no!  God, on the other hand, did not create a perfect Universe, when He very well could have. Where does He get off?  What He created instead was a free Universe, and that, my friend, is why He is God, and you are not.  As wonderful as a perfect Universe sounds, a free Universe is much better.  And I will explain why.

What is a Free Cosmos?  Is it not a Wild Cosmos?  Yes, when a Christian asserts that "God gave us free will," and that annoys you, I want you to try and think, instead, of a lion on the Savannah, gnawing on a wildebeest calf, and replace God gave us free will with God made us wild.  The truth is that every single being in the cosmos gets almost unlimited freedom to choose their reaction to any stimuli they encounter.  Parents are not supernaturally restrained from choosing to abuse their children, or romantic partners to abuse each other or betray each other.  No one is supernaturally restrained from any choice, seemingly, and when you reflect on this fact you must understand this does not apply only to humans.  Ants tear apart beetles.   Parasites rip apart colons.  Insects sometimes consume their mates immediately following intercourse, actually sometimes animals eat their own children.  No being is restrained from making any choice, and this basic built-in fact about the Cosmos is what makes it free and it indicates something very important about the character of God.

At the Big Bang, God essentially opened His eyes, after a long meditation.  The Bhagavad Gita (of Hinduism) has this really neat concept, that there is both Day and Night in the Universe, and in the Daytime, Brahman is awake, and emanating from the consciousness of Brahman are all the individual consciousnesses of the gods and goddesses.  During that Day, the Universe exists.  In the Night, however, the Universe implodes and is dissolved into nothingness.  That nothingness, however, is still inside of God's Being.  God exists before the Big Bang and after the Big Crunch.  "And earth was formless and void, and the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters" describes this (Genesis 1:2), and the idea is also found in ancient Mesopatamian and Canaanite and Egyptian paganism.  God resided over primeval chaos.

In Christianity, God never sleeps, and also, He is One.  But I see those differences as cultural, not doctrinal.  I imagine that God goes into deep periods of meditation (formless chaos), and when He opens His eyes, the Big Bang occurs and the Universe gets spread out over space and time.  As it expands, God's own consciousness is entering into it, like His eyesight.  The Universe is God's field of vision opening up before Him.     In the West we have this huge debate about creation versus evolution, but it doesn't make sense at all to an Eastern mind because creation and evolution are the same exact thing.  The Bhagavad Gita calls God "the Evolver of the Universe."  So rather than thinking of God as having made some machine and set down all these rules about how His Creation was supposed to behave,, a more correct way of thinking of God synthesizes East and West and sees God as entering into His Creation and experiencing it as though He is along for the ride.  Incarnating on a cosmic level.

But there is more to it than just that, because the Earth herself is a living Being, and a wild creature.
Beyond that, if we could perceive it, the whole Universe is a living Being, and a wild creature.
What God really created with His stream of consciousness, was not a machine, but a companion.  The Universe itself is the Divine Feminine, God's wife.  And She can be personified on any level - as the whole Universe (think Tiamat), or as the Earth (think Gaia), or as the nation of Israel (Jehovah's Bride), or as the Church (the Bride of Christ), or as the wife in any marriage (sacramental marriage), or as the goddess in every woman (Paganism).  She is real, and God is mad in love with Her, and so God allows Her to do as She pleases.  He doesn't lay a finger on her right to choose exactly what she does.  Now, there are Angels, such as, for example, the "Angel of the Lord"  (the God of the Old Testament) who take it upon themselves to try and promulgate laws for humanity, and moral codes. The Old Testament God, the one who spoke to Moses, the one who made the crazy rules about diets and beards and menstrual periods, was not the same as the Creator, but was an "Angel (Messenger) of the Lord."  The text itself tells you that, and this Angel was a free, wild being too.

Every single creature God has made, even the Devil, and even you, whatever your gender, is a part of God's Divine Companion.  So everyone is Free.

Consider this rhyme riddle:
"Here on Planet Earth, every soul is free.
I have no power over you.
You have none over me."

Really, that is the Eden model.  That is how God originally intended it.  He gave us the freedom to be as free as He is and decide exactly what to stand for and who to be in each moment of our existence. Even if our choices endanger or threaten others, of whom we are all in a state of interbeing with, whether we know it or not.  God allows His Companion to be full of myriad individual turmoils because He fundamentally is allowing His Creation to be herself and choose to cause suffering or not.
Now let's think about doing it your way, instead, creating the perfect Universe.  Everyone would be much more comfortable, right?  They would know that anytime they inadvertently thought of some way to take advantage of someone else, anytime they had a new idea which, unbeknownst to them, would actually create suffering in the cosmos, that God would just zap them and physically restrain them and keep them in a state of innocence so that no one suffers.  It wouldn't suck at all to just live out a script, live out a trillion do's and don'ts.  (I'm being sarcastic.)  It would suck a lot!  Why does it seem trite to suggest that without the freedom to fuck up we would just be a big mechanical robot?  Why aren't we satisfied with the idea that God wanted to create a Bride and not a robot?  Why do we so undervalue the fact that its a Free Cosmos and want this hypothetical perfect cosmos instead?

If you really think that a perfect cosmos would be better than a Free Cosmos, let's talk about wildlife management.  Throughout the world, there are many wildlife preserves and nature refuges.   Human beings have the power, through technology, to police everyone of these wild places and keep the animals from killing each other, or from fucking each other too much.   We can distribute much needed medicines when the wild animals get sick.  We can give them all flea treatments, or better yet, we can invent a way to relocate all the fleas off the animals and sustain them in some cruelty-free environment, I'm sure.  I'm sure we can use little robots to help sea turtle hatchlings get to the sea before seagulls snatch them away.  There are a thousand improvements we could make on Nature!

