The good folks at Beliefnet.com are working hard to complete design and functionality of this blog of mine. Hopefully, the comment portal for my posts will soon be up, as well as an RSS/subscription button. ALso, some nifty graphics.
Be patient. It’s a virtue, you know.
That said, I’ve received a lot of feedback on the first posts already by email and Facebook. Most were on whether it’s OK to not attend a church on your vacation. Others had something to say about reality TV and what moral lessons are being taught, or not.
I got some short affirmations like the usual “well said,” or “I completely agree.” Others disagreed and eloquently shared those thoughts, or offered anecdotes from their own faith journeys. Here are a few (I’ve not identified the commenters by name, since the feedback came by personal messages):
As my father used to tell my mom on Sunday’s she’d want us to go to Catholic church and he wanted us to ski: “Dorothy, I’d rather be on the hill thinking of God, than in church thinking of the hill.” — from an Internet-based retail CEO
“I can just hear the masses telling me now they are on vacation so I won’t see them for a while. And we certainly have those types at (his church). It may be personally rewarding to just slip away on a vacation from church…and certainly not an issue with impending judgment. But when you think of the effort put in by those who work hard to offer a service that glorifies God and inspires His people it seems to me that some thought ought to be given to them too. As for me…we go to church when on vacation, to show appreciation and just because we want to!” — Utah pastor. Actually, my pastor. (Wince).
— “. . . my comment was to be on the previous post on Reality TV. I appreciate more when it is “reality” (as close as you can get with cameras on you) than the fictionalized reality that seems to draw the viewers. The shows you mentioned, for me, seem to capture more of that rawness and sincerity than others.” — a self-described fan of “real” reality TV.
It’s summer. Vacation time, the opportunity to just relax, possibly visit new places, see the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Paris, the Greek Isles, Alaska’s inside passage, Disneyland, even Dollywood, for cryin’ out loud.
You get the idea. Vacation = leaving stress behind. (Unless you are taking a road trip with young children).
But this one is about vacations and faith, or more to the point: Should I go to church on my vacation?
As a preacher’s kid, that was never a question raised when I was growing up. We went.
“It’s always fun to see how other churches worship the Lord,” my mother would say, fixing a sort of distant, other-worldly smile on her face.
Dad? Usually he would just sigh. Not too loudly, though.
Still, I kind of got the impression — a wisp of a hint, mind you, a slight, momentary glassing over of his gaze as he watched the road ahead as he drove — that for just two weekends out of 52 a year, he might like to not be anywhere near a pulpit.
Whatever. We went, wherever we were. But Mom made sure the selection was within the presumed heaven-approved norms: The church we visited had to be Pentecostal at least, if not our particular denomination thereof.
OK, folks, if we do have to attend church on vacation, why not at least see how those other Christians communed with the Almighty?
Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist? Lutheran? Episcopalian? CATHOLIC?!? Oh, no. After all, they didn’t have the “holyghost.” (Seemingly properly pronounced by the truly faith as one word, referring to Third Person of the Trinity – an expression of God I’ve come to understand in a much broader, denomination-crossing and soul- and mind-blowing aspect than I would have ever dreamed as that child).
Translation: Those others didn’t speak in tongues or “freely” (i.e., shout, dance, and occasionally enter that state of spiritual ecstasy) worship like we did. Thus, others had no “messages” in a “heavenly language” that had to be interpreted (though often into poor, even ungrammatical King James English).
I digress. That all is for another blog.
Well, suffice it to say, when I grew up, married and was on my own, vacations did not usually involve attending Sunday services. Oh, there would be quiet time. Read a Bible passage, thank God for a beautiful day, and then take a hike in the woods, along the beach, contemplatively explore the hoodoos of a red rock desert . . . just being.
You know, I never felt guilty doing that.
The rest of the year, I get up Sunday mornings and head to church with my wife, Barbara. And though you might wonder about this, given my words above, I enjoy it. The hugs and handshakes, the singing, the sermon, the occasional dinners with friends after — the fire of faith re-stoked for another week.
But come vacation, I remember what the Apostle Paul said: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being. . . .” (Acts 17:28). And I decide to explore that aspect of my relationship with Divine, outside a building, even outside the limited framework of what can become, even in a “Charismatic” congregation, routine and ritual.
And the Word doesn’t always come from human lips or from between the leather-bound covers of a volume of scriptures. Sometimes, there are no words for the Word.
When I began this blog, one thing Beliefnet wanted me to explore was what inspiration or faith lessons could be gleaned from so-called “reality television” shows.
