Monthly Archives

September 2011


Man calls Obama the 'Anti-Christ' during speech

September 28, 2011

Is it me, or are hecklers become more common or just more reported? This week, President Obama was called the “Anti-Christ” as a protester shouted directly to Obama from the front row of a fundraiser speech. Here is what we can make out from the video:

“The Christian God is one and only true living God! The creator of heaven and the universe! Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is God! Jesus Christ is still our God! Jesus Christ is still God! You are the Antichrist!”

President Obama listened the man and was concerned about his jacket. Obama agreed some of the heckler’s claims:

Jesus Christ is Lord. I agree with that.


In thinking about the possibility of Obama being the Anti-Christ, Paul’s words to the believers in Corinth come to mind. Paul wrote:

2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:2-3)

According to Paul, one who says, “Jesus is Lord” can only do so by God.

joel stein

How I became ‘friends’ with TIME’s Joel Stein

September 27, 2011

It’s not often that us lowly non-celebs get replies on Facebook or Twitter from big time Hollywood types.  Fans frequently annoy stars to interact with them online. Usually, celebrities carefully decide who to follow on Twitter (mostly other celebrities).

A few months ago, I befriended TIME magazine’s witty and very funny Joel Stein.  For years, I enjoyed reading his column and articles, which covers such topics as: a quest exploring circumcision for his son, ridiculous privileged preschools, lamenting the influx of Indians in his hometown (Edison, NJ), doing improv for mega church Pastor Rick Warren, and how he nearly killed VH1. Speaking of VH1, you might remember him from the series I love the 80′s.  For a guy who had his own cartoon, he is pretty down to earth.

You may be thinking, all that stuff doesn’t make Joel Stein a true celebrity.  If celebrity is measured by how long your Wikipedia page is, then Joel Stein isn’t a celebrity to you. Unlike other celebs, he doesn’t have his own reality show that highlights his drunken escapades with his family. Joel never went to Italy with Snooki, but as a writer for the LA Times and television humorist, he is entertaining.

So, how did I become ‘friends’ with Joel? I tried to be his ‘friend’ on Facebook but he exceeded the limit of friends already (With the creation of Facebook, the meaning of ‘friend’ means anyone with a computer and an IQ of 63). Since Joel is “desperate for attention“, I decide to give him some and become one of his 1 million followers on Twitter.  After reading his Twitter steam, I tweeted:

My goal in life is to get @thejoelstein to follow me so that all my followers grow tired of bragging and unfollow me.

Apparently, he thought I was interesting enough and he started following this random minister-blogger from New York.  I direct messaged Joel and thanked him for the follow.  I mentioned that I used one of his columns in a sermon and he said he loved to hear about it.  He gave me his email address, which I found out later that he tells people not to email him:

I don’t want to talk to you. But don’t make me feel like you expect a return email. Because this takes my assistant four to five hours every week. I know this because my assistant is me.”

I felt special. Really special. Like a groupie who just got a backstage pass at a Steely Dan concert.

We emailed a few times and explained how I used part of his 2005 column on happiness and marriage in a sermon. He replied that I was the third pastor to tell him that (Rick Warren was the second). I joked about cursing in front of my congregation (which I didn’t do) and he gave me some advice to never use “blue” material. We exchanged some Twitter messages about how his wife went to nearby Skidmore College, travel to a little town called Albany, and life in general. I knew Joel and I would become fast friends because he ended one email with, “Great to sort of meet you.”

A few weeks later, I asked him on Twitter if I could blog about the experience of befriending such a huge celebrity. His response?

I’d be honored if you blog about me.  Or at least ambivalent about it.

Ambivalence from Joel Stein? I’ll take it!

I feel horrible that I haven’t interacted with my new friend Joel for a few months now, but then again we are not that great of ‘friends’ because we don’t talk on the phone anymore and our kids don’t play together like they use to.  I could be upset about that, but those things never happened.

Joel if you are reading this, call me or stop by to catch up on all the things we never did together. You’ll have always have a place to stay in New York when you fly in for your wife’s college reunions at Skidmore. And, thanks for the advice on my sermons too. Since rabbis now pay comedians to write jokes for their sermons, maybe you could write a few for me?