Human beings are Animals.  Animals of all species are, and should be, free.  It is not the business of a good environmentalist to police natural predators or to interfere with the day-to-day lives of animals.  It is the business of a good environmentalist to love Nature and let Nature be herself, restraining only the impact of humans.   It is the business of a good God to do the same, for the entire cosmos.

Yes, He allows wars and famine and child molestation.  He allowed Lucifer himself to fall from heaven and deceive the whole world.  He is more than willing to let the Universe careen out of control.  He is very "hands off."  But by no means does that imply He doesn't love us.

In Christianity, God promises to rescue Creation at last.  He promises Eternity.  He promises being with Him.   He promises Rest, Reward, Redemption.  He promises delight and bliss.  He showed his commitment to rescuing us by the symbol of the crucifixion.   Through the crucifixion, and even more broadly, through the entire life of Jesus as the Incarnation, and even more generally, by being an indwelling consciousness looking out from every eye, God experiences suffering alongside us.  He feels the pain of every victim as His own pain because His consciousness is fully within the Universe.  He is wedded to His Bride in an Eternal way and He knows Her and feels Her intensely.  He shares Her pain to its fullest extent.  He also promises to rescue Her through the Eschaton   The Second Coming, the Millennium of Peace, the New Heavens and the New Earth.

If you are an Atheist and you are cynical about Christianity, and if some of the ideas above are new to you or if they give you pause, I want you to consider the doctrine of universal reconciliation.  I want you to reconsider all this hell talk, as are a lot of Christians.  Yes, the Bible talks about hell.  But does it ever say that it is eternal?  The Bible doesn't even say that heaven is eternal.   "Heaven and Earth shall pass away," it says, actually.  Nothing is Eternal except for this marriage between God and His Bride, whom He Himself Created, or Evolved (or did He?  Maybe they are Evolving and Creating each other).

This is a broad view, and if you will entertain it, you will find that it may answer a few other questions as well.   For example, Christianity gets a lot of flack because of similarities between it and ancient pagan mythologies.  Christianity is seen as plagiarizing the other cultures.  I disagree with this assessment vehemently.   I think both Christianity and all the various indigenous paganisms of the world all told the truth about the same basic facts: that God was married to His Creation.   This is how you got Baal and his consort Asherah.  In really old Judaism (Yahwism to be more precise, before the Temple was built), Yahweh also had a consort: Shekinah.  Then in the Jewish nationalism of Temple Judaism and Torah Judaism, Israel herself becomes the Bride of Elohim.  In Christianity, the Church becomes the Bride of Christ.

To really understand why God allows suffering we have to count as primary to the being of God that He wants a love relationship with the Universe.   He wants an equal.  Through His Love we do in fact become His Equal in Eternity.  We become part of His Very Body.  That is what Eucharist means: sharing His very flesh, Him sharing ours.   In the same way that Rain and Sun became Wine and Bread, Wine and Bread become Blood and Flesh, and God becomes Us.  We become God.  We are conformed into His Mind.  We Become At-One.  This process will assuredly make up for every single injustice.  Things eventually swing out of the darkness and into the light.   The Universe enters a period of Perfection.    There is Day and Night also in the Universe.  Long term thinking is: the advantage is the Night of the Universe, God is no longer sleeping Alone, and neither are we.  We hooked up.   God's getting laid.   Its not God and His Robot Universe which He refuses to fix.   Its God and his lovely Lady embracing together at the end point of Eternity, like-minded, equally powerful and real and entire, and in love.

 "All good things are wild and free." - Henry David Thoreau

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  - C.S.  Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

"He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”  - C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Sunday, July 5, 2015

40 Answers to Conservative Christians About Why I Support Marriage Equality

Recently, someone I am close to posted an article from "The Gospel Coalition" called "40 Questions for Christians Who Are Now Waving the Rainbow Flag" to their Facebook account.  The original poster is someone who is very adamantly against same sex marriage on religious grounds.  He wrote that he would rather that the questions be answered personally and not be part of a debate on his page.  I clicked on the link and read the questions, and although I have honored the wishes of the original poster by not debating with him, I personally felt that the questions asked were good ones.  I felt that I had answers for them, and so I went ahead and typed them up.  But what made them good questions was not the fact that I already felt equipped to answer them.  What made them good questions was that they seem to have been asked in a good spirit.   "These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical," the article says. "They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying."

The tone of this article in general reminded me of myself, about a decade ago, when I was equally distressed by what I perceived to be a major error that the church was making.  That error was our stamp of approval, as Evangelicals, on George W. Bush's "pre-emptive strike" on Iraq, specifically, and the "War on Terror" generally.  As a young college student, and a committed Christian, nothing was so distressing to me as the idea that the Christians in my church were wholeheartedly swallowing Bush's rhetoric about a "crusade" and a fight against "evildoers," when all the evidence I was seeing was that our invasion and occupation of Iraq was really about oil and wealth.  I wrote many blog posts at the time, similar in tone to this one from the Gospel Coalition.   I asked many sincere questions of the Christians I knew who were part of the warmonger's agenda.  However, my sincere questions were almost always met by a deafening silence.  Silence as a response to my sincerity proved to be so frustrating to me.   I do not want to be the cause of a similar frustration, so I will at least attempt to provide thoughtful answers when I am presented with sincere questions.  So below, I have posted the original questions, along with my answers. 

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
------My position has evolved slowly.  As late as 2004 I believe I was actively arguing against gay marriage.  I went silent on it for a number of years and I considered my position deeply.  By 2011 I was willing to work for the Human Rights Campaign, door canvassing to overturn DOMA in San Diego, California.  By 2012 I had many close gay and lesbian friends, and attended my first ever same sex ceremony.  It was a very moving event and I felt absolutely no qualms about what I was celebrating at that time.  I have not felt anything but celebratory for the gay and lesbian couples I have met since. 

