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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life: Purpose #2 
Thursday, January 24th, 2013 | 10:02 pm [purpose-driven life, religion, video, vlog]
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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life

003 – Purpose #2: You Were Formed For God’s Family

DAY 15: FORMED FOR GOD’S FAMILY

  • “You were formed for God’s family.” (Rick Warren, THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, p. 117)
    • I get the feeling Rick didn’t really challenge himself as a writer when he was working on this manuscript.
  • So God wanted a family and that’s why we’re here. This is the second purpose for our life, planned before we were born, and this is the overall story of the Bible: God building a family that will love him and honor him.  Since God is love, he values relationships. He’s always had a relationship with himself (hello!) in the form of the Trinity, so he’s never been lonely. Again Warren reminds us that God didn’t need to create us — he desired to create us.
    • Others have pointed out that a truly perfect god would not have created us out of any sort of desire, because a perfect god would have no desires — he would already have everything. And a truly eternal and timeless God would not have created us because for him there could never a point before he created us, and a point after he created us, because to have that sort of linear progression, you need time. C.S. Lewis has a clever way of looking at the issue of how God experiences time in Mere Christianity, which I almost feel bad about mentioning — Mere Christianity is like the fucking Iliad compared to this. I’m as shocked as you are that I just said that.
  • Warren points out the difference between being in a human family, and being in God’s family. We are creations of God, but we aren’t children of God until we are born again and have faith in Christ.
  • “Your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever. Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death. On the other hand, our spiritual family — our relationship to other believers — will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships.” (p. 118)
    • Several commenters on the previous videos in this series have remarked that Warren’s constant admonitions to make God the sole focus of your life, to continuously praise him, to strive to always keep him in mind, are reminiscent of the sort of conditioning you might expect to receive as a member of a cult. Encouraging readers to think of their fellow church members as more important than their own families feels a bit cultish, too, doesn’t it?
  • There are benefits to being in God’s family (just as there are benefits to being God’s friends, which we also are — or should want to be, anyway). What benefits might these be? According to Warren: the family name, the family likeness, family privileges, family intimate access (what the fuck is that?!), and the family inheritance.
  • Warren skips right past the first four bullshit made-up benefits and goes straight for the inheritance. Figures. But, seriously, what about that intimate access? I really want to know what the fuck he means by that.
  • Anyway, the inheritance. In a totally unexpected structural flourish, Warren breaks the inheritance down into five parts: eternity with God, changed to be like Christ, freedom from all pain and suffering, reward and positions of service, and sharing in Christ’s glory. Now that he’s cleared that up . . .
  • Warren says that our inheritance from God is permanent. And then he takes another swipe at saving for retirement: “This eternal inheritance, not retirement, is what you should be looking forward to and working for. . . . Retirement is a short-sighted goal. You should be living in light of eternity.” (pp. 119-120)
    • In other words, don’t waste time planning so you can enjoy the final phase of your life, because you’re going to live forever. Again, I feel the need to remind myself that this book was written by an adult for an intended audience of other adults.
  • When you become a part of God’s family, you have to get baptized. Warren emphasizes that this is not optional — baptism functions as the public announcement that you have entered into God’s family, it symbolizes your faith (Warren compares it to a wedding ring), and, most importantly, Jesus commanded it. So all you unbaptized Christians out there, quit pissing off Jesus and go get your asses dipped. Not sprinkled! Dipped. None of that Catholic bullshit.
  • Warren says that being part of God’s family is the highest honor and greatest privilege we could ever attain.
  • “You are a part of God’s family, and because Jesus makes you holy, God is proud of you!” (p. 121)
    • God isn’t proud of you because of you — your character, your accomplishments, your abject, groveling devotion to him. He’s proud of you because Jesus — a.k.a. himself — makes you holy. You are worthless, except for what God gives to you.

