Dane Cook is to Comedy What Benny Hinn is to Christianity

In regards to our own religious beliefs, or lack of them, it all ultimately comes down to the classic case of choosing to either overlook or focus on the best or worst of extremes and using that viewpoint as the unchangeable standard to support what we believe.

When it comes to my involvement with facebook, I’m more of an observer and less of a participant.  I’ll comment on people’s pictures and random status updates (as a way to “stay in the loop” with people I haven’t seen in years, because sometimes, there’s nothing really new to say to them, just “hey, how are you doing?”).  It may be safe to say that I tend to get the most enjoyment by reading the controversial status updates that at least 20 people comment on.  It’s just funny, if nothing else, to see the original “status updater” provoke that many people to argue with him or her, or other commenters.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen several occurrences of this scenario involving religious sorts of proclamations.  The status updater makes a statement that at least in some subtle tone indicates that people who belong to any sort of religion (typically Christianity is specifically targeted) are gullible and naïve.  Then all those who are also non-religious and outspoken jump on the “no god wagon” which in turn provokes those who are religious to either defend themselves or their beliefs.

Benny Hinn, saying his famous catch phrase, "Be healed!"

By being a silent spectator of these events, I get to learn exactly how those who are disgusted by/apathetic towards religion became that way.  It seems a lot of the time the reason they stopped believing in God has to do with other people they saw who were in some way hypocritical.  Or televangelists who make money by telling their listeners they can become rich and blessed by giving money to the church and/or buying his book on “abundant living”.  Or judgmental church marquee signs that try to be cute by scarring people into church: “Without the bread of life, you’re toast!”  (A reference to Holy Smoke). Or because they visited a church one time and were either really bored or ignored by everyone.  Or because they never got a satisfying answer to this question: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People ? (Click that title to read why.)

Or any other of the thousands of reasons why the concept of God coming to Earth in the form of a Jewish man to die for the sins of the entire world (who was raised back to life after three days, then 40 days later ascend to Heaven) because He loves them and wants a personal relationship with them and will give them eternal life yet will cast them to hell if they don’t believe doesn’t seem logical, practical, or coherent.

And here's your host for "Your Best Life Now", superstar Joel Osteen!...

There are so many reasons not to believe.  I can see how it could be pretty easy to focus on any of them.  But just like the way nonbelievers focus on any of those reasons for a basis for not believing, I overlook all those reasons and instead focus on all the other thousands of reasons to actually believe.

At the end of the day (and more literally, our earthly life), we will have had the free will to choose which reasons why we do or do not believe.  I won’t get into all the details here, but the whole reason I exist ultimately goes back to a scam in 1973 involving some shady tent revival “preachers” who convinced my grandparents to sell all their belongs (and give the money to the church, which in turn went to the preachers) and move from Buffalo, NY (to avoid a prophesied national famine that never came) to Fort Payne, AL (the “Promised Land”, safe from the national famine).  Ultimately, my parents met as teenagers, both being forced to go to that weird church.  They got married four years later, then four years after that, I was born.

What, is it a sin or judgmental that I don't think this guy is funny? Dane, if you're reading this, sorry- I'll buy you lunch. Email me.

If anyone had a reason to be bitter or disgusted or simply just “through with” organized religion and/or God, it was my family.  But instead, they chose to recognize that they had been misled by deceptive people who claimed to be following God.  They chose to trust in God despite of other people, not allowing faulted human beings to get in the way with their relationship with God.

Of all the reasons not to believe in God, the one that I understand the least is the fact that hypocrites and less-than-perfect Christians exist.  To judge an entire religion because of the worst specimens seems unfair to everyone.  I love comedy and comedians.  I’m not a fan of Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy, but I don’t denounce comedy in general because of what I perceive as poor example of what a comedian is.  But ultimately sometimes it’s much easier to judge an entire group by picking out the worst examples as the mascot for the whole team.

Yes.  Greedy, selfish, hateful, people are all around who call themselves Christians.  But there are also the ones that don’t make the headlines.  The ones who demand less attention.  The ones risking their lives to help starving and dying villages in the poorest parts of the world.  But instead, Christianity is often judged by our worst examples.

And as hard as I try to be a perfect Christian and try to be a good example for everyone, I will constantly miss the mark in some way.  If I personally was the only example of Christianity for the whole world to see, it would be dangerous for Christianity.  The world would see my sincerity, my love for others, my time in prayer for so many people, my humility in my constant trusting in God for all the unseen and the future.  But they would see me mess up too.  My pride, my selfishness, and my shame.

Multiply that concept by the hundreds of millions, to symbolize all the Christians of the world.  What would onlookers choose to see?  Just the good?  Just the bad?  Both?  Whatever the answer is, that’s most likely how you see God, or don’t.

Free will is a complicated and dangerous thing.


LOST Recap: Season 6, Midseason- “Ab Aeterno”

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

After going on a LOST recapping hiatus since this season’s premiere episode, I came out of hiding to praise the job well done of the long awaited Richard-eccentric episode.  I feel so relieved, excited, and passionate about LOST again.  Because the show has finally stepped back into its former mystique while at the same time taking a giant step forward.

