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Is faith really a virtue as many claim, or is it a fundamental flaw in humanity that must by all means be rooted out in order to achieve a progressive society? This is a question I have come across all too often lately.

There are basically two camps that have sadly become polarized as the "religious" and the "non-religious" (though I would argue that some of the so-called religious are not and equally vice versa). In essence, the first perspective values faith as a benefit to life and to knowledge while the second degrades it as a crutch for the weak and an opponent to "real," testable knowledge. The former maintains faith as necessary for enlightenment while the latter calls it blind, stupid and ignorant. So who's right? Much more importantly, what's true?


 
If a culture develops a belief that killing the weakest of its citizens is morally preferable in order to protect itself from other cultures (you're only as strong as your weakest link, right?), then is it still wrong? Or  is it ok because that culture in particular has deemed it morally right?

No, I don't actually believe that murder is ok in any culture. And neither do you (I hope). Quite a few people in this day and age, however, claim beliefs about reality which actually conflict with their moral beliefs, to the point that if they truly lived consistently with their beliefs, the above society would be totally acceptable. Many, many people claim moral beliefs with their intellect which conflict with the moral beliefs they actually demonstrate in the way they live their lives. This is an interesting paradox, and one which very much gets taken for granted these days. Let us not grant it so easily here. 

 
I was recently chastised by a couple of friends (at least, I hope they're still my friends) for thanking God on Facebook for the fortunate timing of the arrival of a replacement hard drive for my computer. Their immediate reaction was that I belittled the suffering of starving children in Africa, for example, by thanking God for something so insignificant and unimportant by comparison. How dare I?

And in some ways, I don't blame them. In fact, I'm glad they care so much about the plight of starving children in Africa, if indeed they do. Not enough people on this earth have that much compassion for those outside of their own line of vision (and we've become very good at averting our eyes when they are in our line of vision, as if pretending they don't exist is somehow the better option). However, these are not people who believe in God in the first place. The underlying theme of this "attack" was not so much to do with helping these children as much as it was that a good God would not allow so many children to starve and die without providing them food and then go ahead and provide me with a stupid hard drive. Fair point, despite the completely unnecessary personal judgment and hostility.
 
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The American Dream. 

It's what we all long and hope for. What we spend our whole lives trying to achieve, or in some cases what gets handed to us without very much work at all. It's what many of our forefathers came to North America for, and what we've stayed for. It's what we hope for our children and what has become the central focal point of many of our lives.

This may come as a shock to you, but I don't want the "American Dream" for my life.

 
In April 2011, soul artist Anthony David put out the above music video for his song "God Said." Watch a few minutes of it and you'll start to get the idea behind the lyrics. On his own blog, David outlined his reasons for writing this song and making the video. Here's an excerpt:

"I wrote a song called GOD SAID after watching Pat Robertson declare that the earthquake in Haiti was because of a curse from God. After hearing a man named Rev. Wiley say that he was praying for President Obama's death during the election (the prayer didn't work BTW). After hearing people fiddle around with the idea of a curse on Japan after their recent disaster. After hearing about Koran burnings and battles that seem to have peoples' interpretations of religious texts at the foundation of them all. 

I'm not one of those who claims that religion is the ONLY thing that causes all of the wars and bloodshed, but it has caused many. But not necessarily even the religion but the interpretation of a few dangerous minds put into the wrong position of power or influence.  I figured it was time to have a conversation with extremists like this, and put that kind of thinking in its proper perspective.

It's just my opinion, but I suspect peace-loving people from all walks of life will agree with me on SOME level." 

Let me first say that I have a huge amount of respect for David just for writing and releasing this song. He shows that he cares about this world, about his fellow man, and about truth. He cares about making a difference through his music, not just selling records. And he cares about people, not just winning an argument. For these reasons alone, he is automatically a better artist to me than the vast majority of them out there. 

He has a lot of good things to say too. He rightly criticizes Rev. Wiley Drake for praying for Obama's death and calling it God's will (should we really be giving people like that the title of Reverend?). He demonstrates his heart for the people of Haiti and Japan by speaking out against those who would call them cursed. And there is no question that he is right about the atrocities caused by "a few dangerous minds put into the wrong position of power or influence."  

BUT there are some clarifications that need to be made...
 
Today is "Good Friday," the day when the world remembers Jesus' horrible crucifixion and death two thousand years ago. He was betrayed by one of his closest friends, arrested by his own people who he came to save, scourged mercilessly, stripped in humiliation, mocked with a crown of thorns pushed into his head, spat upon, beaten, forced to carry his own cross, nailed by his wrists and ankles to that same cross, hauled upright, and left hanging there to die. So what's so "good" about Good Friday? It certainly doesn't seem like a very happy event on the surface, does it? 

I think much of the answer to that question lies in some of Jesus' last words while hanging on that cross, before finally giving up his life. "It is finished." 
 
Note: If you are not familiar with Westboro Baptist Church prior to reading this open letter, watch a bit of ABC's 20/20 report here. You'll get the idea.

Dear Pastor Fred Phelps and members of Westboro Baptist Church;

I forgive you.

That's probably not what you were expecting. You probably don't think you need my forgiveness. Most other people reading this probably don't think you deserve it. Nevertheless, I forgive you.
 
I often hear that Christians are "intolerant" and "impose" their beliefs upon others. 

And it's understandable, really. There have been many tragic incidents, both today (see Terry Jones) and in the past (see the Crusades) where intolerant and imposing people identified themselves with Jesus. Why this applies only to Christians and not to all of society, however, baffles me. Joseph Stalin's administration was pretty intolerant too (atheist regime). So is Osama Bin Laden, at least from what I hear (Muslim). So are Canadians (...pretty much everything you can think of). 

 
We all have cravings. 

I crave assurance. Assurance that at the end of all this financial partnership-building I'm doing, I'll actually reach my financial support goal and be able to do the work I've stepped out in faith to do. I crave assurance that that will take place before coming to the point of giving up a year from now (although it's likely I wouldn't). I crave assurance, basically, that I won't fail. That God really is in control of this whole thing. Honest, isn't it?

That's not the only thing I crave. At times in my life, I have craved companionship. I've craved purpose. I've craved activity, food, rest, entertainment, root beer, love, and even just to be liked.
 
I sat down inside Tim Horton's with my small French Vanilla and Boston Cream doughnut and started reading 1 Corinthians chapter 1 as I waited for my friend Jordan to arrive. It was a pretty typical morning at Tim's. Some parents and their kids were having a grand old time at a table behind me. That is, until three older ladies who were seated nearby decided they couldn't hear themselves because of all the noise those kids were making. So one of the ladies decided to kindly turn around and remark "Take those poor kids home!"

Thankfully, the parents were far too jubilant in their celebrating to take serious offense. They mostly laughed and kept celebrating, while the comment was only met with a slightly disbelieving "Are you serious?" from one of the dads.

The  three older ladies were quick to reinforce the fact that they were indeed serious.