Saturday, June 27, 2009

Faith in the KC Star

I’m one of the rare breed of individuals who have subscribed to the newspaper most of my life, including when I was in college (as a finance major, I even subscribed to the Wall Street Journal until I discovered they didn’t have a “Comics” section). The idea of reading the newspaper every day was ingrained into me by my dad. Although he didn’t even graduate from high school, he was a voracious reader, insisting that we maintain our subscriptions to the Kansas City Times (the morning paper), The Kansas City Star (the evening paper), and The Kansan (the “official” newspaper of Wyandotte County), even when money was tight. My dad would consider me ill-read today if he knew that I only consumed the news of one local daily (even though there is only one local daily left).

A few years ago, in an effort to save money, I decided to take advantage of the “Friday, Saturday, Sunday” offer for the Kansas City Star, figuring that I could keep up with the news pretty well through the Internet. However, I found myself missing the feel of the morning paper, and eventually renewed my daily subscription.

I’ve been rethinking that decision a lot lately. Part of it is the cost relative to the content of the newspaper. Recently, the Star has combined sections and reduced the amount of news content without any corresponding decrease in the cost.

Part of it is the fact that my newspaper carrier in Spring Hill can’t seem to hit the two car-wide driveway to save his life—invariably the paper is at the edge of the driveway in the street. Of course, I don’t complain too much about that, because it’s better than the days I don’t get a paper at all (about twice a month, on average).

Last week, my thoughts returned to cancellation when I read the article asking readers to choose five comics for elimination, including some I’ve read since childhood like Marmaduke, Beetle Bailey and Wizard of Id.

But the one consideration for cancelling my subscription to the local newspaper that ranks above all others is the atrocity they call their Faith section. Every Saturday, they devote a few pages to a section that talks about religion. They ought to call it the Faithless section, for week after week, it is dominated by articles and columns featuring Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and increasingly, by atheists.

Don’t get me wrong—I understand that a secular newspaper is not a forum for the spread of Christianity—let alone my particular brand of Christianity—but in a society in which the vast majority of our citizens define themselves as “Christians”, why does the newspaper insist on featuring nearly every religious system except Christianity? Shouldn’t the ratio really be heavily favored towards articles dealing with the Christian faith? Yet there are times when if it weren’t for the weekly Billy Graham column, there wouldn’t be a single article that touches on anything remotely “Christian”.

I just finished reading their weekly Faith Walk article, which is written on a rotation basis by local folks about their faith experience, except today’s article was written by a women who admitted that she hated church. She didn’t say what her particular brand of theology was, but described herself as a freethinker, who decided to raise her children without religion, presumably with the idea that someday, they could make up their minds for themselves about their faith.

Imagine if she had done that about food. Who am I to tell my children to eat vegetables? They may not like vegetables—I’ll let them decide that for themselves. When they get older, they can decide what they want to eat—or if they want to eat at all.

What if she applies this philosophy to her children’s decisions about drugs or alcohol? Some people abuse drugs and alcohol and some don’t. Whatever my children decide, I’m OK with it as long as they’re happy.

Now, I’m frustrated with all this for two reasons. First of all, and directly related to my introduction to this blog, is that this has nothing to do with faith. It is about the lack of faith. Does The Star put articles on automobiles in their “Food” section, or publish the obituaries in the “Comics”?

But as to the content of her article, my frustration is rooted in the fact that this woman was being disingenuous. It wasn’t that she thought it best for her children to grow up without religion as she initially contended. For she admitted that she found the approach of the Unitarian Universalists quite appealing, for in this church no one would tell [my children] that their mother was evil.

And folks, therein lies the problem. Her children need to hear that their mother is evil. Their father is evil. They are evil. The pastor is evil. Everyone who attends those religious services is evil. And everyone who doesn’t attend their services is evil too. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Because if a person doesn’t understand they are evil in the sight of a holy and righteous God, then they’ll never know the glorious truth that God’s righteousness can be applied to them through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

So when all is said and done, this woman, like so many others, hates church and rejected “religion” for her children because she didn’t like being told the truth. But now that she’s found a “church” (how it pains me to write that, even in quotation marks) that has declared her righteous of her own accord—not in need of Jesus or His shed blood or the cross on which He died—she’s perfectly happy to introduce “religion” to her children.

My prayer is that someday, someone will introduce them to Christ.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

There's not much that just makes me laugh out loud, but I came across this list of the Top 10 Things You'd Say at Work But Can't on the blog of Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time, so I share with you in the hopes that it brightens your day.

1. I’ll try being nicer if you try being smarter.
2. I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet its hard to pronounce.
3. I’ll pencil that in for never. Does never work for you?
4. I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. It sounds like English, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.
6. Ahhh … I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again.
7. I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
8. I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a rip.
9. I will always cherish the positive initial misconceptions I had about you.
10. The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you are an artist.

What would you like to say at work, if only you could? Reply in comments (comments are moderated, so let's play nice).

Monday, June 8, 2009

If You Twitter Does That Make You a Twit?

Again last night someone asked me, "Just what is Twitter?". And once again, I found myself stumbling around for words. Every time I try to explain Twitter to someone, it seems like a remarkably dumb concept.

Twitter is, in its most basic sense, a communications tool. You have up to 140 characters to get your message across. It might be as simple as declaring "Studying for Sunday's sermon." Or it might be a bit more complex, like communicating a prayer request or a special need within the church. In any event, you have 140 characters (that includes letters, spaces, punctuation, etc) to communicate, so it forces you to be conservative in your word choices.

After that explanation, people are still perplexed. "So, it's like texting?" No, not really. If I text someone, I usually have a specific message that I want delivered to a specific person, like "Kacie, what time will you be home?". However, when I tweat, I am just communicating to a larger audience. Such tweats rarely are profound and generally require no action or follow up by those who might read them.

Or people will ask, "So it's like a blog?". Well, in a way--except you only have a limited ability to communicate, so the message must be straightforward and simple.

To read a tweat, one must be a follower. At the present time, I have 51 followers on Twitter, most of whom I do not know personally. (By comparison, actor Ashton Kutchner has over 1 million followers). However, several of my "followers" are friends, mostly from Life Spring. I follow nearly 70 people on Twitter. Again, most of these folks are people I have never met. Some of them are prominent evangelicals in the church & publishing fields--like Pastor Max Lucado or Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I must admit that I found it particularly interesting when Max Lucado was tweating from his recent mission trip in Africa. But I also find it interesting when Ryan Meek tweats about Lily or Stephanie Kotchavar tweats about Hank. I'd love it if more people from Life Spring were twittering. I think it enhances the sense of community that we are all seeking.

There is a recent trend in Twitter-land that bothers me greatly. The media--including the mainstream media--has recently devoted a lot of attention to people who are twittering during worship services. Since you can post tweats from your cell phone as easily as from a computer, twittering "on the go" is pretty popular. But twittering during a worship service just seems wrong to me.

There are enough distractions to keep us from giving God our full and undivided attention. Our minds naturally wander to our troubles and trials. Or a baby cries. Or we can't take our eyes off of Bro. Jones who keeps nodding off and nearly falls out of his seat each time just before he wake up. The last thing we need is one more distraction.

So add Twitter to the list of things that can be good and useful and beneficial to the Kingdom and to our effort to reach out to one another which Satan has found a way to corrupt and defile. It doesn't make Twitter "bad" any more than television is inherently "bad" or books are innately "evil". But it does require us to think about the ways we use such things and whether ultimately they bring us closer to God or take us farther away.