Chick-fil-A Controversy

Often people tend to disagree because they see things differently, even though they are looking at the same thing.

For example, I see a homeless person, and instinctively wish to help. Others can walk by that same person, and say “He brought upon himself his own misery. I won’t help.”

Two people see the same thing…. but feel differently. The question is, who is right? Should the homeless person be helped, or is he guilty of his own actions and does he deserve to remain helpless?

Let me use the previous analogy to explain how I feel about what is going on with Chick-fil-A. I have read Dan Cathy’s comments. In a nutshell, he says “I don’t support gay marriage, and I want to protect traditional marriage”. I see those words and think that he has an opinion, nothing more. Others see those words and say “He is anti-gay. He hates gays”.

I personally don’t see hate in those words. It is an expression of belief. For example, I don’t believe that people should drink alcohol, period. Not even a drop. But that doesn’t mean I hate people who drink it. I just don’t agree with their actions. The reason this gets so twisted in the discussion of gay-marriage or any issue pertaining to homosexuality for that matter, is because unlike my previous example, the gay community don’t feel like they are “choosing” to be gay, but that they are gay.  So, it’s like me not agreeing with drinking alcohol, but someone comes up to me saying “I was born with this condition that requires me to drink alcohol regularly”. Now how do I respond to this situation?

I only brought up the example in the previous paragraph because THAT is the real discussion. The real question that everyone wants answered, but no one talks about. The real question of whether its a civil, religious, or political issue, is whether or not we are talking about people who are “born” a certain way, or people continue to choose to live a certain way. I won’t attempt to address that topic here, perhaps another day.

Back to Chick-fil-A. I don’t believe Dan Cathy meant any hatred in his radio interview. I just think he gets sucked into the group of people who DO hate, which is unfair. Yes, there are people who don’t support gay marriage who are hateful, bigoted, and judgmental. But let’s give Dan Cathy the benefit of the doubt, since he never used the word “hate” in response to his questions in the entire interview.

But what about the groups Chick-fil-A funds? Aren’t they anti-gay? Doesn’t that mean he hates gays? And is intolerant? Again, two people see the same thing and view it differently. I view the “Marriage and Family Legacy Fund” (one of the organizations Chick-fil-A donated to in 2009) as a fund whose purpose is to pay for media campaigns that promote traditional marriage. I have read their executive summary. You can google it. Others, however, see the group as “anti-gay” and “hateful”.  So Chick-fil-A is either donating to a cause that is not filled with hate, or donating to a cause that IS filled with hate. Which is it? Again, people interpret it how they want.

There is much more to be said about this all, but to be brief, I would like to conclude with a religious theme.

The questions raised above “Who is right?” and “Which is it?” can be answered in many different ways by  many different people. Essentially, the same question can be asked of all matters. Is whole wheat good for you or bad for you? Is the Catholic church true, or is the Baptist church true, or neither? Are tattoos appropriate or not? Are gays born gay, do they choose to be gay, or is it a mixture of both? Is sex before marriage appropriate or not?  On and on the list goes…. what is right? Which is it? Who is right?

Do you see the problem? The world spins around each day in a “war of words, and a tumult of opinions. Who..is right? Or are they all wrong together?”

I believe that one must come to know truth by knowing God. I believe that if you really want to know,  He will reveal to you the truth of all things. Pray and ask, and you can know. If you don’t know who you are praying to, pray anyway. I believe that God exists, and that He knows all truth, and reveals it to His children. Were it not so, this war of opinions would be irrelevant, because there would be no truth, right, wrong, or any standard by which to govern our world. I believe there is right, wrong, truth, and law. And I believe that only the humble seeker of truth and happiness will find the answers.

What do you believe?

Love and Law

The title of this post comes from a talk given by Dallin H. Oaks, which you can read here.

I chose to talk about this today simply because I believe that it is the core argument of several religious debates/discussions which I am sure many of you have had. Basically the question that I pose is “If God exists (and I believe He does), does He have any laws or rules that He requires us to live by? If so, what are they?” Furthermore I will discuss how God’s laws are an expression of His love, not an enforcement of anger or vengeance.

