Why We Stopped Going To Church

We used to show up all the time when we were younger but slowly committed as time went on.

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I recently read a lovely written post with the discussion if Christianity is dead? I don’t think it is dead. Instead, I believe that it has somewhat like a birthday appearance for a favorite relative. We used to show up all the time when we were younger but slowly committed as time went on. We don’t turn up in the church until someone points it out. When we do show up, it must either be on Easter or Christmas. It seems that our priorities are to go last minute grocery shopping before the NFL football games come on later that Sunday evening.

Let’s face facts that Sunday sporting events have replaced the church, as we know it. Comedians and some well-known pastors have mentioned that if ESPN would broadcast on the sing-spiration screen during service that church turnout would improve significantly. Of course, this is sad, but in all honesty, it is somewhat accurate.

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I cannot support the argument that people are no longer Christian or have given up on God. Perhaps it’s safe to say that the church is irrelevant and full of hypocrisy. Look at the moral failure of so many of its leaders. But I would counter that we as Christians should retake our congregations by creating a counterculture of integrity and grace. Jesus said that it would be by our fruit that people would recognize us. Live a life of integrity with each other and outsiders, and your church will become a magnet, not a repellant.

God is missing from the church. That would be a big argument that I could make. I used to be an active member of my congregation. I stopped going because the focus seemed more about a focus on buying a new organ, new carpet, office upgrade and the list went on. I felt I was in a budget meeting more than a place of worship. Another issue was most of the stories, while positive, and seemed to allude to success as material matters such as Mercedes, Lexus, and other expensive excesses. I tend to value happiness, health and being kind to one another over material possessions. I don’t think the Gospel of the Good News included a Mercedes.

Politics always seem to slip in the pulpit. This is one of my pet peeves. While it may be true that some political issues affect the church, I should be an advocate of my congregation and community to speak about compromise and patience. When pastors or ministers bring political favoritism into the church then, of course, it will either create a divide or silence from the opposition. This is where I enjoyed learning about the history of Elizabeth I. She would always say to her ministers to vote their conscience. This is where religion should step back and let the community shape itself. Religion is the one that should administer the teachings of patience.

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Finally, let’s face more facts. We just want to sleep in on Sundays. American society works harder and longer hours than most nations. Long gone are the shops from the 1960’s that close at 6 PM and closed every Sunday. Overtime and bringing work home only to get on the computer to catch up seems more of the norm. Of course, this will cycle into taking away from religious commitments.

The church is not dead. We are just keeping it somewhat like the daily lives we live. It was once on our to do list but managed to fall off when other items started pushing its way in.

Wishing You a Happy New Year!

Facilitating a blog can be somewhat a full time job. However, it is fun and not to be taken too seriously. Rather it is an expression and spirit of free speech hopefully with a dash of wit and humor. For those that follow my blogs, I want to personally thank you. Hopefully I bring a bit of entertainment value and reasonable perspective into your lives. If you have suggestions on an issue you would like for me to write about, I am open to suggestions.

I wish all of you a wonderful and prosperous upcoming New Year!

When Did the Billing Agent become a Nurse?

Emergency room visits are typically not a pleasant experience. I think those that design emergency waiting areas want to extend in some form that very unpleasant experience. Today I had an embarrassing visit. My hemorrhoids flared causing me three days of anguish. So I made my journey to the emergency room. Let me interject by saying that emergency room furniture is designed by someone clearly depressed and uninspired. The artwork is replaced with bright health related meticulously placed framed posters. There are plenty of AARP and random golf magazines lying about. Nurse staff calls out names similar to a basic training induction. There are little humanity and comfort in a place where it seems to be needed the most.

Once you are finally called to the triage area you are not greeted by a nurse or doctor. Your first visit is someone from the billing department. Seems very insensitive in my opinion.  Somewhat providing an argument that billing is more important than overall health. Again, a missed opportunity of compassion, comfort and putting patients first.

