Good Things in Christianity

Christianity’s effect on culture is like a ham bone in a soup, parts of it being absorbed and giving off flavor.  It does not act like a lever on can just pull and change someone or something.  Almost all the worthwhile things of the faith are piloted, not disseminated.  We like levers and information (hey this is on the internet right, their nirvana?).  Some good things about the faith follow below:

Abstinence from alcohol (for the sake of those who can’t handle it).  I have high respect for Christians who swear off alcohol.  A lot of times these Christians are branded as legalistic tea-teetotalers.   I do not see it that way as those in the faith who abstain from alcohol are giving the most benefit for those in that  community who cannot handle it.  Even if someone is brought up in a dry home and gets their start drinking in their twenties rather than their teens this reduces their chance of alcoholism pretty significantly.  There is also the issue of all the time drinking at bars sucks up which you could be doing more interesting things with.

Caring about other people at the expense of yourself.  This is pretty simple concept but in a culture that worships the self and markets the idea that happiness can only happen when things have been fine-tuned to one’s specifications, it’s going against some pretty strong headwinds.  When you truly love someone sacrificially you often lose a part of yourself to them.  You will be less happy if you give more than you take, it’s not what marketers of altruism want to hear but it’s true.  But you will probably live a more meaningful existence.

Showing thankfulness.  Being grateful is seen as a sign one is deferring to those in power.  Viewing every context as a power struggle is something we have been conditioned to do.  But often one has to decide between doing the benevolent thing and the empowering thing.  Society is programming you to be ungrateful because 70% of the economy relies on selling you crap you don’t need (deferring to the marketers in power).

Integrity.  This is perhaps the thing that can only be learned by inculcation, not dissemination.  It’s probably the virtue you lose the most for, particularly in this culture.  This is because the lie is generally the empowering thing that makes you look better than you really are and everybody’s lying so the truth will keep you behind.  Authenticity is prized as an ideal but in the rhythm of everyday life you have to be so inauthentic to be anything that in practice authenticity is looked upon as strange.

Viewing things as a ministry.  Some people make art and give it away because they view it as reflecting their faith so they want it to have as much exposure as possible.  Others open up their house to people.  Some view their work as a calling and do a better job at it than the pay and respect warrant.  This is a good thing because it’s anti consumeristic.

The Internet and Faith Part 1

The internet is killing Christianity.  I’m even surprised I haven’t heard it being called the antichrist or the beast in Revelation.  I try to think of a few reasons:

A less religious demographic driving the conversation.  Anyone on the internet for any length of time will notice it has an atheistic bent.  Part of this has to do with the fact that young people who are from a less religious generation write the comments tend to be atheistic and (at least in America) atheists are stigmatized so they find a refuge online (similar to how people with disabilities do the same).

Lopsided Reading Ground.  People of faith might be evangelical in real life but it’s the atheists that are evangelical online.  The best arguments against faith can be found with a cursory Google search.  The best arguments for it are locked up in books that cost $9.95 each or more.  Of course we could blame the publishing companies for this, authors of faith might see their work as a ministry but if the gatekeepers on top do not, they won’t allow said authors to distribute their work for free.  There is no reason C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Peter Rollins’ Orthodox Heretic shouldn’t be (legally) free online perhaps with moderated comments section (those of faith can think of their favorite authors and chances are they aren’t available free online).  There’s even a book that criticizes neo-atheism.. but you have to pay for it.

There is also the issue that the internet has changed the structure of thinking—people like their information in bite size news article chunks.  Authors of faith should be mindful of this and structure the writing they wish to reach people with accordingly.

Non-incarnational virtuous cycle.  The internet is a non-incarnational medium.  Atheism is a non-incarnational way of life.  The two go together and spur each other along.  Religion happens in the flesh through the medium of hospitality.  As one spends a higher proportion of their time on the internet, even if all they’re doing is reading the Bible, just by the fact that they are in a non-incarnational medium means they are drifting away from faith in an important way.  A lot of people don’t realize this because they were told the faith was primarily about taking in and spitting out the right information.

Read Part 2

10 Reasons People With Disabilities Shouldn’t Go to Church

I saw April’s satirical post on why people should quit going to church and was inspired to do something more serious.  So here’s why I think if you are an individual with a disability you should stay away from church:

1.  Inaccessibility.  This really shouldn’t be on the list because it’s a reason why you couldn’t go to church, not shouldn’t.  But I put it on here nonetheless because churches are behind in providing accessible facilities as well as transportation for those of us who can’t drive.

2. Baggage.  A lot of us with disabilities grew up being made fun of at church.  Like all childhood experiences this went deep.. and informed our view of church as an adult, perhaps making out to be a more hostile place than it actually is.

3. Being a lone wolf.  A lot of us with disabilities were the only one in our community with that specific disability (or possibly any disability at all).  This makes for a very isolating road.  Minorities have churches which cater to them but people with disabilities do not (because they are spread so thin geographically and have had organizational and transportational barriers).

4. Do doo doo.  Especially for males there is right and a wrong answer to the question, “what do you do?”.  If you give the wrong answer to this you are branded a man-fail and ignored.  People with disabilities have a staggeringly high rate of unemployment and underemployment so they’re less likely to be viewed as worth engaging by church people.

5. Singled Out.  The church in America is designed to incubate.  It’s generally concerned with married people and their kids’ upbringing.  If you are single (which a large portion of people with disabilities are) you are viewed as a lesser person and ignored.

6. Theology that sees individuals with disabilities as objects.  Good compassionate theology is out there but it doesn’t often make its way to the church near you.  People with disabilities are sick of being seen as items of unanswered prayer or objects to project your romanticization of suffering upon.  Disability needs to be celebrated and that’s something most people can’t get their head around.

7. Experience of God.  A lot of Christian teaching instructs us to take the voice of God seriously.  For mentally healthy people this can be fine but for those of us who are mentally ill the results can be disastrous.  The problem is, the people who have had the experience of God turn against them are so ill they aren’t in positions of power.

8. Perspectives run against the cultural narrative.  Some denominations have made great strides in racial inclusivity which is amazing.  They need to build on that including people with disabilities in positions of decision making.  There is a deeper problem in that prejudice against people with disabilities hasn’t abated the same way other prejudices have.  This is because disability runs counter to the cultural (and dare I say Christian) narrative of youth, vitality, and prosperity.  A racial minority can still ride this narrative to a place of respect.

9. Being judged based on appearance.  The internet, not the church, is the chosen refuge of those of us with disabilities.  Online we escape the snap judgements levied on us in real life.  Plus, geographic dispersion and transportation are no longer issues so people with specific disabilities can virtually congregate together.

10. Including people with disabilities hit people’s pain points.  Let’s face it, most American Christians are drawn to the faith through promises of comfort.  These people aren’t going to turn around and remodel an inaccessible bathroom or give a ride to church to someone with a mental illness who is effectively a shut-in because they don’t have any friends.