My parents gave me a 12:00am curfew. If I wasn’t  home before midnight, I was grounded the following weekend. Pretty basic law, right? I often showed up somewhere within the 60 seconds after 11:59 and before 12:00, but nonetheless I always showed up on time. Often I thought to myself, so what if I am 1,2,5 minutes late? Is being out at 12:03 that much more dangerous than being out at 11:59? Foolishly I tried to find ways to “bend” my parents’ laws, but without fail my Dad would stay up under the clock, watching and waiting for my eventual arrival, eager to point out how I should not push it to the edge, and that if I showed up a minute later, I would be grounded. I think I have come to understand my father’s example.

To me, God does have laws like my father did. They don’t involve midnight curfews, they involve things of a much more eternal nature. Think along the lines of “Thou shalt not kill”. To my knowledge, this law is still in effect. It really is quite simple, don’t kill people! This is one of a whole host of laws that God has set for our mortal time here on earth. There are the 10 commandments of the Old Testament (and more aside from those), as well as further laws introduced by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Baptism, for example, is one of God’s laws. Christ said “Except a man be born of water….he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”. I will likely discuss baptism in a future post.

God gives us laws because He loves us. My Dad wanted me home before midnight not to restrict me, but to keep me safe. In the same way, God loves us so He gives us laws that will bless us and bring us happiness. If we don’t kill people, we will be happy. If we love others, we will be happy. If we don’t lie, steal, cheat, blaspheme, and engage in immoral behavior, we will be confident, optimistic, faithful, true, and blessed. God’s laws are given for our benefit. God’s laws are not flexible or subjective. If I have to come home before midnight, so does everyone else. He won’t change the curfew just because of circumstance. All have to be clean. What he does understand, though, is that not all people have the law given to them. Most people understand that killing is bad, but what if some child in the world has been taught from a child to hurt and kill their neighbors? Is it their fault that they are performing unrighteous acts? In these circumstances, God understands one’s understanding of law. However, in the end, all will be judged by the same universal, irrevocable laws.

I believe that God’s rewards for our obeying His laws and His punishments for disobeying them are signs of His love for us, and that if we are unsure about what His laws are we can seek His help in prayer and through revelation find answers. We can also LIVE a certain law, and if it produces happiness, peace, love, and joy to others, then it must be good.

What do you believe about God’s law? Comment below, and share this blog with others.

Judge not.

I sincerely apologize for not posting last week. I was on vacation, and did not have access to a computer or a smartphone to post anything. I tend to travel light on vacation, especially when it comes to technology. That way, I can actually get my mind off of the cares of the world, and enjoy myself.

While on vacation, I decided to reread The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you haven’t read it before, it is a beautifully written book about the punishment affixed to a young woman, Hester Prynne, who commits adultery. The novel itself could be used as a case study on several different issues, but I will only discuss one. As the title describes, the chief punishment ruled down upon Hester is to wear a scarlet embroidered “A” on her chest for the rest of her life, serving as a reminder to herself and the community of the nature of her sin. This “A” for “adultery” was to be worn at all times, and was even to be worn while standing on a stump in front of the entire town square for three whole hours. You can sense the magnitude of the ignominy Hester must have felt: hundreds of eyes, each pair more penetrating than the next, staring at her as the raw personification of sin. It is miraculous that Hester summons the courage to carry on, raise her newly born daughter,  and seek for peace.

This situation, to me, vividly displays the searing brand that unrighteous judgment burns upon the hearts of those who have done wrong. For Hester, it was physically manifested on her chest, but for those in today’s world, it lies chiefly in our hearts and in our minds. When others cast unrighteous judgment upon us, we feel vulnerable, weak, and helpless. We begin to label ourselves, and cast a false veil of sin over our whole identity.

What do I mean by unrighteous judgment? I believe that there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous judgment. Righteous judgment comes from stewardship. Parents make righteous judgments to protect their children, for example. This is perfectly fine for those of us on earth. In the New Testament, we read in John 7:24 that we are to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”. Another translation of that verse goes “Judge not according to your traditions“. Whether it be according to appearance or traditions, unrighteous judgment is characterized by a labeling of an individual’s heart. I believe that no one knows the thoughts and intents of one’s heart save Jesus Christ. Hester’s forced ignominy as she stood in front of the town square is highly analogous to the woman taken in adultery in the Book of John. In this poignant account, angry men throw an adulterer at the feet of Jesus, and remind him that Moses and the law commands that those who commit adultery should be stoned. When asked what should be done with her, Christ responds “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. This merciful response demonstrates that only the Savior, who atoned for all of mankind, and who knows each of us perfectly, is able to judge our hearts. Christ’s unique role as the one who atoned for us all allows him to make judgments on our hearts and our eternal standing. Only He knows exactly where we stand when it comes to personal worthiness and our ability to become something greater than we are. This type of judgment is off limits to mortals, who like Hester, are imperfect.