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After about an hour of waiting and lots of forms, I was cleared to be seen. I thought it was easier to buy a new car than go to the hospital. I signed HIPAA documents, and I asked an important question. “By signing this form does the mean my insurance company and doctors will be speaking to one another?”  I was told that doesn’t happen. So basically we are the only advocate for our insurance program policies to continually fight for what insurance won’t pay but physicians order. Again compassion, comfort and putting people first are not what health insurance and doctors seem to advocate for. Instead, they argue against one another putting patients in the middle. No wonder people won’t see a doctor or seek preventive medicine in America.

Not only do we design our hospitals sterile but we also develop healthcare in the same fashion. I am not demanding plush exuberant conditions. Rather I am asking that health care and its agents become a bit more aware of how it represents its industry. The first people to greet patients should be medical staff, not billing personnel. I am concerned that we are turning an institution that was once filled with compassion, dedication, and ethical standards into another sterile facility where bedside manners and caring for our neighbor must regulate itself past a billing agent.

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I am mindful that there are plenty of doctors, nurses and other practitioners that take immense pride in what they do. However, the overall hospital experience from my observation didn’t seem very courteous, inviting or reflective of the hospitals I once knew from decades past.  Ironic how a regular doctor’s visit would have only cost about $125 with insurance, medication and a referral update in an office that was warm, inviting, and seemed to care about my medical needs. That same emergency room visit with all its sterility and no tests or medical procedures cost over $7000. We wonder what is wrong with our medical institutions in the United States? I think I just found one of the answers why.

Student Conduct is Dangerous

If you ever attended a college or university, you may have heard of student conduct or an office at the college that regulates conduct and conflict resolution. These organizations became a part of the school to mainly deal with arguments in housing, cheating in the classroom and to help reduce underage binge drinking. Over time student conduct offices have morphed into a significant oversight from criminal charges to mental health regulatory affairs. This is where I think there should be a line drawn for such organizations like campus student conduct.

The first problem is Title IX. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination by sex in any federally funded education program or activity. But like any good law, there is flaws and room for critical error. Title IX allows any student to bypass law enforcement authorities to bring a claim of sexual assault to student conduct. This means that law enforcement is completely out of the picture with no investigation either in process and evidence is not professionally captured or preserved. Instead the Respondent or accused must appear before a student conduct committee, usually run by students, with no lawyers present to defend his/her accusations. This is like somewhat like calling you boss at work to claim that you were sexually assaulted at your desk. The boss will immediately inform the police, human resources, corporate security and other agencies to secure a potential crime scene. Most disturbing about campus student conduct boards is that due process is completely thrown out the window. If the board “believes” the story of the accuser then that’s all it takes to expel a student. That’s right folks, you will have an expelled labeled “sex offender” on campus that is not a sex offender because police were never called or informed about the situation. Another disturbing fact is that if the accuser loses his/her case before student conduct, then they under Title IX be charged with filing a false report. There is a small clause in the title that prohibits this because there no police report was filed. It is an internal matter controlled by inexperienced faculty with no training in law or law certified to practice in a capacity of an administrative judge.

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All I can think about is the Rolling Stone article about Virginia Tech or the Duke Lacross scandal. In each of these scenarios, lives were destroyed because student conduct initially took the lead and police were either not called, or police botched the crime scene because the campus stood in the way of a proper criminal investigation. While Title IX is essential to the protections of fairness, it lacks balance when it comes to sexual violence claims. Instead, universities should immediately engage professional law enforcement authorities at the first indication of sexual assault. A band of self-appointed academics that label themselves as the morality police of student conduct should not be engaged in any serious criminal allegations.

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I have no problems with student conduct providing life examples of proper social conduct on campus. But student conduct should not be involved in slapping wrists over illegal drug activity on campus while people not enrolled or living on campus experience the heavy hand of the law and police. It is nothing more than a double standard of protections and provides a level of inequality and prejudice. Student conduct should only be involved in conflict negotiations, academic cheating, and concern notifications. Student conduct should not be in the business of determining what is criminal versus its ability to pick and choose what it deems it can handle. This opens up universities to massive liabilities and loses the credibility of overall safety and the spirit of the effective due process. A campus cannot be judge, jury, and executioner. But as long as student conduct remains, then that is what it will continue to be.

