Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The path to righteousness can take many turns...

Religion might be the touchiest subject ever.

But that’s what we’ve been wrestling with recently in one of my courses at Winthrop University.

The students in that class—88% of them Christian, 71% of them female, 56% of them black and 87% of them under the age of 26—read and discussed an article titled “Religious Diversity” that asserts, “In our complex world, we cannot affirm conscientiously one particular religious perspective and merely ignore the others.”

Furthermore, according to the article, being a Christian does not mean that you commit yourself to the view that all other religions are completely wrong.

Reminds me of Joe, an old grizzled mountain man I had a brief but memorable conversation with about 10 years ago in east Tennessee.

I can still see Joe in my mind’s eye in that rocking chair one Wednesday evening on the porch of an assisted living home where he lived out his last days.

That particular evening, he wore overalls, a clean collared shirt and a white ball cap emblazoned with bright orange “UT” letters.

Sickly and weak but in good spirits, Joe seemed to be waiting to be picked up.

“Who you waitin’ for tonight, Joe?” I asked him.

“For the church van or car,” Joe said, spitting a chew of ‘baccer.

I asked him which church he’d be visiting that evening.

“It don’t make no difference, Larry,” he responded, not missing a beat. “I’ll just hop on the first van that comes by. We’re all trying to get to the same place.”

The words “We’re all trying to get to the same place” still resonate.

Joe truly understood the notion of religious diversity or the idea that no single religion or faith is THE WAY AND THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION OR ETERNAL LIFE.

Some people in my own family don’t quite yet buy into that notion.

“Your grandmother would be turning over in her grave if she knew you had jined the Baptists,” one of my parents counseled me when I began attending worship services at a Baptist church in Tennessee.

(And I’m quoting her correctly; she said “jined,” not “joined.”)

Well, I guess old thought patterns and traditions are hard to let go of, especially when it comes to our relationship with God. We are shaped from an early age by our parents, our friends, mentors, the media, the culture…you name it.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean, in my opinion, that one person’s truth or faith is THE ONLY PATH TO RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SUPERNATURAL GRACE.

Tell that to my elderly aunt.

This past summer, I visited a freewill Baptist church near where my parents live in Tennessee.

The service struck me as extraordinary. For one thing, people packed themselves into that sanctuary. Every pew, every seat (and then some) had someone in it. In fact, the pews were overflowing with people—so much so, that they had to cart in extra chairs, which they sat up in the aisles, for people to crowd into.

When the minister spoke, people truly seemed to be listening (and even taking notes.)

He had something to say, and he said it well.

No nodding or dozing off in that church. No doodling or clock watching.

The congregation obviously loved and respected their minister very much, and I could see why.

They guy was and is good. He has them in the palms of his hands. He’s authentic and has a gift for getting the message across so that everyone understands and appreciates it and can apply it do their daily lives.

Later, when I reported at our Sunday lunch at my parents’ home what I had experienced, and how inspired I had been by that minister and his flock, my aunt listened carefully.

Then she said this: “Well, that’s all fine and well, but there’s only one thing wrong.”

“What’s that?” I wondered.

“They’re freewillers!” she blurted.

Her mind is set and that’s just the way it is and will always be.

I suspect my beloved aunt is not alone in that respect.

However, I digress.

Here’s a summary of how students in the above-mentioned college course responded to a survey of their religious beliefs and faiths. (17 students were in class that particular day and completed the survey).

Key findings:

•77% of them said they had already had a religious initiation ceremony such as a baptism, christening, circumcision, confirmation or bar mitzvah.

•88% said that when they died, they expected to have a religious funeral or service.

•53% reported that they attend religious services once a week, while 24% said they rarely or hardly ever attend such services.

•47% said that they, as human beings, had “definitely not” developed from earlier species of animals, while 30% said that they “probably” or “definitely” developed from such species.

•94% said that there is definitely a personal God, while only 6% said there is no such thing.

•71% said that they think it’s essential to have an established church or synagogue to regularly attend or be a member of for them to be walking the right path with God.