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?  
-------Galatians 3:28 says, "In Christ there is neither male nor female."  That one played a role in opening my mind.  And in 1 Timothy 4:3, a verse which is set in the context of talking about apostate faith in the end times, it warns that there will be those who "forbid to marry" in the end times.  I look at the conservative Church's very active role in resisting the civil, secular liberties of homosexuals on a religious basis, and I wonder if 1 Timothy 4:3 was prophetic enough that it applies now. 

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
-----------I wouldn't make a "positive" case from Scripture to that effect.  I will be honest here and admit that no positive case can be made which is specific to this issue.  Negative cases are frequently made, and I have issues with the hermeneutics involved, but as far as a positive case, I am not aware of how one would make one.  That said, it is also hard to make positive cases from Scripture for lots of other things.  Interracial marriage, for example.  Christians running for office in a democracy.  Christians serving in the military.  Etc., etc.  Interestingly, I could make a good positive case from Scripture for the institution of slavery. 

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
-------------Marriage is supposed to be an Earthly representation of Christ's relationship with the Church.  Why?  Ephesians 5:25 is specific.  Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving himself up for her.  That's a reference to Christ's atoning death.   The type of love Christ had in not thinking of Himself, being willing to die for His love, is what marriage is all about.   I believe you will find plenty of same sex couples who love each other that deeply.   Heterosexual couples do not have the monopoly on agape love.  For that matter merely being heterosexual in no wise means that you will be successful in modeling this Eucharistic type of affection. 

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
---------------Jesus didn't say very much about it.  However he did heal the centurion's servant.  There are scholars who will argue that the centurion and his "servant" were actually a homosexual pair.  I am not 100% certain what Jesus would say about it but in absence of a clear words-in-red injunction against homosexuality, I feel that I am free as a Christian to consult my own conscience on the matter.  Since I am not a homosexual myself, I have no feelings of conviction on the matter which I feel are coming directly from Jesus. 

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
----------------He reasserted the Genesis definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-5.  In verse 11, it should be noted, he said, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given."  In verse 12 he continues, and says that "there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb."  I don't think it is outside the realm of possibility that when Jesus said eunuchs in this context he may have also meant to include homosexuals.  Whether that is so or not, Jesus reasserted the Genesis definition of marriage as part of an answer to questioners who were talking about divorce.  The text doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that Jesus was giving us a complete teaching on human sexuality. 

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding? 
--------------Lust, most likely.  Infidelity, compulsion, fornication, adultery. 

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
---------------I believe that the passage in Romans 1 is referring to a type of sexual appetite which becomes so intense as to be completely unrestrained and that flows into and out of all orientations.  It does not read as though it is condemning an emotional, spiritual, usually monogamous and lifelong same sex relationship.  It reads as Paul's angry denunciation of unbridled sexual passion.  When I read the Romans passage, I also like to keep in mind that Paul himself tells us he sometimes speaks "by permission" according to 1 Corinthians 7:6.  In other words, he did not always keep his personal opinions out of his writing.  Certainly, Paul never expected that his letters to the churches he was involved with on his missionary journeys would become part of Scripture itself. Paul was a very humble person, frequently choosing not to "boast" about his own revelation or experience.  He would not have expected to have been the final word on this subject.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
----------------1 Corinthians 6:9 is specifically referring to pederasty.  A widely practiced form of ritualized pedophilia in the ancient world.  Revelation 21:8 refers to "whoremongers," which are people who are willing to pay for meaningless sex, whether they be gay or straight.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
-----------------------There is probably a great deal about the Bible that I fail to grasp, and I have learned a lot from reading Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and others.  But I am certain that each of these theologians were, in the final analysis, mere mortals, and themselves subject to social conditioning.  I have the benefit of being able to stand on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, and look at the accumulated wisdom of the church.  In the past I have found much to embrace, and much to question.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
-----------------------I would begin with a survey of every verse involved, and ask deep questions of each one.  We had one such study in my home church which was very enlightening.  I would not argue that my understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned, however.  I would argue that all understandings of human sexuality are culturally conditioned.  What is important to take away from the Bible are the principles of self-sacrificing love and fidelity.  I believe that a genuine "love of neighbor" will lead straight Christians, eventually, to see that their homosexual neighbors are capable of divine love for one another, and I believe that a genuine love of neighbor will also eventually lead them to advocate for equality.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
----------------------No, I think they were culturally conditioned to hold the positions they held, and that their opinions have changed in response to political pressure.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
---------------------I believe children do best when they are surrounded by parental love and support.  I believe my gay friends would be capable parents.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
--------------------I've not consulted psychological journals, so I suppose this is an area where I would be open to doing more research.  In fairness, I would ask this same question of opponents to same sex marriage.  Have there been peer-reviewed studies which show that children from stable homes with same-sex parents are some how worse off than children from stable homes with heterosexual parents?  I can certainly think of plenty anecdotal evidence that children of same sex couples turn out fine.

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
-----------------------No.  The State should stay out of it.  The Church has a role to play, but as there are different types of Christians, there are certainly churches who would probably succeed at Christian formation for the gay families in the congregation. 

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
-----------------------Yes, it points to spiritual fulfillment.  Marriage is the basis of families and communities and, for Christians, is supposed to evoke the relationship of Christ to His Church.

18. How would you define marriage?
----------------A lifelong commitment between people who love each other physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
---------------I will admit that the concept is a bit creepy to me.  However I do know that in the Bible close family members often were married.  I suppose in extreme situations the marriage of close family members could be a possibility (I'm thinking of cousins and half-siblings or step-siblings, not parents and children or brothers and sisters).  I fail to see how this question fits in to the discussion we are having, however.

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
-----------------Perhaps not.  I am aware that polygamous trios are now starting to apply for marriage licenses since the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.  Scripture is full of examples of polygamous families.  I know that 1 Timothy 3:2 teaches that church leadership should only include those who are "husbands of one wife."  But I don't see anything directly in Scripture which precludes the laity from practicing polygamy.  I would say, however, that a marriage involving more than two people could be exponentially more difficult to maintain.  How would those involve keep jealousy or favoritism from  getting the better of them?  Then again those already practicing polygamy in the United States often point to the many benefits of the practice: three incomes, for example, and an extra person helping with child rearing.  I fully expect that in time to come polygamy will be a more widely accepted practice.  I hope that as we go forward Christians will think about this with as little animosity and with as much open-mindedness as possible.  There is considerably more backing for polygamous marriage in the Bible than there is for same-sex marriage.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
-----------------I would not prevent consenting adults of any number from getting married.  I would prevent consenting adults of close family relationship from getting married on the basis of scientific or health-related problems that may arise should the pair attempt to procreate.  But even this would stance is more of a general aversion than a universal law which would apply in every case.  The bottom line, I suppose, is that as a citizen of a free country I don't feel the need to prevent consenting adults from pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
----------------Yes, of course there should.   Children are not emotionally capable of making the very adult decision to get married.  If I had my way I would raise the age requirement, in fact, because I believe that most young marriages are very ill advised.  

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
----------------No, I can see problems with that description.

24. If not, why not?
----------------Again, marriage should be restricted to consenting adults.  

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
----------------Yes, they should.  Pastors should never be forced to perform a ceremony of which they disapprove, for example.  However, in a workplace which is opened to the public and not explicitly faith-based there should not be any discrimination against the customers.  For example freedom of religion does not mean that people who make wedding cakes can deny service to a gay couple.  

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
-----------------I will speak up for my fellow Christians if gays attempt to, for example, sue churches who refuse to give them a ceremony.  I can't really think of other credible ways that the so-called "gay agenda" threatens religious freedom.  But yes, people have the right to attend a church which interprets the Bible literally and preaches against homosexuality.  Those churches should not have to go against their own religious beliefs to accomodate non-believers or to accomodate the State.   I will be happy to speak up on that issue should it arise.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
-----------------I have, in the past.  In fact on Facebook just recently I posted the following comment on a friend's status: "Most Christians I know who oppose marriage equality are still on good personal terms with LGBTQ individuals. There are those gay-bashing Christians out there, but because someone opposes marriage equality doesn't make them vile and hateful people. I agree that is a little harsh characterizing it that way. I say this as a pro-marriage equality Christian."     I have a problem with the way Christian conservatives are easily all lumped together with the "Westboro" type Christians out there by some in the gay rights movement.  I know that it is not the case that every conservative Christian is frothing at the mouth filled with hatred.  They should still be able to make their case.

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
-----------------This would be a question for my rector, I suppose.   As a member of the laity I am not eager to accept the role of anyone's marital counselor.  But I do subscribe to the belief that divorces are the last resort, and are really only Scripturally suitable if the precipitating event was abuse or adultery.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
-----------------I don't view "open relationships" as sacramental.  I don't see how an open relationship can fit in a believer's life.  Perhaps I am not fully aware of what the term "open relationship" means.  If it means that you are in a relationship but that your partner is okay with you being promiscuous, then no, I do not think that qualifies as a righteous relationship.  I think that is too permissive and is focused only on gratification of the self.  My belief is that anytime a person engages in a sexual act with another person, it is also a spiritual act, and it should be entered into carefully.  If a couple however is seeking a three-way relationship I can understand that they may be dating someone else while being married.  I am not sure this is exactly the same thing as an open relationship.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
-------------Yes.  All the more reason why those believing LGBT individuals that exist have wanted to have the blessing of the sacrament of marriage.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
-------------My hope is that they will do their very best!  There is ample teaching in the Scriptures against these particular sins.  However, perhaps the best approach is not to harp on specific sins.  Perhaps the best approach is to affirm in the words of the Baptismal Covenant the "dignity and worth of all human beings."  If those who are in relationships view their significant other as someone with inherent dignity and worth, then perhaps they would be much slower to dishonor them with infidelity, fornication, pornography or any of these other ills.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
---------------Love is a self-sacrificial regard for someone else.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
--------------John 15:13.  "Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends."

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
--------------God commands us to love each other as we love ourselves.  With that in mind, what we want for ourselves (security, family, love, shelter, our needs met, etc.) we should want for everyone else.  To be sure, sometimes what we want for ourselves is not what is best for us.  So above all else, we should want others to experience a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The biggest way that we can show love as Christians is by being a good witness to the power of Jesus Christ.  

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
--------------Yes of course it is.

