Organized Religion

I recently had someone who I dearly love tell me they were no longer a Christian. They are in a phase of their life where they are questioning their beliefs, questioning the world and trying to convince themselves that whatever they believe is ok.

First, I got upset. Then I prayed. Then I cried (yes really). Then I prayed again. I asked him to help me find the words, to help me find his message and to be an instrument of his will. Then I left it in God’s hands and went to bed. It’s 5:30 am now and I woke up a few minutes ago, got down on my knees and thanked him for giving me the words and helping me to see what I needed to say. Now, all that is left is to say it.

There is a tendency today to preach the religion of secular humanism. People want to turn away from God or from Christ. They want to believe that people are inherently good and left to their own devices they will do good and grand things. They trot out all the evils that organized religion has done and use that as an example of why religion is bad. What they fail to do is to present a fair and balanced account. They fail to even attempt to balance the scales with all the good things religion has wrought in this world as well.

Yes, people have done horrible things while wearing the mantle of religion… Christianity is not the only religion that has suffered from this. However, religion has also clothed and fed billions of people. In the name of religion, people have trekked across the world to vaccinate, cure and feed billions of starving children. Religion has provided a safe harbor for refugees during wars or strife and it has also provided safe harbors during the casual violence of everyday life. Religion has driven people to the streets of Calcutta, the horrors of the Molokai leper colony, the backwaters of Africa and the urban sprawl of New York to combat disease, pestilence, famine and poverty. Religion has provided food banks at local neighborhood churches for when there’s no place else to turn. Religion has driven people to provide clean water for isolated villages, to build schools, to eradicate diseases. Religion has inspired men and women across the world to give of themselves in order to ease the suffering of lepers, of AIDS victims, people burnt and blown up in wars, people born crippled or blind. Religion has driven people to their knees to give thanks to their creator for the gifts he has given them so that they might share those gifts with those around them who have fallen off the edge of society and into homelessness, prostitution, poverty or a million other ways to be ignored by the mainstream society.

Religion has staffed suicide hotlines and given people hope where they had none. Religion has made strangers stop in the street and provide comfort to dying accident victims. Because of religion, people have quit drinking, quit smoking dope, quit beating their wives or children. People have reached out and reached up not because they have the strength themselves but because they have the weakness and humility to turn to something larger than themselves for help.

Let me be perfectly clear. I approach the topic of organized religion with trepidation. I went through a phase in my life where I questioned it too. I never questioned God, though. I never questioned Jesus Christ and I never believed he was simply a “man with a message”. I doubted the church but I never doubted God and I never doubted that Jesus Christ, the only son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and become man, died for me and my sins so that I might be forgiven. I never once doubted that Jesus loved me even when I couldn’t love myself. Yes, I pushed him aside and refused to embrace that love but I never doubted it was real, only that I deserved it.

The truth is I don’t deserve it. None of us do. That is the central beauty of it, that we can fail to deserve it yet it is still there for us, more rich and deep and all-encompassing than we can ever truly grasp or comprehend. We can’t ever deserve it, all we can do is be thankful for it, acknowledge it and accept it for what it is… an unconditional gift of love, the hardest thing in the world for us as humans to accept and understand.

Secular humanists like to believe in the power of intrinsic good. They like to believe that left to their own devices humanity will self-motivate to be good. Again, let me be perfectly clear here. There is nothing good in this world that isn’t a gift of God. The most beautiful works of art and architecture, poetry and music to praise him are a testament to the power of God inspiring man. The most beautiful “secular” creations can’t even hold a candle to them. The “intrinsic good” in man doesn’t inspire people to anywhere near the heights that religion has driven people to. The “intrinsic good” in man doesn’t exist, the “good” in man is there because of God, ONLY because of God. Yes, some good things have been done secularly but these are pale shadows of the things that God has driven man to do and are simply but a reflection of the enormity of the emptiness of man, striving for something we can never deserve, never understand but only accept and embrace.

When the secular humanists can hold up examples that can stand up to the faith and gifts of Mother Theresa or Saint Damien of Molokai they may begin to just scratch the barest surface of what organized religion has wrought for good in this world. When they can point to the billions of people they have fed, clothed, washed, healed, educated or simply comforted without any sense or desire of recompense they can have the tiniest amount of legitimacy in the discussion. When they find the humility to accept that there is something out there larger than themselves, they can begin to realize the beauty of being able to give two loaves when they themselves only have one.

Is organized religion perfect? No. Organized religion is an institution of man and it reflects how screwed up man can be. It is like anything else in this world, imperfect, stumbling and occasionally falling in the ditch. Many people like to think this would be a far better world without it. Religion is all those things. It is also, however, a reflection of the beauty and grace of God in that even when it stumbles and falls, it gets back up and continues to strive for good. Any discussion of the “evils” of organized religion is incomplete and unbalanced without the discussion of the grace of God and the things he has done and continues to do in this world through the imperfect offices of man. Thank God for organized religion because without it, this world would be even more messed up than it is.

— Gary D. Foster

Little Wolf Brother

I wrote this way back in 2003 and through the wonders of the interweb, I found an archived copy stashed away and thought I’d repost it here just for the heck of it.

Little Wolf Brother
— Gary D. Foster

Little wolf brother, I will run for you
and share the bite of the frost on our paws

Little wolf brother, I will hunt for you
and the blood of the kill will slake our thirst

Little wolf brother, I will howl for you
and hurl our challenge towards the winter moon

For you are trapped, and I am free
to run and mate and fight
and join my voice with the packsong
on a cold December night.

