What does it really mean to be a Christian? An outsider’s perspective.

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What does it really mean to be a Christian? The word “Christian” essentially means a follower of Christ, which comes from the Latin word “Christus” (Greek=Χριστός) which derives from a Hebrew word rendered into English as “Messiah.”

Whew. That was complicated. (And I left out a couple of steps.)

So what does the word messiah actually mean? Well, it doesn’t mean someone who was sent by God as the savior of humankind. It means someone who has been anointed with oil. That’s it. Who was anointed with oil? Kings, Priests and Prophets. Think of it as someone using a sword to tap someone’s shoulders and make him a knight. Same idea. Pouring oil on someone’s head dedicated that person to God and made their position official.

The Old Testament calls Aaron and his sons messiahs. They were anointed to become priests. Saul was anointed when he became king, and he turned around and anointed David, thereby making him a messiah, since the word means “anointed person.” I could make a long list of the others in the Bible who are called messiahs.

So, technically, Jesus Christ means Jesus, someone who had oil poured on his head

And Christian means a follower of someone who had oil poured on his head.

That’s all it means.

And I hate to have to add this, but in case you missed the memo, no, Christ was not his last name. He would not be referred to as Mr. Christ in a formal setting. It was his title, like Joe the plumber or Sally the doctor.

A lot of Christians will accuse me of being flippant about the most important aspect of their religion, and… well… I am, but with good reason. If we want to talk meaningfully about the message of Jesus the messiah, we need to know what that word meant.

A lot of Christians understand Jesus as THE Messiah, as THE Christ. The one and only forever and ever amen. Well, the fact is there were lots of messiahs/christs. The fact that you use the word for one person and one person alone doesn’t change the indisputable reality that lots of people had the exact same title. Just adding a capital letter to the word doesn’t change any of that. (Don’t get me started on the arrogance of a god named God. That’s a different debate.)

Now, we can have a discussion on whether Jesus was the best messiah, or the messiah who actually sorted things out so we didn’t really need any more after that. That we can discuss, but first you need to let go of the lie that he was the only one ever.

Take Batman. A lot of comic book enthusiasts will argue quite vehemently that Bruce Wayne is the ONLY Batman. If someone points out that, for instance, Richard Grayson wore the cowl more than once, the Only One Batman crowd will say, “No, that was just Dick in a suit. He was never REALLY Batman.” They get upset if you try to contradict them. Really.

But that’s a problem. See, there have, in fact, been a number of people called Batman. So we can discuss who was the best Batman, who is the most important Batman, the Batman who most closely conforms to the Platonic form of Batman-ness… but if the fan insists there was only ever one true Batman, then we can’t even talk about it in any meaningful way.

So who cares?

When Christians claim that Jesus was The One and Only True Messiah, there’s no way to talk about it. He wasn’t. There were lots of messiahs. There were even a number of competing messiahs at the time who had followers just like Jesus. And, just like Jesus, most of them died horribly at the hands of the Romans.

So what makes Jesus stand out? For whatever reason, that particular messiah is still interesting to a lot of people to this day. He’s the only one still worshipped and adored by millions. THAT, to me, is interesting. What about this particular messiah, as opposed to all the hundreds of other messiahs, made him stand out? What made his message last to the modern era? (How much of his actual message has survived is also a topic for another time.)

If a Follower of Someone who had Oil Poured on his Head wants to discuss why Jesus’ message is so important, I’m willing to listen. But Christians who attack my ideas without knowing things like the origin of their own name need to back off. If I know more about your religion (and your Bible) than you, who is really the better Christian?

Still feeling blessed.

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A little over a month ago, I made my latest empty-handed leap into the abyss. I decided to leave Virginia and return to Texas. No job. I’d decided to sell my truck and fly, so no car, either. All I knew I’d have was a roof over my head, so better than a lot of folks, aight?

Only after making the decision did I learn how to create a fundraiser to help me get there. My friends were very generous, and I managed to fly to Texas with enough cash to buy a moped and toddle around for the first month or so. Beep, beep. I can’t express n carolina 477how grateful I am to my friends for helping to make this happen!

I had fears. I’d been gone for over two years… would my friends have room for me in their lives? Would my new roommate and I get along? What would I do for work? I left behind a very welcoming family who I loved a lot… would the leap be worth it?