Reverse Offering as a Spiritual Stimulus

September 26, 2011

Almost every church has some form of an offering or a way for people to give donations. Most churches pass offering plates to congregants while music plays or a soloist sings.  A church in New Jersey is trying a new approach to the offering: a reverse offering where congregants receive money from the church instead of giving.

CNN reports on a  Morristown, New Jersey  nondenominational church that collects $30,000 in weekly offerings from three church locations. About 2,000 people  its services and plans to give about that same amount – $30,000 . Attendees receive envelopes containing $10, $20 and $50 bills.

The idea of this reverse offering came from the church’s pastor Tim Lucas of the Liquid Church:

People are cynical about religion and expect to come to church and be shaken down, but really, it’s all God’s money. Every bill in the U.S. economy says ‘In God we trust,’ and we’re going to put that to the test. We’re not a rich church. We don’t own a building. We don’t hold a mortgage, but we’re trying to teach our people to be rich in good deeds.

This ‘spiritual stimulus’ package is geared  to encourage people to use the money to help others.  New Jersey experienced crippling flooding recently because of Hurricane Irene.  Also, the church encourages people to invest their funds and then donate the proceeds to the church to rebuild a homeless shelter.

What would you do with a reverse collection? How would you spend the money?

Facebook, social media

3 Reasons Why You Don’t ‘Like’ the New Facebook

September 21, 2011

Mark it. Wednesday, September 21 2001, Facebook changed the look of the website. Again. What else is new!  Many on Twitter and Facebook are currently commenting about how much they lament the changes to Facebook. For a free service that you don’t have to use, I’m amazed that people are so angry about it.

We’ve already seen stories about how “everyone” dislikes the new Facebook, but is it really that bad? Come on folks, is it really the end of the world? With tweets like the three below, we get a sense of people’s reactions:

“Zuckerberg apparently hired the genius behind New Coke to run Facebook.” — @MarkArum

“Facebook continues to reinvent itself, by making itself less usable yet somehow exactly the same.” — @modeps

“Complaining about Facebook format changes is the ultimate 1st world problem.” — @Jenn1ferJun1per

Despite what people say, here are three reasons why you really don’t like the new Facebook

We are afraid of being uncool.  Changing Facebook is just another “first world problem” of keeping up with the Jones. We fear that if we don’t know how to use social media, we’ll be laughed at or even worse, tweeted about. For most people over 50, that’s not a big concern.  However, for the millions of 15-29 year-old users it is. It’s bad enough that we don’t have an iPad, but to not know how to use Facebook?  We are done for.  But, don’t worry, there are far greater things to worry about in this world.

We only like change on our terms. Read any good book on leadership and you will find out that being a leader is all about change. When our boss wants to change the way we do things at work we want to pour hot coffee down his pants. We don’t like change, but when we are the ones changing things it’s alright. Any successful process of change requires a lot of communication and a lot of support.  Unfortunately, Facebook didn’t do either of these well. As a culture, we struggle with what it means to live life without routine.  Routine is good, but being unable to adapt is our downfall.

We always think we know better. There is a reason why Facebook has like 600 million users. The people running it have the genius.  That doesn’t mean they are always right, but they have been right enough to build a successful company.  We love to complain because we think we know best.  Like Monday Morning Quarterbacks, we sit in our chairs and complain about a free service. Part of life is admitting that you are not always right. There are always two ways of responding to a problem: either you are part of the problem or part of the solution.

So, if you don’t like the changes, let Facebook know and come up with some good ideas.  Let’s be proactive and not reactive people.  Let’s be a culture that navigates change well.

Pat Robertson

Another reason why Pat Robertson is out to lunch

September 15, 2011

As if Pat Robertson hasn’t already embarrassed himself enough by saying that Haiti made a pact with the Devil and that homosexuality was a cause of 9/11, add another to the list.  Robertson recently comment on his 700 Club program that if a spouse has Alzheimer’s it constitutes grounds for divorce because the evangelist said the disease is “a kind of death”.  This comment came in response to a viewer’s question regarding the topic.