DAY 16: WHAT MATTERS MOST

  • Love is what matters most. God is love, so loving is the most important thing we can do. Well, not exactly — see, we need to learn how to love — God’s way. This should be good.
  • We’re supposed to love unselfishly, which is hard for us because we’re all such self-centered pricks. (I’m paraphrasing.) God wants us to love everybody, but he wants us to save that extra special love for other believers. Why? Is it because believers are more deserving of love than nonbelievers? Or is it some spiritual equivalent of kin selection — we love them more because they’re our spiritual family, just like we used to love our real families before we forsook them to join the spiritual one? No. The actual reason is, to show off.
  • “Jesus said our love for each other — not our doctrinal beliefs — is our greatest witness to the world. He said, ‘Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’” (p. 124)
  • But if we want to learn to love each other — so we can show off for Jesus and maybe scam a few more marks into joining up — we have to be in regular fellowship with other believers. Through fellowship, we learn three truths about love (couldn’t come up with five, I guess).
  • First, the best use of life is love. Warren says that love should be the top priority of our lives. I thought worshipping God was our top priority? I guess we worship God by loving each other — you think that’s it? That’s probably what Rick Warren would say if I asked him to explain this horseshit, isn’t it?
  • “Relationships, not achievements or the acquisition of things, are what matters most in life. So why do we allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick? When our schedules become overloaded, we start skimming relationally, cutting back on giving the time, energy, and attention that loving relationships require. What’s most important to God is displaced by what’s urgent.” (p. 125)
    • Well, if God has a problem with it, maybe he should miracle the minimum wage up a little bit. Lots of those people with overloaded schedules aren’t chasing achievements or material acquisition. They’re working to make sure the bills get paid. They’re stretching themselves thin to support their families, to keep a roof over their heads, to feed and clothe their kids.  Warren really is the embodiment of a fat, privileged white dude, isn’t he? To hear him talk, it’s just a matter of prioritizing. The thought that people might be too busy working to provide basic needs for themselves and their loved ones to devote 100% of their time and energy to God never seems to occur to him.
  • Warren also warns us that God will evaluate us on the quality of our relationships:
  • “. . . I suggest that when you wake up every morning, you kneel by your bed, or sit on the edge of it, and pray this: ‘God, whether I get anything else done today, I want to make sure that I spend time loving you and loving other people — because that’s what life is all about. I don’t want to waste this day.’ Why should God give you another day if you’re going to waste it?” (p. 126)
    • Making an effort to love others because it will get us in good with God and, apparently, convince him not to kill us, is by definition not selfless. Warren began this chapter by telling us to learn to love unselfishly.
  • Next, the best expression of love is time.
  • “Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” (p. 127)
    • Gosh, Mr. Rick, you’re my mostest favorite preschool teacher ever!
  • Warren goes on for another page about how important it is to spend time with those we love. You know, if God was real, and he deserved love, I might spend some time with him.
  • Finally, the best time to love is now! Why? You’ll love this: Because life is short. People die, children grow up, you never know how much time you’ll have to let people know that you love them.
    • Yes we do! Forever! Right?