The Birds and Missing Bees

I overheard a conversation where my mother was talking about the garden in our back yard. She talked about vegetables that once plentiful are mainly the ones that fail to grow today. At first, she suspected the soil was dying, but then she realized that there were no bees around anymore. I searched in my head to reflect a moment on that observation, and I too noticed that bees that used to swarm around the house are no longer to be found. It as if the bees moved away or perhaps died.

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Let me be honest by saying bees are not something I consider as a pet. But they are wonderful to have especially if you have flowers, plants or a garden. It is somewhat like having a garden snake. Sure, they can scare the crap out of you, but they do keep other critters away from the garden; and sometimes me because I am scared of snakes. But I am concerned to realize that our bee population has dramatically disappeared. I began searching credible websites to find answers. What was strange about my search is that number of times Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and the seed company Monsanto kept appearing. Many arguments point to Monsanto that designs its proprietary commercial seeds with pesticides that are possibly passed on bees. I was disturbed to read a government report published by the Canadian government. It says pollen becomes genetically modified or sterile; the bees will potentially go malnourished and die of illness due to the lack of nutrients and the interruption of the digestive capacity.” The argument is because of GMO and “Terminator Seeds.” My question is why isn’t the USDA mentioning this as a letter of warning to FDA regulated industries?

What about grant research? I did some digging around and found that the USDA provided $8 million to help boost declining honeybee populations. Apparently, Land Grant universities are requested to apply, but I couldn’t find any University that won that particular research grant. Folks, life without bees can be just as devastating as the loss of water or global warming issues. It’s somewhat like a domino effect. Another disturbing observation is that there are plenty of beekeeping websites with up to date information about the declining bee population but very little published from universities or government agencies. Are they fearful of companies such as Monsanto and is politics playing its ugly hand?

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I have a bit of concern that if things can happen to bees, then it can happen to humans and potentially other living beings. I think we need to push back somewhat to large seed companies to determine what is in the seed and disclose its method. The tobacco companies for decades hid the harmful effects of nicotine and other additives in cigarettes. Why not apply this level of transparency to GMO’s? Perhaps now is that time to better understand what happened to our bee population.

I’m Trading My Life for a Flip Phone

When I was growing up and introduced to the internet age my life was a bit simple. All I had was a LAN line with call waiting and a Zoom modem box. Connectivity was to a service once called CompuServ where I had to pay an additional $10 a month to access email, the web, and browser material. There was not much to choose from, but the information was simple, easy to access and affordable. Today my internet service is by Time Warner that costs $100 a month, and my modem set me back about $125 to own (2 years ago). Gone is the telephone line only replaced by a smartphone account that averages $75 a month with AT&T Wireless and a monthly fee to Apple in order to own my iPhone 7 plus. Access to information is no longer credible, and I must be vigilant to ensure that my personal data is protected and my network secured from malware. Sadly I wish I had the simplicity of my 1995 life back again because what I researched was credible, inexpensive, reliable and didn’t overwhelm me or my wallet.

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Many of us are seeking ways to cut the cord so to speak. I have satellite television service with DirecTV yet have an Apple TV device connected to the internet. Sure, I could simplify things but at the same time complicate the way I am used to things. Our lives have nearly become a la carte somewhat at what is offered to us. But we become nickel and dimed to death at what we want to choose to have. For example, I could cut the cord and subscribe to SlingBox or something else and add HBO Now and some other goodies such as Netflix or Amazon Prime (which doesn’t work on Apple TV as of yet). But I end up paying what a gave up in original charges and taxes. Yes, I am paying for internet service that I could reduce only to degrade the qualities that I am used to or require. It seems that when we take a step back to average what we receive is below average only to be told by some technical support department “you should upgrade to our premium service.” It makes me want to scream at times. I didn’t experience premium or commercial free back in 1995. It seems that businesses have created clever ways to trap our norms or styles to become no longer premium but platinum in hopes we will keep wanting more. What I think of technology is like a drug similar to heroin. We keep wanting more and find it difficult to quit or stop our addiction. Funny, that our primary supplier of technologies is the very industries that warn us about substance abuse. The media can be so cruel.