Christ further teaches this principle by admonishing us to cast out the beam of our own eye when we find a mote in someone else’s eye. We are all imperfect. We all have sinned. We all need divine mercy. We are all at varying degrees of righteousness. I believe that we are not to judge unrighteously, and label a person’s standing before God.

I believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. I believe that with His help we can become clean and pure, and that instead of casting judgment upon those who have done wrong, we should seek to help them overcome those things that cause them pain.

What do you believe about judgment? What do you believe about Christ as it pertains to this topic? How can we avoid unrighteous judgment?

O say, what is truth?

My post this week is slightly delayed. I sincerely apologize. Again, if you are reading this for the first time, see the Purpose tab.

The topic today has to do with truth. The question that will be discussed is “Is there absolute truth?”. I think this is an interesting topic, and one that is highly debated/discussed among those that are seekers of truth, and those who wonder about religion and faith in general.

When I lived in Boise, ID last summer, I met someone who was extremely intrigued by churches claims that they had the “truth”. He asked me “If one church says they have the truth, and the other says THEY have the truth, what is the truth? I want to know the TRUTH”. I think that is an extremely poignant observation. What is to be concluded by differing claims of truth? Is there absolute truth in the first place, or is truth relative? Can some things be true for me and not true for you? If there is absolute truth, how can we find it? Who has the authority to say what truth is and what it is not?

For sake of brevity, I won’t attempt to answer all of the questions above, or explain every detail of what I believe regarding truth, but I will say this: I believe in absolute truth. Truth, to me, is fundamental. As an example, think of gravity. It affects everyone the same (watch different objects fall in a vacuum), and ALWAYS produces the same results. No one is exempt from its universal power. It is a fundamental building block of everyone’s life, and all are subject to it. Nothing anyone can say is able to deny the existence of this universal force.

Now, the man in Boise wasn’t discussing scientific truths, he was concerned about spiritual truth. But to him, and to those reading this blog, I respond that there is absolute spiritual truth that affects us all, and is relevant to us all, just like gravity. I believe that God exists. I don’t believe He exists for me, or for some groups of people, but for ALL. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of everyone who has ever lived or will live on this planet. One name for Christ is the “truth”. I think that is interesting, because He declared while on this earth that He is the only way by which to return to God. I believe that. Due to the nature of truth, that means that there are absolutes, which are hard for some people to accept. If someone says “I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, but you do, who is right?” I would respond with “Let’s not discuss right or wrong, let’s discuss truth. If it is true that he lived, and was the Son of God, then His teachings are universal to all  humankind. All must come to find out whether or not that is true”.

I believe the source of all truth is God, our Eternal Father. If it were not so, then there would be no way to know what is true and what is not. There must be a standard, else truth is relative and not truth at all. I believe that we can pray to God and ask Him what the truth is, and He will ALWAYS reveal it to us. I have done this, and I have come to learn of things that are true. I invite all those who are seeking truth to ask God in faith, and he will reveal unto you the truth of all things. He can’t reveal different truth to different people. He can’t say “Jesus is the Christ” to one and “Jesus is not the Christ” to another. He must be the same source of perfect truth to all, or we have no way to determine spiritual truth.

What do you believe? Do you believe in absolute truth? If so, how do you find it? What effect does spiritual truth have on your life? Does it effect the way you live? Please comment below.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire.

If you have not yet read the “Purpose” tab, please do so. The aim of this blog is to involve open discussion about belief. Positive discussion, not debate or argument.

Last week’s post was about belief in God. I testified of what I believe Him to be, and a few of you commented on your relationship to God as well. We all have had different experiences with God. Each of us are unique, and naturally we all have our own personal relationship with Him. I wish to speak today about how we communicate to God. This is a basic concept, but practiced extremely differently amongst people throughout this world.