DAY 17: A PLACE TO BELONG

  • It’s not enough to merely believe in God — we have to belong to his family. There’s no such thing in the Bible as a solitary saint, Warren says. We’re put here together, and we’re going to be together for eternity.
    • Right! That’s what I thought. So why is now the best time to love? What difference does it make?
  • Our relationship with Christ is personal, but not private — we’re connected to every other believer. We are members of one body. In fact, Warren informs us that C.S. Lewis noted that the word “membership” originally referred to being a part of the body of Christ — or, a member.
    • So we’re God’s member, but not his privates. Got it.
  • Going to church is important because if you don’t go to a good church, you are detached from the body of Christ, and eventually you’ll shrivel and die. Yep! That’s what he says.
  • You might believe you can be a good Christian without joining a local church. But you know who disagrees with you? God. Rick Warren says so.
  • Warren offers more reasons to get your ass to church. Six of them, actually (he is really blowing the five-point structure in this section, isn’t he?):
  • First, going to church identifies you as a believer to the rest of the world, and God really likes it when you show off for him to the uninitiated.
  • Second, going to church teaches you to be unselfish because you learn to tolerate being in the company of grinning assholes just as vapid and deluded as you. (Again, I’m paraphrasing.)
  • Third, church builds your spiritual muscles. “We need more than the Bible in order to grow; we need other believers. We grow faster and stronger by learning from each other and being accountable to each other. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow, too.” (p. 134)
    • So hearing what the voices in other peoples’ heads have to say is important, too.
  • Fourth, God calls his people to ministry. Believers are given special gifts to allow them to help the church, and going to your local church allows you to develop these gifts so that one day, you too can become the pastor of a megachurch and write a bestselling book filled with trite, pandering horseshit that will guarantee you the comfortable retirement you scold others for wanting for themselves.
  • Fifth, in church you can share in Christ’s mission for the world. This basically means you can all pool your resources to make it easier to push your religion on other people.
  • Sixth, church keeps you from backsliding. Without the constant fellowship of other Christians, it’s a lot easier to realize that Christianity is false and incoherent and a stupid waste of time, and we want to avoid that sort of thing, so go to church so your spirit can be encouraged, or whatever.
  • Warren plugs his book, The Purpose-Driven Church, again, and says he hopes we’ll read that one, too. Really?
  • Warren ends this chapter by pushing for church membership, not just church attendance. Attenders are consumers, while members are contributors, you see. He also compares mere attenders to couples who live together without getting married. There’s something so warm and non-judgmental about Rick Warren, isn’t there?

DAY 18: EXPERIENCING LIFE TOGETHER

  • We’re meant to share our lives with each other, but we need to make sure the fellowship we’re experiencing is genuine, and not the sort of phony-baloney fellowship they probably have at your stupid church.
  • Again, I’m paraphrasing, but that is essentially Warren’s attitude in this chapter. He spends the previous chapter pushing us to join a local church, and in this one he shares some very condescending criticisms of what he assumes is the environment of a typical church:
  • “The Bible calls shared experience fellowship. Today, however, the word has lost most of its biblical meaning. ‘Fellowship’ now usually refers to casual conversation, socializing, food, and fun. The question, ‘Where do you fellowship?’ means ‘Where do you attend church?’ ‘Stay after for fellowship’ usually means ‘Wait for refreshments.’” (p. 138)
    • Picky sumbitch, ain’t he?
  • Warren (the megachurch pastor) cautions against worshipping in large groups, since in large groups people can easily stop participating and certain members will come to dominate the group.
  • “For this reason, every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church, whether it is a home fellowship group, a Sunday school class, or a Bible study. . . . If you think of your church as a ship, the small groups are the lifeboats attached to it.” (p. 139)
    • Spend a lot of time hanging out on the lifeboats of ships, do you, Rick?
  • So, what’s the difference between real fellowship and fake fellowship? There are four differences. (Again — four, Rick? You couldn’t have teased out one more? You’re just getting lazy, man.)
  • First, in real fellowship people experience authenticity. This should not be confused with authentic fellowship, in which people experience realness.
  • Second, real fellowship is mutual, it involves give-and-take.
  • “You are not responsible for everyone in the Body of Christ, but you are responsible to them. God expects you to do whatever you can to help them.” (p. 141)
    • Yes, lest the thought of helping another person for its own sake, or out of your own sense of empathy or compassion happen to flash across your mind, remember that God has ordered you to help them, and that should be the real reason.
  • Third, real fellowship inspires sympathy.
  • “Sympathy says, ‘I understand what you’re going through, and what you feel is neither strange nor crazy.’ Today some call this ‘empathy,’ but the biblical word is ‘sympathy.’” (p. 141)
    • They’re not the same thing. What Warren is describing, understanding what another person is going through, is empathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, expressing condolences. Empathy is feeling what the other person feels, putting yourself in their place. They’re both important, they’re both good, but they’re not the same thing.
  • Fourth, real fellowship inspires mercy. We all make mistakes and we should all be merciful and forgive each other when we do. Again, we should do this not for its own sake, but because God tells us to, and because God has been so merciful to us. Remember to forgive others just as God forgave you (provided you’ve said the necessary prayers and adopted the necessary beliefs to make yourself party to the scapegoating of Jesus).
  • “Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it.” (p. 143)
    • gain, unless you’re God, the embodiment of perfect love and mercy. Then you don’t forgive until blood’s been spilled.

