Category Archives: General

Crazy Enough?

So far this year, I’ve read somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 pages. As I’ve started to read more, I’ve started to watch TV, movies, and Youtube less, because they are simply boring and shallow in comparison. War and Peace, in particular, deeply touched me. Lately I have been reading the Wheel of Time series, which has its own unique characteristics.

Whether an epic (or super-epic, such as Wheel of Time) novel, or the Sherlock Holmes series, or nonfiction works, there is something magical about reading a book. We often see characters, real or fictional, that rise from obscurity to do great things for the world. We are transported in time and place to a time or place we will never be able to experience, perhaps because it is long past, or perhaps because it never was. But in any case, we can be inspired.

I am reminded of this quote:

“The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”

If someone told me that a street vendor in Tunisia would, in less than a year, cause the overthrow of 4 dictatorships and reform in a handful more, I would have, yes, thought that was crazy. And while Mohamed Bouazizi isn’t a household name in much of the world, he managed exactly that. But not just him. It took crazy unarmed people to occupy Tahrir Square, some to die, for progress to be made in Egypt.

This story is written all over history. People have done the impossible, have defied all odds, through sheer belief that they could. Civil rights have been granted due to the leaders we all know, but also due to the millions of marchers we don’t. Changing the world doesn’t have to mean that the world knows you. It just has to mean that you love the world, as Tolstoy pointed out:

Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.

Whatever your stance on religion, this is a powerful quote. Sometimes particles of love might look crazy. But isn’t it then that they are the most alive? Isn’t it then that they are the greatest hindrance to death and despair?

The Mennonite Mecca

I’d like to paint you a picture of the sorts of things that have been going on around here the past few months, and with growing fervor the past few days.

I’ll start with church basements. Possibly a little chilly, but with a bunch of women getting together to make some quilts — along with some conversation, maybe some snacks.

Or perhaps about hundreds of kitchens throughout Kansas, warm with baking pies, cookies, breads, and all sorts of items. Then there are a bunch of wood shops, turning up sawdust, building things from toys to furniture. Or even a body shop donating its time and materials to put some finishing touches on a classic car.

I’ve also seen around 300 men getting together to practice for a men’s chorus concert. I know there was large crowd of people gathering to make verenike. People always wind up running 5km on a particular Saturday morning, rain or shine. Or ride 35 miles on a bicycle on a different Saturday. Or even help build a house using as much volunteer labor and donated materials as possible.

And then, of course, comes this week, where Mennonites from all over Kansas start to converge on Hutchinson, KS. I can imagine you might see some odd sights rolling down the road: a vehicle called the “borscht buggy” for preparing large quantities of the delicious soup. Several old tractors being hauled down the road on trailers. Semi loads of food. Vanloads of pie and cookies. Plants, trees, rugs, quilts, even a lawn mower. And then, yesterday and today, excited people ready to buy all of these things. Families with children excited to get a ride on the largest slide they’ve ever seen. And, of course, so many people wanting to eat the famous food that, despite the many parallel serving areas, lines still can extend for blocks.

It’s all because people are hungry.

Not these Kansans with pie-laden kitchens, though — it’s to help those in need.

It’s all part of the annual Kansas MCC Relief Sale. The idea is that people make, bake, build, sing, or give things to the sale. The items are then sold, and the proceeds go to Mennonite Central Committee, one of the world’s most efficient charities. MCC not only helps with directly bringing people out of hunger, but also supports sustainable projects, such as building hand-operated wells to give those in need a safe source of drinking water. Virtually all of the money you spend on those pies winds up helping someone in poverty.

Each year, the relief sale and related events raise around half a million dollars for charity.

It’s not unusual to see a quilt sell for thousands of dollars. Most of the things sell at more normal prices, but last year someone decided to add a loaf of bread to an auction — and it sold for $100.

And so it was this that we took the boys to today. We started with the “Feeding the Multitude” — a wonderful meal with some traditional Kansas Mennonite food. Here’s a photo:

That bread is zwieback, then there is cherry moos, bohne berrogi, verenike, and of course, sausage.

Here are Jacob and Oliver enjoying their food:


After that, we went over to the giant slide. I’m not sure how many stories tall it is, but it’s big enough that they have a strip of carpet there at the bottom to slow people down at the end. Here’s a photo of Jacob on my lap after going down the slide. If you zoom in, you can see the giant smile on his face.