Hmm. Well, there’s no doubt there is a plethora of them. Survivor and Big Brother began the craze more than a decade ago. The shows’ terminology caught on as quickly as their purported morality-in-microcosm appeal (or, as the seasons progress, the lack of morality and/or ethics, some might argue).
Voted Off the Island. Immunity Idol. The Tribe Has Spoken — all Survivor terms that have become part of our cultural language. And don’t forget Big Brother, where the HOH (Head of Household) may nominate you for Eviction, and then only by winning the Power of Veto can you save yourself or an ally.
But as I said earlier, plethora. Reality TV shows propagated like proverbial rabbits, and while they never were true representations of “real” life, they have stretched the believability of even the most ardent, intentionally naive of their viewers.
After all, it’s one thing to be, supposedly, abandoned on an island (or in a desert, jungle, etc.), or locked with strangers in a house (albeit one with cameras monitoring every move and word). Even the rags-to-riches appeal of American Idol, and its unknown singers competing for the favor of celebrity judges and national audiences, seems to fall somewhere within the realm of possibility.
But really — Ghost Hunters? Turn. On. The. Light. No spooks.
It’s not all so bad, though. However contrived, some of these shows appeal to more than greed, backstabbing, lying, cheating and using other human beings for fame and a big cash prize. I suspect for every viewer out there who falls for the “situational” nature of participants’ moral decisions — indeed, the decidedly postmodern ethics (in a nutshell, there is no authority beyond one’s self, and thus morality is relative) — there must be another watcher who sees the emptiness of such a lifestyle.
Well, I hope so.
- Full disclosure: I find myself tuning into Deadliest Catch (I cried a little when Captain Phil died), Ice Road Truckers and Whale Wars (who wouldn’t root for the Sea Shepherds trying to foil the slaughter of these intelligent, social, endangered fellow mammals, right?) And Dirty Jobs? Even my retired minister father likes to see host Mike Rowe up to his ears in muck, while waxing poetic about the hardworking, blue collar men and women of America.
But back to Survivor– and Big Brother-esque shows. Honestly, deep down, don’t we want to see these self-absorbed, rudderless souls take a long, hard fall? We want the “right” to triumph, eventually. It’s our desire for that outcome –perhaps amid our own moral and ethical failures to find someone even more despicable than ourselves — that drives us to tune in, week after week.
Or, is such entertainment as often as not an excuse by projection, as it were, to tell that whole “conscience” thing to give us a break? We’re not, after all, that bad.
Fully realizing there are myriad nuances to this genre and what people take from it, I would love to hear your opinions and observations. Comment away!
Hello, I’m Bob. And I’m a preacher’s kid.
Sounds like introducing myself to a Twelve Step program, and truth be told, there a lot of us preacher’s kids who could use one. I suppose, it follows that all ears in such a PKs Anonymous meeting would be especially attuned to the second step, that we “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
There a couple reasons for that. First, it is often the existence of that Power — or at least the one we were taught to accept — that at some point became the question we had to answer for ourselves. The time came when we could no longer ride through life on our parents’ spiritual aprons, but had find our own experience and understanding of the Divine.
And second, of course, there may be more than a few who just plain blame that Power (shall we just say, “God?”) for not living up to the tidy theological frameworks of our religious upbringings.
For those so burdened, that third step — making “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him” is tough. Get past that one, though (i.e. reach that understanding bit), and steps four, five, six and seven — making a moral inventory, admitting our wrongs to God and others, asking God to remove our character defects and shortcomings — follow like dominoes.
Logically, then, the rest of the steps should come right along, right? Make amends to those we’ve hurt? Check. Keep an up-to-date inventory of new wrongs and own them? Check. Improve the quality of our contact with God through prayer/meditation? Roger that. And then share the resulting “spiritual awakening” with others?
Sure. That’s what this blog is for.
It all seems so logical. But that’s not how human beings and their faith journeys roll. Faith is a rollercoaster for most of us, punctuated by the thrills of perceived blessings and the tumbles of personal failures.
We stumble over our built-in hypocrisies just a heartbeat removed from pleasantly surprising ourselves by that truly selfless, charitable act. One day the heavens are open, a cosmic flower in bloom; the next we are convinced we live under an unyielding sky, trapped within a random and mindless, even accidental universe.
That, too, is what this blog is about.
So, hang on, friends, believers, doubters, saints and sinners. Our journey of faith is about to begin. The landscape: popular culture and scriptures; heroes and villains; celebrities and everyday folk; gritty reality and our dreams, taking form in the arts.
All of these things have something to show us.