Thursday, July 08, 2010

Summer Challenge

Before I tell you about the Challenge I am taking on, I'd like to give you some background.

I really dislike and distrust Focus on the Family. I have for a while; even during my adolescent years when my father was doing his most intense spiritual searching and taking me to churches along the way, listening to FotF on the radio, and handing me FotF-approved tape sets on relationships, I wasn't sold on their approach. I thought them shallow; trying too hard to appeal to as many people as possible, spewing the same thoughts over and over again in a desperate attempt to brainwash listeners without ever encouraging true thought or growth in faith. And I think I've finally pinpointed why I disliked them so much: They Lie.

An excerpt:

Our young believer listens, and two subtle evils begin to work in his life. Focus On The Family first admonishes our believer to keep listening, because their programs will help heal the damage in his soul. They don't just come out and say it, but the message is clear. If he wants to learn how to be a better Christian, he need look no further. In other words, they set themselves up as the authority on moral living. This little device hooks our young believer. If he rejects what's being broadcast by Focus On The Family, he is rejecting the information God obviously wants him to hear.

He keeps listening, and over time the second evil takes root and does its damage.

Focus On The Family tells our young Christian what good Christians do. They talk about how to love correctly. They talk about how to talk correctly. They talk about how to believe correctly. They talk about all the evil sins our Christian should avoid. But unfortunately, they inadvertently use themselves, their speakers and their leaders, as examples of what good Christians do. They do this by holding up their own interpretations of Scripture as God's will for our young believer's life.

Now, FotF recently sprouted a new website/media offshoot called "Boundless", aimed at single twenty-somethings and young married couples. They're trying their hardest to be the Cool Ministry on the block, which to me is both ridiculous considering their already large following (why conform to our "immoral" society's ideas of 'cool' when you already have 3-5 million listeners?) and scary - I don't want people like my sister and brother-in-law being targeted by an organization that preys on the weak and confused, especially when they're using FACEBOOK as a way to get their message across!

So when I stumbled on the Boundless Summer Challenge through a pair of Christian friends of mine, I wasn't terribly impressed with the whole idea of Boundless, or the Challenge itself - I mean, they're offering an iPad for "the person who completes the entire challenge and writes us the most compelling final essay". (Keep in mind that the only way they know you've completed it is by you following them on Facebook, which gives them access to your wall and your Facebook Notes, in which you are expected to keep a daily journal of the "tasks" they set). Maybe it's just me, but the idea of offering any prize at all for a challenge which is supposed to be about immaterial, spiritual growth seems a little like... what's the word I'm looking for?... desperation? Hypocrisy? Reeking of underhandedness - ah, duplicity!

Still, the idea of participating grew on me despite the threat of winning an iPad. For a start, I noticed that nowhere in the selling points for the challenge does it mention that it's Christian-only or even that it's directed at any given God or Faith. In fact it's not until the first Task appeared today that the word "Christ-followers" (not Christians!) was written in relation to the Challenge. Well, I'm a follower of Christ, if you translate that to mean "I follow the Golden Rule!". And since "The primary benefit in this Challenge is growth in godliness and the enjoyment of fellowship.", I'm going to translate "godliness" as "cleanliness" (no, not really, but I thought that'd get a laugh), that is, enlightenment. I'm going to use this challenge for growth toward Nirvana and the enjoyment of the fellowship of humanity.

So! While I'm not interested in using the Boundless Summer Challenge as a way to improve my relationship with Christ, I'm going to follow along anyway. The first task is a 3-part: Register on Facebook, pray, and ask people to join. I'm not interested in the iPad, so I feel no need to register with these people and allow them access to the most private parts of my public life (Because I do actually have privacy settings enabled; I'm not sharing my information with the entire world!). I consider this blog entry my official, formal registration for the Boundless Summer Challenge. "Praying" (or at least meditating) I will do. If I come up with any interesting thoughts I'll share them later today. Finally, asking: Consider this my invitation for you to join me on my 31-day journey through faith and spirituality. Regardless of your faith (or lack thereof), you are welcome to use this challenge to improve your relationships with people, study whatever religious texts you feel will help you in your journey, and meditate daily on how to live a better life (whatever "better" means to you is ok). If you'd like support, a dialogue, or just want me to know that you're participating you are welcome to leave a comment with a link to whichever website, profile, or blog you'll be updating for the next month. The challenge starts today, but you can join any time during the month (unless you're joining with them on Facebook; they set the deadline at Monday, July 12). Here's to a month of spiritual growth!

Oh, and for the friends who are doing this, especially N: I am going to pray not that you don't condemn yourself if the new baby prevents you from completing these tasks, but that you never feel or are ashamed of the "condemnation" of FotF and its members; that you remain innocent of the greed and anger that cloud its work and that your faith and companionship with your husband grows stronger not because of a few days spent in contemplation but because of a life well-lived with honor, compassion, and grace.

I leave you with this:
"How much better it would be if we could just remember that our Basic Assumptions are just that: assumptions. We do not know for a fact that anything is true because we are humans, and our minds are interpretive machines. We may believe something with all our hearts and still be wrong. We might fight and die, or even kill, for our interpretation of truth, but it won't make it any more true. All we can do is learn as much as we can and then remove everything that cannot be true and start seeing what is left. It'll never be a perfect truth, but at least it won't be a self-created one based on our personal or our group's own Basic Assumptions."

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