After that, we hopped on the “mass transit” at the sale: a wagon being pulled by a tractor. We checked out the general auction, with Jacob wanting to be sure to peer under the hood of each car present. Then after a stop to buy some kettle corn for Jacob, we checked out the plants, quilt auction, and then on to buy cheese curds.

After another stop at the slide, it was time to head home.

And then tomorrow is a concert of the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus (motto: We Sing That Others May Live). You get around 300 men on a stage signing together and wow — no recording can do it justice. It’s amazing to hear the power of the choir at the loud parts, but still more amazing to listen to 300 men signing as softly as they possibly can. I’ve been singing with that choir for 3 years, and we’ve been practicing for a few months now.

If you ever hear some Mennonites boasting about something, it’s probably going to be about how much money they’ve raised for charity. And on that note, I’ll nudge those Indiana folks reading this and point out that you have some catching up to do with the Kansas sale…

Rudy Schmidt & Time Capsules

This evening, I arrived at church for mens’ chorus practice. I was surprised to see this sign on the door:

Rudy Schmidt died rather unexpectedly, but peacefully on Wednesday morning at his home….

One of the benefits of living in a small community is that I get to know people of all ages around here. Not just people my own age, or coworkers. A few years ago, I worked on a history project for our church’s centennial.

Back in the 1960s, Rudy was one of the people in charge of building our current church. So he was a person I was interested in visiting with.

Here he is, on the left, during the 1964 groundbreaking ceremony for the new building (the old one is visible in the background).

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I and a few others went to his home one time a few years ago and we had a wonderful evening. Rudy shared all sorts of stories with us — which I am happy to say I recorded. But moreover, Rudy was an avid photographer. There were some rare and brilliant color slides of the church being built in his collection. He let me borrow and scan some of them. Here are my two favorites:

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Back in 1965, there was a ceremony at the setting of the cornerstone of Tabor Church. The people at the time assembled some papers and memorabilia and put them in a time capsule. Rudy Schmidt sealed the capsule and it was placed in the spot for it behind the cornerstone. Here is a photo of that ceremony.

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44 years later, on the occasion of Tabor’s centennial, it was time to open the time capsule. The other building committee people, such as Jake Koehn, had passed away, so Rudy was the one to open it. He gave a few words in front of the large crowd, and mentioned that when he sealed it away, he smelled some smoke when he soldered it shut. Jake Koehn told him, “Don’t worry, nobody will ever see it again anyway” and they had a little laugh about it. Now he was going to open it up and see if anything survived.


It all did — just a few minor burn marks. We enjoyed looking at all the items. Then the church placed some new items into the capsule. It was closed up again, to be opened in maybe 50 years.

With luck, I’ll still be around to see it opened again. Even if I’m not, maybe Jacob and Oliver will be able to. And so it seems very fitting that the last hands to touch that box for the next 50 years were Rudy Schmidt’s, when he placed it back in its spot on Oct. 12, 2008.


The Thrilling Conclusion of Goerzen vs. Dell: Sweet, Sweet Victory

When United Airlines recently broke some expensive guitars but refused to pay for their negligence, the owner of the guitars made a Youtube video. United corporate HQ noticed, and were so embarrassed that they fixed things.

I’ve had some trouble with Dell breaking the law, and their corporate HQ noticed, were embarrassed, but didn’t bother fixing things.

However, I have discovered something that Dell does care about: FEDERAL PROSECUTORS.

I Hate Junk Mail

Before continuing, I need to answer a FAQ: why I hate junk mail. It’s bad for the environment, takes time to process, and fills up my recycling bins. We only get our recycling picked up once a month (we’re lucky to get that where we live), and I hate filling them up with catalogs for things I’ll never use. Also junk mail has a way of multiplying like rabbits. Get on one list, and pretty soon you’re on dozens.

Normally when I get junk mail, I’ll find the website or call the company that sent it to me and ask to be removed. And then they will stop sending me junk mail.

That approach has worked with every single company that I’ve tried it on. With one exception: Dell. Even though ignoring my requests puts them in violation of their own privacy policy.

The Story So Far

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about this, so here’s the condensed version. Click the links for more details.

Back in early 2007 — yes, more than 2 years ago — I had a lapse of judgement and tried to get a Dell monitor serviced under warranty. After a frustrating evening of trying to explain to them that I have a Dell monitor but not a Dell PC, they finally agreed to fix it. And put me on their “flamingo pink Inspiron catalog” mailing list.