It’s not that I wasn’t a fan of the flashes-sideways.  They were cool.  I liked learning where the characters would have ended up had things gone differently.  But after a few episodes, the game started getting stale.

Yes, I get it.  James and Miles would have been buddy cops.  Ben and Dogen would have known each other through a high school.  Kate would have still ended up helping Claire.  Jack would have meet Locke and offered to help him gain his mobility back.  (And I’ve read an interview with one of the writers that said Hurley and Libby have a baby together in an upcoming flash-sideways.)

The first half of this season, to me, has felt more like a group of forsaken bonus episodes.  I feel like last night’s episode was the first real episode of the season.

Last May when I did my Season 5 finale recap, I predicted that Richard came to the island as a Spanish explorer in the 1600’s and was killed by the Smoke Monster.  So I was a little off.  He was a Spanish slave in 1867 from the Canary Islands (Spain) who became shipwrecked on the island.  I also predicted that the whole premise of LOST was a game between Jacob and the man I still refer to as Esau.  It now clearly appears that is indeed the case.

On a side note, the actor who plays Richard, Nestor Carbonell, is a Spanish-Cuban American who does not actually wear eyeliner, despite popular assumption.  He just has really thick eyelashes.

While some Losties are disappointed that the six seasons of the show have all led up to a moral chess game between two spiritual beings, I think it’s the only plot that the series could have that is grandiose enough to pull this all together.

Because just like real life, when all it’s all over with, it will be apparent that we were all participants in a sci-fi story alongside a spiritual war.  Yes, our life matters and is real, but ultimately we have a spiritual audience watching us and even influencing our personal decisions.  Brilliant.

Read “SCIence + FaIth = Sci-Fi” http://wp.me/pxqBU-1N

As for who and what exactly Jacob and Esau are, here is my guess.  Jacob is an angel and Esau is a demon.  Here is why they are not God and Satan.  When offering to grant a wish to Richard, Jacob says he can not raise the dead nor absolve Richard’s sins.  God would be able to.  But as an angel, Jacob is restricted by what God allows him to do.

Jacob’s gift of everlasting earthbound life is interesting.  It keeps Richard from going to hell, but makes his earthly life a form of hell by keeping him trapped on Earth while still not reuniting him with Isabella.

“Ab Aeterno” (the name of the episode), which is Latin for “since the beginning of time” or figuratively “since a very long time ago”, was by far the most blatantly Christian episode to date:

Richard learned to speak English by reading the Bible and carried around his wife’s cross necklace.  When Richard was shown to us in the prison, he was reading the 4th chapter of Luke which tells about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan to turn the stone into bread (the lust of the flesh), to worship Satan in exchange for the domain of the world and all its glory (the lust of the eyes), and to attempt to commit suicide knowing that God would save him anyway (the pride of life).

This concept was later reiterated in 1 John 2:16- “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

I wonder if this was intentionally (and loosely) played out with Richard through the episode:  Esau granted Richard the lust of the flesh when he freed him from his chains and gave him food and water.  Hurley enabled the lust of the eyes to Richard through his vision of Isabella.  Jacob granted Richard the lust of the pride of life by giving him earthly eternal life.  That could all be a coincidence, but maybe not.

In other Christian elements, Jacob asked the priest, “What can I do to earn God’s forgiveness?”, which is a pointing towards the need for God’s grace.  Also, there was the use of the word “sin” by Jacob when he quoted Esau, “Everyone is corruptible because it is in their nature to sin”.  Explicitly New Testament Biblical.

So far, Jacob has not yet been able to prove his case to Esau, that a person can ultimately choose good over evil.  He continues to bring people to the island to find someone who will be his representative of righteousness (symbolizing followers of Christ), since Jacob himself refuses to force his will upon anyone.  And of course that’s another obvious reflection of God and his relationship with humans: The granting of free will.

Esau/Billy Joel

As for my predictions for the last half of the season:

Ben Linus: I stand by my belief that he is ultimately good.

The Smoke Monster (Esau): It is a “soul train” that collects the spirits of those it kills, so that it can take the human form of them once they are dead.  Sometimes it “takes pictures” of their good deeds when it flashes the light at them to decide whether to collect them (by killing them) or keep them alive, like it did with Eko in the first season and with Richard back in 1867.

The List:  Jacob touched 7 potential “saviors of the island” back in their past including Kate (as well as Locke, Hurley, James, Sayid, Jack, and Sun/Jin), but for some reason Kate’s name wasn’t written on the cave ceiling when Faux Locke took James there: Kate somehow disqualified herself.  Also, no one knows whether it’s Jin or Sun that is on the list because only their last name shows up- but I predict it’s their kid instead, not either of them.

The Flashes-Sideways:  Not what actually happens, only glimpses.  The island is reality.

I will close with a few other quotes from the season so far that really stood out:

“I am not a zombie.” -Sayid

“John Locke was a much better man than I’ll ever be and I’m sorry I murdered him.” -Ben Linus

“I’m the smoke thing.” -Faux Locke (I like this name for him best because it rhymes with “Mohawk”.)

Read LOST Recap: Season 6, Episode 1- “LA X” http://wp.me/pxqBU-vo