This is part 2 of my series based on a post by Stephen Mattson on the seven misconceptions of Christianity.

Everyone Believes the Same Thing

Beyond a basic belief of Jesus being divine, Christians hardly agree on anything. Common practices such as baptisms, communions, confession and even worship styles are hotly debated, and Christians are divided into hundreds of denominations, thousands of churches and endless communities—each passionate about their own opinions.

Christianity is made up of different cultures, ethnicities, doctrines, traditions, practices, theologians and practices—one of the most diverse religions in the entire world.

Conformity and uniformity are uncommon, and Christianity is distinguished by its variety.

There are presently over 39,000 different versions of Christianity in the world today. Except for maybe the Quakers one thing we seem to be very good at as Christians is to exclude anyone from our individual groups who might not agree with all we think is important about God. As Stephen mentions above we all have endless passions about our own opinions.

Christianity takes on different forms depending on our local cultures, traditions, and practices. Our various theologians debate, some say argue, constantly with each other about who sees the real God. Of course none of us will actually be able to see God in all his glory; it is simply impossible. Conformity is indeed a rare thing in the Christian church.

As Christians we all seem to be able to recognize at least to some degree the divinity of Christ but that seems to be where our consensus ends.

Some take the Bible as literal and total truth and without question. They say the earth is only 6,000 years old because that is how the ancestry of the Old Testament works out. They say that all the science that proves otherwise is just God trying to trick us.  Many who have this opinion hold that document even above Jesus himself. They say that Jesus’ words are no more important than any others in their Bible as they all come from God’s lips.

Some take the Bible as more of a historical text to help us understand where our roots are.

Some say that the Bible is the total message from God to us. Others say it is a starting point and many other revelations have occurred since those days.

Some say God continues to teach us things about how we are to live on this earth. Much of that  revelation is corporate wisdom given us by scientific knowledge, but some is also personal in nature.

Some say baptism requires total immersion, other say only sprinkling of water. Some say baptism itself is only ritualistic in nature and unnecessary.

Some believe in confession of sins to a clerical authority, others believe we answer to God alone.

Some say our life here is really unimportant and that getting to heaven is the most important thing. Others say our main objective is to make His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Some say declaring we are Christians via an altar call is all that is required.  Others say how we act as Christians is what really counts.

We all believe different things and that is ok as long as we can respect that others might see things a different way. After all the only thing we are really trying to do is understand an infinitely wise God who is really way way beyond our understanding.

NYC….

June 7, 2014

We will soon be off to another visit to New York City. It is on my wife’s bucket list to see the 911 Memorial and to visit Central Park one more time.  We lived in central New Jersey between 1996 and 2000. Over that time we made several visits escorting relatives into the city. Our last trip to the World Trade Center was in January 2000 when we ate at the “Windows to the World” restaurant at the top of one of the towers.

I pulled some photos of WTC and Central Park out of our archive to commemorate our visits.  Of course many more will be added on this trip.  By the way, that beautiful lady posing at Ellis Island is my wife . (click on any picture to see a larger version)

 

 

2014-06-06_11-50-04As an addendum to Monday’s post about VA hospitals I see where Senator John McCain and Senator Bernie Sanders have a bill before the Senate to allow veterans access to the Medicare system when they can’t get appointments with a VA hospital or live more than 40 miles from a facility.

This could be the first step in actually accomplishing my proposal of merging the VA with Medicare and then of course eventually to single payer system.  At the least veterans should be able to choose which system they want to provide their healthcare. Who knows…. Maybe someday…

impossibleNothing is more distinctive than Americans’ disbelief in impossibilities. Every day Americans receive invitations to dream big dreams, and they give the traditional exuberant American answer, “Why not!” In contrast, many Asians believe that things happen as a result of fate: their success or failure in life, work, and marriage is determined by the year, month , date, hour, and place of their birth. Because they believe that their futures were laid out at birth, many people passively accept undesirable conditions rather than try to shape or alter their destinies. Interestingly, in Chinese, the word for destiny consists of two characters. The first, woon, means “dynamic flow,” and the second, myung, means “movement of the absolute.”…. In Korea, where I grew up, I was often reminded of an old Korean saying, “Don’t even look at a tree if you cannot climb it.” We were told that it is a virtue to know one’s limitations….

