Tag Archives For: religion

15 Mar, 2017

Why I Left, Why I Stayed

/ posted in: General Why I Left, Why I Stayed Why I Left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son by Tony Campolo, Bart Campolo
Published by HarperOne on February 21st 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 176
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

Bestselling Christian author, activist, and scholar Tony Campolo and his son Bart, an avowed Humanist, debate their spiritual differences and explore similarities involving faith, belief, and hope that they share.
Over a Thanksgiving dinner, fifty-year-old Bart Campolo announced to his Evangelical pastor father, Tony Campolo, that after a lifetime immersed in the Christian faith, he no longer believed in God. The revelation shook the Campolo family dynamic and forced father and son to each reconsider his own personal journey of faith—dual spiritual investigations into theology, faith, and Humanism that eventually led Bart and Tony back to one another.


The last time I read a book by Tony Campolo I ended up in a police manhunt so I was a little concerned about picking up this one.  I had heard about Bart Campolo leaving Christianity and working as a Humanist chaplain.  It was big news in the Christian community.  Either it was seen as proof that you can escape your upbringing or it was seen as proof that the Campolos had always been too liberal anyway so obviously they are going to go astray.

This book comes from the discussions that they had after Bart came out as not believing in God.  The book is written in alternating chapters with each man expressing their point of view on a particular topic.

The first thing that surprised me was a preface chapter written by Peggy Campolo, Tony’s wife and Bart’s mom.  She talks about how she didn’t identify with Christianity during the early years of the Tony’s ministry while her kids were growing up.  She has since become a believer and seems to feel a lot of guilt.  She thinks that if she was a Christian while Bart was growing up then he wouldn’t have left as an adult.  This is typical of the baggage that gets put on parents if the children leave a religion.

I was frustrated while reading Tony’s chapters.  Because Bart has now lived on both sides of the debate, he is able to discuss options openly.  Tony freely states that he has never known a life where he wasn’t certain of the presence of God in his life.  It is obvious that he sees Bart as a wandering child who he hopes gets back to the right path.  In the meantime he not really listening to what he has to say.  He just seems to be patting him on the head as he speaks and then saying, “Oh, you don’t mean that.”

“For the Christian parents of positive secular humanists like Bart, however, I have some advice:  Take every opportunity to affirm and encourage your children whenever they say or do something that reflects your Kingdom values, and let them know that you see a direct connection between their behavior and the love of God, even if they don’t.  Doing so demonstrates that you notice and appreciate your kids’ goodness while maintaining your own understanding of its ultimate source, and also opens up opportunities for you to talk about what gets lost when God drops out of the picture.”

 

Obviously he is still hung up on the idea that you can’t be a good person if you don’t have a God dictating what is right and what is wrong.  Bart does a good job discussing why this isn’t true.  Too bad his father wasn’t listening.

Tony also talks a lot about guilt.  He doesn’t understand how people without God handle all their guilt.  He says he lies awake at night feeling guilty about all the harm he does until he is able to let God take the guilt away from him.  I don’t think most people have those kinds of guilty feelings.  Has he ever considered that maybe the guilt comes from following a religion that teaches that you are a horrible person?

The idea behind this book was to help families have conversations about some members leaving Christianity.  I don’t think this book fosters productive conversation because it felt to me like the humanist was explaining over and over and the Christian was just waiting for him to see things the “right” way again.  This might be better for people who need to talk to Christians.  Bart gives answers to a lot of the questions that he’s been asked.  It could help to have some well thought out answers on hand for the common questions.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
06 Jul, 2016

Ebony Exodus – Time to Give Up on the Black Church?

/ posted in: Reading Ebony Exodus – Time to Give Up on the Black Church? The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion--and Others Should Too by Candace R.M. Gorham
Published by Pitchstone Publishing on September 1st 2013
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads


Black women are the single most religious demographic in the United States, yet they are among the poorest, least educated, and least healthy groups in the nation. Drawing on the author’s own past experience as an evangelical minister and her present work as a secular counselor and researcher, <em>The Ebony Exodus Project</em> makes a direct connection between the church and the plight of black women. 

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey reported that 86% of black people identified as Christian. Black women make up the majority of most congregations in black churches.

The Ebony Exodus project is a collection of interviews with women who have left the church.  In between the personal interviews, there are discussions of the effect of the black church culture on mental health and physical health.

Several of the women identified the church’s attitude towards homosexuality as a factor in leaving.  Some of them were bisexual or lesbians themselves and others had family or friends who they didn’t want to see denigrated by the church.

The difficulties of leaving an institution that for many people defines the black experience in America is discussed.  Who are you as a woman in the African-American community if you aren’t in church?

Anti-intellectualism rears it head again.  Many women talked about studying their way out of the church (like I did.)  They hate the fact that so many people don’t know anything about the religion that they purport to believe in.

