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Archive for November, 2012

Crutch  [noun]: 1.  a long staff of wood or metal having a rest for the armpit, for supporting the weight of the body  2.  something that supports or sustains: ‘a crutch to the economy’

It’s a common charge laid against God and Christianity: “They’re just a psychological crutch for weak, needy types.”

There are two implications here. The obvious one is strong, independent people don’t need a “crutch”. They can – and supposedly do – make it on their own.

However, it seems to me we all have psychological crutches – the need to be loved, for example, and the need for companionship. Neither of these do a thing to provide our daily physical needs – food, water and shelter. In most cases, neither of them even supply an income. Yet very few people, atheists or otherwise, have ever declared love and companionship to be useless wastes of time. Why not?

Frank Harber, writing in Christianity Today magazine, goes a step further: “Atheism – the belief that there is no God – can become a crutch for those addicted to a lifestyle contrary to God’s standards of morality.”

Author and former pastor Bob Prall has connected with this thought, noting, “If Christianity is a psychological crutch, then Jesus Christ came because there was an epidemic of broken legs.”

Harber goes on to declare, “Everyone needs assistance. The question is, what will you lean on? Christianity provides what atheism or other religions never can: spiritual fulfillment, peace, and forgiveness.”

The second, subtle implication is there is no God to rely on, so believers are just tricking themselves through their weakness of believing. The most famous proponent of this view is still Sigmund Freud.

“For Freud, God is made in humanity’s own image, the ‘ultimate wish-fulfillment,’ the end product of human desire for a loving father,” wrote Amy Orr-Ewing in Pulse magazine.

Orr-Ewing then makes this point: “The argument about projection cuts both ways.  After all, isn’t it equally possible to say that Freud and other atheists deny the existence of God out of a need to escape from a father figure, or to argue that the non-existence of God springs from a deep-seated desire for no father figure to exist?”

Leaving this important argument aside for a moment, I consider this “psychological crutch” question from a personal perspective. Before I became a Christian, I:

  • lived on my own, quite happily, for almost 20 years;
  • had friendships and hobbies;
  • enjoyed spending time with my parents and brothers;
  • had romantic relationships; and
  • developed a satisfying, award-winning journalism career.

Do I sound like a weak person in need of a psychological crutch? If the answer is no, then how do people making this charge explain folks like me? Weigh in with your answer below and let’s have a conversation.

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Many folks know actor Neil Crone from his years playing the amusing radio host on the Canadian TV sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie. But I know him from his excellent weekly column published in newspapers near Toronto.

In one of his articles, Neil asked, “Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re fairly certain the universe is trying to teach you something?” He finished the column by writing “In retrospect, I believe the universe really was trying to tell me something that day.”

To my eyes and brain, Neil is suggesting the universe is (a) alive and (b) cares about humans. In a subsequent email exchange, Neil confirmed both conclusions, noting the universe is “desperately conspiring to bring joy to all of us and make our lives wonderful…it’s like a puppy rolling at our feet, just dying to please us…an immensely powerful puppy mind you, but it wants to give us our every dream if we will only get out of the way and let it do its thing.”

I suspect many people think this way. But doesn’t Neil’s description sound like God (or Neil’s version of Him)? “I use all of those terms interchangeably…God, Universe, Source Energy,” he answered. “They’re all efforts to put a name to the un-nameable, I suppose.”

But he goes on, “It’s always tricky when we use the appellation God, as it tends to conjure up the Christian God with flowing robes, beard and righteous indignation. I don’t think that’s anywhere near to the real case.”

Flowing robes and a beard? Sounds like the Hollywood God in ancient Cecile B. DeMille movies. Righteous indignation? I believe the God of this universe has plenty of that, considering all the reasons we provide (the Holocaust, terrorism, environmental problems, human trafficking, ‘honour’ killings…shall I go on?).

That said, I can easily understand how Neil thinks. It’s vague, positive, and lets everyone off the hook for their actions (or inactions). What’s not to like?

But where does this concept come from – Oprah-endorsed new age gurus?  Movies like Eat, Pray, Love? Flash-in-the-pan self-help bestsellers such as The Secret?

What do these sources say about people whose dreams are to enslave, rape and kill? Does the universe want to make that happen, too?

Setting aside those extremes, I’m willing to face the fact that some of my dreams are likely misguided, self-centred and best left unfulfilled.