Due to this cultural orientation, many Asians still believe that their lot was determined by a divine force before they were born. In contrast, Americans are told, “Know your limits and ignore them.” This sky’s-the-limit outlook has enabled them to create one of the world’s wealthiest nations in a very short time. Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger encouraged people to pursue wealth through hard work. Universities use Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as a textbook in classes on American success. Such an atmosphere has produced world-renowned rich people such as Rockefeller, Ford, Du Pont, Carnegie, and Gates. It is not a coincidence that the greatest concentration of wealth is in the United States.

SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox  Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

It is widely accepted that as far as yin/gang is concerned America and Asia are quite different. America is much more yang and Asia yin.  The above quote helps us to understand some of those very basic difference. We proudly know that we Americans are just more creative than our Asian counterparts. A big part of that difference is due to the continued caste mentality among many Asian cultures. Being a born and bred American I simply can’t understand how someone could just accept that their place in life is to be a servant because of their birth. I don’t think I, as an American, am unusual in that regard.

Dreaming the big dreams, even though we might never accomplish them, is what keeps us Americans going. At least for some of us”Why Not!” is indeed a basic part of American mentality. But there are some Americans who, like their Asian counterparts, believe that their life is predestined by a heavenly authority. Of course everything is not rosy in the U.S. especially in the last couple decades. Life’s opportunities have skewed very dramatically to the upper end of the economic scale now and there is no end of this in sight in this regard. The middle class is literally disappearing. But still we remain the shining light in the world when it comes to “know your limits and then ignore them”. I, like most Americans are very proud of that fact.

 

What Happens???

June 5, 2014

WASHINGTON — It’s entirely up to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) whether 2.6 million unemployed Americans get their benefits back, at least according to the two senators most involved in legislation to restore the compensation.

SOURCE:  Unemployment Extension In Boehner’s Hands, Says Heller.

It troubles me that so much power is being concentrated in so few people. When one person can decide whether millions will fall through the safety net. But something else troubles me even more.

What happens when a substantial majority of U.S. citizens no longer have any empathy for others in our society?  It is pretty much a fact that about 25% of us want to eliminate help for those who need it. Some say they are ripping apart the safety net to rescue those caught in it. Some say outright that they just don’t want to have to pay the taxes necessary to be their brother’s keeper. Some have absolutely no sense of community or the common good. They are just too busy looking out for themselves to see any good from helping a neighbor. And then there are some who flat out don’t want government in any form to intrude into their lives.

What happens when these groups become a majority in the country? The primary motivation for all of the above things is greed. They just don’t want anyone taking things from them that they consider theirs alone. Another part of this trend is driven by fear. Fear is such a strong motivator in our society today. We fear that there won’t be enough for all of us so we want to make sure we are the ones who survive. I try to be an optimist and think that eventually the pendulum will swing back in a more balanced direction and that somehow we will quit views those who disagree with us in any manner as our enemy.

I hope we have learned our lesson about putting too much power in the hands of a few people. Hitler is the most recent example of this but by no means the only one. When a small handful of politicians can control what all of us do we are in trouble of losing our democracy.  In order to prevent that from getting worse than it is now we all most realize that “we the people” inevitably have the power and not the politicians. We must take our right to vote with the utmost seriousness or it just maybe eventually stripped from us.

 

2014-05-23_08-34-04  2014-05-23_08-34-36

What’s at stake, after all, is citizens’ representation in Congress. Partisan gerrymandering undermines the whole notion of a representative government. For proof, just look toward the lopsided seat distribution in the current Congress.

SOURCE:  What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like – The Washington Post.

I don’t know if gerrymandering was a foregone conclusion when our democracy was formed. Everyone wants to take advantage of all possible means in order to win. I can imagine that in the 1950s someone with a pile of voting records and a map tried to figure out how to gain an advantage. Because the chore was almost overwhelming using the existing tools not much was able to be accomplished.

Fast forward to the computer age and gerrymandering has become an art form. Computer models are able to track almost every vote by location and draw thousands of different maps to take advantage of every single vote. Thus we see voting districts morph into what is shown above.  One of the secrets to being able to accomplish this jigsaw task is that one political party must have the power to accomplish this re-districting after it is configured and to maintain that status over a number of years.

The American obsession of winning at all costs almost dictates that these sort of things happen. To the winner goes the spoils and the spoils in our political processes amount to trillions of dollars. I have a dream that some year, probably in the very distant future, saner minds will finally prevail in this and so many other areas. When we can finally concentrate the common good and get away from the extreme partisanship of today then we might be able to accomplish things that benefit us all instead of a small segment of our society. I have a dream but unfortunately that is probably all it will ever be.