The wind will never touch your fur
but I am trapped as well,
my soul is caged as surely as yours
within this human shell.

So when the light of the hunter’s moon
shines down and touches me
I’ll raise my voice in challenge
while our spirits both run free.

What a Great Sunday

Sometimes sundays fall together and just “work”, you know what I mean?

Up early this morning with my lovely wife and shared a pot of the last of my homeroasted Sweet Maria’s blend French Roast. She took off to spend the day in Sac-town with her sister and I puttered around. I made myself a great breakfast (bacon, eggs, hashbrowns) to start everything off right.

After that I put together a loaf of whole wheat bread using my house recipe (I bake all of our own bread… although I cheat and use a bread machine). Then I roasted a half pound of Ethiopan Yirga Cheffe in my new Behmor 1600. After that roast, I pulled out a half pound of Brazilian Daterra Santa Colomba and roasted it up too, so after 3 or 4 days rest we should have some really good coffee. Seems such a waste to put it through the drip machine and I’ll use the Bodum as much as I can.

The Yirga Cheffe was the last of my stash of that bean. The first half pound (of a 1 lb batch) was my first roast ever and, well, it sucked really bad. I was very paranoid and way underroasted it, stopping the roast just as the bean started to enter first crack. The resulting coffee is sour and honestly upsets my stomach. This time I roasted it to all the way to just into 2nd crack, probably somewhere around a FC+ level but definitely not to Vienna like I normally like (I’m not very good at determining final roast level numbers yet). Everyone says roast this bean to a regular city roast and it will bring out the lemon and citrus but I’m going to have a hard time breaking my dark roast habit I think.

The Daterra is another bean that’s getting a lot of press although the Santa Colomba is (I believe) a blend and not the top quality. I tried to just let it run through a normal P3 profile on the Behmor without me fiddling with it just to see what would happen. I maxed the half pound P3 profile to 15:30 and just let it rip, and it ended the roast just as the very first signs of 2nd crack were starting. This is a definite full city roast and we’ll see how it tastes after a few days.

After roasting coffee and cleaning up the garage I planted some cucumbers and Purple Queen bush beans. The snails and slugs ate all my red lettuce so I repurposed that part of the garden by building a couple of cucumber mounds. We have terribly thick clay soil so I’m not expecting much but we’ll see what happens.

After that I busted out some chores on the honeydo list, hanging robe hooks on the back of the door and installing a new light fixture. Then it was off to Sacra Tomato to pick up the wife (she drove a car up there to sell it, so she needed a ride back). Back home, then she jumped into bed (poor thing, she’s getting sick again and had the chills). I stayed up a bit longer, puttered around the house a little bit, played a couple of City of Heroes missions and then crawled into a nice warm bed chock full of dogs, cat and wife.

Yeah, it was a good Sunday.

The Jesus Phone

I hate cell phones. No, let me rephrase that, it’s not quite correct. I loathe cell phones. There, much better. Cell phones are truly the work of the devil and I hate them with a passion. I have never had a cell phone that I liked, only ones that I tolerated.

Every single cell phone I had except for my very first one (a nokia candy-bar style phone) aggravated me for one reason or another. The nokia didn’t aggravate me, but then cell phones weren’t super fancy gadgets then and I had a lot more tolerance. My motorola slvr drove me up a tree until I dropped it into a bucket of sanitizer, quickly sanitizing it out of existance. The motorola razr I replaced it with (a free one from a friend) wasn’t nearly as bad, but it still was a chore to talk on with horrible sound quality unless I used the blue tooth headset. It was tolerable with the headset but only just barely.

Well, I went ahead and took the plunge and replaced my razr with… (drumroll please) an Apple iPhone. Now, this phone has been overhyped beyond belief. It’s been shoved in our faces and down our throats by all the hip coolhunter trendsetter types until you just want to scream IT IS JUST A PHONE FOR CRIPE’S SAKE before you take out an automatic weapon and start hosing down all the smarmy hipsters who are hawking it.

Boy… either I’m getting soft in my old age or I SERIOUSLY misjudged the hype on this thing because I’m here to tell you, it lives up to the hype. Yes, you heard me correctly, this thing is truly the Jesus phone. I absolutely love it and after only two full days of having it I can’t imagine giving it up. This thing successfully marries so many different technologies, so many communication mediums, and it’s got the typical Apple “it just works” gloss and sheen. There’s no fumbling, no swearing, no wondering “how the hell do I do insert random task here“. It … just … works.

Apple… when they nail something, by God they nail it. I never thought I’d ever hear these words come out of my mouth but I love my cellphone.

The Art of Being Alone

I have lost the ability to be alone. I used to be extremely comfortable being alone but somewhere along the way I’ve become accustomed to a (sometimes) chaotic household with two dogs, a cat and a noisy morning person wife who delights in tormenting me when I’m sleep-addled. My wife has been out of town for two weeks and I’m about to go stir crazy.

I went from a crazy chaotic job environment in the video game industry to a quiet, conservative telecom programming job where I spend most of the day buried in a code editor and not talking to a single soul. I come home after work to a house with two hungry dogs who, although I love them dearly, just can’t seem to carry on a conversation with me. I bump around the house making myself dinner, cleaning up, messing around on the computer a little bit and then going to bed. All without speaking more than 10 minutes of conversation to a person throughout the day.

I’m not good at this. In fact, it sucks. I miss my wife and I’ll be very glad when she comes home. I’m married for a reason… I’m married because I love my wife and more important than that, I like her too. I miss her and I’ll be glad when comes home, even if she does make up crazy lyrics and purposely mangle The Piano Man just to drive me crazy.