I went to their website trying to get off the list. They have many different list removal forms, and I tried them all. I called them. I even got a comment from Debbie at Dell HQ in Texas, offering to try to help. Despite repeated attempts, she didn’t (or couldn’t).

So, in December of 2007, I decided to let Jacob rip apart my junk mail (with associated cute photos).

By August 2008, I still wasn’t off their list. I tried everything, and Dell customer service replied to my request to be REMOVED from their snail mail list by saying they would ADD me to their email list. Lovely.

So I finally obtained a prohibitory order (see scanned copy on that link) in July 2008, which enforces federal law (39 USC 3008) prohibiting Dell from mailing me any more of those catalogs. From August 25, 2008 on, it was a federal offense for Dell to send me any more catalogs.

Guess how successful that was. By September 2008, they were back at their old tricks, sending me catalogs.

The New Bits

So — I sent in a couple these catalogs to the USPS as evidence of violation. By February, I received this letter, which made me Very Happy:


(see also larger version)

Yes, that’s right. The United States Postal Service went to court to obtain a court order against Dell, prohibiting them from sending me more catalogs.

And — it was successful! It’s been several months since I’ve received any more catalogs from Dell.

It took two years (it wouldn’t have had to, but I didn’t push things along very fast from my end, giving them lots of time to comply each step of the way), but I am finally free of Dell mailings.

I suspect some federal attorneys in some remote office somewhere owe their jobs to Dell’s noncompliance of postal and privacy regulations.

Now if only I can get Rep. Tiahrt to stop sending me junk mail… He keeps sending me literature, and I don’t even live in his district.

The Election Results Are In

It’s close! In the township where we live, Barack Obama defeated John McCain by 15 votes!

I guess I should mention that the victory margin was 166 to 151. So it’s not like it was 15 votes out of millions.

In all, 333 people in our township cast ballots, or about a third of the total population of our township.

Just to give you a sense of scale, there are an average of 29 people per square mile out here.

And the nutty jail expansion was defeated 3:1. Our county commissioners will just have to figure out some other way to house the county’s prison population (around six inmates) for awhile longer.

What magazine to subscribe to?

A few years ago, I — yes — subscribed to a paper magazine (US News). I didn’t continue my subscription because I stopped reading it. I stopped reading it because, frankly, there wasn’t that much worth reading a week after I heard it on NPR.

I find I spend entirely too much time reading at a computer and far too little time reading elsewhere. I want to subscribe to a magazine that will actually be interesting. Thought-provoking. Challenging, even.

So here’s what I’m considering, just looking at their websites:

The New Yorker

Seems to have articles with a lot of depth, some interesting fiction in each issue. I guess I’d call it literary. I like what they have to say and the intelligence behind it.

It seems I’ve got to love it for its use of diaeresis marks in print.

The others I’m looking at include The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The Nation. Of these, The Nation perhaps looks the most interesting. But I’m leaning towards The New Yorker right now.


Tabor’s Centennial

You know you’ve got a bunch of Mennonites together when the pastor spontaneously asks the church to sing “Jesus Loves Me” while the children walk up for their children’s story. And, without music, everybody spontaneously breaks into beautiful 4-part harmony. It must be genetic or something.

It was a day of beautiful singing of hymns a week ago for Tabor Mennonite Church’s centennial. It’s hard to write about that weekend, in fact — it was such a nice experience.

Sunday ended with opening the box sealed in the church’s cornerstone back in 1965 when the current building was built. Rudy Schmidt, the person that sealed it up back then, was on hand to open it back up. They took out the stone and removed the box. Before the box was opened, Rudy told a story:

Back in 1965, I was the one to solder this box shut. While I was doing this, all of a sudden I smelled burning from inside. I figured I must have caught something inside on fire. I asked Jake Koehn (another person on the building committee) what to do. Jake said, “Nobody will ever see it again, just put it in.” So let’s open it!

I think Rudy has been wondering all these years whether he set it on fire or not.

The box was opened, and other than a few scorch marks on an envelope, was completely intact and in good shape. There was a copy of a local newspaper from 1965 with a headline about Goldwater, copies of programs of dedication for the new building and parsonage, a Bible, copies of the church constitution, and all sorts of other interesting things. To that we will add a copy of our centennial book (which I helped develop), CDs with recordings of our centennial activities, programs from the centennial celebration, and photos of the weekend.