Other awesomely bad Robertson quotes from the show were:

Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer.” (Robertson translation: I’m crazy help!)

I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her…” (Robertson translation: That’s what I’d do.”)

I guess the whole, “in sickness and in health” part of marriage vows don’t apply anymore.

The media pressed a spokesperson for the TV network, no reply.  I wonder why.

Watch the clip:

Is Alzheimer’s grounds for divorce? Read and comment.


VIDEO: I'm on a Bema!

September 15, 2011

Okay, so I’ve explained the usage regarding a “bema” and how it has been used through the centuries.  Jews use the term “bema” regularly in their worship, but this snappy boytshik knows how to inform people about being ON A BEMA! Oy!


If you didn’t know, this is a parody of “I’m on a Boat”.  If you don’t know what that is, well… a joke isn’t funny when you have to explain it.

On the Bema


How Not to be an Internet Jerk

September 13, 2011

I’m sure you have found yourself on the other end of an internet conversation with a fanatical Christian… debating abortion, government intervention, homosexuality, and other hot topics. Or, you have tried to convince your friends of their woeful ways over Facebook.  Either way, the results are not pretty.

Anyone can fall into the trap of being a  jerk on the internet: forcibly offending others, name calling, passive aggressiveness, espousing incorrect statistics from questionable secondary sources, using ALL CAPS, posting embarrassing high school pictures, and just bad behavior.  It seems Christians can, at times, be the worst offenders.  At some point in our online experience everyone has been a jerk in one way or another.

Recently, Jon Acuff, a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, wrote an article for RELEVANT magazine (apparently deemed a “hipster-Christian” publication) about his experiences with jerkiness:

When RELEVANT asked me to write this article, I originally wanted to title it, “How to Be a Jerk on the Internet.” I felt like that article would be easier for me to write because I’ve got much more experience at being a jerk than I have at not being one—ask people who went to college with me. They’ll tell you. I was a jerk online before online even existed. (That last sentence was like Inception; I was a jerk within a jerk within a jerk.)

Acuff goes on to name five ways people (Christians) can be a jerk on Twitter and pretending .  Perhaps my fav is the “Jesus juke”:

Debbie Downer

Debbie Downer

A Jesus Juke is an idea I came up with to describe the moment when you’re having a normal conversation and someone jukes in some Jesus out of nowhere. For example, I once tweeted that I was at the Conan O’Brien live tour and it was sold out. Someone responded, “If we held a concert for Jesus and gave away free tickets, no one would come.” Sad trumpet, whaaa, waaaa. A Jesus Juke is the Christian version of the Debbie Downer moment.

I’m not sure if the “Jesus juke” qualifies as jerk behavior.  That’s called being lame.

Anyway, jerks and Christians jerks take note.

Full article

September 11

Three Ways to Respond to September 11

September 9, 2011

With the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaching, many Americans are sorting through their minds and hearts.  How have I changed from 10 years ago? What do I feel when I think of September 11, 2001?  Where was I on that fateful day? Why am I still sad? Where can our country go from here?

Ten years ago on September 11, I was in college. I was getting out of a Tuesday morning class when I heard people talking about an airplane crash. As I walked back to my apartment, I heard more and more information. I walked by a utility truck and heard words on the radio, “World Trade Center… airplane… Pentagon… crash.”  I thought to myself, this is serious.  Minutes later I watched the towers come down.

As we reflect and look back, we have three main responses to the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Anger – We are understandably upset and angry that our country was threatened. We are angry that people’s lives were lost, that our sense of security was broken, and we are hurt that people think America is not a place of freedom. Ten years ago, we looked towards people and places to direct our hostile feelings.  Many of us may still be angry at people and institutions that committed these acts or did not prevent the attacks. Still, if we let our anger stew and our hate grow, we are no better than those who actively resist against our country.  Anger is a place that we can visit, but we cannot make a home of it. We are often angry because we are afraid.