What is the affect of the prosperity gospel teaching on the black community?  What happens when you give the money you had to pay your bills to the church because you are supposed to believe that god will provide for you if you are supporting the church?  Is this helping to keep black women in poverty?

One thing that seemed very different in the black churches described here and the white churches I knew was the idea that you can only speak positive things.  If you say that things are going poorly for you then you are “claiming” that reality.  It is sort of like, “Fake it ’til you make it.”  Women in this book said that it leads to suppression of what is really going on in their lives. No one shares the real problems.  No one admits to be stressed or depressed and may not get the help they need since they are too busy “claiming” their wonderful realities that they want to have. There is also a tendency to blame bad things on a person having demons attached to them.  Nothing is the fault of circumstances that the person can improve on their own.

I’ve never understood why Christianity is so rampant in the African-American community.  It doesn’t seem logical to me.  It is a religion forced on their ancestors by their oppressors as a way of controlling them.  It would seem like people would be in a rush to get rid of it.

 

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30 Mar, 2016

Banished – A Westboro Memoir

/ posted in: Reading Banished – A Westboro Memoir Banished by Lauren Drain
on March 5th 2013
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Religious, Religion, Cults
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Set in Kansas

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of the recent Tucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.
Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later. BANISHED is the first look inside the organization, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.


Lauren Drain’s atheist father set out to make a documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church and its habit of picketing any event that will give them attention.  Over the course of the next few years he was drawn into the group.  He was influenced by their beliefs and started to pay a lot of attention to policing young teenage Lauren’s life.  He became convinced that she was a slut and a whore.  He pulled her out of school and cut off all contact with people outside of her penpals from the Westboro church.

Eventually he moved the family from Florida to Kansas to live on the same block as the church members in an attempt to control his wayward daughter.  The fact that Lauren was a well behaved teenage girl with no sexual experience did not change his conviction that she was on the road to hell. They were the only family not related to the pastor Fred Phelps in the church.

Lauren was glad to move.  By this point in her life the teenage members of Westboro were the only friends she was allowed to have.  She enthusiastically joined into pickets.  Pickets are a way of life.  Westboro members picket something every day.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum on March 2, 2010. by JCWilmore

The Phelps cousins and Lauren would picket outside their school at lunchtime. They picketed their own graduations. They traveled around the country to picket funerals. The whole time paranoia ran rampant in the church. Any hint of wrongdoing or wrong thinking was discussed in group emails. Humiliation was common.

Lauren was taught that what they were doing was right. The fact that people got upset was proof that the church was right and people felt guilty about having their sins pointed out to them. The church prides itself on being very smart. Most of the Phelps family consists of lawyers. All of the younger generation are required to be at the top of their classes in school. They are trained to react to people who question them with intellectual rigor. It seems like the best thing to do at a Westboro protest would be to totally ignore it. They would consider that a failure.

Eventually Lauren’s online friendship with a male church supporter is used as proof of her sexual immorality even though they have never met. She is banished from her church and family. Over the last few years she has learned to live on her own. She realizes that the church is destructive. She isn’t a gay rights supporter by any means but so far she has progressed to live and let live.

It was so sad to read about how she was scapegoated in her family because of her sexuality. She was constantly told that she was a slut and a whore.

It is the typical fear that if you don’t control women from a young age that you will lose all power over them. Then you can make them complicit in their own humiliation.

There are a lot of documentaries on Westboro because they feel that helping with documentaries helps spread their message. This one claims to have footage of the Drains.

22 Feb, 2016

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye

/ posted in: Reading Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on January 19th 2015
Genres: Personal Memoirs
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
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Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.
Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. Her journey leads her into the radiation zone in an intricate white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; on a visit to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the "thick dark" of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity.


When Marie Mutsuki Mockett is able to contact her relatives at their temple after the nuclear meltdown, she urges them to evacuate.  She can’t understand why they won’t go to a safe area.  Over the course of the next two years she travels to Japan and learns how the Buddhist priests in the area are helping to lead the people through their grief after the disaster.  She combines this with trips around Japan to help her understand the Japanese expression of grief in all forms as she grieves the loss of her father.

She explains the history of Shinto in Japan and how Buddhism came to Japan.  She talks about how elements of both religions are combined so that the animism of Shinto is still celebrated by Buddhists.

“The love of things, the belief that the world is alive, is in part what informs modern Japanese design, where things are sleekly, cleverly shaped, almost as though they are repositories for a soul.”

She meets with priests from different sects of Buddhism and meditates with each of them to understand the difference.  She consults with female seers and participates in rituals meant to lessen grief.

Although she is half Japanese and is fluent in the language and has been visiting Japan regularly since she was a child, she is frequently made aware of her status as a foreigner.  People are reluctant to speak to her openly because they say that she can’t understand Japanese ways.  Only hearing that she has family with a temple can make some people open to communicating with her.

