Thinking about various church experiences…

22 minute read

March 9, 2024, 8:30 AM

Recently, I found myself discussing the Vacation Bible School that my sister and I attended in the mid nineties while I was in middle school.  It came from a post on /r/exchristian on Reddit, asking, “What do you still have memorized?”  My first reaction was to cite the offertory song that this program had us sing while they passed the plate around.  In thinking about it, I was struck by how misplaced the priorities were when it came to what this offering was to be used for (more on that later).  But then it also led to my recalling various other church experiences that I had while growing up, and how much of a mixed bag these things were.  Some experiences were quite good, while some them were not exactly all rainbows and sunshine.

For some background, I attended church from 1989 to 2003.  I was never that much of a “religious” person to begin with, having spent the first eight years of my life without it.  My father grew up Jewish, and has practiced no religion of any kind for most of his adult life, i.e. he is ethnically Jewish, but does not follow the religion.  Meanwhile, Mom grew up in the Presbyterian Church, and attended church regularly until she began college, and then did not attend church at all from 1969 to 1989.  Thus my early formative years contained no significant religious indoctrination, short of attending a Baptist preschool during our first year in Rogers, and the religious side of things in that program was super light.  I don’t remember doing much religious stuff there short of a few trips to the sanctuary and the “God is great, God is good” prayer before our daily snack.  Outside of this, Mom would occasionally discuss religious subjects with me, though nothing too deep, but even then, I was kind of a skeptic.  When Mom would try to explain this “God” person, the way that he was described defied everything that I had observed in the world, and so I was like, okay, sure, and not really buying it, even at a very young age.  Likewise, I saw no purpose to the prayer that Mom and I did each night before going to bed for some time, because I never really thought that we were speaking to anyone other than ourselves.

Then in 1989, Mom finally found a church that she liked.  As I understand it, when we first moved to Arkansas in 1985, Mom had First Presbyterian Church in Rogers pegged as somewhere that she had wanted to go from the outset, but she was unimpressed with the minister that was there at that time.  By 1989, that guy had left and a new person had taken his place, and Mom liked the new guy a lot more.  We typically went to church on Sundays, we did the after school program that they did on Wednesday afternoons, and then we also did the Vacation Bible School week during the summer.

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So, about that whole “thou shalt not steal” thing…

6 minute read

May 7, 2017, 11:50 AM

Sometimes the level of hypocrisy shown by those in organized religion just makes me stand back in awe.  They preach Christian values, and then don’t follow them in real life.  In this instance, it involves the church that I used to attend from 1992 until 2003, and where I am still technically a member, albeit inactive.  Through a recent interaction, I learned quite a bit more than I expected as far as where things stand with them.

For those who aren’t familiar, I work with a company called Pixsy to recover royalties for cases where my photographs are used without permission.  I routinely search for and submit cases where my photos are used without permission in hopes of recovering license fees for that usage.  Basically, I have no problem with downstream usages of my photos.  But I am a professional who deserves to be paid for those usages in a professional setting.  Basically, if you expect to take in revenue based on materials that contain my work, then you need to pay me for the usage.  My take on it is that if you were going to hire a photographer to do a shoot for you, there’s no question that you would pay them.  But by using photos of mine that I have already created, you’ve essentially hired me as your photographer, and as such, I should be paid.  Using my work for commercial purposes without even so much as asking me is a major no-no as far as I’m concerned.

In this case, I was skimming through the Internet looking for potential infringement cases, I found this:

The ChurchFinder page for Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church

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Yes, that is a star costume…

4 minute read

December 8, 2016, 9:48 AM

For this month, the splash photo shows child me wearing a star costume.  I normally lean towards running a vintage photo for December, because December photos, owing to the Christmas elephant in the room, are typically harder to do than most because of that extra holiday element.  I own very little Christmas junk, and so a new photo requires a shopping trip and some spending to do.  That or I do the photo right in the store, as I did in 2008.  The December splash photo had nothing to do with Christmas in 2012, 2013, and 2014, owing to some recent non-Christmas photos of me taken in those years, but in 2015, Christmas returned to the splash photo.  However, I inadvertently duplicated my work in 2015, as I had run the same photo in December 2006 – a mistake that I didn’t didn’t discover until I did the prep work for this Journal entry.