•Only 20% reported having read the entire Bible, and almost a quarter of the class (22%) said they rarely or never read the Bible.

The survey also asked them to rank what is more important—our faith, or our actions—when it comes to living a Godly life. 63% said faith; 32% said our actions.

•41% of those responding to the survey said they believed in capital punishment, while 24% gave it a thumbs down, and 35% couldn’t make up their minds.

•Likewise, 50% of those responding to the survey believed in a woman’s right to have an abortion, while 28% said no, and 22% couldn’t make up their minds.

Draw your own conclusions on what all this means or what it says about our millennial generation of college students and what they believe in.

I know one thing.

Religion will always be a ticklish, hypersensitive subject.

Let the conversation continue.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lady Antebellum

"It's a quarter after one and I'm a little drunk and I need you now."

(Line from Lady Antebellum's beautiful country and western song.)

Click here to take it in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quote of the week

“One time this guy insisted on small talk while he was drawing me. Doesn’t sound too odd until you remember that I am butt naked, holding poses, and the last thing I want to do is tell you why I chose Mass Communication as a major.”

Source: Student quoted in article (about models at Winthrop getting paid for posing for artists). Article written by Jessica Pickens appeared in The Johnsonian (student newspaper at Winthrop University) on Nov. 18, 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hint fiction

A few days ago I heard an intriguing program on NPR about a genre of writing called "hint fiction."

Hint fiction is a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.

Here are a few examples:

1. He had told her it was a treat, yeah, but it was her own damned fault for assuming the gooey middle would be marshmallow.—By Robert Swartwood

2. Before he could say that he had a bad taste in his mouth the poison went straight to his heart. (unknown author)

3. The blood, he later learned, wasn’t so much the issue as was the Band-Aid. (unknown author)

4. All I know about the Borders—the grandmother, the father, mother, Ellie the oldest, Josh and Jack the twins, and Evelyn, the baby—is that one after another they shared their bathwater.—by Randall Brown

5. As he lay there coughing and flush with fever, Jesse thought back to better, more hopeful days—before the outbreak found its way through humankind—and he smiled one last time.--by Steven Seighman

Okay, I'll give it a try:

6. Numbed and aggravated by what he had heard and angry at himself for getting into this situation, he forced himself to remain sitting there in the conference room.

7. Certified blue-blood members of the power structure, they boisterously claimed, as they always did, that they believed in freedom of expression, but when push came to shove it was quite a different story.

8. As he held her head back so that she could vomit more freely and easily--if that's possible--he thought about what it was really like to love, unconditionally, another person.

9. He had trusted and loved her, but she had never, ever believed that in her heart--even when he ravished her and satisfied her completely as no man had ever done with her in bed; instead, she despised him.

10. He looked at the dog, and it stared unflinchingly back at him for the longest time, as if dog and man were locked together in some sort of gauzy dream.

Hint fiction.

Do you dig it? Can you write it?

Michael Jackson gets a car seat

Never let it be said that a dog can't see the world in style (and safety).

I've blogged about my beloved bichon, Michael Jackson, before.

Here's a recent photo of him in his brand new car seat.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Augmented reality magazines

They've been out for awhile, but seem to have been lost in the digital mismash of everything new and exciting.

But augmented reality magazines, which reveal all their magic when you put your smart phone over them (and have a free app downloaded to your phone) have a lot to offer.

Click on this link for a look see.

This dog is a curious creature

A journalist/editor friend of mine in the mountains of N.C. knows I'm always on the lookout for an interesting picture of a dog.

The "meth lab" definitely gets my attention.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My quote of the week...

“I don’t vote. Here’s my stand on politics-it’s like a steer. A point here, a point there, and a lot of bull in the middle.”

Source: Twenty-four-year-old man in Troy, N.C., who was interviewed on Nov. 2, 2010 (Election Day), by Winthrop University mass communication major Maribea Isles.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

For the love of a dog

These photos, sent to me by my long-time friend and former Winthrop University colleague Zeta Sistare, say a lot about the deep affection (and connection) between humans and dogs.

Thanks for sharing, Zeta.