Saturday, November 11, 2006

"Mind & Spirit" -> Reflections On Happiness and Ted Haggard and Richard Dawkins

"If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands." The chart to the side shows the happiness rating of people as they attend church more and more. Evidently, you get much happier the more you attend church.

We'll get to this at the end of the post.

But first, I want to call your attention to the latest scandal in the Church.

I am, as I would imagine most Christians are, profoundly sad at the falling of Ted Haggard at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. While I only had a passing knowledge of him, I decided to read a bit about him. In the process of this, I stumbled across Richard Dawkins vs Ted Haggard, which came from Richard Dawkin's BBC television series "The Root Of All Evil."

In this television show, Dawkin comes to Haggard's church and kicks off his interview with Haggard by comparing his sermons to Hitler's Nuremberg Rally. Now, this should should cause you reflect a bit. Here we have a prestigious man of science. A man who would like to say that religion is a bad thing because it causes bad behavior.

He starts off by saying words that are more than harsh. How can Dawkin have so much hate that he compares the regime that killed 6 million Jews with a man that preaches in a church?

Really, could Dawkin be more insulting? Could any comparison be worse?

If you continue to watch the video, you will see that Dawkins goes on to craft a very disingenuous chunk of 3-4 minutes of film to make Haggard look as stupid as possible, including a short snippet of where Haggard evidently told Dawkin and his film crew get off his church grounds. We don't get to hear both sides of the tale. We only hear Dawkin telling us what a horrible man Haggard is, and how he threatened him.

In this whole chunk of footage is a section where Haggard lectures Dawkin on being arrogant. Dawkin in his film uses this section to make Haggard look look very, very arrogant and a bit hot headed.

Hindsight is 20-20, but I am always recalled of something that Bill Gothard (who has seen his fair share of troubles) said about dealing with those that are clearly on the path to insult Christianity.

Don't roll around in the mud with them.

When met with situations like this, how did our Lord respond? My favorite model is when the Lord answered a question with a question. Basically, God goes on the offensive by saying, "So, before you attack me, let's find out the base that you are standing on."

If only, Haggard could have said the following:

"Richard, I'll answer you question, but first I want to ask you some questions. Is this okay?"

a. Why have you been divorced and remarried three times?
b. Are you happy in your life?

I am sure that Dawkin would have been highly insulted. Not because these questions--to a man that declares there is no God--should be insulting. He would have been insulted because it points to the vacuum that exists in his own life.

I'm sure he would have answered, "well of course I'm happy." Then why were you married 3 times? Why was life so unpleasant that you had to marry three different women? Why couldn't you make a smart intellectual move and find the right answer in your personal life with your first wife or your second wife?

If he said he was happy, I would state, "then why are you seeking to destroy the happiness of other by removing going to church, which is clearly tied to people's happiness?"

If Dawkin said "I am unhappy," then you could point out that in America we are allowed to seek happiness.

See Dawkin is not interested in having a conversation, but he was interested in getting footage to make Christians look stupid. Dawkin is not interested in what will allow humans to be better, but he is interested in making people as miserable as himself. His life has no security, and wishes everybody the same.

Welcome to the 21st century persecution. You're stupid Mr. Bible believer.

How can anybody see this snippet of film and not think Dawkin, who is a very smart person, doesn't create a vehicle to assassinate somebody's else's character. This great man of evolution (and I will not say science after Dawkin's proof of evolution through his METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL model, which has multiple logic errors) is now being praised in the blogging community as being vindicated by Haggard's failure.

I will submit that we are not proven by the "outliers" on our data. The best proof for Christianity is based around how it impacts the overall character of a population.

I have a bad book habit. If I see something that looks sort of interesting, I'll simply pick it up and read it when I can. Many years ago, I saw a book called the "Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, and it changed my life, while reinforcing my belief in Christianity.

Seligman became famous for being the best and one of the first communicators on the psychology of what makes humans effective. Part of the recipe for being effective is being happy.

To quote the founders of the USA:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now being happy is good, and some of the neural impacts of being happy are nicely reflected on in Kathy Sierra's Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain post on her blog.

To summarize her post, she talks about mirror neurons. These neurons makes up a part of our brain that is pre-wired to mimic people we hang out with. Hang out with unhappy people, get unhappy.

She uses this to spring board into how we can catch emotions from other people.

Now, you can spend time thinking all these deep thoughts, or you can turn to the Bible, which is 2000 years old, and read Paul's statement:

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

So again, we find out through biology what the Bible so amply calls out so clearly.

However, the Bible talks that man makes a choice to become blind to the obvious, and while anybody should be able to simply and quickly reflect "wow, that exactly what is in the Bible," for the most part man makes a choice to ignore the wisdom found in these pages.

The truth of the Bible lays in its ability to touch everybody on a fundamental level to improve themselves. The Bible points that the true Christian life will result in fruit that can be seen.

So back to Dawkins and Haggard. Haggard experienced what is called a "Severe Mercy" from our Lord. He has been exposed in the depth of hypocrisy, and now we'll be able to see what he is really made of. Haggard has years to rebuild his faith and the faith of those around him. If he is a Christian, then this is the best thing that could have ever happened to him.

Christianity can often be a tonic that cures many ills: it can heal families, it can cure the alcoholic, and, I believe, can even help to reduce man's desire to do sexual acts that should not be done. It does not, however, insure that our leaders (and ourselves) a guaranty that some of us won't fall.

If you are a Christian wondering how God could allow this to happen and "what a bad witness this is" my words to you is the following:

"Grow up"

Do you have so little understanding in our faith that you allow something like this to bother you beyond a short time?

Here is the insight for the day: Christianity is built on humiliation.

One of the most powerful proofs for Christianity is that we are built on humiliation and low status. Our God is a crucified man. There was no more embarrassing event in the time of Christ than crucifixion. Your enemy's taking you, beating you, and making you an object of scorn. There is no other religion (until recent times) that took a criminal, a person that was crucified, and said that we are crazy adherents to this person.

Therefore, since we know that people (until we get to modern times) don't willingly follow a made up story based on extreme humiliation, we need to ask what could be logical and reasonable explanation why this movement called Christianity suddenly sprouted. How can such an unlikely story--because no 1st century Jew would dare say that he followed a crucified man--happen to happen?

The only possible explanation is that this story, which is impossible to create by cultural standards, actually happened.

It would be a little like saying that "I go to Ted Haggard's Church." Most people would be so embarrassed about this latest incident that they probably want to climb into a hole and hide. Why? Because they know that they world is saying, "Here is a man that preached against gays and drug use. You followed him as a great leader, and now we find out that he was gay and used drugs." Well, while we can't commend this fallen leader, we need to recognize that the Lord control all the steps, and will control the outcome.

Now, from what I can tell, Ted Haggard preached the gospel and taught sound fundamental stuff. So this is what any follower of Ted Haggard should do.

1. Ted fundamentally taught us all the right stuff
2. Ted had a problem that was hiding from and lying about.
3. We rejoice in that once it became obvious that Ted's lie could no longer be hidden, the words he speaks seem to be one of repentance
4. If you think that we turned off our brain while listening to Ted, you are wrong
5. If you think that we followed a man, you are wrong
6. Life moves on
7. We continue to go to church

Which brings us to the first chart in this post. It is a from a series of charts by the Pew Research Center. The chart shows the happiness ratio for people that go to church more often and less often. You can see from the chart, the more you go to church, the happier you are.

Just because somebody makes a mistake, doesn't mean you give up on the faith.

To quote David:

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

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