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
---------------Yes, very much has changed for me since 2004.  The entire political landscape of our world has changed.  The Evangelical faith I was raised in proved a very good starting place for me to begin thinking heavily about the World.  To answer this fully, however, would take much more than one paragraph.  So I invite you to peruse my personal blog at  

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
----------------By being more welcoming to the LGBT community than my conservative brothers and sisters, I have frequently found myself in the position of being able to represent Christ to friends who had shut out many other attempts. Even long before my position on gay marriage changed, I recall being part of church efforts to evangelize the lost, and I have never felt comfortable being the tract-distributing type of Christian.  I feel that my personal witness and testimony connects with seekers who have deeper questions than can be typically answered in a 5-minute session on the boardwalk or on a street corner.  I am vocal about both my faith and my political convictions on facebook (as well as in real life) and have occasionally been the recipient of such comments (from non-believers) as "I didn't know there were any Christians like you," and "you have gotten me to think about Jesus in a way that I would not have, if you had not been the type of person you are."  My own feeling is that if Christians came out from behind their sort of monolithic Christian-culture bubble and admitted at least the possibility that their understanding of the day's political issues could be flawed, they would discover that the fields are indeed ripe for the harvest.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
-------------------I would point to the American Episcopal Church, of which I am a part.  Frequently I have heard the Episcopal Church mocked by conservatives who see our support of gay marriage as a compromise with the World.  But factually speaking, we are indeed orthodox.  We adhere to the Apostle's Creed and repeat it every Sunday.  We study the Scriptures with our heads as well as our hearts.  And I personally believe that we warn about judgment every bit as much as our conservative brothers and sisters.  The main difference is that when conservatives preach about judgment they usually are promoting an "us vs. them" mentality which eagerly points out all the sins of the sinners, but in my church I have observed that we view the judgment of God as something that also happens introspectively, in our day to day lives.   We believe that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed.   So who we vote for, how we spend our dollars, what we eat, are all things which are connected to oppression and inequality, globally.  My perusal of Scripture leads me to conclude that the God of wrath and judgment frequently shows up in response to economic sinfulness, not just sexual immorality.   I wish that the conservative churches were more rooted in the Scriptures about the rich and the poor, and were motivated by a passion for social justice to not only bestow charity upon the afflicted, but to denounce the economic system which perpetuates inequality.  To my mind, that is where the judgment of God is most imminent.  

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
------------------This is a daily walk with the Lord that I am on.  I frequently wish my involvement with the church could be more than what it is.  I am constrained by economic realities like everyone else.  I have a schedule to keep with my job, and child-rearing duties which keep me occupied all of the rest of the time.  Nevertheless I have remained active in my church community, and I am proud to say that my commitment to Christ is affirmed daily with prayer and Bible reading.  

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
---------------------It is referring to the list of sinful qualities in verses 29-31.  "Without natural affection" is one quality which I have sometimes heard conservatives use to talk about gay people.  I would like to point out, however, that in our day and age we seem to have a lot of abusive parents, even parents who have killed their own children.  To my mind, it is such people who lack natural affection.  For although in nature, among the animal kingdom, homosexuality is widely practiced, care for one's offspring is almost universal.  So to my mind those who truly lack natural affection are those who abuse other people, particularly their own offspring.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stop the Clock

Stop the Clock, its the End Times
Not enough minutes left to see the Design
How can I perceive?
What should I believe?
About God, Hell, Eternity?  No guarantees.
To try and make up my mind
While on this side of the grave
Takes a whole lot of unknowing,
Takes a whole lot of brave.
I just want to see Justice.
I just want to see Peace.
But who do I cheer for?
The punks or police?
Marriage equality or the book of Leviticus?
When I stand before God,
I hope I've done my due diligence.
I hope my conclusions are completely sincere.
And I hope that His judgments are kind, not severe.
I hope for a Kingdom of Joy and of Plenty,
I hope that the Voice I hear inside is not empty.
Because war could be coming,
and I'm still so young.
My life as a father has only begun.
I admit I don't know much,
I admit I need help.
I'm just trusting in Jesus
And doubting myself.
But is Jesus on my side?
Am I on His?
I confess to Him daily.
Is more needed than this?
Sometimes I cannot believe He accepts me.
And yet
He responds when I call Him.
And I can't forget
The many blessings He's given.
My wife and my boys.
Direct answers to prayers.
My heart's deepest joys.
I'm thankful!
And seek only
To honor these gifts.
And so as the Earth turns,
As the World shifts,
As everything changes,
To just this I'll cling:
The kind, lowly Jesus
Rules Everything.
His eyes are on the poor,
His heart is only Love,
His hands are grace and mercy.
Christ please come from Above
And show your poor church and your world how to act.
We'll believe You at last,
On the day You come back.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ISIS and the End of the Age

If You are considering the possibility that we may be living in 'the End Times' - whatever that means to You, then I, the FoX, have something to say.  There have always been at least two different major narratives about How the World Will End presented at any given time.  For the purposes of this essay, I will argue that one leads to hatred and warmongering, while another one seeks reconciliation.

Throughout the Age of the Church (the Day of Christ's Resurrection until Now), Believers have expected the End of the Age.  Usually, regardless of other doctrinal differences between the denominations, Christians have been unified in a hope for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  "What will be the Time of His Coming?" and "What are the Signs of His Coming?" are questions often debated amongst Christians.  Some teach that a 'Rapture' of believers from the Earth will happen, either before or during the worst of the Great Tribulation.  Others do not teach this.  But in that diversity, the hope of Christ's Return is universally shared among Christians.  I, the FoX, strongly share this Hope.

It should be noted that one other Religion also expects what Christians expect: Muslims are expecting the return of Jesus. Keeping this fact in mind when talking about Christian eschatology can be very interesting, because often times, Christians and Muslims deeply suspect each other as being on the side of Anti-Christ during the Seven Year Tribulation Period.  It is, however, highly unlikely that the Anti-Christ will be universally accepted by either religion and universally rejected by the other.  The Bible declares that "If it were possible, they [false Christs and false prophets] would deceive even the very elect." (Matthew 24:24).  Therefore, whoever the Anti-Christ is or will be, it is much more reasonable to expect that he will have supporters and detractors from both religions.  We must be far wiser than this tribal thinking if we are to discern the times we are living in. 