Earlier on Sunday, we had a long but good worship service with sermons from two former pastors. The choir sang, including a song commissioned for the occasion by Larry Nickel. We got applause after that one (which happens occasionally, but not regularly, in our church). All the living former pastors, and the widow of one of them, served communion as well.

The service ended with the congregation singing the “Mennonite Anthem”. I think it was the most beautiful singing of that song I’ve ever heard. We had 352 people in church that day, and it seemed that not one person was going to let the moment go by without singing.

Saturday had started off with outdoor activities in the church park. There was old-fashioned soap making, remembering how church members used to store fat all year, then get together to make soap for use in their homes and to donate to the needy. There was rope making, wool spinning, and rides for the children. Under the tent, we had some great music the local Greenhorns band, and the former pastors all shared some memories and stories about their time here.

On Saturday evening, we had a meal and a drama — and managed to somehow fit 321 people into the church basement for the meal. We think that’s a record! The drama was written for the occasion by one of our members. John Gaeddert, a pastor here in the early 1970s, has become an expert wood carver in his spare time. He had carved a piece for us to celebrate the occasion, and presented it during the drama. That fit right in, because the drama was called “Bring Your Own Hedgepost” — back in the early days of the church, each member was supposed to do just that so they would have a place to tie their horses.

Friday night was a lecture by James Juhnke about our first paster, P. H. Richert, who was pastor for nearly 40 years. Quite entertaining and interesting.

I think the highlight of the weekend for me was getting to talk to some of the former pastors I never knew well. I had a few minutes to chat with John Gaeddert. I introduced myself, and he said, “Oh! I don’t think I’ve met you, but I’ve heard your name a few times this weekend. You’re on the centennial committee, right?” Yes indeed. I was born after he left this church, but he knew my grandparents — which means he also knows exactly where we live. John and his wife Mary are both such warm and friendly people that it feels like I’ve known them much longer than a few days!

I got to chat with Jim Schrag too. He was pastor at Tabor until I was about 5 or 6. He didn’t remember me specifically, but he was also interesting to talk with. He was one of the people that worked on a detailed history book in 1983 for the church’s 75th anniversary. He told me that he processed most of the black and white photos for that book in a darkroom in his basement. I hadn’t known that — and mentioned I had found all those photos in the church archives and had scanned them all in. Jim requested a copy.

Terah found Lenore Waltner, wife of former pastor James Waltner, who passed away about a year ago. James had started his career as a pastor at Tabor, and ended it at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, IN, where Terah grew up. So she knew him, but I didn’t. Terah introduced herself to Lenore, who seemed quite excited to make this sort of family connection!

And Brenda Martin Hurst, another former pastor, found Terah and introduced herself. Terah said that Brenda said something like, “Hi, I’m Brenda, and I don’t think I know you!” These pastors all want to get to know everybody, I think!

One Hundred

Today, as I was riding my bicycle home from work, I noticed that the road maintainer had been by on the dirt and sand roads near our house. Unfortunately for me, he left a few sections of road with deep sand, and I almost wiped out several times. I ride a bike with narrow road tires that doesn’t deal well with that.

But I’m not the first one to have a problem with roads.

A hundred years ago, the “brethren to the south” were having trouble getting to the community’s main church, Alexanderwohl. Back in the days before paved roads, or heavy road-maintaining machinery, it took time and endurance to travel the distance even on good roads. A group of them started holding weekly Sunday Schools in local schoolhouses. Eventually, after much discussion, they decided to build a church, and it was completed in 1908 — Tabor Mennonite, more than 4 miles from Alexanderwohl!

Tabor thrived over the years, though not without difficulty. Everything from how to shelter members’ horses during services to what do to about the weighty social and political issues of the day were discussed and documented in church minutes. The church sent people out as missionaries, planted new churches, and supported several young pastors just starting out. In 1938, they expanded their building, and in 1965, replaced it entirely.

Tonight our weekend of centennial festivities began. It started with a prelude played on the church’s first organ — now about 90 years old if memory serves. Its current owner was tracked down, it was brought to the church, and still sounds wonderful. Tomorrow we will have music and activities outdoors under a tent, and all our living former pastors will be around, with a drama and meal in the evening. Then on Sunday, the big day with singing choirs (and a work commissioned for this occasion), each former pastor giving a short (we hope) message, a potluck (of course!), and the opening of the cornerstone.

It’s been 6 years in the planning. I’ve spent the last couple of years collecting photos and other material for the archives and for the coffee table-style book we published for the centennial, and others have put in lots of hours too.

Sunday’s worship service will conclude with singing the “Mennonite Anthem“, also known as “606” from its number in an old hymnal. It will be a capella as is tradition for this piece. (Click for MP3 of a small choir singing it) It will be loud and beautiful, hundreds of voices joining in, a fitting way to mark this occasion.

What a wonderful thing we have been left by those that came before. And still, a responsibility for us as we look to the future. Rural churches are disappearing, and while Tabor is the rare rural church that is growing, still we hope that its location at the corner of two mostly dirt roads 4 miles from the nearest town (population 600) will not get in the way in years to come.

At the end of the events tonight, we were reminded of the favorite Bible verse of Rev. P. H. Richert, first pastor of Tabor, who served as pastor for almost 40 years:

the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

(Isaiah 2:2)

Somehow it seems improbable that dirt roads led to all this.

What Traditional Values Mean to Me

A comment on Facebook yesterday got me thinking what American “traditional values” are all about. We hear it a lot, and I suspect it means something different to different people.

Here’s what it means to me.

It starts with an ethic fundamentally informed by the central tenets of Christianity — which are also excellent standards of decency by secular standards. We are called to have a relentless drive to care for the repressed, poor, downtrodden. As Jesus said, “whatever you do to the least of these, so you do to me.” It means extending the hand of friendship and compassion to all, in our own neighborhood and around the world. It means taking good care of the resources we have, acting responsibly, and affirming and supporting others so they can do the same. It means that, as our founding fathers emphasized, remembering that all people are created equal, are equally deserving of a good life, and deserve liberty and freedom. Finally, it means a constant realization that we are creating a human institution, and will always have an imperfect answer to these ideals, but that we can — and must — recognize our faults and strive to make things better.

How do these apply to our time?

We must start with the poor, the repressed, and habitually think of their situation in everything we do. That means remembering that when we drop a bomb in Afghanistan to kill a terrorist, we also usually kill 50 innocent bystanders, and devastate their families. It means remembering that illegal immigrants from Mexico come here because all they want is refuge from drug wars, food on the table, and a roof over their head. It means showing compassion in deportation proceedings: when illegal immigrant parents have a child born in the United States, the child is an American citizen and can’t be deported, but deporting the parents will create an orphan. It means actively helping the repressed people of the world, whether they be in Sudan, Georgia, or AIDS victims in Africa, Muslims in New York. It means reducing taxes on the poor, giving them the skills and tools they need to make their way in life. It means caring for those with alcohol drug addictions, helping them to summon the strength to get past those problems, rather than locking them up or throwing them out on the street. In days past, this might have meant sharing firewood with the family down the road that was at risk of freezing in winter. Today it might mean assistance with winter heating bills.

Remembering that all people are created equal means that we must provide good education for everyone, whether they live in suburban California, inner city Detroit, or rural Appalachia. We owe quality health care to everyone; those without means to pay for health care, or to pay for a car to get to a clinic, should be treated with dignity and respect, and have equal access to medicine.

Remembering that all people are created equal also means that we must provide equal justice under law, and give everyone a fair trail. We must abandon the death penalty, because we have a shocking number of people on death row — hugely disproportionately black and poor — that have been shown innocent of their crimes thanks to advances in DNA testing. We must maintain the integrity of checks and balances in government, and support judicial oversight over search and seizure. We must avoid warrantless wiretapping because it subverts judicial oversight and corrupts our justice system by making the exercise of power secret. We must denounce torture, and refuse to employ it, because no human, being created equal, deserves to be treated in such a way — and we have been applying it to innocent humans.

We owe the opportunity to grow up in a loving family, in a safe community, to every child. We must make sure that gangs no longer have the run of our streets, that drugs aren’t displacing hard work as the currency of the community, and that adoption is inexpensive and practical for more families, rather than costing thousands of dollars. Doing so will help every child grow up knowing that they are valued, are important, rather than being unwanted and therefore abused or neglected.

Extending the hand of friendship and compassion to all starts with being a good example — that shining city on a hill that Reagan talked about. We have to run an open, just, and fair society ourselves. We must not fear those that are different than us, just because they’re different. We have to recognize that citizens of Iran, Russia, North Korea, Palestine, and the United States fundamentally are humans, created equal, seeking the same thing: a safe and secure future for themselves and their families. Being able to coexist peacefully means starting from that point, and being willing to talk to them, and yes, even their leaders, regardless of how distasteful they may be.