These are many of the same questions I’d asked before moving from TX to VA.

The wheel she spins round and round.

Fear, in general, can be a good thing. Sensible fear is what keeps us from casually playing with pissed-off rattle snakes or climbing tall metal towers in the middle of an electrical storm. It’s only a “bad” thing if we let ourselves be controlled by it, to avoid all risks.

I sit here in San Antonio, looking out over a lovely yard where the sound of the rain makes me need to pee. I have a roof over my head and food in my stomach. My friends have welcomed me back into their lives with open arms and lots of hugs.

And lots of exercise. I’ve lost almost twelve pounds already!

10557412_10202426384487301_5647414913172544961_nWhen I moved to VA three years ago, Ryan’s family welcomed me into their home and made me a part of that family, giving me the opportunity to write six novels during my sojourn.

I have been so fortunate I have no choice but to use the word blessed because I don’t so much buy into the pure luck and happenstance thing. I mean, sure, shit happens, but after making that empty-handed leap into the abyss yet again, I am so grateful to have landed on my feet with love and support surrounding me.

Are you afraid of making the big decision? Would you be grabbing the rattlesnake by the tale, or just petting him while a trained handler held him tight?

Feeling blessed

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I hate the word “blessed.” I spent over two years in Virginia Beach where retail clerks, heedless of the possibility of my beliefs would wish me a “Blessed day” after taking my credit card in pure violation of several Biblical restrictions. <I wait while you research obscure Biblical passages to justify your addiction to the plastic.>

Gay-kissUgh. I mean, just like conservatives don’t want to see me schmecking my theoretical boyfriend in public, I have no issue with the clerk’s devout faith, but does s/he need to wave it in my face all the time?

Then there’s the Pagans. Don’t get me wrong. I’m one. The multiplicity of my faith encompasses Wicca, Taoism, Hinduism blah, blah, blah. I read tarot cards and won’t touch Ouija Boards because I know they work .The only reason I don’t consider myself a witch is I don’t have the chutzpah or patience to learn true spell casting. But if I hear one more well meaning but clueless “Blessed blessed13Be” I’m going to hex someone for the hell of it.

Heh. Heh.

The thing is… the biggest reason I hate the word is it applies so accurately to my life, and all those posers who use it have no fucking clue what they mean. They don’t understand what it truly means to be blessed. To have the utmost sincere belief that someone out there, whoever that might be, holds an umbrella over his head and throws down a safety net every time he jumps off the metaphorical cliff into the abyss.

I’ve made that leap into the unknown more than once. The kind of leap where I sold everything, jumped in my car or most recently onto a plane) and left everything behind based on a sign (define that how you will) that I needed to do so. Terrifying? Yes.

Deadly? Not so far.

The first time I did this, I was living in Appleton, Wisconsin, and my life had flipped upside down. Also, I’d visited Florida in the winter and realized I needed to live someplace without snow, somewhere I could plant a palm tree or a cactus in my back yard. I’d had my first experiences since childhood with the supernatural, and I sat on the floor with my back against my bed.

I closed my eyes.

Where? Where do I go? Where should I be?

And I felt pulled. A strange line drawing me forward and to the right… I raised a hand and pointed to make sure I knew exactly what I meant. What the hell? I wanted  a voice saying, “Go to South Beach Miami… the men are hot and they like to get naked.”

No. I got a pull. Well, fine. I dug out a compass and a map. (This was pre GPS and internet.) What direction was that?

Texas. As soon as the map was laid out, and I drew the line, I knew the pull was to Austin, Texas.

Seriously? Texas? Nothing in my experience wallpapers-to-go-austin-texasever would have led me to Texas.

But I went. And it worked. It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it led to the formation of one of the most important friendships/family memberships of my life. I can never overstate the importance of the guy who was a new friend who moved to Texas with me, and is a huge part of the man I am today.

I can never understate how much the whole thing could have sucked.

My first day in Austin, Texas, I returned to the campsite where we’d pitched a tent on a fire ant mound because that’s all we had, Ryan was working on his resume on the computer on a picnic table plugged into the outlet under a tree.

I’d already had a job offer and found an apartment.

Day one.

If you haven’t lived in Austin, TX, you might not realize what a miracle that was during the height of the dot.com boom when no one could find an apartment anywhere in the city.

Someone, somewhere, had my back.

That’s blessed. Suck it.

