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Antelope Valley | Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

Noah Stepro

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Thank God For Satanists

We recently had a group from The Satanic Temple of Los Angeles come up to Lancaster to perform a GPS pentagram and give their “Seven Tenets” to the city…this cause quite a stir and slew of responses. There was a prayer rally, protest and even some sky writing (not all from the same groups).

Everything Christians do should look and sound like Jesus

Jesus didn’t picket people, in fact he almost never engaged in non-personal forms of interaction and when he did it was kind, gracious and uplifting. I can’t see Jesus picketing anything, boycotting companies or lambasting someone from social media. Seeing these kinds of responses should give all Christians pause to consider…are you following a “Christian culture” or Christ?

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The First Amendment is for everyone

If we want to campaign for reform, let’s campaign. If we want to stop shopping at a particular store, stop shopping there. If you don’t want Satanists (or any other group) in your down, convert them. One of the best things about our Constitution is the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom…if we start taking that away from one group, it will disappear for everyone. (plus, last time I checked…it is impossible to convert people through laws). Aren’t we glad to live in a country where we are free to worship without (too much) government interference?

Satanist aren’t the worst

Let’s be objective…if we take the incendiary word “Satan” away this is a small group of people that are basically atheistic humanists. There are way bigger evils in the Antelope Valley than the Satanists. Satan sounds scary, but the monsters of Greed, Bigotry, and Isolation (to name a few) are wreaking havoc on our community and have many more converts and any religious group (including Christians). I am willing to say there are more churches in the AV doing damage to the Kingdom of God than Satanists or cult followers. Are you rejoicing (if you are a Christian) in the VICTORY in Jesus?

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Spiritual warfare is real

I am not saying we should be excited about a group claiming to follow Satan being in the neighborhood, or that their presence isn’t something to take seriously. The event raised everyone’s spiritual “Spidey sense” – suddenly there is evil in our community! The reality is we should pray for our neighbors and neighborhoods regularly. Just look at the evil and oppression that took place in Orlando (and almost West Hollywood) this weekend. How many people protested and prayed when the Hindu temple opened in town? Are we living as a “house of prayer” all the time, with heightened alertness to the Spiritual forces behind our present “realities”?

Many Christians have little faith in the Church or the power of the Holy Spirit

I find that very often people who are quick to want change in government policies and city ordinances to make the world more “Christian” fail to embody them. In other words, we want to direct change in others but fail to produce it ourselves. This can happen for so many reasons, but at the heart of it is a lack of faith. Faith that Jesus is good, his spirit is transformative, that the Church is the best hope for the world and that “the gates of Hades won’t prevail against it“. Do you really believe these words of Jesus?

So…thank God for Satanists, they come and remind Christians why we follow Jesus and how we are to go about it.

 

How Much Is Your Church Like A Mosque?

This past Friday I took the plunge and attended the local mosque here in the Antelope Valley. I’ve visited a few different religious houses of worship – a synagogue, a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, Catholic mass, many Protestant churches and some naturalist gatherings (does D&D count too?), but I’ve never been to a mosque. A friend of mine is in a comparative religions class right now and mentioned he was going so I jumped on the chance…telling him I have always wanted to, but was a little chicken to go on my own. I was surprised by the similarities and differences between Christian worship and Islam. Here are some similarities and differences:

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Similarities

No one listens to the announcements: is this not true of your church? No one listens…I often give announcements at Kairos and I don’t even listen. We have tried to stop doing announcements…but they are cancerous and return after you think you’ve eradicated them. No, it doesn’t matter what religion or creed you are…no one cares about your announcements.

Sermon trajectory: while this isn’t (I hope) true of my church, it is persistently present in many Christian churches…the sermon started with a note on love and being grace filled (my language) and moved swiftly to “you need to try harder”. Isn’t this often where Christian churches land…the “be better” sermon?

