Sunday, May 10, 2009

And Nathan Shuts Up

For those of you who didn't catch the "back and forth" with Nathan Colquhoun, you can read about it here. Nathan had written a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor that I had responded to. His letter took shots at "regular" churches - Nathan sees many of the faults of "big" churches and is trying to start a "better" church. I applaud him for questioning some of the things he did BUT... that's as far as it went and I suspect I know why.

In the post I linked to above, one of the comments is from a member of another church - a church that happens to be helping fund the start-up of Nathan's church. The comment, by Mark McLaughlin, basically says shut up or we'll shut you down:
"Yea Nathan, nicely done.With a chip on your shoulder and lack of discernment you managed to rip the “the Christian Church of Sarnia” using a secular media outlet for all the unbelievers of Sarnia to witness and laugh at. Great job!Here is a suggestion. Instead of judging every other Christian in Sarnia with your narrow agenda (which apparently nobody else gets), maybe just focus on your tiny niche in the downtown core struggling with poverty and not sabotage everyone else’s efforts to reach the rest of non-believing Sarnia. I hope the pastor of The Story, Joe, will have the wisdom to sit you down and either tell you to find yourself in quiet or cut you loose. I’m a member of the church that has supported Joe Manafo’s church plant and is making your mortgage happen at the Story, and we are also one of the churches in your letter that all we do, as you so foolishly put it, “is plan church services, collect money in buckets (while conveniently receiving a tax receipt) for our building fund and missionaries abroad, and invigorate other Christians to do it all again next Sunday.” For your sake, I hope this keeps happening each week or The Story might not have such a happy ending. Anyone that loves Jesus does not wish that, including myself.And finally, that’s great that you cleared up Kelly’s confusion (03/31/09 @ 19:34 )on your rant by emailing her, way to go. As for the remaining cynics and unbelievers that were confused over your garbage, please leave it to “The Christian Church of Sarnia” to clean up the rest of your mess. Mark McLaughlin. "

It is that very "don't ask questions, keep in line" approach that makes the church (religion) so horrible and dangerous. It is probably the same approach that I am sure thousands of priests took advantage of when fondling, raping and sodomizing children. I'm not saying all reglion is bad, but setting such expectations of its followers is.

Question everything - if something isn't right, you have the power to make a difference. Don't accept things simply because that's what you've been told or that's how it has always been.

Mark McLaughlin, if you demand respect, expect to justify your position - you have no right to oppress the feelings, beliefs and speech of others. I would fight to support your right to free speech but, with freedom of speech doesn't come protection of your feelings.

Nathan - there are thousands (millions?) of people who have the same questions as you - don't let someone so closed-minded stop you from trying to make a difference.


C Woods said...

Most religious people want to tell you all about their own religious beliefs with open ears, but their ears close if you want to explain your beliefs.

sarniaskeptic said...

C - That is a VERY sad truth. I am often asked what it would take to convert me to being a "believer" and I can respond with thousands of things. When the question is turned around, they never have an answer.

This issue is a little bit different. Nathan was making valid criticims of "churches" in general because he cares about the continuation of his religion and he cares about its ability to do what he sees as the real "core" missions. (One of those missions, in his view, is not to build bigger churches and do the simple church rituals week in and week out - I think he would like to see the churches helping more people and not just themselves.)

Mark McLaughlin is a member (of some sort - as he claims) of the church that is helping to pay for the start-up of the church in which Nathan is a member (Nathan appears to be involved in some of the preaching/organizing/founding activities). Mark is, however, trying (successfully?? - that's the point of my post) to get Nathan to shut up and get in line.

My blog is clearly not about getting in line because that's what other people think you should to - that's the last thing I'd suggest. Think for yourself, if it isn't right, don't go along with it. People will lie to you, take advantage of you and oppress you if you let them.

Mark is wrong and Nathan is less wrong (sorry Nathan.. I think religion/church is wrong, period.). What Nathan did, in this instance, is take the high ground. Mark, not so much.

NathanColquhoun said...

You really got nothing else to write about but a post about me and how I haven't said anything in a while? :) What about the 2 million dollar building reno out at the church on the golden mile, that's gotta give you some ammo, or the $50,000 parking lot fundraiser effort from the church near Wal Mart.

Just so you are aware of the situation, I e-mailed Mark personally, invited him out for a coffee which he eventually accepted and we met for the first time and had a few hour conversation with him about my post.

The main disagreement which we agreed to disagree on was criticizing the church in a public forum, he doesn't think that's the place for it. I personally am sick and tired of the church hiding all its faults and covering up for its failures (cough cough, the priests you are talking about) that I find that the public sphere is the only place for it. It forces the church as a whole to deal with their failures and admit them, deal with them and move on.

He actually apologized because he never wanted to come across as trying to "muzzle" me (his words) but he was frustrated at the time. I can honour that, and the fact he was willing to meet and actually try to understand where I was coming from says a lot more than most people that I experience inside the church.

So in answer to your post. I haven't shutup, but I do at least attempt to try and choose my battles wisely. I'll keep challenging the church, seeking truth, and stepping on the toes of those who wish to shut me up. My site has been around for almost 5 years, I've written a few letters to the editor, and I will continue to use the forums I can to spread the message of the good news.

Maybe, you will accept my invitation to talk face to face someday like Mark did?

sarniaskeptic said...

Nathan - thanks for the post. I'm not sure many people would read Mark's post the way that Mark claims he meant the post to sound - but that's for everyone to decide for themselves.

I was concerned that you may have felt threatened by what he had to say. I'm happy to hear/see that that isn't the case.

As for me picking apart the church and religion with the "wholly crap, they've got money to spend, it's too bad that it isn't going to help anyone but themslves", I'll leave that to people like you.

The absolute waste of money that is most churches is completely absurd, I'll admit. However, I'm more interested in people leaving churches completely. I really do think it is time for people to grow up.

People need to do more thinking and to be more skeptical when it comes to everything (beliefs in spite of evidence come in many shapes including religion, psychics, homeopathy, chiropractic, astrology and much more). Religion is a great (horrible) example of unquestioned beliefs so I welcome its (unlikely in my lifetime, but still) demise.

As for meeting - the day will come (before the rapture, I promise). I don't think I have, unlike Mark, anything to clear up with you. I applauded your letter and I posted this article to encourage further actions.

sarniaskeptic said...

Damn. replace(earlierpost, "themslves", "themselves")

NathanColquhoun said...

It's just more fun to meet in person and have a face to know who I'm talking to, without it, it's just ideas that we are throwing back and forth, and I much more value relationships than I do debates. But I don't think we have anything to clear up either.

Mark was a nice guy, I asked him for permission to leave his comment on the site only because I think he shares the frustration with many church folks, but its a frustration that I'm glad they have.

Agreed people need to be more skeptical, but I don't think being skeptical means ceasing from participating, so while I can yell alongside of you trying to help people think outside the box and question their faith and beliefs, I still think that there isn't very man good reasons as to why the church shouldn't exist all together. You are only battling against what the church is, not what it ought to be, and I'm fighting the same battle. So until you can prove to me that the original purposes of the church should have no place in our lives, then I'm completely content fighting the battle from my side.

Either way I'm not shutting up anytime soon, at least not voluntarily. Some of the things I ramble on about might not be of interest to you, but occasionally you'll be able to have some fun with it I'm sure.