Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shutting Down

I have been maintaining four blog sites - two MySpace profiles (because my original one was BANNED from the R&P!), a Blogger account, and a Wordpress account.

Therefore, I will no longer be updating three of my blogging accounts - this being one of them.

However, I am on Facebook (see my profile here) and will regularly update my Wordpress account. Thank you to everyone who has been reading along and I hope that you'll continue to read along on Wordpress (or Facebook since it automatically updates from my Wordpress acount).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Link between Education and Religion (or lack of)

At the very good advice of a fellow Rav poster (thank you Gwlana!) I have ordered Marcus Borg's book, Reading the Bible for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally in hopes of finding some more understanding of various understandings of the Bible. As a student, I wonder - do we only take the Bible so literally because we are not properly educated and can distinctively separate faith and fact? One study regarding religion and education stated, "But across religious groups or denominations, church attendance declines with education" (Glaeser and Sacerdote, 2002). The forty page study reviews the connection between education, social skills, and religion citing Episcopalians as the "most educated" denomination and Baptists as the "least educated". The authors observe that, "many Christian ideas explicitly downplay the value of secular success, and as a result people who come from higher belief denominations invest less in secular education" (Glaeser and Sacredote, 1002).

When I think back to my various church experiences - it is within the LDS church that education is stressed. From Enrichment Activities meant to further educate the women of the Church in various ways, to Institute which educates in the official and applicable theology of the Church, to finally the consistent encouragement to receive a higher education (meaning college). If those who are more educated are less likely to be involved in religion, specifically Christian religions, why would this one particular church encourage their members to have a "house of learning" ( Doctrine and Covenants, 109:8) ?

I know that a few of you probably think I am a "fence sitter" - never making a decision if I want to be LDS, a Protestant, or something else altogether. To be perfectly honest, I see no logical reason to believe in Christianity. There is no proof behind the flawed system, there is little unity in the believers, and the application varies from one extreme of openly homosexual leaders to homosexual members being excommunicated (to borrow from LDS language but not point towards them) from their churches. The whole system is frustrating and honestly, I would be perfectly happy to walk away from the whole thing. However, to be an atheist - really and truly, one cannot believe in God. And I do. I do believe in God, even if I do not believe in everything else everyone is preaching.

It's an age old question that probably everyone who really considers their faith and where it leads them in life, considers. Where would God have me and honestly, can I stomach it when I would much rather be a spiritual hobo than connected to all the whining bloggers about Obama? It's a question that Joseph Smith asked and we know what Jesus said:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.” (Joseph Smith History, 1:19)

Currently I am working on a paper regarding historical Christianity, which I believe has over the years become exactly what Jesus says above, having a form of godliness yet who deny the real power of God. I want to do an in depth study of historical Christianity for my essay and see if this changes my stance at all. Finally, I feel quite honestly embarrassed that I left the LDS church only to a year later was ready to return. While I feel that the journey has certainly grown me in many ways, I also feel that I lost quite a bit in the journey as well. I am not going to embark on a new journey without sufficient cause and am quite content to remain where I am until I have come to a well thought out, logical, conclusion.

I believe that the LDS church is the ONE and TRUE church (still leaving room for other Christians of course within the body of believers) but I want to explore this belief before I truly commit to it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

School and the New Project

Currently I am enrolled in Distance Education to complete my Bachelor's degree and have just finished the first round of classes, of course being that the courses are all back to back, I have also just started my next round of courses as well.

I stressed for weeks over my final projects in each class and submitted them this past weekend. Like an obsessed nut job, I have been checking my grades for these projects several times a day. Tonight, I recieved my first project grade back and screamed when I saw it. I earned 100% on the project, which in itself was very rewarding, but was furthered rewarded by the compliments the professor left for me. She stated that my project was the best one she had recieved and wanted to use it for future courses as an example.

During these classes, professors have the students turn in checkpoints to show their progression on the project; this is my first week in a new class and had to choose the topic for my next (final) project. This class is an essay writing class and I will be writing an expository essay on a topic of my choosing. To be honest, I am not entirely sure how excited I am to be writing a paper on religion; I write enough blogs on religion that one would think I would be sick of writing about it. However, the specific topic I have chosen to write about will actually help me in my journey to understand Christianity.