Acting responsibly with our resources starts at home — things like not driving up credit card debt, not living outside our means. The same applies to government: massive deficits each year are exceptionally irresponsible and place us at great risk both at the present and in the future. We also have a duty to care for the planet and the environment in which we live, which means actively working to curb the things we do to harm the planet and cause global warming.

What about recognizing our faults? Perhaps the most patriotic duty asked of Americans is dissent. It is never easy, but is essential to keeping our democracy functioning. This country has a long history of successes, and also a long history of failures. We failed so many by keeping slavery legal for so long, and discrimination and lynching legal for even longer. We failed that Native Americans by forcing them from their lands and treating them with brutality. We have, to some extent, risen above these failures thanks to the ability to recognize them and try, to the best of our ability, to fix them. This is what the civil rights movement was about, and why we have a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke out against a society that said some couldn’t eat in a restaurant because of the color of their skin, or who were repressed because of their economic status. He recognized that problem in America, and by speaking out against it, helped to change this country for the better.

Today we have to recognize the things we are doing wrong, and try to change them. We are torturing potentially innocent people. We are discriminating against Muslims and homosexuals in our midst. We are giving extraordinary power to big media companies through changes in copyright law, to big communications companies through failure to enact network neutrality laws. And we are labeling people that disagree with war as unpatriotic.

Notice some things I didn’t mention, such as abortion. It’s not really relevant, and the lines we are fed by both sides present us with this false pro choice vs. pro life debate. In reality, it seems to me that both sides want the best for the children: for every child to grow up in a loving family, where he or she is wanted. We all know from research that laws banning abortion do not actually reduce it. So we ought all to come together and try to make it more rare by providing more support to single parents, by making it easier to adopt children, by trying to make the perceived need for an abortion to go away.

So, in this election, I look at the candidates and it seems pretty clear which one is promoting traditional values and which one isn’t. Obama is actively trying to reach across the aisle and find common ground. Even in his convention speech, he suggested ways to work together on abortion like I just mentioned. In the debate, he listened carefully to his opponent and acknowledged when he thought McCain was right. This is a necessary first step in working together to move forward. McCain subsequently released an ad mocking Obama for this.

What about caring for the poor? Again, Obama’s tax policies, education policies, and health care policies take care of them far better than McCain’s. About responsibility? McCain supported these deficit-busting budgets of the last 6 years, supported the oil-centric energy policies, and has been only lukewarm towards dealing with global warming. McCain and Palin mock Obama for trying to help poor Chicago neighborhoods 20 years ago, for being willing to just talk to our supposed enemies, for actually reaching across the aisle.

So yes, I am a values voter, and that’s why I can’t possibly do anything but vote for Obama.

A response to “7 Ways Religion is Detrimental to Science”

I read 7 Ways Religion is Detrimental to Science, and thought it would be an interesting read. It was, but I don’t think it really made sense. Let’s look at the 7 ways they highlighted:

1. Faith and the Scientific Method are Opposites

The article states:

Faith is a belief in an idea regardless of the evidence for or against it.

Actually, that’s not true at all, at least for traditional Christianity. (Note that traditional Christianity is not the same as fundamentalism). Marcus J. Borg describes faith in four ways:

Fiducia — trusting in God. Borg says, “Faith . . . [means] we trust in God as the one upon whom we rely, as our support and foundation and ground, as our safe place.”

Fidelitas — loyalty, or “the comment of the self at its deepest level, the commitment of the ‘heart’. Faith as fidelitas does not mean faithfulness to statements about God. . . Fidelitas refers to a radical centering in God.”

Visio — a way of seeing — “a way of seeing the whole, a way of seeing ‘what is’. . . the ability to love and to be present to the moment. It generates a ‘willingness to spend and be spent’ for the sake of a vision that goes beyond ourselves.”

Assensus — perhaps the closest to what the author meant, is “faith as belief.” Borg goes on to add:

The notion that Christian faith is primarily . . . about belief, about a “head” matter, is recent. . . For many, Christian faith began to mean believing questionable things to be true. . . this is the most widespread contemporary understanding of “belief”.

This is very different from what faith as assensus meant. . . A deep but humble (and therefore imprecise) understanding of Christian faith as assensus, as involving affirmation of the centrality of God as known in the Bible and Jesus, is very close to faith as vision. It is a way of seeing reality.