Reverence and irreverence: there was a very sanctified air walking in…it is silent, most people (men) don’t talk with each other but rather take a spot on the floor and pray. This is unlike evangelical churches…however, as the service went on people shuffled in late, not-so-quietly greeted the friend they were sitting by and then left early. This last part is pretty true of most every church and religious group around – there is always a mix of reverent and flippant followers. Wasn’t this true for Jesus?

Food: many churches have a potluck together, others have coffee, in our home churches we eat a meal together every week, the Lord’s Supper is a meal of sorts…this is a great element to have that many churches downplay. They have a full meal together after the service and a large space to eat at. There is a strong element of community and commonality that comes from eating together.

 

Dissimilarities

No shoes: quite an Asian element…as you enter the mosque you take your shoes of and enter barefoot. In face, many facets were culturally foreign to the West – incense, Arabic writings and spoken language, floor seating. Some of these (barefootedness, communal seating) could be wonderful in a Christian service if they were more culturally accessible.

No greeting: not in the Christian church setting – someone is waiting to tell you Asalaam Alaykum (peace be upon you) and you are to respond in-kind. But that is about it…there was no informal greeting or introduction, no place for new visitors to find out more information or fill out some communication. Actually, maybe that should go in the similarity section.

Acapella singing: there was the traditional call to worship, the adhan (Allahu Akbar), is lead by a male congregant. Outside of that there is no communal singing and no instruments. The entire service was beautifully simplistic. Made me feel that often we are over-produced and overly complicated in postmodern Christian worship.

No women: they were there, but not during the service they were sequestered in a different section. There is certainly no element of equality or equity of the sexes. Now, that is also true of many Christian churches (though, once again, not mine)…but they are too cowardly to own outright their misogyny. I wonder if this is actually an appeal to Islam…you do not have the same feminization of religion?

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There are my takeaways…there was no sense of darkness or evil, no hostility and no pressure to conform. Overall it was quite the tranquil experience. I was impressed with the seriousness that the community takes their rituals (purification, prayer, posture) and it made me wondering how contrite we are in the rituals of Christianity (singing, Communion, etc.) I think the biggest take away was the connection between religion and culture. Both Islam and Christianity are “universal” religions…i.e. they are not tribal or ethnically centered. However Muslims are tied to a geographical location (Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem) and to a language (Arabic)…this is evident in the religious service and the tenants of the faith. While it is clear to me as an outsider how culturally contained Islam is, it is not quite so clear how culturally defined and limited Christianity or my particular expression of it is. I don’t have enough distance to gain see things in parallax. Where are the “stumbling blocks” of culture in the Western church today? They are no longer adherence to Latin or Rome, they are no longer ideologies of a “new Jerusalem” or Victorian mores. But maybe they manifest in the ideas of democracy, gender ideologies, literacy, etc.? What do you think culturally constricts the church in the West today?

2-2-14 The Image of God Disabled

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If our community is to embrace the disabled as being made in the image of God we are called out of individual, self-relying, self-reinforcing “religion to a communal, dependent, embodied relationship with God and each other.

One Name…Under Heaven

After a great week in Washington D.C. and getting to listen to some brilliance from Deb and Allan Hirsch I felt led to spend some time discussing the difference between Polytheism and Monotheism in different areas of our lives. Like all good Christian things, this involves a great deal of alliteration – I apologize in advance.

Polytheism, put simply, is the worship of many gods…most modern thinkers don’t even consider this as a possible religious option. This view sees life as controlled by many different fatalistic forces.

