Sunday, November 13, 2011

Disagreeing About Church, Tim Minchin, kids

Edit: After much consideration, I regret posting my friend's message to me word for word. While I didn't use her name or think that she or anyone in our community would be seeing this blog, it has hurt her that I did this, and she is probably right, that it was not very ethical to do.

This post and this issue are still meaningful and important to me, and my feelings are still the same or even stronger now, after being called a a passive-aggressive bully and being accused of mocking her and every other Christian. It was not my intention to mock or hurt anyone, but since I have, I will remove her message, and paraphrase it.

Oh, my Tim blog. How I've missed you. I've been working and so busy, I have neglected you. But look, this does prove I am normalish, right? I'm not SOOOO obsessed that I would neglect work to blog, or neglect taking care of my needs for sleep and such to blog. Yep. I'm totally normal, just not a good blogger.

So aside from working, I have done some pretty exciting things, especially in the last few days. So I'll start with a post related to recent Tim events, and get back to blogging more regularly now that my teaching assignment is coming to an end.

I went to see Tim Minchin in Chicago again Thursday night. The show was so good, and talking to him afterward was wonderful too. I asked him some important (to me) question (not very articulately, due to nervousness), and he responded with a long attentive answer, which I kind of forgot a lot of due to nervousness. I remember a part about a Unicorn named Sven, but I'll save it for another day because I'm sleep deprived and tired. The Unicorn part is ironic because the reason I'm sleep deprived is because I took my youth group to a UU CON called "Unicon", with a unicorn theme.

So, in case you don't know, a CON is a convention of UU youth from the (Midwest, in this case) area, and we get together and learn and worship and connect and do a lot of amazing things, (but not a lot of sleeping). I led a workshop about Tim Minchin which I will also write more about soon.

This post is about a facebook friend questioning my exposing teens to Tim and questioning our religion. Basic backstory:
- Christian friend who knows I'm an atheist asked me about Tim a few months ago and I warned her, she would not like him.
- She goes and looks up the lyrics to "Thank You God" because of some facebook comment by me at a later date.
- She tells me she is speechless and offended. I told her I warned her.
- Thursday night, after Tim concert, I posted pics of myself and kid with Tim Minchin.
- Friday, I take my youth group to CON. Made Facebook status update at 10:41 pm, "Made it to snowy Wausau, Wisconsin. The fun is just getting started. First worship service at midnight. Sleep shmeep."
- Saturday night, I posted status update, "What's more fun than being at a Tim Minchin concert? Being in a church with 200 amazing teenagers (as THEY are singing Tim Minchin songs). Sorry parents if they come home singing a bit a foul language. They have gained some valuable critical thinking skills."
- FB friend posts frowny face, then sends me this lengthy private message:

Edit: She questioned how I could expose teenagers to Tim Minchin and how my church is even a church because Christian and church are synonymous. She asked how I would feel if a Christian was going around mocking atheists. She said I mock and insult her and every other Christian on Facebook when I post things about Tim Minchin.

Ugh. So I penned a lengthier response. And I just thought I'd post it here. Because I'm apparently too tired to even do a properly entertaining ranty rant. I'll just post my response. Thanks for reading. Comments welcome!!!

Hi, Friend. Thanks for expressing your opinions in a caring and civil manner. I hear your confusion and want to respond. I know sometimes when we disagree, we just want to vent and be heard and understood, and if that was all I thought you were wanting, I might just let you know you’ve been heard and not continue the conversation. I think though, that you are genuinely confused by my beliefs and my church and the joy I derive from Tim Minchin, so I would like to address your questions.

First, when you say, “ religion is something that should be the last things a Christian & atheist should discuss”, I disagree. I enjoy talking about religion and embrace differences of belief. I think you and I respect each other enough to have a kind, intelligent discourse. You and I both know we won’t change the other’s mind, and I don’t think we have that goal. If our goal is understanding, and preventing resentments between us, I welcome the conversation.

Regarding the words “church” and “worship”, I understand your confusion of my use of the word worship and will try to clarify in a moment. I disagree though with your assertion that the words “Christian” and “church” are synonymous. I’m not sure where you got the definitions you listed which ALL have as a requirement Christianity, ecclesiastical authority, or Christian God. I could rebut with alternative definitions which do not have those requirements, but I don’t want to turn this into a forensics competition. Surely you aren’t claiming that Christians have exclusive rights on the word “church”, discounting numerous world religions, are you? My church does have its roots in Christianity, but has since grown to include people of various faiths or no faith, so that is how we are not a “Christian church” (although we do have some Christians). I think you know I belong to the Universalist Unitarian Church. We are a church because we have a common creed of promoting religious freedom, individual expression and social justice. I won’t go into details about our principals and practices unless you want me to, but we are a valid religion! My particular congregation is one of the oldest churches in Peoria.