 A good resource is the site, which indexes many Islamic blogs specifically relating to the return of Jesus Christ.  Browsing through it can give unfamiliar Christians a glance at just how Muslims relate to Jesus Christ.  Despite a refusal to share the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is One with God the Father, Muslims do place a great deal of respect upon the figure of Jesus.  They believe that he was a prophet of God, one of 124,000 throughout history beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad.  Among the Islamic prophets, however, Muhammad is unique for being the final prophet, and Jesus is unique for being the Messiah.  Islam teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, meaning the rightful leader of the 'Ummah' or community of Israel.   Islam teaches that the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but promotes the idea that when Jesus returns, the Jews will embrace him.

Right now across the Middle East and in North Africa, Christians are being slaughtered by ISIS.  It is not the first or the only time, by a long shot, that Islamist groups have terrorized Christians, but it is certainly the most brutal contemporary example.  ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians on the beaches of Tripoli, Libya earlier this month and just a few days ago, the same group captured 90 Assyrian Christians whom they likely intend to execute.  The way that I view the eschaton, Jesus' return could happen at any time, and then again, it could happen in another thousand years.  It is important to remember that Jesus' original twelve disciples fully expected Jesus to return in their own lifetime, and every faithful Christian has thought the same ever since.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, the eschaton is suspended until God alone decides that the End has come.

Because the End could come at any time, there are always actors in the World who are legitimately on the side of an apocalyptic, demonic Evil.   I, the FoX, am betting that You agree with me, and that it is plain to see this spirit at work in ISIS.  On Facebook I have noted comments in which people doubt the humanity of ISIS militants.  The fact that they can smile as they kill is cited as demonic.  I have no doubt that when such extreme acts of violence are committed, they open up the hearts of the killers to a host of demonic influence and activity.  I have no doubt that ISIS militants have become dehumanized through their own activities and are now firmly in Satan's intense psychological and spiritual grip.  Islam has a teaching that at the End Times, there will be many false Muslims in the World, and that inexplicably they will all be one day turned into apes.  But I decry the response of some Americanized Christians, who become so indignant against the ISIS militants that they begin spewing murderous or jingoist rhetoric.  The idea that 'Obama should go in and stop them' or that it is shameful if he does not is the same kind of thinking which enabled a corrupt war for profit to be started under our noses during the Bush era.  "When all you've got is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail,"so the saying goes.  Americans tend to think every problem requires a military response.

Be mindful of that.  It was not so long ago (2013) that Obama himself tried to sell us on a war with Syria, not fighting ISIS, but fighting alongside them against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  There's an anti-Christ for you, by the way: well at the very least, a war criminal.  Bashar al-Assad had imprisoned nearly 200,000 people for opposing his rule and by some accounts, was demanding to be worshiped as a god.  He responded to protest against his regime during the Arab Spring with strikes on civilians.  President Barack Obama tried to highlight his crimes and justify strikes against Syria in a message to the American people in 2013.  But the American people responded resoundingly that they did not want to get into another war.  Pope Francis called on Christians around the world to pray and fast for peace.  Millions did.  And we did not go to war with Assad.  But about a year later, we started really fighting alongside him against ISIS, an even worse threat.  I detect in the recurring temptations of America to war, something that is also demonic.  Because repeatedly, the Americanized Christian response to sensitive and ancient hostilities brewing in the lands of the Bible is to try and sort it out with bombs and guns.  Repeatedly, this response has proven to not be the right one.

My own falling out of line with Evangelical Christianity happened at around the time that Bush authorized U.S. troops to invade Iraq in 2003.  Because it was obvious to me that nothing linked the nation of Iraq to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 - if anything we should have been going to war with Saudi Arabia since most of the hijackers that day were Saudi - I protested the War.  Within my Evangelical circle of friends, I was repeatedly told that this War against Iraq had something to do with the End Times and that as a Christian I should support the President who was standing up to those evil Muslims.  Finer points about Middle Eastern politics were ignored, let alone finer points about Christian and Islamic eschatology.  Fast forward a few years, and it is now widely accepted that the Iraq War had nothing to do with the End Times or even with stopping terrorism.  The Iraq we "liberated" from Saddam is now a failed state and no weapons of destruction were ever found.  The Iraq War only fueled terrorism.  But now Americanized Christianity wants to charge off into the Middle East again.

If these are indeed the End Times, (and I believe that they are), I think we should start to long for the things Christ himself would long for. We should want there to be peace and justice in the Middle East, and we should respond with prayer for the nations of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.  I believe that if we are praying heartfully for these nations we will be less interested in taking the American War Machine to each and every one of them.  We should pray for the conversion of militants.  ISIS members are not so dehumanized that we cannot pray for their conversion.   The Apostle Paul started off as an anti-Christian militant.  He was converted by the death of a martyr.  "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church," Tertullian said.  So although the number of the slain witnesses for Jesus continues to fill up under Heaven's altar each passing day, what this should mean to us in safe, comfortable America is not that it is time to go to War, but that it is time to watchfully and lovingly pray.   There can be no substitute for loving our enemies and praying for them daily.  So I the FoX am calling on You to turn from warmongering and turn to Love through Prayer.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prayer for Wisdom in 2015

This is my Prayer, uttered while a-wading in The River of January, 2015.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."
 - Proverbs 4:7

It is Wisdom that I covet most.
I have a Wise Reason for Wishing Wisdom
 into the World, and into the Year,
For I am myself a Fool,
and it is Fools alone who have Wisdom.
And I am set out to gain Wisdom.
I ween that from Wisdom,
 all lesser Wishes follow.
King Solomon himself
 was given, you'll recall,
besides Wisdom,
Long Life and Honor:
and Health, and Fame,
and Fortune.
May all these Gifts B.E. for Y.O.U.
a Blessing Seized
In the coming Year.
But Most Importantly,
Get Understanding.

