Tuesday, May 22, 2007

the Jim henderson talk at UW yesterday

Yesterday I attended a really kewl event put on by the secular student alliance (the atheists) at UW in conjunction with the Intervarsity Christian group there. They invited Jim Henderson (a 25 year pastor, evangelism ... guru (sorry Jim), promoter of dialogue between christians and normal people, and the guy who bought Hemant's (an atheist) soul on ebay 15 months ago, to come and speak to them about that experience, and about Hemant's Book I Sold My Soul on Ebay, and about Jim's new book in which he and Matt Caspar, another athest, visited and dialogued about 20 different churches across the U.S., called Jim and Caspar go to Church. (long breath. sorry about the run on sentence. Don't feel like fixing it, and don't have an editor (yet), so deal with it =)). I really enjoyed the event--here's a little report on it.

I got there quite late, so I missed a good bit of what was said. It was really kewl to hear Jim kind of saying what he really thought right out, because it was such an open environment. A couple things I really liked:

Jim talked about how no matter what we think, it’s important to not compare “our best” to “their worst”

A young man talked about growing up in a really conservative baptist church, and how hard it was to get out of his head the thought that he, and/or others, would go to hell if they didn’t maintain a correct belief. He asked Jim how Jim would respond to someone saying he was going to burn in hell for failing to believe “correctly”? Jim empathized with the young man and went on to say that if such a god exists, who sends people to hell for incorrect belief, then he, Jim, wasn’t super interested and would probably end up burning in hell with all the other unbelieving or incorrectly believing people. I’m quoting from memory here so it’s not exact, but I think I got the gist of it right.

Jim was talking a bit about how there’s certainly plenty of ammo for anyone who wants to critique the church, and a young man, I think perhaps the atheist who helped organize the meeting, said “Well, you’ve talked a lot about how there’s plenty of ammo for critizing the church–that the church has lots of bad sides and has done and continues to just not get it in a lot of ways. So what about athiests? What are we doing wrong–what ammo are we providing as fodder for legitimate critique?” Jim seemed very pleased by this question, and talked about how he couldn’t even get Christians to ask him questions like that if he paid them. He went on to talk about how there are fundamentalists everywhere–by which he meant, he said, people who get afraid and then become mean and bigoted–christian fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists and fundamentalists in any other camp you care to name.

Jim was saying he really like Habitat for Humanity, because it’s about what you *do* rather than what you believe, and that they don’t have any orthodoxy except the orthodoxy of the hammmer–if you can hit a nail with a hammer, you’re in. But they do have follower of Jesus roots, so they do this one thing which is that they pray over the house together after they’ve built it. So one young man pointed out that he knew of some atheists who actually wouldn’t work with habitat because they do have the … very gentle connection with following jesus, and why didn’t they just give that up so they could include even more people. Jim talked about how habitat gets criticized by lots of people in the christian community for not talking enough, and that a lot of their financial backing comes from non religioius non christian sources, and that maybe the fundamentalist atheists who are against it from one end should get together with the fundamentalist christians who are against it from the other end and form an organization called “Why Habitat for Humanity Sucks”, which drew a laugh from the audience.

He talked about the macro business of religions and of christianity, and how it’s come to be all about beliefs, and beliefism. He talked about how this business has latched onto the phrase which Jesus used one time in a secret meeting with one other person at night: “Born again”, but maybe it would make more sense to use wording which he used thirty times: “Follow me–be my disciple (that is, apprentice–do what I do, and say what I say)”

He talked about how 95% of the time when Jesus talked about hell, it was to religious people, and that he never talked about hell to … non religious, normal, hurting people.

He talked about “non manipulative intentionality”, which he defined as living intentionally, or on purprose, without trying to control the process or the outcomes. He gave credit to Buddhist thought in this idea. I found this very appealing, and would love to hear more about it.

Eliza was there, and he got her to come up front and introduce herself, to say that she was on facutly at the hospital, and to talk a little about how she came to find out about off the map and about her experience with the Lutheran class.

I had a really great conversation with a guy who has a similar background to me in a really conservative baptist church, and who is also a UW student, and I am hoping to reconnect with him ongoingly in the future.

Overall, I’m really glad to have gone to this event. It was very enjoyable. It felt like Jim could be more open and honest about his thoughts and ideas and feelings and goals than it seems like he can normally be in the more … churchish settings where I’ve seem him speak before. That was really … refreshing.

No comments: