There are thousands of ministers out there who no longer wish to be ministers. They no longer want to work in churches. … But they don’t know how to leave. They don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t know what to do. …
Some ministers become disillusioned with the business side of the church. Seminary was all theology and ideology. Then you arrive in the church of our culture and discover that the congregation is really looking for an entrepreneur, someone who can grow the congregation like a thriving business. …
[S]ome just lose faith altogether. Something about the message wears thin, and one day what used to sustain you is now just a bunch of words. Some wear out. Some burn out. Some get depressed for this reason or that. Really, anything that prevents you from being a gung-ho cheerleader for the cause on Sunday mornings is a problem.
[T]he real question — the one we need to talk about — is how they cope if they can’t go anywhere. What if they have no other marketable skills, are approaching mid-life, are in debt like the rest of us, and just don’t have any good employment options. What then?
Good questions. I hope the answer involves a great resource like the Clergy Project, an organization for ex-clerics that caters to current and former religious professionals without supernatural beliefs.
It’s one thing to keep your job as a realtor for a few years while you figure out what your next move will be. It’s another thing to keep preaching the Word of God on Sunday mornings when you don’t want to be there anymore. The first is acceptable and even admirable. The second is hypocritical.
Fewer hypocrites. More people who cast off unhappiness and oppressive beliefs, and embrace freedom from all that. Sounds great to me.
Today is Friday the 13th. Do you dread it? According to Gizmodo, you can fill more than 300 Superbowl Stadiums with the number of Americans who are truly, authentically afraid of that date/weekday combo.
In the United States alone, it is estimated that between 17 and 21 million people dread that date to the extent that it can be officially classified as a phobia. …
The most popular theory as to why Friday is considered unlucky or an evil day is thought by many to spring from Christianity. By tradition, Friday is considered the day that Eve gave Adam the “apple” and they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. … Also by tradition, Adam and Eve were purported to have died on a the then nonexistent “Friday”. The Temple of Solomon was said to have been destroyed on Friday.
But Christianity doesn’t have to shoulder all of the blame.
Others theorize that Friday being unlucky predated Christianity. The name “Friday” was chosen in honor of the Norse goddess Frigg, also known as Freyja, who was the multitalented goddess of love, beauty, wisdom, war, death, and magic. Teutonic people are thought to have considered the day extremely unlucky, especially for weddings, due in part to the lovely goddess the day was named for. Later, the Christian church attempted to demonize the goddess, so that may or may not be a contributing factor as well.
Whatever the case, despite these quite old origin theories, well documented instances of the notion that Friday was popularly considered unlucky among the masses doesn’t seem to have popped up until around the mid-17th century.
As for the unluckiness of the number 13, as with Friday, there are numerous possibilities for the origin, the most popular of which also stems from Christianity. It is considered incredibly bad luck to have 13 people sitting at a table for dinner, which supposedly is due to the fact that Judas Iscariot was by tradition the 13th person to be seated to dine at the Last Supper.
It’s all horse puckey, of course, but if there is a correlation between Friday the 13th and “bad things,” it seems to run the other way:
Dutch statisticians have established that Friday 13th, a date regarded in many countries as inauspicious, is actually safer than an average Friday. A study … by the Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics (CVS) showed that fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays. … In the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday, the CVS study said. But the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.
In this case, the superstition may be beneficial; it’s possible that people who believe that Friday the 13th brings bad luck simply drive more conservatively on that day.
American Atheists has its annual convention this Easter weekend in Memphis, Tennessee. As has been the group’s custom in recent years, they decided to purchase a couple of billboards to advertise the gathering. And this is what they wanted to put up:
Cute billboard! (You may remember that little girl from such previous billboards as this one.) As far as “aggressive” goes, this is pretty tame for American Atheists. They’re not attacking Christians, unless you consider disagreement with Christian beliefs an “attack.” Indeed, the billboard was approved in Memphis — you can see it on the road today.
But it was denied in Nashville, a few hours away. The company said AA couldn’t use the words “Easter” or “church” because they were somehow attacking Christianity.
So American Atheists tried again with this passive-aggressive adjustment:
Now, we’re talking! (The “censored” sticker on the bunny ears is a nice touch.)
Once again, the company rejected the ad. AA said in a press release:
The Nashville billboard company refused [the first billboard], and also refused a modified resubmission, stating that the words “Easter” and “church” could not be shown on the billboard and that only a design promoting atheist beliefs “without being offensive or aggressive towards another group” would be approved.
So American Atheists tried one more time and *finally* got approved… though, in my opinion, the final billboard lacks the zing of the first two:
“The double standard is as ridiculous as it is discriminatory,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Our billboards feature a happy little girl wearing bunny ears. Our convention is, in fact, this April 2-5, which falls on Easter weekend. Is stating this fact what Americans, champions of free speech, find ‘aggressive’? This is exactly why we are coming to the Bible Belt — we go where we are needed; it could not be more clear that we are needed here.”
Despite Silverman calling it discriminatory, there are no plans to pursue any legal action. The billboards are up, even if they’re wildly different from each other. That’s what really matters. Hopefully, they’ll get the attention of passers-by who are unaware that they’re not alone in their disbelief.
But I’m stuck trying to figure out how AA’s first two billboards were too “offensive” when I’ve seen far worse messages coming from Christians.
Zvika Klein, a reporter for Jewish news outlet NRG, silently walked in the city for ten hours wearing a kippah — also known as a yarmulke — on his head and a tzitzit (knotted ritual tassels). … He spent a day in Paris with a bodyguard while photographer Dov Belhassen documented the day using a GoPro camera hidden in his backpack. …
And the shocking hidden camera footage shows antisemitism is rife in the French capital as he is seen harassed and intimidated.
But the negative moments that Klein experiences during his 10-hour walk, which he distilled into a 90-second YouTube summary, are by themselves hardly enough to make the case that anti-Semitism is “rife” in France. Most of the interactions are ambiguous; the perceived insults opaque and even a little mystifying; and it’s rarely even clear whether the sentence snippets caught by the microphone are directed at Klein, or happen to be part of some street-tough dialog between bystanders.
I also kept wondering what would happen if you flipped roles. If the video-recorded walk was instead undertaken by a man in Muslim garb traipsing all over Paris, what would we see?
What if the marathon walker wore no identifying marks at all — would 10 hours of traversing various neighborhoods, including rough ones, yield hostile remarks and an act or two of (possibly intimidating) street machismo? I think yes. No different than L.A. or Rio or Johannesburg.
That’s not to minimize the experience of French Jews, who have good reason to feel embattled much of the time.
But let’s not forget that it’s often no picnic for Muslims either: within six days of the Charlie Hebdo massacre,
There [had] been 21 reports of shootings and grenade throwing at Islamic buildings, as well as 33 cases of threats and insults, said Abdallah Zekri, president of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).
Point of order: the “grenades” were blank shells. I wish people like Zekri wouldn’t try to make it sound worse than it already is.
Anyway: Tribalism — very much including the religious kind — is the hardiest stuff that humans know how to build. People are, on the whole, pretty bad at overcoming it, if they can even bring themselves to try.
Maybe Klein has some work to do in that regard. In the article that accompanies his video, he writes,
Welcome to Paris 2015… where keffiyeh-wearing men and veiled women speak Arabic on every street corner.
We’ll have to take his word for it, as keffiyeh-wearing men appear to be absent from his video.
So are the worst examples of anti-Jewish bigotry that he reports in his article. For instance:
Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. “What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?” the boy asked.
If there’s footage of that encounter, I’ve been unable to find it.
But more to the point, what if there were “keffiyeh-wearing men” all over Paris? Turn that statement of Klein’s around, and you get a Muslim grumbling with the exact same latent hostility and horror that, in Paris, there are “yarmulke-wearing men” everywhere you look. Klein would no doubt consider the latter remark beyond the pale; so why isn’t isn’t the former?
He does ultimately demonstrate that in-group/out-group bias is alive and well – but maybe not quite in the way he intended.