What should I do? Become a free spirit and break free from technology? Should I become like my mother that could care less about smartphones, the internet and 260 channels (where she claims 250 channels are infomercials or pay movie based)? Maybe she is right? Perhaps it is a lesson from those generations before us. My grandmother used to say that American culture is like sheep. We just keep following what everyone else has even if we don’t need it. Nevertheless, we buy it and may use it once or twice only to rust away or become obsolete.

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Maybe I should cut all the cords and cordless completely and learn to begin to start smelling the real roses versus the virtual roses. I think I could save a lot of money. But like giving up any addiction or drug the cold turkey will be certainly a hell for me as I hear other addicts say, “what about what happened on Game of Thrones” or “I knew she would do that on House of Cards.” Is there a pill or patch I can use when I begin weening off internet and television? Oh god, I think I may be laughed off the earth, and my dating may be altered if I am seen with a flip phone. I desire simplicity but at what cost? That is who we are today but is it how we want to be?

Homophobic States of America

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health mentions lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) individuals are disproportionately incarcerated, mistreated and sexually victimized in U.S. jails and prisons. Lead study author Ilan Meyer, the Williams Distinguished Senior Scholar for Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law says “The high rate was so shocking, I had to check it three times to make sure we weren’t making any mistakes.” Sadly, the report may be a reflection upon the hidden agenda of prejudice in America when it comes to LGBT relations.

All you have to do is mention gay marriage or lesbian adoptions and the hate nonsense immediately begins. We may also hear garrulous and pointless discussions about LGBT members clandestine maneuvers to “turn” a person gay or fall prey to their sexual innuendos. It is not only absurd but utterly bizarre to think in this manner. But we do hear it and fail as a society to stop this insane way of thinking. There are people out there, perhaps you know a few, that still think there are a gay agenda and plan to disrupt society. Perhaps I was asleep at the wheel, but I missed my copy of that gay agenda. Could someone please send me a copy?

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What bothers me the most about this published report is that it comes hundreds of years too late. We are aware that homosexuality, in general, has been habitually persecuted when it began in the Colony of Virgina and the rest of the world. The people of Virginia before the United States was formed criminalized male sodomy, making it punishable by death. Most notable is when Oscar Wilde in England was sentenced to two years hard labor in prison for gross indecency. The list of persecutions aroud the world went on and somewhat still continue today. It was California that created the modern day sex offender registry. That particular registry was to list every known homosexual even while still incarcerated and alert communities about known homosexuals. Today that registry is a mixed bag of every offense treating and labeling it as a final sum. It’s not a registry; it’s a stigma list. Creating anti-gay laws or lists will eventually bring death in some form or another.

Of course, those practicing law or law enforcement will lean towards being anti-gay. After all, law enforcement is a macho uniformed paramilitary culture while law is a formal dark affair of backroom deals rather than actual justice.  Female police officers must cross genders to be accepted among their peers. Female attorneys do their best to look like men rather than who they are. This is where the shift begins not to identify fairness but to recognize the strong macho identification of emulation. American culture is somewhat vigilante in nature by suggesting sayings to those that will or are incarcerated as, “I hope they become someone’s bitch in prison” or “Soon, Bubba will have a new bunkmate.” These suggestions only confirm that LGBT individuals incarcerated are mistreated and sexually victimized. It further suggests that we as a society are not doing anything to protect LGBT communities nor providing an advocacy of equal justice under the law. As long as politics, judicial prejudice and bigotry occur then, there will always be a disproportion within our jails, schools, and society. I once heard the saying, “This is why homophobia is a terrible evil: it disguises itself as concern while it is inherently hate.” Our society, leadership, and judicial officers are responsible for providing equality to all and immediately discovering ways to stop the disproportioned. How many more hundreds of years must pass before we do something?