For this month, my original plan was to run a photo taken in 1987, showing my sister and me with Santa Claus.  However, in a routine check of the archives to prevent duplicates, I discovered that I had run it eleven years prior.  So that went out the window.  I went hunting in my scans of old photos, and found this:

In costume as Andro Star

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This is a message that I can get behind…

< 1 minute read

May 6, 2015, 4:58 PM

This message recently went up on the sign for the church up the street from me:

"Be someone that makes you happy."

Couldn’t have said it any better than that.  No religious overtones, and nothing cheesy.  Just a nice message to help put things in perspective.  Be someone that makes you happy.  After all, we only have one life to live, and it’s far too short to spend it being miserable about yourself.  Be the person that you want to be.

That is all.

Categories: Religion, Silver Spring

I made the mistake of commenting intelligently on a thread populated by very ignorant people…

8 minute read

December 12, 2014, 11:07 AM

…and for that, I am filled with regret.  I thought that perhaps these people would be able to respond to some level of reason.  I was quite wrong on that point.  This time, it was on the “Wilson Memorial Hornets Football” page on Facebook.  I don’t remember how I ended up landing on this page, since I don’t really care about Augusta County high school sports, but somehow, there I was.

For those not familiar, Wilson Memorial High School is located in Fishersville, Virginia.  The school was built at the same time as Stuarts Draft High School, i.e. where I went to high school, and is identical to Stuarts Draft architecturally.  The two schools are traditionally rivals, and play each other every year in football, though now, I believe, as an exhibition game, since the two schools are now in different conferences.

This Facebook page for Wilson football, however, has been a bit controversial.  On December 6, the page’s owner made the following post:

"What a Game!! Faith. Family. Football. We Are... ...WILSON!"

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Holidays are not about a calendar date, but are about what you make of them…

4 minute read

December 25, 2013, 10:03 PM

Happy Festivus, everyone.  It’s time to air some grievances.  It’s time to discuss this neurotic fascination of some people in trying to force their beliefs on everyone else about how one should spend a holiday.  This year, I have just about had my fill of hearing people insist that all of the stores should be closed on [insert holiday here] so that people can spend time with their families.  It starts around Thanksgiving when the stores announce the hours for their sales.  This is when you hear people say, “What?  They’re open on Thanksgiving?  Why aren’t these people spending time with their families?” or, “You’re taking these people away from their families!”  Recall that there was a story this year about a Pizza Hut manager who lost his job because he refused to open the restaurant that he managed on Thanksgiving.  Then the whole discussion comes around again near Christmas when places make the announcement as to whether or not they’re going to be open on that day.

The thing that these people who raise such a fuss on television, radio, and the Internet tend to forget is that holidays are personal affairs.  Everyone celebrates holidays a little bit differently than the next person.  And not everyone celebrates the same holidays.  For some people, December 25 is “Christmas”.  For other people, December 25 is “Wednesday”.  And the specific dates of many holidays actually have no significance.  The celebration may have significance, but the date itself is usually not directly tied to that celebration.  Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States.  It’s that day because Congress set the formal observance on that day, i.e. that day on which the federal government is closed in observance.  Christmas is normally observed on December 25, near the date of the winter solstice.  Why?  Because Christians hijacked some pagan celebrations and made them into their own holiday.  In fact, we don’t know when “Jesus” was born, or if “Jesus” even existed at all.  The dates of some holidays have significance, like Martin Luther King Day (observance of King’s birthday), Washington’s Birthday (I don’t really have to explain this, do I?), Independence Day (marking the date of the Declaration of Independence), and Veterans’ Day (honoring our veterans, on the date that the armistice with Germany took effect, ending World War I), but most of the other holidays’ dates are not significant in and of themselves.  For instance, Labor Day could be the last Monday in August instead of the first Monday in September, and the observance would be unchanged.

