Do I Want to Talk About This?

I went to bed last night thinking about how much my dislike for some preachers has grown. I can’t stand some of the conservative ones who speak with as many fallacies as they have sentences. On the other side of the spectrum, I gotta get rid of so much fluff to get something decent. It’s depressing and downright ridiculous.

I woke up wanting to write about it. See, writing helps me. But it’s Sabbath, I thought. I am tired of being tired about every religious thing that happens around me. That is not the point of Sabbath or Christianity. The more I write about this, the angrier I’ll get. If I want to write about these subjects (believe me, I do) I will have to find time to do it during the week.

I don’t have a plan B for today, so I will briefly talk about something that bothers me: fallacies. We see them all the time in political discussions, but it is even sadder and more hurtful when present in our religious conversations.

For brevity’s sake, let me list some fallacies which I’m sure you’ve encountered in our discussions of music, women’s ordination, homosexuality (orientation), same-sex relationships, and whatever the pope does (source is linked above).

  • Hasty generalization: making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a sample that is inadequate (usually because it is atypical or too small).
  • Post Hoc: assuming that because B comes after A, A caused B.
  • Slippery Slope: The arguer claims that a sort of chain reaction, usually ending in some dire consequence, will take place, but there’s really not enough evidence for that assumption. The arguer asserts that if we take even one step onto the “slippery slope,” we will end up sliding all the way to the bottom; he or she assumes we can’t stop partway down the hill.
  • Ad hominem: the arguer attacks his or her opponent instead of the opponent’s argument.
  • Straw man: the arguer sets up a weak version of the opponent’s position and tries to score points by knocking it down.
  • Red herring: partway through an argument, the arguer goes off on a tangent, raising a side issue that distracts the audience from what’s really at stake. Often, the arguer never returns to the original issue.
  • False dichotomy: the arguer sets up the situation so it looks like there are only two choices. The arguer then eliminates one of the choices, so it seems that we are left with only one option: the one the arguer wanted us to pick in the first place. But often there are really many different options, not just two.

There is not only a problem with our rhetoric when we employ fallacies. Our love also suffers. As Christians, we need to be extra careful in not using these fallacies just because it makes us sound “cool.” In reality, it is lazy thinking that delivers a weak argument, fueling discussion that should get us somewhere. Instead, we just drive each other apart until we actually create a dichotomy that was once false.

We can agree to disagree, but let’s do it in love. The fallacies in our discussions do not show God’s love. They do not show a people so different from the rest of the world that others can’t help but wonder how we can have loving, sound conversations.

Forgiveness in Charleston

A few days ago after waking up, someone asked if I’d heard about the shooting. I did not know what they were talking about and dismissed it thinking they were referring to one of the other incidents that have happened recently.

“No, this one was yesterday,” the person insisted. “It was in a church, I think.”

I grabbed my iPad and search for a shooting. Lo and behold, there it was. A white 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, sat down for about an hour, then stood up and killed nine people. What?

The crime has been pronounced a hate crime. Some newspapers have said it seems Roof wanted to ignite a racial war. What?

During these days I’ve begun collecting some thoughts and there are three things that stood out, one of them at least is good.

First, when my cousin asked me about it that morning, I thought it was one of the other shootings. Without trying to sound like Obama, why has it become normal? Are we actually getting used to someone going to a public place and killing many just for the heck of it? This is crazy! People have been killed in schools, movie theaters, and churches, and some still act as if nothing was happening. While they may be isolated events, they are becoming alarmingly frequent and dismissing them when they involve a caucasian killer does not do anything to solve the issue.

Then, this moves to the race issue. It’s time to sit down and participate. Why can we get some moderate voices in the media who can help advance the discussion? Instead, we get the liberals who can easily mock the right and the conservatives who stubbornly deny a problem that has sparked some much violence. Let’s not try to make sense out of this, because it does not. Let us talk and move forward.

Second, an entry on the Adventist Peace Fellowship Blog written by Dr. Mark McCleary, reveals a sad thing. The Adventist church remains silent in these issues because we try to be politically correct. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we don’t speak up (except for when we oppose women’s ordination and same-sex relationships). Seriously, we are supposed to be a light to the world, why are we hiding under a bowl/basket/bushel?