I had an opportunity to live in an extremely diverse city in the United States. Jacksonville, Florida, is unique for this reason: it is the home to refugees and immigrants from all over the world. Just south of downtown is an apartment complex called “Sable Palms”. It is off Emerson Street, just East of Hendricks, right by a delicious barbeque joint. I have met everyone in that complex, because I used to go there all of the time. Every door was a new experience, because everyone that lived there was from out of the country. I ate ostrich legs there with a Burmese family. I spoke with a Persian woman named Shannaz who got into a wreck at Taco Bell in the drive through. I met some Vietnamese youth who played the guitar, a Liberian pastor,  a drunk from Bosnia, the list goes on and on! I mention this experience because no matter who they were or where they were from, they all had a concept of prayer. I offered to pray with all of them, and no one denied. They were always receptive to my offering to pray with them and for them. I feel the same way when people ask to pray for me. They may be of a different faith, but to know that someone is communicating with Deity on my behalf is empowering.

Prayer is such an amazing form of communication. I believe that prayer is essential to getting to know the God that we worship. In Sable Palms, some of the people I met would often tell me that they don’t pray out loud, but that God knows their thoughts. While it is true that God knows their thoughts, why not talk to Him? It is such a humbling experience to accept the fact that you need help, that you don’t know, that you lack the faith, the courage, or the ability, and to plead with God for help. In a sense, prayer is work. It requires effort to stop what you are doing, focus your mind and heart on God, and talk. But I believe that certain blessings require work on our part, and prayer is the start of that.

As I mentioned before, I believe God is my Father. I find comfort that I can communicate to my Father through sincere prayer, and I know that He is listening. He will answer me according to His time and will, but He does listen with love. It has been said that prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. I believe that that is true. I pray to know God’s will, and I try to align myself with it.

To those of you who are reading,what do you believe about prayer? How do you pray? What meaningful experiences have you had with prayer?  Please share in your comments below.

The title of this post comes from a song written by James Montgomery. If you would like to listen to the song, click here.

Higher Power.

If you are reading this, please click the  “Purpose” tab and read it to understand exactly what this blog is about. If you share this blog with others, have them also read the “Purpose” page. This is important to maintain the integrity of this website and to accomplish the goals of the same.

Our nation, every single day, requires that students in schools recite the pledge of allegiance. Well, I don’t actually know what happens anymore. Some schools require it, some allow students to remain seated if they believe differently, yada yada yada. As far as I know, it still mostly happens. This mundane, repetitive and often inconsequential start to each school day has been the subject of some fierce discussion. Why? Because in one obvious way, it is a statement of belief. We say “One nation, under God“. Interesting, isn’t it? Children beginning at age 5 are daily required to affirm their belief in a higher power. The pledge of allegiance shouldn’t cause any problems. It doesn’t define the God, state his (or her) name, or demand a particular form of worship. The end of the pledge itself defends its neutrality towards God.. with “liberty and justice for all”. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can believe in something, let’s say “science or reason”, call that God, and the pledge of allegiance is the same. “One nation, under <insert your understanding of God>, indivisible…”

When you recite the pledge of allegiance, though, no matter what God you believe in, you are affirming that there is a higher power. It’s “under God”, remember? Something is in control. Something, somewhere, governs us, even if you believe it is simply science.  I believe that there is a higher power. I believe it is a person, and even more so, I believe that that person is my Father. You may feel differently, but I think that the most endearing form of higher power imaginable is one that loves me perfectly, desires my happiness, and is constantly seeking to help me progress. I believe that He loves me, and that He knows me. I won’t even mention Him without using capital letters, just out of respect! I pray to Him, and I know He will answer. (Prayer will likely be next week’s topic, in case you were wondering).

What do you believe? What “higher power” do you serve? What is he/she/it like? How did you come to believe in that higher power? Can you think of an experience when you felt   that higher power’s presence in your life? Please share your comments below. Remember, every one who reads is encouraged to engage by stating what they believe below. No one will be ridiculed, argued with, or hated. (If your comments are of that nature, say goodbye to this blog:).  We are all here to learn, and to listen to what you have to say.