Something every Christian should read

August 8, 2009

As I’ve noted before, this space is mostly empty – I keep here because I want to be able to look back and see what I have said, some of which I still agree with. I don’t feel the need to update regularly here anymore; the Christian Cynic part of me is mostly inert at this point.

But when I read this post by Richard Beck at Experimental Theology, I knew I had to break my silence – even if only for a moment.

Dr. Beck is 100% correct in his claim that contemporary Christianity has become less about being a good person and more about doing certain kinds of things. (His list includes some explicitly religious things like attending church, reading the Bible, and praying, as well as some more political items such as “Voting Republican”, “Arguing with evolutionists”, and “Not reading Harry Potter.”) His claim has support in how Christians act regularly – I commented that the phenomenon of Christians leaving tracts in lieu of money for tips at restaurants is one example of how some Christians (certainly not all – I don’t think that most Christians do this) replace a moral action (providing a tip to someone who served you, especially given that servers in most restaurants are paid less than minimum wage and only make up that income in tips) with a supposedly “Christian” action (evangelizing – although as I noted, leaving a tract is about the most impersonal form of evangelism I can think of, maybe besides a billboard or a flyer in the mail).

Maybe there’s a presumption in churches that people who come to church are good people by virtue of desiring (or at least consenting) to come, but I think that this presumption would only show the naiveté of contemporary Christianity. Being religious doesn’t make you good, that much is clear. What churches ought to do is to tell our congregations, “Listen, we want you to be good people because that’s what God calls us to do, and that’s the example Jesus Christ set for us while he was here on earth – not reading the Bible, not attending church, not even necessarily praying or fasting or baptism or taking Communion. We think all those other things are important, but if you want to be a Christian, you need to work on becoming a good person first. We absolutely do not want you to think that spending time in prayer, in church, or in any other religious activity is a substitute for loving your neighbor and for living a good, moral life that shows respect for all humans.”

But then again, piety is often easier than living the moral life.


Time and change

April 25, 2009

I have been recently reminded of some of the things I’ve written in this space, some of which I wholeheartedly stand by to this day and some of which I have changed my mind about or at least lost some of my enthusiasm for.

It’s been interesting, though, in how I’ve been reminded: they have been people who have tried to use the things I’ve written here to form a snapshot of my beliefs and ideals. While that might be generally pretty useful, I’m also noticing that it’s not sufficient.

For me, this space has always been tentative – or at least, I have always thought so. Too often do we expect publication – and yes, even a blog is publication in this day and age – to solidify an idea in writing, frozen at the moment that it stopped being a private thought and instead became public words. Generally, the prevalence of what is sometimes referred to as “the rhetoric of assertion” (cf. this essay by Gary Olsen) makes this idea that much more pervasive. But blogging for me has never been simply about the publication of thoughts; it is the perfect place to explore ideas in a way that is interactive (if I just wanted to put out my own ideas with no interaction, I’d disable comments – and believe me, there are times in the history of this blog that I have wished I didn’t have the convictions that I do about free and open discourse) and in some ways collaborative.

I have been doing that here since August of 2006. (I’ve actually been blogging since around January of 2005, partly here – and wow, how my writing has improved since then! – and for a year on the long-defunct It is impossible for me to verbalize all the ways in which my life has changed: I now have two sons (my first wasn’t even born when I started blogging, although he would have been an infant when I started up here), am finishing up a degree that I wouldn’t have even considered at the beginning and which (other than relating to writing itself) has very little to do with the interests that led me to blog initially, and have a different outlook on life altogether because of all the experiences that I’ve encountered along the way, most of which have never been reflected on this blog.

I suppose what I’m doing here is an extended disclaimer: feel free to read anything that I’ve written here. I am (for the most part) unapologetic about what I have said, and I wouldn’t take any of it back even though there is much that I would no longer assent to if you asked me about it. You can disagree, and that’s perfectly fine. If you’re looking to characterize me by what I’ve said, especially the further back that these musings go, then you will be battling rather unsuccessfully with an image of me that does not exist in reality.

Time changes most things, and when progress occurs, that is undoubtedly a good thing. I like to think that I have made progress, and that is enough for me.

Evolution and the acquisition of knowledge

March 29, 2009

This is sort of a piggyback on the last post in the sense that I’m posting again on evolution; it is actually a mere coincidence that I would write some musings on evolution and cognitive shortcuts (especially after a long break), only to be confronted by the idea of evolution yet again the following day in the last place I would generally hope to hear about it: my church.

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On cognitive shortcuts

March 28, 2009

Okay, the hiatus is over – sort of. This won’t indicate any sort of regular posting, but I have a subject that I think fits best under this banner rather that my Docere Est Discere blog (even though it deals in a very broad sense with education).

In my interim as a student teacher – which is coming to a close in the next few weeks – I have tried to stay apprised of what is happening with the blogs that I have been following for quite some time (many of which are on this site’s blogroll). One of those which I have come to enjoy greatly is Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars, which I find interesting and enlightening on a number of topics (despite disagreeing personally with Brayton on a number of matters).

Recently, Brayton wrote about Chris Mooney ripping George Will apart for his uninformed and flawed piece on global warming in the Washington Post (both pieces were printed in the Post, actually), and in discussing the issue, he brought up the idea of cognitive shortcuts:

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Blog on hiatus

December 30, 2008

Okay, I guess I should say officially on hiatus – I haven’t written anything substantial over here since September. (Wow, has it really been that much of a gap? I guess my words are coming back to bite me…)

I really do have good reason for the gap, I suppose: I just finished an 18-hour semester, and I’m preparing for student teaching, which starts in just a few days for me. I simply haven’t had the time to post anything substantial, and to be honest, I haven’t had anything to say on the typical issues that this blog covers.

So here’s the official word: I will not blog as The Christian Cynic for at least four months. This timeframe coincides with my student teaching, and I will be using all of my energies to fulfill my New Year’s resolution to blog through my student teaching.

It’s possible that I might come back to this blog – it’s equally possible that I might be done with The Christian Cynic. (Maybe I can let this guy have the name back.) Time will tell. If this hiatus is permanent, I thank those of you who have read and those who have commented as well – I have enjoyed your feedback and learned a great deal in the process.

If any of you are still interested in reading what I will be writing on teaching, learning, education, and English language arts, hop on over to Docere Est Discere. I hope to see you around.

Just a note

October 30, 2008

[Reposted from June 2007 – a reminder to discourage shameless self-promotion. I may be more strict on this from here on out.]

As a writer, I appreciate comments that I can get on the content of my entries, which is why I enjoy the current format immensely. However, even though commenters are limited and my blog not well travelled (I presume), I will not tolerate comments made for the sole purpose of promoting other blogs or sites. I would prefer only comments that are directly relevant to the material being covered or at least directly related to the point of this blog itself, so I am henceforth adopting a policy of disapproval for shameless promotion. I won’t moderate all comments that include links to other sites – and in fact, I appreciate the inclusion of such in blog profiles and such as a way of subtle promotion – but if you choose to comment only to link somewhere else without responding to my entry itself, however tangential the content might be to what I am saying, your comment will be taken off. I hate to be authoritarian about it, but this site is mostly writing for myself, even though I hope other people appreciate what I have to say, and as such, I do have some standards.

The problem with deceit

September 11, 2008

The topic of lying and deceit (if one can separate the two) is one that has been in my mind since Alexander Pruss blogged it about it a few months ago (see this Google search). Pruss has some good things to say, but I think he has neglected some fundamental aspects of the subject.

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