Our Week in Washington D.C.; Or How do I explain to my daughters how important this all is?


“The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States Friday in a closely divided ruling that will stand as a milestone in its 226-year history.

The justices ruled 5-4 that states cannot deny gay men and lesbians the same marriage rights enjoyed for thousands of years by opposite-sex couples. Within days if not hours, the decision is expected to trigger same-sex marriages in states that still ban the practice.

“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his 28-page ruling. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

Source: Supreme Court strikes down bans on same-sex marriage

Saving this for posterity because I’ve been in Washington D.C. this week with my wife, our soon-to-be-born baby boy, and my young daughters (age 7 and 5). While we’ve been doing the touristy stuff, we’ve also been in the midst of two major Supreme Court decisions on “Obamacare” and marriage equality.

My girls have gotten to walk past the Supreme Court and stand with us while we took the chants and the applause in after these rulings. I didn’t hide my tears.

What a week. As the Confederate flags come down across Southern states and my own beloved South Carolina after the terrible massacre of innocents in Charleston, we see the rise of something different in our country.

Here’s to new beginnings based on love, reconciliation, and the bridging of divides that those in power have used to try to keep us apart.

Here’s to the future United States and a country that is better for my daughters and son than the one I grew up with.



Bernie Sanders Gains on Hillary Clinton in Bloomberg Early-State Polling


Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, with an appeal as an issue-oriented protest vehicle potentially capable of slowing any coronation of the popular front-runner.

Source: Bernie Sanders Gains on Hillary Clinton in Bloomberg Early-State Polling – Bloomberg Politics

I’m really hoping that Sanders can convince Democratic primary voters that he’s not a socialist (that seems to be the drawback) and bring some competition to the seeming inevitability of another Clinton vs Bush race.

To support an oligarchy seems very much against the spirit of what I felt today while standing in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol here in Washington D.C. and pondering how George Washington could have been king.

I’m still not completely sure on my own allegiance to a particular candidate, but issues such as this are troublesome to me.

“Losing My Religion”



“If people do that and remain or become evangelical, I’m OK with that.  So long as they don’t hurt and exploit others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.   If they remain or become Catholic, AOK.  If they remain or become Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, agnostic, atheist, or anything else, I really don’t care.  I care only that (a) they think about it and (b) they actively love others and do good to others and help others in need. My sense is that this is becoming more of a standard view in this country.   Which is why traditional Christianity is losing people and the non-affiliated are gaining.   Whether it will continue to trend that way or not – heaven knows.”

Source: Losing Religion in America – Christianity in Antiquity (CIA): The Bart Ehrman Blog

I’m not losing my religion (at least I don’t think I am), but that song popped into my head as I read (and agreed with) Prof. Ehrman’s thoughts here.

In the conversations about Pew Research’s report on the erosion of Christianity in the US that I’ve had with friends and family (such as the recorded ones here with Thomas), I’ve encountered a number of different “mansplainings” and explanations for why people in our country are “losing their religion.” As Ehrman points to in his post here, a number of them have to deal with the assumption that those who are leaving mainline or evangelical (which is mainline here in South Carolina) Christianity are doing so because they weren’t necessarily “true” or “real” believers to begin with.

I find that explanation unfair and, quite frankly, disturbing.

On the other side are the explanations from my more progressive or “neo-atheist” friends that point to the foibles of Christianity’s latent and explicit hypocrisy or the Bible’s troublesome ability to interact with modern notions of history or science and declare that “it’s about time” people started waking up to the realization that our fairy tales are bogus and there is no old white man in the sky who is going to either zap us with lightning, hear our prayers, or deliver us from evil.

I find that worldview just as disturbing as the former one.

My faith is weird.

I appreciate science. I love science. Heck, I’ve taught physical science to unruly and amazing 13 and 14 year olds off an on over the last decade of my life. I also love history. Particularly, ancient history and archaeology fascinate me.

Both of those studies, which some would say should degrade or at least invalidate something as quaint and reproachable as faith in fairy tales, challenge my own notion of self and my own well-thought-out beliefs in a way that encourages me to keep on down the path.

Much like Dali, I realize that beings and things are made of energy, not solid mass.

That potential glimpsing of something beyond our own earthly 80 or so years (at least here in 2015 middle class caucasian America) is what draws me to science and what drives my faith.

That extended realization of a split second peek into this universe of energy way beyond what our eyeballs connected to our evolving ape brains via a short cord we call the optic nerve (on mine there is plaque) can ever hope to process is what drives us further out into the cosmic ocean, as Sagan said.