I’m also willing to admit there’s someone who sees the big picture when I don’t, and who’s willing to forgive my wrong-headed dreams. Serious Christians believe that this someone created the universe and cares for everyone in it – so much so that He dealt with what Neil Crone calls His “righteous indignation” by sending His son, Jesus, to teach us a better way of living and to offer something we cannot achieve on our own: life after death.

That someone is God and I prefer His eternal truth over the next new-age bestseller. How about you; are you willing to trust your fate to the latest guru or movie? Post your answer below and let’s have a conversation.

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It’s a funny world we live in.

On one hand, most of us want to feel accepted by our peers, so we spend all kinds of time consciously or unconsciously fitting in – making sure we’re as much like everyone else as is possible. That’s why, in my early 50s, I’ve decided against nose or lip rings (yes, I’m trying to be funny!).

But our culture also celebrates uniqueness because, contrarily, most of us want to feel special. That means our attention, and the media spotlight, zeroes in on unusual products, a radical “sound” shift in music – think punk and grunge; wild appearance – again, back to the nose and lip rings; and outlandish lifestyles – such as the strange life of Michael Jackson.

Where am I going with all this? Well, pursuing a life that’s mostly centred around you-you-you will certainly help you fit in with the crowd.

  •     Go shopping. So what if you spent $300 on fashions just a week ago?
  •     Plan your weeknights around the latest hot reality TV show.
  •     Get a tan.
  •     Buy another monster big-screen television.
  •     Replace your old iPhone because, hey, it’s six months old.

My optimistic prediction is that, after awhile, all this will start to get really old. And downright silly. Then, I hope, you’ll be ready for something deeper. Something that could affect you for all eternity.

If you’re near that point now, consider being a radical: purchase a Bible—preferably, a version called The Message, because it’s the easiest to comprehend—and start reading. That act alone will make you unique among most of the people you know.

Some may call you crazy for doing this radical thing. Some may shake their heads. But lots of people like me are pulling for you. And the last time I checked, no one had declared me crazy. Just unique.

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Lance Armstrong. Mel Gibson. Tiger Woods. And now, Bill Cosby. What do these people have in common? All of them achieved fame in our culture. And all of them turned that fame into notoriety. Consider the facts:

  • Actor-comedian Bill Cosby has been a star since the 1960s. Thanks to the astounding eight season award-winning success of TV sitcom The Cosby Show, he became known as America’s favourite Dad. Then the accusations started – at least 20 women claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Cosby over a period of many years, sometimes after he drugged them. At least one accusation has proven to be true and Cosby is now up to his neck in court cases.
  • Mel Gibson was one of the most handsome, popular and successful actors on the planet (ever heard of the Lethal Weapon movies? Braveheart?) when allegations of racism and domestic violence, coupled with drunk driving arrests, destroyed his reputation. He was shunned in Hollywood for a decade, only making a comeback through directing 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge.
  • Tiger Woods is still trying to regain the form that made him far and away the best and most popular golfer on earth. It all went south in 2009 when his marriage to Elin Nordegren exploded in very public allegations of serial infidelity. Several high-profile sponsors dropped him.
  • You’ve probably been off the planet for awhile if you don’t know what happened to Lance Armstrong. He gained worldwide fame and adoration for winning seven Tour de France cycling titles and creating the multi-million-dollar Lance Armstrong Foundation, which funds the fight against cancer. When the allegations of long-term performance-enhancing drug use were proven in 2013, Mr. Armstrong was stripped of his titles and several major sponsors dropped him. He also resigned as chairman of his foundation.

All these men have their pictures in what might be called the Hall of Infamy. All were what the The Globe and Mail newspaper labelled “demigods” who fell flat on their faces and enraged their fans, who thought they could do no wrong.

What’s so interesting is the lesson we can learn from these men is as old as humanity. And it seems every generation has to learn it.

If the Bible has any meaning to you, then consider what Jesus told some of His followers: “Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better.”

I get what Jesus is saying because I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes. Years ago, I trusted an author to have found the secret to living with grace and serenity – until I found out she was a bigamist juggling a lie-filled double life. I got rid of her books after that.

So who can you and I believe in who’s not going to leave us dangling off the cliff of crushing disappointment and betrayal? Who can we trust who really does have our best interest at heart, who understands everything we’re going through and won’t leave us, no matter how bad things get?

How about God, who offers the gift of Jesus to every person on this planet?

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