This Pope is Great for Christianity and Catholicism

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Now, first things first. This family is not Catholic. The Pope is not the leader of our church. We don’t subscribe to the beliefs of Catholics. We’re not ‘shilling for our team’. This post is one of genuine appreciation for the things that the current Pope has done, and also for his rhetoric.

The current Pope, Pope Francis, has done a remarkable job. He’s almost single handedly reformed the image of the Catholic church, and by extension Christianity in general (many non religious people equate the two, which isn’t all that surprising – just like many non-Muslims don’t really know the difference between Sunni and Shia). He’s the first Pope in a long time who’s presented a positive, forward thinking, loving outlook of the world. Certainly, he’s championed the principles laid down by Jesus better than his two predecessors, who presumably were too busy protecting dodgy priests to do anything worthwhile.

Here’s a list of things that Pope Francis has said or done that make this family proud:

  • He’s not afraid to point out the flaws he sees in the world. He understands that Jesus was always a champion of the weak, the disenfranchised, and the poor, and he follows in those footsteps. He sees that unbridled capitalism has the potential to leave people behind, and he’s not afraid to say it. In the US, there are far too many self-professed Christians who balk at paying more tax in order to support the poor and the needy. It’s good to see a Pope who’s willing to speak on this issue and point out the hypocrisy of being a Christian who isn’t willing to give back tot he disenfranchised.
  • He got rid of some of the luxuries of the office. The Pope Mobile, for example – that silly little car that the last pope used to ride around – is not used by the Pope Francis. Not only does he speak out on important issues, he leads by example – eschewing privileges like the aforementioned car and even turned down the traditional, rather lavish living quarters of the Pope in favor of a smaller, more modest apartment.
  • He expects his subordinates to also behave modestly, and has been cracking down on lavish spending within the church. He disciplined a German Bishop who spent $3 million on a courtyard, and has officially told church officials to dress more modestly, and eschew expensive clothing (and idiotic red Prada slippers).
  • He portrays the kind of humility that one would expect from a true Christian. Never forget that Christianity begun as the underdog, and was at the outset primarily about helping the helpless. Francis demonstrated these qualities when, on a trip to a Juvenile detention center in Italy, washed and kissed the feet of a number of the minors being detained there. This is truly a man of God – a man who truly believes that he is not fit to judge others, and who demonstrates his humility even amongst people who society would consider far below him.

It’s been a really long time since I remember there being a Pope who I genuinely thought attempted to follow the example that Jesus laid down for us. It seems that Pope Francis is such a man, and regardless of whether he shares my specific faith, I applaud him for his excellent work so far, and for truly being a good Christian/Catholic.

Contradictions in the Good Book

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As a family, we have many friends that come from different religious backgrounds, or aren’t religious at all. Because we’re very open about our faith, and because we often try to encourage people to come to church with us, we often get into religious discussions/debates with people who don’t share our faith.

The first thing that I want to say is that the Christian community has become entirely too insular – as a group, we’re too willing to stick to ourselves and live in our own little echo chamber. In my eyes, this is a huge mistake. Christianity at its core is a missionary religion – it is the duty of each Christian to try and spread the word of God. To be able to do this, we must always work at being open to those who don’t share our beliefs. If we don’t talk to them, and if we don’t explain why we believe what we believe, what hope do we have of ever convincing anyone?

When discussing faith with people of different backgrounds, one of the most common objections I hear is that the Bible is full of contradictions. So today, in this blog post, I will try and outline how I respond to this assertion that the Bible contradicts itself.

The first thing I often say in response to this challenge is “You’re completely right”. Let’s face it – the Bible is indeed full of contradictions. It’s undeniable. One just needs to look at this page to see that this is the case.

Then I go on to explain why this is the case. The first thing that I point out is that the Bible was written by men. That’s right – I’m not someone who believes that the Bible was written by God. The Bible was written by men, who tried to record the best wisdom of the time, as they understood it. Even if the Bible was written by God, through the years, it will have been translated so many times, into so many different languages, that what we read in English today probably doesn’t come close to resembling the original documents.

I then go on to say that even if the Bible weren’t full of contradictions, different people would still read it differently. There are many people (that I consider ignorant) who read ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ in the Bible and use that as an excuse to justify bigotry. They forget that Jesus was always the one who was willing to embrace sinners when nobody else would. It was Jesus who said ‘Let the one without sin cast the first stone’. It was Jesus who said that we should ‘turn the other cheek’, and indeed it was Jesus who set the example that we should try our best to love everybody – regardless of what sinful thing they’re doing, to the point where Jesus loved even the cruel men who crucified him. The current bigotry towards homosexuals is not in keeping with the examples Jesus has set.

Anyways, the point is – the Bible is essentially just a book of words. People read it how they will, and ten people will interpret it ten different ways. The best thing a christian can do is try to follow the examples set by Jesus himself – to love everyone, to not judge people, to embrace sinners (because we’re all sinners), and to improve the world through love – not hate. Anyone who lives by these maxims can consider themselves a good christian, regardless of what the bible says about specific behaviors. People who point to specific sections of the bible to justify their behavior are missing the forest for the trees. It’s not about the letter of the law – it’s about the spirit of the law, and the best way to follow the spirit of God’s law is to try and follow the example of the Jesus himself.