I'm including my "essay" explaining my topic for the final below.

The Controversy of Historical Christianity
By: Amanda Hommel

In 2005 National Public Radio (NPR) did a piece on scholar and New Testament historian, Bart Ehrman and his new bestselling book, Misquoting Jesus: the Story behind Who Changed the Bible (Terry Gross, 2005). I have long held interest in early Christianity, the New Testament, and the impacts that this movement has created in culture and society. Promptly I ordered Ehrman's book from my local library and dove right in. The book was everything NPR had stated it would and I became a fan this New Testament historian.

For my expository essay I would like to address the controversy of historical Christianity. Darrick T. Evenson states in his book, The Gainsayers, that early Christians were considered a cult. From the very birth of the movement, it has been controversial. The questions are - what impact has this had on surrounding culture, politics, and society? How has the history of this "in the world, but of it" movement danced with the world? Ehrman states that many of the New Testament manuscripts were intentionally altered to support political theology of the times, for example, three passages are called into question regarding the Trinity - a staple of many Christian denominations. How did Christians move from persecuted cultists, blamed by Nero in 64 AD for setting fire to Rome to the time of open embrace of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD? How has their history of persecution framed the Christian movement?

Finally, what - if any, evidence stands that this movement is any more than an overgrown weed of a rumor by a few devastated disciples who could not accept the death of their prophet?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Cheerful Heart

In the last month, two people that I respect have talked about how they don't allow their children to watch Spongebob. One said he was gay and says some inappropriate things during the show, another stated that characters in the show are vulgar, picking their noses, farting, burping, etc. This had me mildly worried that Steve and I were becoming one of those parents - you know the ones who allow their children to watch obviously inappropriate things.
The other day while we were all watching Spongebob, Steve commented, "We should all be more like Spongebob. He always has such a positive outlook."
I began to think this over. Sure, characters in Spongebob display some behavior that I don't like - from greed (Mr. Crabs), to being nasty and self centered (Squidworth) - not to mention the regular farting, burping, nose picking, etc. They do show drunkenness as a bad thing - the characters who occasionally get drunk, usually on ice cream or bubbles, are in extremely bad shape afterwards.
However, Steve had a point - Spongebob is always cheerful. I noticed in the Stranglerepisode that while he was picking up a large amount of litter, instead of saying, "Those stupid kids! Don't they know where the damn trash can is?!", he took a more cheerful approach, "Hahahaha, those silly kids. Must have fallen out of their pockets."
When Squidworth is mean to him, Spongebob is always kind in return. When others need help, Spongebob is always ready to help them, cheerfully of course. Even in the Best Day Everepisode, Spongebob's best day revolves around his friends, not around himself. In an episode with Plankton, Spongebob tries to look past the "villain" mask that Plankton wears to see a lonely person in need of a friend and then acts on this, befriending Plankton and teaching him what "F.U.N." means. If we sift through the everyday living that the show has, there are some really great values being taught. (Not to imply at all that the show itself is educational.)
This sent me back to the scriptures where there are several references to being cheerful:
Proverbs 15:13A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.Proverbs 15:15All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:30A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.Proverbs 17:22A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.Romans 12:8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.2 Corinthians 9:7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
I felt some nudges from God about controlling my tongue more, yet have been ignoring Him. There is this co-worker at my work who drives me crazy. Every time I work with him, even for the 15 minutes our shifts overlap, I just want to bang my head against something blunt. Even now, I just want to list everything he does that drives me absolutely CRAZY! However, trying to think about this young man from God's eyes, I realize he is just lonely and seeking attention.
I have not shyed away from making my distaste for him known, both to him, my manager and Papau, and my co-workers, the whole while knowing this isn't a godly approach to what is driving me insane. As I think about what God has shown me through what some believe is a vulgar child's program, I am ashamed to say I lost my humility a long time ago. Spongebob may not try to teach my kids their "ABCs" or numbers, or shapes, or colors, or music (gotta love those Little Einsteins!) but he does teach me humility and being of a cheerful spirit.

6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
(Titus 2:6-8)