Religion: Debate vs Discussion

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The Bible: Debate vs Discussion

I debate a lot of Christians, not because I am, by nature, argumentative, although that’s debatable. It’s because I know more about the Bible than many of them and it irks me when they make broad proclamations about the Bible that are patently false and discount my ideas with the ever-so-productive, “Well, if you aren’t a man of faith, you’ll never see the truth or understand the reality.” The problem with such statements is they fail to account for the difference between a discussion and a debate.

We can’t debate faith. I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe. We can discuss our respective faiths, hopefully respectfully, and we can try to persuade one another, but we can’t, really, debate. A debate requires logic and evidence with debatable levels of provability. It’s the provability that’s at the core of the difference.

If you believe, on faith and from your personal experience, that every word in the Bible is true, that is wonderful and honorable and I have every respect for your faith. I believe, on the other hand, that not every word in the Bible is true. My belief is also based on my faith and on my personal experiences. I hope you can have as much respect for my faith as I have for yours.

I’m not coming into this as a godless heathen. I truly respect the sincere faith of devout Christians. . . but I expect that if we are going to enter into a debate or a discussion that my faith is not discounted because it differs from yours.

For example, the Flood.

Let’s say you state that the Food happened, and I ask you what evidence you have to support that assertion You tell me it’s in the Bible, so it has to be true.

Okay. . . now the conversation just changed from a debate to a discussion. When your source is the Bible, we need to take a step back. Before we can discuss or debate the Flood, we need to approach the source of your information: the Bible. Is the Bible the unshakable Word of God? Is everything in it factually true? That is a separate issue.

Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God and that everything in it is true? Faith. The Bible has had a huge impact on your life, on the lives of people around you, on the lives of billions worldwide and throughout much of human history. You pray and God answers your prayers. You apply the Bible to your life and miracles occur. You read the Bible and it’s like a veil is lifted from your eyes and everything just makes so much more sense.

I sincerely believe every one of those statements is true. Absolutely factual. I have no argument with any of it, and I say so with all sincerity and in no way do I mean to tease.

Unfortunately, nothing in that paragraph in any way demonstrates a reason, other than faith, to accept the Bible as the literal Word of God. I myself have great faith, but faith is not proof. It is not evidence. You can’t weigh it or debate it.

You believe that the Bible is the Word of God.

I believe it is the inspired work of a great many men over many generations.

We can discuss our beliefs. You can point to the evidence that Jesus really existed, that the locations in the Bible have been archaeologically confirmed, but it will never shake my faith that the Bible is the work of men, not God. I can point out what I see as internal inconsistencies and errors, but that will not shake your faith that the Bible is the Word of God.

Okay, so we can have a lively discussion, as long as we remember we’re discussing differences in faith, not in fact. You will never prove, to my logical satisfaction, that the Bible is the Word of God, just as I will never prove to your logical satisfaction that it is the work of men. So be it.

Back to the Flood.

If the Bible is your primary source of information on the Flood, we can’t debate it. You accept the Bible as the only source necessary and I don’t accept the Bible as a source of reliable historical information at all.

Here’s the thing. We can have a debate without ever using the Bible as a primary source. Nearly every culture on the planet has a flood story from antiquity. Water levels do rise and fall dramatically. Mass extinctions have, in fact, occurred. All these issues can be debated. All this evidence can be weighed. So we can have a friendly debate over whether the Flood happened. You may be rather more convinced because of your faith, and I will likely skew to the side of skepticism because of my faith. But we can debate the likelihood that a Flood occurred

What about Noah and the Arc?

Here we’re back to faith. There is no realistically provable way Noah could have built an arc large enough, no way he could have fed all those animals for forty days, and no way the world could have repopulated with only one male and one female of every species. Not without God and a miracle. Not by a long shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in miracles. I sincerely do. But whether or not God played his hand here isn’t a matter of debate. It’s a matter of faith. Do you believe God saved the planet with Noah and the Arc? Okay. That’s cool.

What about possible remains found on the side of a mountain that fit the description? Okay, maybe there was a boat. Now lets go back to billions of species repopulating from a genetic base of two each. See, none of this debatable science really matters to most Christians. That’s not why they believe in God’s miracle. They believe because of their faith in God.