My point is – yes, the Bible is full of contradictions, but I believe to some extent, God did this on purpose. It’s a reminder that the Bible is fallible, and the most important thing about being a Christian is not what it says in a 2000 year old book – instead, the key to being a true Christian is to act as Christ would. The contradictions don’t weaken Christianity – they strengthen it, because they suggest that the religion is not build on rigidity, but rather on fluidity, with love as the central premise.

Welcome

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Welcome to our brand new site!

New Age to Grace is a blog about religion, faith, and god. We’ll use this blog as a platform to discuss the Bible, to share ideas about religion and Christ, and to just talk about faith in general. We’ll also talk about things that are going on in our lives – the challenges we face, the people we meet. The experiences we have in church. The books we’re reading. Basically, everything and anything is on the table on this blog, but we will try and relate everything back to the big man upstairs. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘God works in mysterious ways’. This is often said to people when bad things happen in life – but it’s equally true with the mundane. The wonder we feel when we watch a sunset; the joy we feel when we see parents playing with their kids in a playground; the melancholy that comes to us on a cold, dreary winter day – all of these experiences can help strengthen the connection to our lord and savior, if we only stopped to think about them a bit.

To start off with, we’re just going to introduce ourselves briefly. We won’t give away any personal details, but we’ll give you an outline of where we’re coming from so that you can get to know us a bit better. We’re a family of four, all devout Christians and churchgoers. Our family consists of the parents (happily married for 30 years now), one son, and one daughter, ages 19 and 14 respectively. Right now, the person writing is the Dad of the family, but this blog will serve as a vehicle for anybody in the family to write about pretty much anything they want. Other than our shared faith, each member of the family is actually quite different – I work in construction, and my wife works as a caterer. Our daughter is still in school obviously, and our son just started college, but he also works as a freelance web designer on the side (this blog was actually his idea – he keeps saying that ‘everybody should know how to use the internet’, and me and my wife think he’s using this blog as a way to train our computing abilities).

We live in the great state of California. While we’re all Christians, we’re probably not what you would call ‘typical’ Christians. We take our faith very seriously, and because we take it seriously, we question everything. We don’t accept the words of men as the word of god – and what that means is that when someone like Newt Gingrich talks about ‘Family Values’, we’re automatically skeptical. Basically, we interpret religion and god very differently than what is typical in this country, and when public figures tell us that we should think or feel a certain way just because we’re Christians, we immediately question it.

So, that’s a little bit of our background and our thoughts on faith. And that’s all I’m going to write for this first post.

Until next time, I leave you with this:

Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”

Paintball As A Family Building Activity

The bible gives lots of advice for keeping and building a strong family. Now more than ever, families need to work towards maintaining a strong family unit beyond going to church together every Sunday.

Whether your family is the group you were born into or the people who work alongside you 40+ hours per week, paintball is a great way to build the family unit and establish camaraderie. Paintball provides the team communication, goal driven, win or lose components needed to establish family ties. You’ll be completely submerged in team strategy before realizing you’re building communication and unbreakable bonds.

Since paintball wins are rather strategy driven, team members need to scope out and utilize their team member strengths. Paintball success and enjoyment does not necessarily depend solely on shooting ability; every member should have a job and each role is of equal value and importance. If you have a team member that needs to get off several shots before hitting their opponent, embrace the element of surprise with a stealth assassin assignment for them or set them up as a lookout communicator. Is someone a great shooter with the speed of a tortoise? They would likely thrive in a sniper setup, taking out opponents behind the scenes. These factors make each member feel needed, equally valued, and like one cohesive family unit.

Working as a cohesive family, paintball will unite members over the same goal and a shared desire to make the goal a reality. A great style of paintball is Capture the Flag or any variation. This game combines a clear goal, a joint enemy, and the absolute need to utilize communication. Whether your goal is to defeat the enemy handily, have as much fun as possible, or see who will be the last man standing, Capture the Flag can accomplish all these goals. You’ll need roles to be fulfilled by each member (like intel gathering, snipers, or just blind running) but most importantly, constant communication. If you see the enemy charging, stalking around your base, or how many are guarding their flag, you must tell each other! This trust and communication will go a long way in accomplishing your goal and building your bond with each downed opponent.

There’s an unspoken risk in paintball and that is the possibility that you could very well lose. Losing together is in some ways the ultimate test; you have to trust that you’ll still support each other when all of you are covered in paint and you had your flag captured one too many times. Whether you end up winning or losing your paintball round, your loss or win is taken as a team. There should be no heroes in paintball; the team brings victory as a family and absorbs loss together. Even if you suffer a devastating loss from friendly fire or it took your team member 5 rounds to eliminate one opponent, a true family does not put these glaring mistakes under a microscope. You’ll get ‘em next time.

Paintball gives family the opportunity to bring out the best in each other; every strength can shine as part of a well oiled machine. The team component and challenges also provide an opening for you to see something in a fellow team member you never saw before; use it as an opportunity to learn about one another and build relationships. Trust in each other to properly stalk opponents, never compromise a sniper location, and most importantly, to never shoot each other in the face.

Additional Resources

Religion & the Family

ThePaintballProfessor