DAY 19: CULTIVATING COMMUNITY

  • Fellowship is important. I hope this point has been stressed strongly enough for you to get it, because it’s really, really important. Warren says that commitment is necessary to establish community, that while only the Holy Spirit can create real fellowship, he uses our commitment to create that fellowship.
    • Interesting tidbit: the Holy Spirit is a “he” and not an “it.”
  • The thing is, just like your bullshit fake church fellowship, most of you probably don’t know how to relate to other people because you weren’t taught the necessary skills in your stupid non-spiritual families. Luckily, the Bible tells us how to create real fellowship. Warren gives us a list of things needed to cultivate community — a list of five things. Now we’re back in the saddle!
  • Thing One: Honesty. The Bible says to speak the truth in love, so do that. Don’t lie or hold your tongue to spare feelings or avoid conflict, and don’t gloss over tensions before issues can be resolved.
  • “Real fellowship, whether in a marriage, a friendship, or your church, depends on frankness. In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship.” (p. 147)
    • It’s funny that he would use those phrases, because “tunnel of conflict” and “passageway to intimacy” are both euphemisms I’ve used in the past for the . . . What’s next?
  • Honesty doesn’t mean rudeness, Warren says. Look to the Bible to know the right way and the wrong way to go about telling the truth.
  • Thing Two: Humility. Humility, Warren writes, is the oil that smoothes and soothes relationships.
    • Is it the warming kind?
  • Pride is bad because it puts up walls that separate us from each other and from God.
  • “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (p. 148)
    • This Churchillian rhetoric!
  • Thing Three: Courtesy. Be nice to the annoying people in your group, essentially.
  • “These people may have special emotional needs, deep insecurities, irritating mannerisms, or poor social skills. You might call them EGR people — ‘Extra Grace Required.’” (p. 149)
    • Do we really want to assign letter codes to groups of people? You could always just call them SPs. Scientologists do it, and it’s not creepy and weird and sinister at all!
  • Thing Four: Confidentiality. God hates gossip. I mean, God really hates gossip. Did you see the sermon Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave about it in Doubt? He hates it! He hates it so much that if there’s a gossip in your church group, you need to confront him — or, let’s be honest, her, amirite, fellas? — and if she gets mad and leaves the group over it, just let her go! The group is more important. So the courtesy thing doesn’t apply, I guess. Note: Gossips not EGRs.
  • Thing Five: Frequency. Relationships take time, so meet with your group regularly, even when you don’t feel like it. Warren reminds us that the first Christians met together every day.
  • So here’s my problem with this, and it’s the same problem I have with pretty much everything Warren says in this book: It’s not that this is terrible advice, once you strip away the condescending tone and the God fetish. The things he’s saying are important, are important. We’re social animals, we benefit from community, we’re evolved to work together. And when we’re honest with each other, when we can put others before ourselves, when we’re courteous, when we can trust each other, and when we commit to spending time together, our relationships and our communities certainly benefit from that. But Warren is telling us to do these things for the worst possible reason you can ever tell anyone to do anything: because the boss says so.
  • I’m not a parent, but I was a child, and I remember how my parents taught me right from wrong, taught me the right way to act when I was very young. It was based on authority and obedience and reward and punishment. When you’re a kid, you behave a certain way because Mom and Dad say so, and if you don’t, you’ll be spanked, or sent to your room, or your toys will be taken away or you won’t get to play with your friends. But hopefully, as you grow, as you mature, as you develop empathy for other people, as you come to understand your place as a member of a species, a member of a society, you realize there are better reasons for acting rightly, that it’s not a matter of behaving yourself, or doing what you’ve been told, it’s a matter of doing what is right.
  • Rick Warren doesn’t want you to form relationships and to value honesty and trustworthiness and commitment for your sake, or for the sake of your friends, or the sake of society. He doesn’t want you to do these things because they are good, positive things that improve our lives. He wants you to do these things because that’s what it says in the instructions. It’s the same simpleminded, infantile view he takes of everything. Don’t do it because it makes sense to you, because you value it — do it first and foremost because it’s what God wants. Children of God is what we’re supposed to be — children who learn not to think for themselves, because your first independent thought is your first step in figuring out that this religion, like all religions, is founded on invented horseshit.