I didn’t know a lot of the history of Buddhism specifically in Japan and how the different sects operate.  I didn’t realize that the priesthood was usually a family business passed down from father to son.  I learned about many Japanese celebrations meant to keep your ancestors happy.

This is a beautifully written book.  It keeps you engaged even if you feel like sometimes you are missing part of the story.  She doesn’t talk much about what is happening in her life in between trips to Japan.  I had more questions like, “How are you flying over to Japan so often?  How can you afford this?  Wait, you are in a documentary now?  When did that happen?  What is it called?”  I guess I’m just nosy.

05 Nov, 2015

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

/ posted in: Reading Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley
on August 18th 2015
Genres: Personal Memoirs
Pages: 368
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Ohio

Reba Riley’s twenty-ninth year was a terrible time to undertake a spiritual quest. But when untreatable chronic illness forced her to her metaphorical (and physical) derriere on her birthday, Reba realized that even if she couldn’t fix her body, she might be able to heal her injured spirit. And so began a yearlong journey to recover from her whopping case of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by visiting thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. During her spiritual sojourn, Reba:
-Was interrogated by Amish grandmothers about her sex life -Danced the disco in a Buddhist temple -Went to church in virtual reality, a movie theater, a drive-in bar, and a basement -Fasted for thirty days without food—or wine -Washed her lady parts in a mosque bathroom -Was audited by Scientologists -Learned to meditate with an urban monk, sucked mud in a sweat lodge with a suburban shaman, and snuck into Yom Kippur with a fake grandpa in tow -Discovered she didn’t have to choose religion to choose God.


Reba Riley was a good Evangelical Christian girl up until college.  The reasons for her break from Christianity are not explained but ten years later the effects are clear.  She isn’t able to even think about religion without getting angry and sometimes even physically ill if she goes into a church.

In the meantime she developed a chronic debilitating sickness that no doctor has been able to diagnose or fix.  On her 29th birthday she decides to do something about her spiritual state if she can’t fix her body.  She is going to attend the services of thirty different religious groups by the time she turns thirty.

I was interested in this book because it sounded similar to my journey. Our paths are different though because she still feels a need to have a belief in God.  I don’t.  I get angry when I think about people being scammed by religion of any kind.  She just thinks that the environment that she grew up in was toxic.

I didn’t blame my parents; any system of belief built like a Jenga tower is breakable.  If you much believe x to believe y, and y to believe z, and x, y, and z to believe in God, it only takes a crack in one area bring all your faith crashing down.  My parents didn’t break my faith; they had given me a faith that was inherently breakable.”

Yes! I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I tell people that I studied my way out of Christianity. I mean that as I got deeper and deeper into the faith and the Bible, things started not to make sense or to mean something different than I was taught. It took a long time for the first bricks to fall but once they did, everything else happened quickly.

“…Christianese — the language of Evangelical Christians and therefore my native tongue.  Due to my background, I speak Christianese beautifully:  I can catch and throw idioms and deftly season whole conversations with Scripture.  It’s like a secret verbal handshake, so Evangelicals can instantly recognize one another regardless of the setting.”

Oh, yes. Just this summer I listened to a story my sister-in-law was telling about my brother’s boss’ wife (also their pastor’s wife) telling her off for letting people know on Facebook that the church staff was on a retreat. Obviously if your Facebook friends know that your menfolk are not home they will rush over to rape and kill you. I said, “Smile sweetly and say, ‘Oh! I thought we weren’t supposed to have a spirit of fear.'”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

I told her, “I may not go to church anymore but if you need a Christian smack down for someone just let me know.”  All the studying might as well come in handy for something.

A lot of the religious facilities she visits are Christian but she does spend some time out of the Christian fold.  She visits Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, and Atheists.  I like what one atheist told her.

“You know, one thing people never consider about atheism is that it gives us even more of a reason to be good people.  This life is all we have.  No second chances.”

Thank you.  I’m so tired of Christians constantly spouting off about how only Christians can have a system of morality because their god is the basis for right and wrong.  That never made sense to me even as a Christian.


This book is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  If you’ve ever walked away from religion, you’ll find something familiar here.

 

About Reba Riley

“I’m Reba Riley, the author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions, Patheos.com blogger, speaker, former Evangelical Poster Child and lover of all things sparkly. I live with my husband, Trent, and Welsh terrier, Oxley, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I plan to write more books…after I recover from Post-Traumatic Memoir Syndrome.
My hope is that PTCS will inspire you, give you hope, make you laugh out loud at least once (preferably while drinking coffee so you snort it up your nose), and spark an international conversation about the reality of spiritual injury and the many paths to healing.” from Goodreads

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