Here’s McCleary’s ending paragraph,

Instead of AU students holding a forum on the relevance of Regional [Black] Conferences, or SDA’s struggling over the Biblical validity of Women’s ordination, a voice must be heard that challenges the spirit of White supremacy that holds our church community in its spell. Before I be a slave, I will speak out and speak up. RIP to my brothers and sisters who died on the battle field in SC yesterday night. They fought a good fight, they stood for the right, and justice will pronounce them victors one day. Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty, we’ll be free at last one day.

Third, forgiveness.

Seriously, forgiveness.

A relative of one of the deceased who pretended to be dead in order to survive, invited the shooter to their Wednesday night Bible study. This does not mean there is no grief. There is unspeakable pain that I don’t understand and won’t pretend I can. However, in the midst of mourning, this mother and the rest of the affected community show the struggle in balancing their anger and God’s forgiveness.

This reminds me of many psalms. Despite the harshest situations, Israel praised God. They joined in mourning and worship. May God allow all of us to join them during this time. May we worship together and may we mourn together.

This congregation is a light to the world. They speak of forgiveness and mercy in times of such pain I’ve never experienced. South Carolina’s governor, Nikki Haley, seems extremely out of place calling for the death penalty. The love this congregation shows must overshadow the hate of the murderer. Moreover, the love shown by Felicia Sanders, Nadine Collier, and Bethane Middleton-Brown remind us Jesus died for Dylann Roof, too.

Bethane Middleton-Brown said, “I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry. [She] taught me we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing

More than two years ago, I wrote the following post (I’ve translated it below). I still feel like that, although I haven’t had the same experience in a while. Maybe it will happen again.

I need to recharge.

May 11, 2013

Approximately a month ago, I had one of those days in which nothing turns out fine. Homework and projects, among other things, created a burden I couldn’t bear. Feeling insecure about my abilities only made the situation worse. It was not only one bad day; the entire week had gone by in a less than desirable way.

When I got to my room I decided to open the Bible and look for a verse that could cheer me up, that could satiate my hunger. Psalm 23 was printed in the first page I saw, so I read it.

I read the first verse three times and closed my Bible. That’s all I needed. In that moment I felt relief and consolation. I did not have to worry!

God said, “I will provide and care for you.”

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

The Poor and Us . . .

The Merriam-Webster‘s dictionary defines the word “poor” as “not having enough money for the basic things that people need to live properly.” The dictionary offers three other definitions that are also useful, but this one end with “properly.” This word implies certain relativism in our discussion of poverty. Moreover, the cited definition does represent what I’d call a thoughtful definition.

Let me explain. The last definition in the entry says, “Not good in quality or condition.” This is usually what I find people talking about when talking about people living in inferior conditions (notice the relativism and comparison in the language I’m using). Yes, we do worry about them not having enough food or clothing, but we fail miserably in the ways we try to help. Because then we try to solve the problem with materialism, which only leads people to want more and to “need” more.

Enough talk about poverty for now.

I just returned from a trip to Hong Kong, Shenzhen (China), and Malaysia. I spent about a week in Bambangan, a small village near Kota Marudu, Sabah (Malaysia). While I thought I should have seen poverty, I did not. Yes, I would say they live in poor conditions, but they are not poor. With a clinic, all their basic needs would be covered. Moreover, the psychological and community problems that generally result from poverty were not present in this village. Instead, I found a deep desire for God.

This is not a cool story about how a group of foreigners come and help and see a need for God. We did nothing. I did nothing. God did.

While interviewing three men and asking about the changes electricity and better roads had brought to Bambangan, the benefits they listed included their religious life. More than 20 years ago, two churches began ministering to the village: the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Borneo Evangelical Church. Since then, there seems to be a third Christian denomination: servants of God (it was not clear what the exact name is).

Thanks to electricity and a TV satellite, the village could enjoy some Christian channels. Apparently, they were really excited about listening to more sermons and enriching their spiritual lives. Also, with new roads, preachers and other ministers could come visit Bambangan and other nearby villages.

During our time there, the village held a funeral service. There was an impromptu worship almost every night and the church service on Sabbath at the Seventh-day Adventist Church was a really meaningful worship.

I have plenty to say about my trip to Asia, but I left Bambangan wishing I had that passion for God. Even with all I have, and perhaps because of all I have, I still don’t make enough time for God. Despite the difficulties, Bambangan is a community that not only hungers for God, but seeks Him.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Luke 11:9 (NIV)