This is the part that makes me cranky. None of the science really matters to most Christians entering into the debate. Not really. They believe in something like Noah’s Arc based on their faith, and they’d believe just as much without a boat on the side of a mountain. Well, if the archaeology is factually irrelevant to them, why try to convince me with it?

They should just say they believe it on faith and leave it at that. There’s nothing wrong with faith. Faith is awesome.

Here’s the thing. I believe in miracles. I really do, but I don’t believe in that particular miracle. Why not? What a lot of trouble to reboot the planet. If God is all-powerful and he really wanted to smite all the sinners, why not just send a host of angels? Why destroy and then miraculously restore it all—every plant, animal and person—when it’s just the sinners he wanted to kill off? It doesn’t even make sense to me as a matter of faith. Not to me.

See, that’s why we can only discuss faith. We can’t debate it. Faith is never based on logic or proof. If we knew for an absolute fact that God existed, we wouldn’t need faith. If God invited me out for scones and told me, “Yeah. I wrote the Bible. It’s all true. Here’s the rough draft.” Well, then it wouldn’t be a matter of faith.

Faith is only necessary for something that isn’t factually provable. If you need to resort to your faith in something, like the Truth of the Bible, then you can’t really use anything in it as factual evidence in a debate. You can discuss your faith in it, and we can perhaps even debate whether your God is the sort to wipe out the planet with a Flood or isn’t He. . . but that discussion is like the debate over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: philosophically interesting, but not based on the physical world in any way, shape, or form because it can only happen conditionally. If we take it as a given that God exists, for the purposes of this discussion, then is he the kind of God. . .

Please trust your faith enough to rely on it. If you’re discussing any aspect of religion, spirituality, the Bible, or moral decisions based on any of those topics, please let your faith in God shine through. Don’t throw out the latest evidence hitting the internet if you don’t really care about the science, anyway.

Just say, “I have faith in the Bible, and that’s good enough for me.”

All right. Now I know not to waste our time with scientific evidence or logical arguments.  We can discuss our beliefs respectfully and perhaps each of us will walk away a little more informed. We can agree to disagree, and if I end up damned for all eternity because of my faith, that’s between me and God. You and I can still be friends and neither of us needs to get snippy with the other.

Namaste.

Uncle Jack Kamp: July 9

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Uncle Jack Kamp: July 9th
9:15 am Soooo… after half an hour of researching the various rec centers in VB and comparing the various complicated schedules (to avoid a replay of last weeks scheduling fiasco) I think I know where we’re going.

The boys have been curious about the whole modeling thing. (When you are one of two cute red-headed twins, the subject is inevitable.) So I’m going to carry the camera around today to see what happens. Photos to follow.

1:00 pm Quote of the summer: Don’t get me wet! I’m in the pool!
First runner up: Stop smacking your brother with his own noodle, it’s not polite.

So to explain the quote of the summer: Byron and Blake were in the pool at the beginning of summer. (A little wading pool that we’d actually bought for the dog, but whatever. Other than shedding, not a lot of difference.)
Blake turned on the hose and sprayed his brother with it.
“Don’t get me wet!” Byron yelled out rather indignantly.
“Dude,” I said, “you’re standing in a swimming pool whining about getting wet? Seriously?”
His face turned red. “Oh yeah.”
So now whenever someone starts whining about something stupid, someone else yells out, “I’m in the pool! Don’t get me wet!”

 

Uncle Jack Kamp: Child Psychology 101

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1:15 pm Kids are like cats.

Me: Okay, you’ve been in here playing on your Nooks long enough. Time to go outside and play. [He proceeds to outline several options for outdoor play.]

Boy: I’m too tired. Can I take a nap?

Me: Now all of a sudden you need a nap? You can lie down on the couch outside.

Boy 2: Can I play on my Nook outside?

Me: No.

[Boys huff in utter disgust. General annoying whining from both. One heads for a hammock. The other drops onto the patio couch. Uncle Jack goes outside and starts filling the wading pool from the hose completely ignoring both boys. He sprays the hose straight up in the air to make it rain and he laughs. He attaches the sprinkler and shoves it under the water to make a fountain.]

Boy: Uh… can I do that?

Me: Just a minute. Let me get it set.

Boy: Oh. Okay. [Now he *really* wants to play with it.]

1:25pm Both boys are in the pool playing with the hose and filling up water balloons, laughing and playing faintly strange games with the water hose.