I am not actually a fan of the word worship, because it does have a Christian connotation. I personally feel uncomfortable using it to describe our church services, but I am in the minority in that. Some UU churches don’t use it, and those who do, use it because it originates from the Old English word weorthscipe, meaning “to ascribe worth to something, or to shape things of worth”. To us, “worship” is to give shape to, or articulate that which is meaningful to us (freedom, dignity, justice, compassion, etc.). Again, this is not a debate round. Good question. I hope that helps you understand why I said “worship” to describe the church service I was at Saturday night.

Regarding Tim Minchin, you’re right that I don’t see his message as hateful. I see him as intelligent and compassionate, speaking up for people who have suffered injustices at the hands of the church. I don’t think he hates God or Christians. He picks very specific issues with religions and speaks up about them. Christians discriminating against gays? Yes, someone should speak up about it, especially when Christians promote actual violence against gay people and promote such hostility that kids are killing themselves (or others) because of this rhetoric. I know this is not YOU, but it is fine with me that he sings about the bigots who do. The Pope allowing priests to get away with sexual abuse? Of course I am glad that someone will speak up against a person who millions believe is beyond reproach, even if it means innocent children are being raped. A song questioning the infallibility of the Bible? Yes, when people try to use this one book written thousands of years ago to restrict freedom and oppress people? Yes, I’m glad he questions why people ignore science and reason and empathy in favor of the Bible. And the song you are probably upset about, (I know you looked up the lyrics to “Thank You God”, and I don’t know what else of his you know.)? I too am baffled as to how someone could really believe that a god of the whole universe really could or would cure one person of an ailment, while NOT helping masses of starving children and suffering people everywhere. Am I mocking you? No, it is just such an improbable belief it is extremely baffling to me that someone could believe that. I wouldn’t want to believe that. It sounds sick and cruel to me.

When you say that I am mocking and insulting you and all the Christians on my friends list, I feel disappointed. Please don’t say, “- because then you feel that way about me & every other Christian that is on your friends list- but it's your right”. Please don’t make assumptions about what I think or feel. I care about you, and although we disagree, I try not to take it personally. Do you think I am going to hell? Do you think I’m a sinner? Do you think I’m bad for enjoying this music and exposing teenagers to it? If so, OK. I can accept that without it affecting my feelings of you or my relationship with you. Sometimes you do things that I disapprove of. If it doesn’t affect me or other people, I just shrug it off as none of my business. (Example, although I think it is morally reprehensible to eat meat, I would never ever say anything to you about your choice.) If what you do does affect me or people, I might speak up and express my opinion. (Example, when you posted a pic of the stamped dollar bill saying that “Allah was god” and you commented something about it being wrong, and I commented about there being freedom of religion here and wanting people of all faiths to be respected.)

I expose my kids (and kids at my church) to Tim Minchin because my religion promotes critical thinking. We encourage our kids to question everything, to think for themselves, to pursue their own religious path. How would I feel if people mocked my beliefs? People like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, Rush Linbaugh, Newt Gingrich, the 50% of Americans who wouldn’t vote for an atheist president and say atheists can’t be trusted? I feel irritated sometimes, but I actually try to laugh. And I laugh at Minchin’s 10 minute rant about exactly the kind of new-agey, hippyish people that make up a good portion of my church. I don’t want us all to be alike. I want someone to point out to me if they think I’m being ridiculous. I want the questions. I want the conversation. So, thank you for that. I DO respect your faith and especially your freedom to choose it. I hope you will respect mine.


  1. Found your blog via Twitter. What a great response! I am a UU and Minchin fan(atic) in Seattle. I think I would love to have a coffee or dinner with you!! ;*) I've seen Tim twice and though I understand how he can come across as very caustic to a new listener's ears, I, like you, feel that he (verbally) fights where fighting is necessary: where religion turns into discrimination: women, gays, "others", etc. I don't think many will get that, but I know that I am glad to have his funny music and thoughtful commentary as a part of my life.

    With best regards from Seattle, WA.

  2. Thanks, lauram. I came here to remove this post because it was not very ethical for me to copy and paste that message here. I will paraphrase at a later date.