Environmental Understanding.   I wish to know the fate of ......
Keystone XL!  Our irresponssible Congresspersons have passed this climate-killin', oil-spillin' Pipedream using ample muscle from both parties, because of Corporate money and media manipulation, despite widespread opposition to the project.   POTUS has promised to veto this Pipedream, and just a few nights ago badmouthed it in the State of the Union address.  That is Good News!  And I pray that President Barack Obama fulfills that promise.  And yet I know that even when he does, we will still have to fight with an enormous Beast on the issue.

Social Understanding.  I need to know what is happening in...

the whole wide World!     In Syria, Palestine, Ukraine, Iraq, China, North Korea, Lebanon, France, Japan, India, Greece, Turkey, Nigeria, Mexico, and yes, in the United States.  What is going on with this Human Suffering?  I can see indeed that these are Troublous Times.  I Ask, & Ttrust God to Deliver all prisoners, all wartorn, all captured, all maimed, all radiated, all tortured, all enslaved, all embittered, all indigent, all cast out, all dispossessed, all oppressed, all kidnaped, all raped, all murdered, all exploited, all deforested, all polluted.   These are the Tribulations of the World, and I feel them with my Family.

Spiritual Understanding.  I pray to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

On Earth, we are all on Holy Ground.  The Earth is the Lord's, and it will be His Justice that outs in the End. In this Time we're living through, all is Uncertain, and none are immune to the coming of Tribulation.  Storm Clouds are Gathering, indeed, as the YouTube user stormcloudsgathering has been ably pointing out.  May the Lord Deliver us from that Fate!  May He help us to Alter an inhumane course in the curve of History.  Fate & Destiny BOTH exist, I believe, and this is illustrated by the Scriptural paradox found in these verses:             "My times are in your hands," (Psalm 31:15)
             "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

In Prayer, I believe we can successfully calls on God, who holds Time, to alter the very flow of Events unfolding. No bad things are inevitable.  The World doesn't have to End at all.

  "Come quickly, Lord Jesus" is not, I don't think, a prayer for Rapture or Escape.  It is a plea for the Second Coming!  It is a plea that wrongs may be righted.  It is not a prayer that Christians pray hoping to escape the Earth, but one they pray on behalf of the Earth and all its Souls, for Deliverance, Power, Glory, Justice, Equity, Redemption.... even Resurrection.

Personal Understanding.  I would like to know how I may be of the best use.
No one Person can do everything which pulls upon them to do.  My first estate is to love and care and teach my Children, and to Shine with my Wife.  I pray to honor my Parents also.  To uplift my Brothers.  I pray to stand up as a Man against injustice in the World.  To make a difference in the World, to provoke thought, to respond carefully, to be open, involved, accessible.  I pray to be useful and humble, I pray that I may be quick to offer succor when I am able to offer it.   I pray that I may be able to offer it.  I pray to be energetic, attentive, active and creative.  And I do solemnly swear that I need the Lord's Help.  I Need the Help of the Lord, I Need the Help of the Lord... I have made this my constant prayer, and I must keep it...
because "Without me it is certain that you can do nothing." is what I'm hearing the Lord reply.

Wisdom is the Principal Thing.

And you know, another very Bold, Clever, Fearless Of X creature is the F.O.X.!  
So in my Environmental, Social, Spiritual, adn Personal Understandings I will continue to learn from my
Teacher Of True Earth Magic
which is the spirit of the FoX in the Garden of Eden.
Mayhaps a FoX might steal in unawares, into the chancels of the Elite, and play some Trick upon them.  
For you must know that the heart of a FoX is true.  And prayer, I believe, of a Man, avails much.

Friday, December 5, 2014

You Can't Stop God from Reconciling to Anything (An Open Letter to Greta Christina)

One thing saddens me, and it is that we (Believers & Atheists) do not see each other's points-of-view very clearly.  We've been arguing for and against the existence of God in our private worlds for a long time now, largely preaching to our own respective choirs. When we actually engage each other the tone is off.  I do not know what it is.  Probably a lot of Believers are trying to convert You.  Probably some Atheists are, too.  But I do want to stand for at least one position: our Conversation here is Interesting, and can be productive.   Quite independently of whether or not you think the question leads to one conclusion or the other, just in the chat there is substance.   Eventually, if we approach this conversation in the right spirit we could stand to learn a lot about ourselves as Humans.  We are all, after all, Humans.  And it is interesting that we are having an ages-long debate about God's existence.   Would prove to be a pretty epic piece of the story of humanity, just that we had debated this concept at all -- either way.

I like hearing about Faith vs. Atheism.  I enjoy the back-and-forth.  What I don't enjoy is that tone.  When one side just assumes that everything which can be said, has been said, and everyone else needs to accept defeat -- it just seems like a counterproductive attitude to bring into the debate.  Greta Cristina, in this article, is ready for the question to be decided, based on what I think is a very slim approximation of her opponent's side.   She does an excellent job pointing out that Nature is full of deformities, full of cruel riddles and bizarrely designed (if designed) body parts.  But she makes a quite common mistake of assuming that opponents cannot possibly have known about this, or considered it, and that therefore there is no theology to answer it.  I was once confronted on an online forum with a similar question - if God exists, why anencephaly? It is a heart-wrenching question, on the face of it; there are many questions like it in theological studies, and always these questions provoke our sense of justice about suffering.   Surely no good, omnipotent God would allow x, y, and z to happen!  But you see, by no means is this where Christian argument has ceased its questioning.   This is not an end-point, but a beginning point, where a whole, rich world of the philosophy of suffering begins.  It is a felt philosophy, and has provoked many great books, one of which, that I dearly love to recommend, is A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.