Okay. I get it. Lesson learned.

Uncle Jack Kamp: July 3

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A day off.
Hm. It’s awfully quiet in the house with the boys and their mom off on an adventure. Ahhhh…. sweet, sweet peace.
The house to myself.
……
…..
I think I need to go get lunch somewhere while I write. It’s too darn quiet in here.

Uncle Jack Kamp: July 2

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Uncle Jack Kamp. July 2

12:30 pm Scheduling is complicated.

So, the pool opens very early, but the skate park in the same location doesn’t open until 9am. So, logically, we should hit the skate park at 9 am and then hit the pool after, which makes sense in terms of cooling off after exercise. Except that there is a day camp event at 11:30 am, so we’d be getting to the pool shortly before a mob hits it, and the boys don’t much like mobs. Okay, pool first (dry clothes packed) then skate park. Except once we get there we find out that while the pool is open, the water slide doesn’t open until 11am, the outdoor water splashy area opens at 11:30 am and the rock wall, which is the real reason Byron wanted to go to that particular pool, doesn’t open until noon. Not forgetting the summer camp thing that starts at 11:30 am. Okay. Seriously? What officious bureaucrat made that schedule?

2:30 pm  Why are Floaty Turtle and Floaty Starfish anchored to the floor of the swimming pool with a tether, rather than stuck on the end of a pole, if their actual purpose *isn’t* for 9-year-old boys to fight their way to the top of them while their uncle tips it back and forth to knock them off. I mean, come on, what fun is it if they can’t struggle their way to the top of Floaty Turtles shell only to have me quash all thoughts of success by dumping them off.

Stupid life guard and her stupid whistle. I’ll show her what she can… oh wait, I’m supposed to be a good example. Sigh. Let’s go down the water slide again.

Uncle Jack Kamp: Supplemental (Emphasis on “mental”)
So…… five hours of chasing the B-boys around a swimming pool, tipping them off Floaty Turtle, up the stairs and down the water slide (Wait a minute. Adults can ride the water slide, too! Booyah.) With a host of etceteras.

Then, a one hour Zumba class and Jesus Christ, can I just sit down for a minute, wait, maybe I’ll just lie here a moment.. or… maybe Netflix is a really good idea.

Tune in tomorrow to hear Uncle Jack scream: Charlie Horse!!!!

Uncle Jack Kamp: July 1

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Uncle Jack Kamp July 1st: So it was a quiet morning, with no antsy or whiny behavior. Hm. Make them play outside or let them chill? Or ask them…

Me: So do you want to go to the pool, or just have a lazy day?

Byron: I wanna go to the pool– wait. We did a lot yesterday and I got a headache. Maybe we should have a lazy day so I don’t overdo it two days in a row.

Yep. He’s nine

4:15 pm  Extremely quiet day. Either they really did have a couple of very active days or they are plotting to take over the world and hope to catch me off-guard. Usually, by lunch time they’re getting squirrelly. Today, very sedate through the afternoon. I pity their parents tonight. (hee hee.)

Perhaps I should plan a trip to the pool, a playscape and maybe laps around the track for tomorrow. (They have said they want to lean to “run track.”) My guess is all this relaxation will make rabid monkeys of them tomorrow.

Unless they enslave the planet as we sleep and force us all to wear tuxedos while we do their bidding. (Bwa. ha. ha.) In which case I will no longer be responsible for planning the day. (Woo hoo!)

Since people seem to be reading these after all, this from yesterday…

[At the community swimming pool. Very busy day at the pool. Uncle Jack plays tag with Byron and Blake and a friend of theirs. Uncle Jack, of course, is permanently designated as “it.”]
Blake: [Swims away from Uncle Jack, shrieking like a terrified little girl.] Don’t let Uncle Jack touch you. He’s a monster. Stay away! Stay away!
ME: While I applaud your sincerity in the game, perhaps you shouldn’t shout that at the top of your lungs about your middle-aged uncle while we’re all swimming half-naked in a crowded pool.

uNCLE jACK kAMP: jUNE 27

Uncle Jack Kamp
9:30 am I discovered the secret to time travel. Tell a nine-year-old boy he needs to do something other than video games for an hour. Time. passes. so. slowly. it.. starts.. to.. wind… backward….

“No. Seriously, if I don’t do it right *now* I’ll never be able to do it again *ever*. Seriously.”