Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hidden Baggage

Do you ever feel like you're carrying around some hidden baggage? I recently took a trip through an airport security checkpoint in Dallas. In the wake of the underwear bomber (is there a more dubious distinction?), airport security is in full on lock down mode, and those of us who've had to travel since Christmas day have encountered a whole new level of scrutiny. In my case, I stepped to the checkpoint confident that my luggage would make a non-stop trip through the x-ray machine, and assured that I would shoe-lessly and belt-lessly breeze through the metal detector without incident. I laid my laptop, car keys, coat, cell phone, shoes and belt in their own generic grey bins, and slid them onto the conveyor belt like groceries at a check out lane. What could go wrong?

Before I left home, I grabbed a small carry-on bag from the hall closet and packed it myself (without the aid of any terrorist-types), so I knew there was nothing in there that could be fashioned into a makeshift weapon. Imagine my surprise when one of the security guards stopped me and exclaimed, "You know you have a multi-tool with a blade in your bag, right?" "No!" I surprisingly snapped back, "I had no idea." Apparently one of my kids stuffed this threatening device into my suitcase for some unknown reason. It cost me nearly 20 minutes at the security station just to explain to homeland security that I really wasn't planning on charging the cockpit with a leatherman. Finally, after confiscating the multi-tool that I never knew I even owned, they sent me on my way.

It was a not so subtle reminder that we sometimes carry harmful things around with us, like so much airport baggage, while not even knowing they are there. This is why I think counseling is good for just about anyone. Counselors are sort of like airport security check points. They reveal the things we carry around inside of us that could be potentially harmful to us, sometimes without our knowledge. Just something to think about.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Book Offers Honest Reflections About Bothersome Truths

If you were to ask an atheist or skeptic what bothers him most about Christianity, chances are that person would have a list of issues to discuss. But what would happen if you were to pose that same question to a Christian — or, better yet - an evangelical pastor? The answer might surprise you.

In What Bothers Me Most About Christianity (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster), Pastor Ed Gungor owns up to the valid criticism that affronts Christianity. Gungor is the author of the New York Times bestseller There Is More to the Secret and is recognized as an expert on issues of faith and popular culture. A regular guest on Moody Broadcasting’s Primetime America radio show, his popular blogs are found on Christian Post.com. With his trademark wit and refreshing honesty, Gungor explores the aspects of Christianity that trouble not only the opponents of faith but dedicated believers as well.

“Those who embrace Christ love Christianity, but some parts of faith still don’t sit well. Not everyone is willing to admit this. Some claim they never experience tension or doubt—that their faith is always an ecstatic, absolute, unwavering “knowing” that bubbles inside them at all times, forever effervescent and never encroached upon by doubt. But I don’t believe them,” Gungor states. “Faith has already won the day in my soul. But still, some areas of faith throw me off. They disturb me; they disturb lots of people. In What Bothers Me Most About Christianity, I extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to explore these areas with me.”

In recent years, atheist authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have begun to flood the market with books attempting to dismantle religious faith. Gungor’s contribution to this discussion is thoughtful, reasonable, and respectful. What Bothers Me Most About Christianity is essential reading for anyone—believer and skeptic alike—who struggles to understand or accept:

• A Hide-and-Seek God
• An Unreasonable Faith
• An Evil World
• A Lone Savior
• The Science-Faith Smackdown
• An All-Too-Human Church
• An Old Testament “Bully”
• A Misuse of Scripture
• A Torturous Hell

Gungor maintains that having faith is not intellectual suicide and that mystery is an essential quality of the Christian belief. What Bothers Me Most About Christianity opens up the forum for amicable discussion between thinking people on both sides of the debate, from aggressive atheists to unswerving Christian believers. Gungor maintains that balancing faith and reason is, indeed, possible and that devoted Christ followers need not shy away from asking the tough questions.

“If we aren’t honest about the tensions in faith, problems emerge. Critical thinkers observe Christians and dismiss the claims of Christ, and some Christ followers end up living more in the land of fake than the land of faith,” Gungor reflects. As he guides readers through these fundamental issues, they will find that their honest wrestling will actually bring them to a deeper, more mature understanding of faith. What Bothers Me Most About Christianity is available online here.