In the article I just linked to you from Greta Cristina, she has listed "4 Reasons that 'God Made Evolution Happen' makes no sense."  I think I'll take them one at a time, so everybody might want to read her original post too.  Ms. Cristina, I'll now switch to direct address format.  I am pleased by the way to make your acquaintance.  Thanks for making me think and write!  Let's begin.

1. "But in evolution, there is no direction."

     Ah but, might I suggest, in evolution, there is connection.   An overwhelmingly interconnected, biological and chemical mess (I'm giving you that word, there mess).  With all the same rush and reverence you might experience if you fell down Alice's rabbit hole, try to look at Nature and deny that the Connection itself is whole and sublime, and something higher than direction itself.  God is in the wiring, you see.  "Evolution is all about the immediate present and the very near future," I get it.  Evolution is all about The Now, in other words.  In deeper Christian philosophy, I would say that is also where God is said to be located.  Random Chaos?  Hey that's right up His alley!  One hundred thousand quirks? Yeah, that sounds like His address.

2.  "There's not a scrap of evidence for it."

    You see, this is what I was talking about earlier.  "Without dying in childbirth?"  No, God has not obligated himself to such parameters.  If you imagine the Web of Life itself, that bio-chemical yet mystical interconnectedness, you will understand that the concerns of a single individual for more or less pain, more or less illness, more or less misfortune, are by no means the deciding factors in "the plan of God" if you can conceive of such a thing existing.  For the Web of Life itself is quite lively, and pulsating, and even when the Earth experiences a major extinction event (like it may do soon), life Itself goes on, and on, and on.  And I daresay when the Earth herself dies Life may still yet go on.  Life Itself, you see, according to the best definitions, is precisely what exists as the core of God.  God is the sentience and interconnectedness of all Life.  I don't have to be significant to the plan of the Universe for God to exist.  In fact, its probably better if I see myself as profoundly insignificant. Rather than looking for a God who behaves as a genie, look for a God with an indomitable will and a profound imagination and a real zest for doing the job erratically and eccentrically, and there's evidence a-plenty.

   I mean, the Universe itself doesn't actually exist you know.

3.  The Evidence Against

     Yes, the vagus nerve likes to take its time and so does the vas deferens, especially if you are a giraffe.  I like that bit, but half-assed? You have to admit its all interesting, at least.  And we're having this conversation spanning centuries about whether or not God did it.  Your criteria was, "God is supposed to care" if an individual is comfortable or happy.  Well no, technically God is not supposed to do anything.  Stop telling God what to do!  I am sorry it is all a bit gory and grotesque at times but as Life continues to go onward and as we are all here for one another knowing that we all are going to die, and some of us suffer, it helps to reach out sometimes, to the Supreme Intelligence which some of us very much feel in the Connection of Everything.  And does He answer?  Well, see, conditions for Life sure could be a lot worseI am grateful that they are not.   I am grateful for all the persons and places I love, and for their health, and I hope it all continues.   My faith is, by and large, concerned with the immediate present and the very near future.  Somewhere in the core of me is some DNA which is highly connected to all the other carbon in the Universe, and it is hopefully making split-second decisions to benefit 'me' as my mysterious 'consciousness' experiences myself.  To quote Kevin Flynn, "Bio-digital jazz, man."  Or maybe that's all scientific language for the justification for prayer.  Have you conceived of prayer as participation with God rather than petitioning from God?  That would go with equating God less with direction and more with connection. What if words themselves were powerful?  What if intents were even more so?  What if the Universe could be shown to be malleable in the face of your psychic involvement?  The only laboratory in which God has ever consented to prove Himself is in the laboratory of the Human Heart.  But billions have found it proved there. Some have not, I know.   Most of the New Atheists used to be Christians, and prominent in their churches.  But what are the constants in a faith experiment?  For many people, there are more constants in a faith experiment than there are constants in life.  A bad church can be a pretty bad detriment to a faith experiment, and I think most Christians today acknowledge that there are a lot of bad churches.  To really begin a fresh look at the subject with the humble and open heart which is required, my best recommendation is a long time spent alone, in Nature, in silence.  This should truly be a central experience for having these sorts of discussions go a step further.

4.  Now the real meat.  Is God brutal?  Calloused? Malignant?  Is that who I am arguing for?  No, not at all, God does care, but I wish you would allow yourself the bigger picture.  Religion teaches that there is a body and there is a physical world, and that there is suffering a-plenty, but that the lives we live out here in pain and misfortune are reversed hereafter.  Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man shows how this was reversed for the case of one rich man and one poor man.   Lazarus lived his life in squalor and neglect outside the rich man's house.  In the afterlife it was the rich man who desperately craved charity and respite while Lazarus had it all.  And if you're reeling right now because I just tried to argue that God is not brutal by bringing up the possibility of Hell, then you're not paying close enough attention.  The philosophy of hell is also a nice, long rabbit hole to go down sometime when you feel like doing theology, but it requires a lot of heart.  I largely see Hell not as something God created and throws us into to punish us, but as something that God is swallowing up and redeeming, barring entry to, ransoming from and emptying and rescuing us from.  What I am trying to do is give you the bigger picture.   There would also be Heaven to discuss, for example.   Or the possibility of multiple incarnations.  Does it all even out in the end?  Will we look back and say, "That was all worth it?"  Well, isn't that where Faith comes in?  Because we don't know, do we?  I don't, and neither do you.  Judgment Day is kind of like the pair of dice we are all waiting to see what number it lands on.

I am sorry that for you religion is so divorced from reality.   But I sincerely suggest to you, that you have not yet plumbed religion's depths.  Or, for that matter, reality's.  And more research is necessary, so let's not can the debate just yet.

KiJjiT the FoX

P.S.: In case you didn't like my answer, here's a much better one.