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Categories: Christmas, Religion

When you go beyond “first” church of something, it’s probably time to come up with a different name.

3 minute read

August 28, 2009, 3:05 PM

I drove to work two days this week, and when driving, my commute takes me down Georgia Avenue to just north of downtown Silver Spring, and then down 16th Street into Washington to my P Street office. And there are a zillion houses of worship along the way. Seriously, 16th Street must be the religious district or something, because it seems that there are churches upon churches upon churches on there. There are a number of Jewish facilities, the Washington Ethical Society (which at first glance seems like a bit of an oxymoron, with “Washington” and “ethical” in the same sentence), a Buddhist facility (Chua Giac Hoang), and a number of Christian houses of worship of various denominations, including at least one that President Obama has been to (Nineteenth Street Baptist Church).

But the one that kind of struck me as amusing was the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist on the 5500 block of 16th Street. Note “fourth” church. I’ve never understood why churches like to number off like this, but it seems to be fairly common. Waynesboro, Virginia has a First Presbyterian Church and a Second Presbyterian Church. Then Staunton has a First, Second, and Third Presbyterian Church (I grew up Presbyterian, so this is why I’m citing Presbyterian churches – I’m familiar with it).

The way I see it, first, sure. To be “First Church of Christ, Scientist” or “First Presbyterian Church” or “First Baptist Church” or whatever, I suppose you get the right to say you were first. However, until moving to Virginia in the 1990s, I never saw anything beyond first, and thought it was more of an indication of quality more than anything else, especially since in Rogers, Arkansas, in many cases, “first” often translated to “only”. There was only one Presbyterian church in Rogers (and we attended it), and there was only one Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and only one Church of Christ, Scientist. They all called themselves “first”, yet they were all “only” in practice. But “first”, sure.

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Categories: Religion

She just had to go there, and didn’t like what she heard…

5 minute read

June 18, 2009, 7:54 PM

So I was talking to my mother on the phone today after work, as I do most days. At some point, our discussion had moved toward discussion of Anonymous and its protests against the Church of Scientology. My mother supports Anonymous’ work, and often tries to learn more about it, while explaining to her friends about Scientology’s being a dangerous cult (go Mom!).

But then Mom went a step further. She asked what I thought about atheists. I responded that I thought atheists had their head on straighter than most people, and in the interest of full disclosure, indicated that I considered myself amongst their numbers. I don’t think Mom was expecting that response. I also don’t think that she really wanted to hear that, based on her noticeably more down-sounding tone after that disclosure.

See, here’s my take on religion. If you look at various religions objectively, they all make some very interesting points. However, most if not all believe that their religion is the way to whatever happens after death, whether its a cloudy or warm place after shuffling off the mortal coil, or whether you are going to be reincarnated over and over again until you defeat the load-bearing boss at the end of World 8. And if all of them are proclaiming to be the right way, then I consider it more probable that none of them are right.

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Categories: Religion

How would you swear in an atheist?

2 minute read

December 10, 2006, 11:18 PM

I was listening to the last hour of Bruce Williams‘ December 1 show on my iPod this evening while in the car, and he brought up a topic that I found interesting. In the show, he mentioned that congressman-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN) would be sworn into office using the Koran, which is the holy book of Islam, as he is a Muslim. Now, in researching this a little bit, it turns out that he will not be sworn in using the Koran, as all members are sworn in as a group by the Speaker of the House, with no books involved.

The basic concept was about the use of the Koran. It seems fairly straightforward to me, and Bruce and I seem to be in agreement that if he or any Muslim for that matter, were to be sworn in using the Christian Bible, it wouldn’t mean much to him because it’s not something that is a part of his faith. Likewise for a Christian being sworn in by placing their hand on the Koran.