DAY 20: RESTORING BROKEN FELLOWSHIP

  • “Relationships are always worth restoring.” (p. 152)
    • Even with gossips? I don’t know . . .
  • God wants us to love each other, so it’s important to him that we put effort into fixing broken relationships. Plus, getting along well with others is a sign of spiritual maturity. And broken fellowship sends an embarrassing message to unbelievers, and we all know how important it is to put on a good show for the marks.
  • Be a peacemaker. That’s the message of this chapter. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, so get with the conflict resolution already.
  • So here are seven steps to making peace and restoring relationships. Seven? We’re off the five-point structure again already? And you lecture me about commitment . . .
  • First, talk to God before talking to the other person.
  • “Discuss the problem with God. . . . All your relationships would go smoother if you would just pray more about them.” (p. 154)
    • Is that right?
  • Warren cautions us against looking to other people to meet our needs before we look to God. Only God, he says, is capable of meeting all our needs.
    • Then why are friends and family so important again? Oh, that’s right — because God says they are.
  • Next, take the initiative. Don’t wait for the other person to come to you. God expects you to make the first move.
    • Which means that God expects the other person to make the first move, too. But both parties can’t make the first move, one person has to be the initiator, and God knows that, and all of this is predestined anyway, so what does it even matter? Christ! Was the first draft of this written on the back of a receipt or something?
  • Next, sympathize with their feelings. Listen to them, pay attention to what they’re saying, don’t try to talk them out of how they feel. Absorb their anger, and remember that this is what Jesus did for you, just in case you were starting to get into the whole “feeling close to another human being” thing and you forgot to feel guilty about the crucifixion for five seconds.
  • Next, confess your own part in the conflict. Take responsibility, don’t make excuses, and ask for forgiveness. The other person will forgive you because God has commanded them to; God will forgive you because you’re covered in the blood of his son.
  • Next, attack the problem, not the person. Warren compares this part of conflict resolution to the Cold War:
  • “During the Cold War, both sides agreed that some weapons were so destructive they should never be used. Today chemical and biological weapons are banned, and the stockpiles of nuclear weapons are being reduced and destroyed. For the sake of fellowship, you must destroy your arsenal of relational nuclear weapons, including condemning, belittling, comparing, labeling, insulting, condescending, and being sarcastic.” (p. 157)
    • Although, in keeping with the nuclear disarmament analogy, I would recommend keeping some sarcasm in reserve in case they ever start shit again.
  • Next, cooperate. Compromise, try to give others what they need. Unless what they need is evidence for the claims of Christianity.  Then you’re shit outta luck, I’m afraid.
  • Finally, emphasize reconciliation. You may not be able to totally resolve the conflict, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come back together and mend your relationship. Honest disagreements don’t have to end friendships.
  • “Who do you need to contact as a result of this chapter? . . . Don’t delay another second. Pause right now and talk to God about that person. Then pick up the phone and begin the process.” (p. 158)
  • [praying and calling schtick goes here]