As a Christian, I do not find the scientific method to be a problem. I find it to be enlightening in all sorts of matters, including even the history of religion in some instances. Christian faith is not about believing in certain ideas (such as the world being created in 6 literal 24-hour days), though there are those that distort it to be so. Rather, Christian faith is about living your life a certain way, about the meaning of life, about our duties to make the world a better place.

2. People Vote Base on Religious Ideas

The author says that “Stem Cells weren’t the first time a body of research didn’t get proper funding because some religious wack-jobs.” Well, I agree that that was a problem. Non-religious people can vote in odd ways too. I argue that the rejection of stem-cell research goes against Christian teaching; after all, we are to help the least among us, and do not people with Alzheimer’s qualify?

I think the author’s point should have been “exremists have odd views.” Extremists can be atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or other religions. Religion does not have a monopoly on them.

3. Religion Removes the Need For Science

The author says:

When people are content to believe in something that explains why they are here, even if it is wrong, they become less interested in other ideas. Religion often leads people to believe that they have all the answers. Science is self-correcting in that nobody assumes they are absolutely correct.

That is incorrect on several levels. First, science cannot explain why we are here. It can explain some of the mechanics. As an example, let us take for granted that modern scientific thought on the origin of humanity is correct: that there was a Big Bang, that single-celled creatures evolved on earth, and that human life eventually evolved through a complex process of evolution and natural selection. Fine; this does not contradict religion in any way. Science and religion answer different questions. Science answers “how”. Religion answers “why”. Science cannot answer the question “Why was there a big bang?” or “Did the evolution of humanity serve a larger purpose?”

Moreover, religion should not assume that they have all the answers, either. The canonical Christian Bible was mostly fixed within a few centuries AD. Life in 200AD was a lot different from life today. Part of the reason there are many different groups of Christians is the complexity of applying the stories in the Bible to modern life. The ideas in any given denomination evolve over time, too. I think it would be the height of hubris for anyone, religious or not, to claim that he or she had all the answers. Again, I know that some religious people act that way, but then so do some atheists or agnostics.

4. People Lean on Religion, When They Could Benefit From Science

The author of “7 Ways” cites the quite rare case where a child dies of a curable disease while his/her parents pray, refusing medical care. This is an extreme position that is not shared by the vast majority of religious people. Most religious people are perfectly content to use the latest medical care.

Meditation or prayer does not replace medical care; it supplements it. Scientific studies have even demonstrated its effectiveness.

5. The Church Takes Up Natural Resources

The original author states that “The land that churches take up around the world could be used to build schools, homes, recreational buildings and commercial operations.” This is perhaps the most frivolous of arguments. Putting aside the fact that many churches operate schools, churches are often one of the few ways that modern city dwellers have to form a sense of community. They are not just places to engage in religion. They are places to meditate, to get away from it all, to meet your neighbors, to vote.

6. The Church Takes Up Monetary Resources

The original author says “if people donated to scientific advancement like they did to the church, imagine where we would be today.” It’s not a pleasant picture. Religion, and institutions supported primarily because of the teaching of religion, are the people that feed the hungry after natural disasters, that operate food pantries (our church operates the only one in our community, and it’s open to anyone without any questions or talk about religion), that operate schools in disadvantaged areas, that have spread the whole idea of fair trade for third-world artisans, etc.

It is true that acts of evil have been committed in the name of the church, too. It is also unquestionably true that some church groups spend money more carefully than others. As with any donation, people should be careful where they give. Government-operated research studies are not necessarily a good use of money, either.

7. Religion is A Strong Meme

The author of the original story seems to be responding to a particular brand of Christianity: what Borg calls “literal-factual” religion. There are quite a few people that take that stand. They are sometimes inaccurately referred to as “evangelicals” or the “religious right”; while there is some overlap between the groups, they are not one and the same. The people with the literal-factual view are not representative of the whole.

More interestingly, Borg points out that the literal-factual view was actually a response to the development of the scientific method during the Enlightenment. As the modern idea of truth moved to literal, factual, provable truth, some Christians grew defensive about their faith, and started to look for “scientific” ways to prove that the world was created in 6 days, etc. in an attempt to show the world that Christianity fit their new notion of truth.

That makes a compelling argument that the scientific method is the stronger meme in today’s Western world — so strong that the author of the rant against religion has apparently forgotten the more prevalant — both throughout history and today — view of Christianity that is “more than” Science, not at odds with science.