Sadness – Tears are a way that we let our emotions out. Feelings of depression that hovered around on September 11, 2001 are revisited 10 years later.  We might even recall the numbness we felt watching the television week after week the scene of the towers coming down.  We feel sadness for those families who lost loved ones. Sometimes, sadness brings back memories that we want to forget. We often want to isolate ourselves during periods of melancholy. It’s healthy to be sad and express sadness. However there is a better way.

Hope – This is the stuff that makes Americans great. Our optimism has propelled each generation to work harder so that our children can have a better life.  Ten years ago, that was the message that we clung to. We hoped that we could rebuild. We did. We hoped that we could be safe. We are. We hoped that our country could be united. We remain. Hope is the final response we can have. Sure, anger and sadness are natural emotions, but it is hope that gets us through the worst of times.

On this September 11, may you have hope as you look back 10 years.  May you have hope as you look forward to another 10 years.  May you have hope that your family and  this world can be a better place.  Put your hope into action and start by committing yourself to acts of kindness and compassion in your own community.

Today, remember the day, but remember what is great about humanity: the ability to continue and recover in the midst of struggle.

If you are in Ballston Spa on September 11, I invite you to our village September 11 Service of Remembrance @ 6:30 p.m. Village pastors will be leading the service and we will recognize our community leaders.


Jesus, not Bieber, most 'Liked' recently

September 6, 2011

"Like" me, my son.

Apparent, Jesus is getting into the Facebook scene… and, he’s well liked. After using Facebook to push his diet products,  Aaron Tabor, a doctor created a Facebook page called, Jesus Daily.  He started the page in April 2009 as a hobby.  Now, over 8 million people have ‘liked’ Jesus’ page.  The New York Times reports:

For the last three months, more people have “Liked,” commented and shared content on the Jesus Daily than on any other Facebook page, including Justin Bieber’s page, according to a weekly analysis by, an industry blog. “I wanted to provide people with encouragement,” said Dr. Tabor, who keeps his diet business on a separate Facebook page. “And I thought I would give it a news spin by calling it daily.”


More than 43 million people on Facebook are fans of at least one page categorized as religious.

Read about Tabor and his religious upbringing.

faith, family, religion

Parents Not Guiding Children Through Faith

September 1, 2011

Poll after poll shows that Generation Y is not living the faith patterns of previous generations.  Many parents of Generation Y choose not to “force” religion upon their children because of their negative experiences with church or because postmodernity has enabled them to see all truths as equal. It seems that parents are not bringing their children to church on a regular basis, not sharing the family story of religion, and are not making religion a part of their family of creation’s life.

NPR interviewed Asra Nomani, professor of journalism at Georgetown University; Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids; and Regina Brett, author of God Never BlinksYou can listen to the interview here.

One of the churches that we’ve been working closely with asked 20 kids it they knew how their parents decided to become Christians. And zero of the 20 kids knew how their parents became Christians, knew about that process. And so to me that’s just a wake-up call for all of us, regardless of what religious tradition or creative tradition we are following right now, to simply talk with our kids, ask questions and listen.

Religion and spirituality in America is becoming so individualistic that we are not sharing our faith experiences with our children. Based on Nomani’s book, this is a culture which is quickly losing their family faith connections.  Nomani even reflected personally on her research:

I went back-to-school shopping with my three kids. We tumbled into the minivan for the drive home and I wanted to put on a song that was meaningful to me. So I put on a worship song, a song that talked about how God has changed our lives. And before our research I would have just put the song on and not talked about it at all. But because of our research I put the song on and then I said to my kids, guys, would you like to know why I chose this song and why it’s meaningful to me? And they said, yeah, sure, Mom. So I told them. So I think part of what, regardless of our faith tradition, our opportunity for us as parents is to share, both from our past as well as our present, our spiritual highs and lows.

Somewhere in American family life, parents have come to believe that teaching faith is an injustice because the child has not had a chance to make a decision.  Parents teach all types of things to their children in which their child has no choice. Ethics, morality, table manners, family vacations, educational priories, when they can date, what friends they can hang out with, what they can eat, what they can watch, and what music or video is deemed appropriate. The family table is full of guiding principles.

Why is religion not on that family table too?