Friday, July 30

Anne Rice Quits Christianity, Part Two

Last night I wrote about Anne Rice's announcement that, though she was continuing to follow Christ, she was quitting Christianity. Part of my post admitted that many often feel frustrated with the hypocrisy of Christians, the negative stances that many Christians take, and the failures of the Church over the years. That seems to be a growing sentiment in our nation and books like unChristian document how many outside of Christianity view us as being "anti" everything. I am frustrated by that, as well, and feel that far too often the Church hinders its own cause by narrow-mindedness and a desire to pontificate rather than listen.

But the more I thought about Anne Rice's position, the more frustrated I became. She has fallen in to the trap that so many have - letting the failures of Christianity blind her to the positive things that have been done and continue to be done by the Church in our world. Schools, hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters, meal programs, HIV/AIDS programs, micro-financing agencies, agricultural programs, clean water wells, disaster relief projects, and the list goes on. Christianity and the Church give time, money, resources, etc. throughout the world to people who are and aren't Christians.

So, before you write off Christianity, look past the failures to the contributions that the Church has made. No other group of religious or non-religious people has given as much to so many. And I will continue to be a part of Christianity and the Church, in spite of its shortcomings, because it is the Body of Christ in this world and God's chosen avenue for accomplishing his purpose in our world.

Thursday, July 29

Anne Rice Quits Christianity

Anne Rice is best known as the author of books such as Interview with a Vampire and other vampire books. About ten years ago, she converted from her professed atheism to Christianity. Today, however, she announced via Facebook that she was quitting Christianity. In her words:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.... I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen....My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."

There are many things in this episode that hurt my heart and, I'm sure, the heart of God.

"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life."

Her words reflect the perception that many have about Christians - that we are "anti" everything and everyone but ourselves. This is also reflected in the research behind Gabe Lyons' book, Unchristian. Much of Christianity is known more for what we oppose than for what we support. We're not known as being for the poor or the hurting or the afflicted or the disenfranchised. The sad part is that those are the ones with whom Jesus most closely identified.

"It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group."

After ten years of following Christ, this is her description of Christians. How sad that this is her experience. But I know that it is the experience of many.

It is not hard to identify with Anne Rice's frustrations. I often feel the same things regarding Christians or those who pursue agendas that seem far from Christ, his purpose, and his character. But she also misses the point.

It is OK to denounce the shortcomings of Christians. It is even alright to admit that the Church has not always been all that God intended it to be. But you cannot take Christ without his Body - the Church. Yes, we are an imperfect lot. Yes, we often show more of the works of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit. But the Church is Christ's body in our world. It is established by him and loved by him. And we need to take our part in it and work with God to accomplish his purpose through it.

What are your thoughts as you read Anne Rice's comments?

Monday, July 5

Misc. Thoughts: Track, Olympics, & iPhone Worship

I hope you all had a great Fourth of July holiday. Here are some things that I have been holding on to share with you. They may not be "deep" but they are fun to think about. I hope you enjoy ...

Thursday, July 1

Leadership Thoughts: Dealing with Criticism

Regardless of what level of leadership in which you serve - from the Chairman of the Board to a parent - you are going to have to deal with criticism. It come with the territory. You are not going to be able to avoid it (unless you choose not to lead), so you are going to have to deal with criticism constructively.

Of course, that is easier said than done! My natural tendency when I receive criticism is to get defensive - even when it is constructive criticism from friends. That response never helps. When I get defensive, I quit listening for what truth or helpful information there might be in the criticism and start justifying myself (at least mentally).

For example: Last week, I served as the head high jump official at the US Track and Field Championships in Des Moines. Our crew of six officials was responsible for each of the eight high jump competitions that took place during the Championships. In this size of meet, there are all kinds of people who are looking over your shoulder and evaluating the event: Meet Directors, Referees, National Technical Officials, officials working other events, media personnel, etc. And there were several who had suggestions for me about how our event should be run.

As mentioned earlier, my first response was defensiveness. My ego kicked in: "This is my event and my crew. We will do things my way." But when I was able to step away from that response and really listen to the suggestions being offered, I found that some were valuable. I listened to some of the criticism and it helped us run a better event. Other suggestions I listened to and chose not to follow. But all the suggestions were considered and evaluated.

If you are going to be effective as a leader, you are going to have to learn to do the same thing - to listen, evaluate, and choose what to keep and what to disregard. This is especially true when you are surrounded by people who are as committed to the "cause" as you are. They need to know that they are heard and their input is valuable, even if it doesn't always result in change. Ultimately, as the leader, you have to decide which suggestions to heed and which to disregard.

This is also true for those of us who are parents as our children grow into their teen years. They need to know that their concerns matter and that we will listen to them. We might not take the course of action that they would prefer, but they need to know that their voice is heard.

So when criticism comes:

* Let go of defensiveness and ego.
* Listen and learn.
* Ask yourself, "Does this criticism have validity? Does this suggestion help us to better accomplish our purpose?"
* Determine what actions, if any, you need to take and move forward.

"He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray." Proverbs 10:17

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 12:1

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted ..." Proverbs 27:6