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Atheism is the rejection of “god” as a possibility. Now almost all atheists are not making arguments against Oden or Ra or Hermes. They are arguing against a monotheistic god…primarily the god of a Abrahamic tradition (Judaic, Islamic or Christian). I would wager my house on the fact that everyone reading my blog is either a monotheist or an atheist. Monotheism plays out the notion that all of the elements of life are under the lordship, the rule of one god (Yahweh). It looks a bit like this:

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Every part of you is directed by and towards God (or in the Christian worldview, Jesus). Jesus guides how we use our Treasure (money, gifts, resources), Time (families, leisure, education and career), Talent (abilities and ambitions), Temper (reactions to others, words, gossip, love), Taste (appetites, addictions, sexuality), Thinking (intellect, thought patterns, fantasies) and Trajectory (the course of our lives…where we live, go to school, take a job, raise our kids). Any religious person would most likely assent to this way of thinking…we would love to believe that God is in control of these aspects of our lives. However (as Hirsch suggests), we are all to some degree, functional polytheists. That is, there is some aspect of our lives that we do not wish to submit to God’s plan…his Lordship.

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In this example (though we could use any aspect), a lot of Christians will submit to God with most of their lives…except for the area most precious to them. Instead of worshiping Aphrodite as the lord or goddess over sexuality, a lot of us embrace what I snarkly dubbed “TMZ Sexuality”. That is,  our sexual ID which claims happiness and fulfillment as the ultimate goal or end of our experience. This plays out in almost all aspects of our sexuality in the West. If you are not happy get a divorce; if you are not fulfilled seek out new thrills; if you feel bad about your identity feel desired by a new person; if you are lonely get married. That last one probably sounds ludicrous…of course God doesn’t want you to be lonely! But is that then end goal of your sexuality? I think that question is up for grabs…but if we don’t really submit that question before the God we follow then we will never actually know…our desires and needs will drive us.

So let me pose the question: Who is in the driver’s seat of your life?

If you want to find out more, join us at Kairos Community for a 7 week series while we explore these issues

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Give Us Today Our Daily Entitlement Programs

Below you will find the first in a five part post on poverty, well-fare and a new social/economic order…have fun


Part 1: An iPhone in Every Hand – Attitudes towards Poverty

I just returned from a fun filled morning at the Social Services Building for LA County, here in Lancaster. If you are unfamiliarly with Lancaster we have been in the national news quite a bit this last year over the constitutionality of some Section 8 Housing discrimination. Supposedly the Housing Authority is steering LA Basin Section 8ers up to the AV with the bait of low rent prices…allowing them to live in large homes and keep certain benefits that they would otherwise loose with the Section 8 subsidy. Further, this has been suggested that the Authority is discriminating against Latino Households in favor of African American ones. That being said, we have a higher than usual percentage of people that are familiar with taking government handouts and being dependent upon the ‘grace’ of others.

 

Thus the setting for this morning’s close encounter of the 8th kind. We all know that social service buildings (DMV, SS Office, etc) are full of people that don’t want to be there, have every disease that is in circulation and love to use colorful language in front of small children; we also probably know that in order to be an employee of such an office you must have a predisposition to hate all mankind, think you are smarter than everyone, and eat very smelly foods like salami and garlic for lunch. One thing I didn’t really get to notice until today is that apparently you must have a really nice cell phone to be on the government teat as well. Everyone, and I mean even their children, were starring mindlessly at the digital euphoria of their iPhone screens while they waited at the threshold of Hell to see a worker about their case.

“Noah, you hypocrite…you have an iPhone too” – this is true…and hence the problematic nature of the issue at hand. Cell phones, and even smart phones are becoming an increasing necessity for someone with or even looking for a job in most sectors. Now, I got my cell phone over a year ago, back when I was living high on the hog – with the came a 2 year contract. It may be possible that most people in that office this morning find themselves in the same situation I am in…however that is doubtful. Should we look down on others for being on government assistance? What if they have a nice phone? Does that become the line of demarcation? I felt inspired to write this after reading a post from my friend Alan Noble over at Christ and Pop Culture. That coupled with the brouhaha of Obamacare and my recent trip to Hades begs the question…”what is a healthy posture towards government handouts?” That question speaks to a deeper issue of our posture towards the poor and disenfranchised.

Stay posted for part 2 – Standing with the Disenfranchised