DAY 21: PROTECTING YOUR CHURCH

  • So we’re supposed to protect the unity of our church. This is very important; the New Testament talks more about unity than either Heaven or Hell.
    • Seems like an arbitrary comparison, really — for all I know, it talks more about fishing than Heaven or Hell, too.
  • “Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it, and you rip the heart out of Christ’s Body.” (p. 160)
    • So that’s his weakness. I know what I must do.
  • “In his final moments before being arrested, Jesus prayed passionately for our unity. It was our unity that was uppermost in his mind during those agonizing hours. That shows how significant this subject is.” (p. 161)
    • You know, just in case you don’t get why this might be an important thing. It was important to Jesus, okay? That’s all you need to know. Stop asking questions and just be unified!
  • But of course, it’s not that simple, is it? How do we achieve and maintain unity? The Bible offers six (six?) pieces of advice.
  • First, focus on commonalities, not differences. Because God wants unity, not uniformity. He made us all different for a reason. Not that he needs a fucking reason. He’s God. He can do whatever he wants. It’s our job to make him smile. Guess what doesn’t make him smile? Did you guess people asking him for reasons? Pin a rose on your fucking nose.
  • Second, have realistic expectations. Don’t be discouraged by the gap between your ideal church and the church you’re actually stuck with. Don’t give up on your church, even if you become disillusioned with it for good reasons like internal conflict, hypocrisy, legalism, or figuring out that its doctrines and teachings are based on things other people made up.
  • Third, encourage instead of criticizing.
  • “When you criticize what another believer is doing in faith and from sincere conviction, you are interfering with God’s business.” (p. 164)
  • “Whenever I judge another believer, four things instantly happen: I lose fellowship with God, I expose my own pride and insecurity, I set myself up to be judged by God, and I harm the fellowship of the church. A critical spirit is a costly vice.” (p. 164)
    • But God is constantly judging us on everything we do, so I don’t see how the concept of setting yourself up to be judged by God has any meaning within Warren’s worldview. Also: I guess all the critical things he had to say about music during worship services, or how churches conduct fellowship, don’t count for some reason that I’m sure has nothing to do with his own hypocrisy and fallacious thinking.
  • Fourth, refuse to listen to gossip.
  • “If you listen to gossip, God says you are a troublemaker.” (p. 165)
    • Shame, shame, shame.
  • Fifth, practice God’s method for conflict resolution. Kill everyone? Commit an act of human sacrifice? No, actually, Jesus offers a three-step process for conflict resolution, demonstrating that he, too, has no serious commitment to the five-point form. Jesus’s three-step process is:
    • First, try to work things out privately.
    • Second, try to work things out while involving one or two other people.
    • Third, try to work things out while involving the church.
    • If the conflict remains after the third step has been exhausted, Warren recommends treating the person like an unbeliever. Which doesn’t sound so bad to me, but I guess Christians are supposed to turn white at the prospect of being treated like an unbeliever — an apostate! No! Because once you’re in the cult, you don’t want to be out of the cult! If you wanted to be out of the cult, you wouldn’t be in the cult! It’s nuts.
  • Sixth, support your pastor and church leaders.
  • “Pastors will one day stand before God and give an account of how well they watched over you. . . . But you are accountable, too. You will give an account to God of how well you followed your leaders.” (p. 166)
    • And you need to listen to your leaders and trust them and not argue with them, because they have been chosen by God to be in their positions. That’s right. Pastors — like, say, Rick Warren — are given authority over the others in their church, by God, and they don’t need your criticism or your arguments. They need your obedience and your appreciation. And what better way to show your appreciation than by buying their books, if it just so happens they’ve published any? Just make sure to purchase them new, directly from the pastor’s own website, if possible. Never purchase them used or at reduced prices — that’s something smartass atheists do.

Next: Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ

Comments 
Friday, January 25th, 2013 | 05:24 am (UTC) - an atheist reads the purpose-driven life: purpose # 2
Anonymous
so basically rick warren and his imaginary god wants us to stop thinking for our selves and become a slave.corey donaldson
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