Faith that is based or driven by the need for a moral structure or the need for a guiding hand to be told what to think or do is what is eroding, and will continue to erode, in our country. I have a set of assumptions and guidelines that define my moral and ethical code because of my glimpsings of the universe beyond my diseased optic nerve. That is the basis of my faith. Not the other way around.

We are truly magnificent and amazing creatures, designed by time and weathered by the millennia to survive and thrive on this pale blue dot. But we are also selfish, and capable of great evils. Religion doesn’t save us or secure us from those primal instincts. In many ways, religion is the prime motivator for those evils that we all to easily commit whether intentionally or unintentionally.

We shouldn’t shy away from that reality and speak truth to those who would use religion as a tool to cause oppression of those of different genders, races, sexual persuasions, color spectrum preferences, nationalities, Apple / PC / Android fan-ism, hair color, eye color, allergies, or carbon family basis. Religion is the invitation to participate with the universe in some way that we can never understand. “We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries,” and that shouldn’t be taken lightly or used as a tool to tell others that they cannot be leaders in our religion or they cannot love another person based on the makeup of sexual anatomy etc.

Our human understandings based on supposedly innerant manuscripts handled countless times by wise and unwise transmitters do not cause us greater communion with the divine if we are seeking to prove our own confused interpretations of the messages being transmitted by the electrochemical computer we call our brains. Otherwise, as Gamaliel warns us across the ages, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail.”

Beautiful Bride at Four Months 


She’s finally showing :)

Your Pregnancy | 16 Weeks: “Get ready for a growth spurt. In the next few weeks, your baby will double his weight and add inches to his length. Right now, he’s about the size of an avocado: 4 1/2 inches long (head to rump) and 3 1/2 ounces. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than it has been, and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. His ears are close to their final position, too. The patterning of his scalp has begun, though his locks aren’t recognizable yet. He’s even started growing toenails. And there’s a lot happening inside as well. For example, his heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood each day, and this amount will continue to increase as your baby continues to develop.”


Thinking Religion: Smuggling Religion



Thinking Religion: Smuggling Religion | Thinking.FM: Prof. Thomas Whitley and Sam Harrelson attempt to bring some thoughtfulness to the topic of religion again this week with discussions of the Watchmen, Rambo Jesus, Westboro Church, Southern Baptists and Obama, Palmyra, Indiana Jones, and the next reformation.

This Week’s Topics

  • Who watches the Watchmen?
  • Rambo meets Heart of Darkness meets Jesus
  • Hatin’ on Ivory Coast
  • Well, the Bible says…
  • Obama supposedly offends the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Palmyra, India, Israel, and the role of the antiquities black market in politics
  • Mike Huckabee wants to be Indiana Jones
  • Pokers gonna poke
  • A New Reformation

Declining Average Church Attendance and Marketing Implications


RIP, average attendance | Faith and Leadership: “Church attendance was once a key indicator of a virtuous cycle. If the church could get a new person in the pew regularly, offerings would go up, involvement in small groups and missions would climb, and the church would be healthy. If attendance was declining then everything else would eventually decline. The growing lack of dependability on attendance is a sign that the virtuous cycles that have sustained congregations since the end of World War II are collapsing. In order to sustain congregations over the long haul, new cycles need to be developed. Once that begins to happen, new measures can be identified.”

Interesting article that ends with a decisive call to parish leaders to move ahead in attempting to understand the changing nature of church attendance rather than keeping the status quo or firmly placing heads in sand to avoid the uncomfortable conversations that arise as a result.

As Pew Research etc have pointed out, the religious landscape of the United States is decidedly different than it was just 10 years ago, but especially 20-30 years ago when many of the models church leaders use for analysis, budget predictions etc were being formulated.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Churches being smart, nimble, and open to hearing the voice of God in the silence, in the whirlwinds, and even in the spreadsheets can mean the difference between keeping a historic sanctuary lit and being able to provide missions monies or having to sell the building to the YMCA.

Social Fundraising and Boards


Good tips here on how to get your nonprofit’s board behind a “social fundraising” campaign. I’ve seen directors struggle with this same issue numerous times, and I offer up similar advice:

The Nonprofit Marketing Blog: “Of course, the idea behind social fundraising isn’t new, but combining the age-old structure of board support and your fundraising assets with technology that makes it much easier to ask for a gift can amplify your outreach, resulting in more donors and more donations for your mission.”