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Free at last!

3 minute read

August 14, 2006, 4:04 PM

The detour is done! The complete rebuilding of Route 608 (Cold Springs Road) has been completed, and so now we have our road back.

To give you a little background information, for the past six months, those who live in my neighborhood have had to go this way to get to US 340 and on to Waynesboro, marked in red:

Map of Stuarts Draft, Virginia showing detour route from Forest Springs/Ridgeview Acres area to intersection of US 340 and VA 608
Image: Google Maps

All that distance to get out of the neighborhood. And the work area, meaning the section of road that was closed, is the section of road in between the green arrows. To give you a comparison, the regular way to 340 is as follows:

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Categories: Religion, Roads, Stuarts Draft

Great walks, great photos, and great conversations…

5 minute read

February 2, 2006, 11:38 PM

This last trip to Washington was definitely an interesting trip. I managed to put myself behind schedule at almost every turn I took, but it was SO worth it.

I arrived at Vienna on time – right after 10 AM. Rode Breda 4053 to Rosslyn. At Rosslyn, I got a message on my phone from Matthew Tilley. That turned into a phone call, where we discussed all sorts of stuff while I also watched birds do laps in the air above North Moore Street.

Then after that, I got on the Metro and rode Blue to Capitol South. I took a walk from the Capitol South station entrance up to Union Station, going by the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court in the process.

The Supreme Court building has netting around the pediment, due to a chunk of marble falling off the building and onto the steps on November 28. In addition, on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, a pro-life group stood facing the building, symbolically gagged with red duct tape with “LIFE” written in black on the tape. Take a look:

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Do NOT preach your religion to me, and ESPECIALLY not when I’m at work!

2 minute read

January 28, 2006, 11:55 PM

I had a customer today at the self-checkout that REALLY got on my nerves. He rings himself up on the self-checkout. He pays. So far, so good, right? Okay. So after he finishes, he comes up to me, where I’m standing at the self-checkout podium, running the show. He has a question for me.

Now I consider myself to be very good with where things are in the store. I can point someone to just about any item in the place. I’m also very good with directions and know the area quite well, and can direct you on how to get just about anywhere. Seriously – other associates and also some of our managers have referred people to me for driving directions.

So the man hesitates for a moment. I’m waiting for the question. What does he want to know? He asks the question: “Do you accept Jesus as your lord and savior?” As someone who’s become strongly non-religious in the last couple of years, I take offense to complete strangers asking me about my religious beliefs (which I generally do not discuss because I don’t think most people want to hear what I have to say on the issue), and I especially find it offensive when people start forcing their religious beliefs on me in my place of business.

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Categories: Religion, Walmart

I can’t believe that this made the Washington Post…

2 minute read

January 23, 2005, 10:55 PM

I’m amazed to see this in The Washington Post for Sunday, after a friend from the Washington DC area brought it to my attention. The article is entitled “Bible Breaks at Public Schools Face Challenges in Rural Virginia”.

The issue is about Staunton Public Schools and a Weekly Religious Education program, where students are pulled out of school for a period of time each week to go off the property to a local church or portable building to have what basically amounts to Sunday school during school hours. Citing higher academic standards, a group of parents have asked the school board to discontinue the program, after Harrisonburg (30 miles to the north) discontinued the program mid-year.

It’s interesting to see what various people have to say about the issue. Now take in mind that I live in a “red state”. My area is quite conservative. What’s amusing, though, is how so many of these so-called “Christians” are showing their true colors. This is the I-don’t-care-what-you-think-and-so-go-shove-it attitude. One letter-writer in the Staunton paper, who said that they were originally from Arlington and were speaking against the program, was told by another letter-writer that if they don’t like it, then they should go back to Arlington. I think it would be quite appropriate to offer this as a reaction: Jesus Christ

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