Monday, January 26, 2009


I promise I am not making this up...

My daughter, taking a break from her pursuit of a graduate degree, is a server at the Chili's a few miles down from our house. Like many others her age she is already pretty critical of the church and its obvious hypocrisies. Her cynicism, that to say, is neither atypcial nor incomprehensible. Nor does this kind of thing help--her or others.

A group of six church-goers came in last night after their evening services and sat down, not in her area but in another server's. When the girl came to greet them and take their drink order, one of them said, "We want to tell you up front that we will not be tipping you tonight because..."

Are you ready?

"...we do not believe in people working on Sunday."

The girl was taken full-aback, stammered out something that sounded like "I wouldn't have to work on Sunday if so many church people didn't come in," or some such. She was furious. So was the manager of the restaurant whom she summoned to deal with them. I think he should have tossed the people out on their...uh...Bibles. To his credit, and demonstrating something like agape all around, he did say to them, "Well, we don't believe in making our people work for nothing, so I will be serving you tonight." And he did. God bless him.

No one is consistent. I am clear on that. But better to confess your own sin in such a situation than presume to see it in another who is just doing the best they can. No wonder Jesus had such animosity toward Pharisees who "lay (heavy burdens) on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:4). No wonder an entire generation of would-be believers has such animosity toward the church.

As George MacDonald wrote long ago, "Had you given yourself to understanding his word that you might do it, and not the quarrying from it of material wherewith to buttress your systems, in many a heart by this time would the name of the Lord be loved where now it remains unknown..."

For my part--and I am a Pharisee myself, even saying this, but I cite my practice not with pride but with confession--I pray for the forgiveness of God and verbally ask the forgiveness of the Hardee's drive-through lady each Sunday as I buy coffee on my way to church. I know I am complicit: on the one hand I do wish, with my head and heart, that all people had Sunday free; that said, I do nothing, nothing to lift a finger to make that happen by even so little a fast or act of self-sacrifice as making my own coffee on a busy Sunday morning--much less by not eating a Sunday lunch or dinner at one of the sit-down places in town.


Anonymous said...

I linked this today to my new site, Hope it helps drive some traffic your way. -Chuck

Pastor John Roberts said...


One wonders how God puts up with having people like that (i.e. us) on His resumé. What a mess we make of His reputation from time to time!

Anonymous said...

Once again the entire concept is being missed---
The idea is to have a regular 'sabbath' experience, that is, a time of worship, reflection, and self-sacrifice, which ultimately keeps us energized and (relatively) sane. As one who has served churches for over 20 years, I work on Sunday, and, having to worry about the music and the flow of the service, etc., I don't get to really worship myself. I find that time elsewhere during the week. I have a really good friend who serves a Presbyterian congregation. He has told them that Fridays are his Sabbath, and, unless someone is dying, it CAN, and WILL, wait until Saturday. He uses that time for reflection and meditation, renewing his personal batteries to allow him to minister to his own flock.
Sabbath, in our 24/7 world, does not have to be tied to a specific day. I agree that the hypocrisy is rampant, especially among the underinformed, and maybe this blog will do a little good.
Orgelherr in NC

A. Lin said...

Unbelievable! I cannot imagine a worse attitude for Christians to be displaying.

My mother used to work retail, and she said some of the worst customers to deal with were the pastors who would come in. I would hope that witnessing goes beyond words, but I'm sure that many Christians have thwarted their words by behaving badly.

Anonymous said...

The manager handled that well, and so did your daughter. As for the Sabbath-keeping restaurant guests - well, at least they were up front, I guess. Although they're going to have to keep finding new restaurants to go to because pretty soon nobody will want to wait on the non-tippers. Or, they could eat at home - if cooking is 'against the rules' then fix everything on Saturday!

Steve Salyards said...

We have a member of our congregation who, a number of years ago, effectively quit her job as a server (at the same chain I would add) because she refused to miss worship on Sunday morning for a mandatory staff meeting. She would work afternoon shifts on Sunday.

I also will link to this post on Friday

power plant worker said...

I do wish, with my head and heart, that all people had Sunday free
Start by not using any utilities or services on Sunday.
There is a large percentage of the population keeping the infrastructure of the nation working every hour of every day. If the local sewage plant shut down for Sundays, would that be reasonable? What if the Fire Department left you on your own 1/7th of the time? Call a locksmith on Sunday and be informed that he'll be there right at sunup on Monday?

Perhaps the concept of a sabbath day worked when taking a day off had no consequences, but I doubt even a bronze-age farmer could take one complete day off every seven days.

Chalk up the designated sabbath day as another example of how a collection of legends intended to teach morality is unsuitable as a guide for your life.
Shall we all follow all the rules of Leviticus? Or can we apply some common sense and human decency when interacting with others? I certinaly hope the trash eating at Chili's didn't order any pork or shellfish, and that none of them shaved, and they had better not be wearing clothing made of two materials. Or do you think they were just picking and choosing what to follow out of a book?

Tom Steagald said...

thanks, power plant worker, for your comment. I am not mindless enough to imagine that hospitals, services, etc, come to a screeching halt on Saturday at dusk. In fact, the laws provide for exceptions in relation to necessary and emergency situations.

What you seem to miss is that the "legends," as you call them, teach much more than behaviors. By looking deep into the heart of God (as evidenced in creation, law and gospel), we learn to see ourselves as sinners first, to live in compassion and service to others, and THAT is the tragedy of the episode at chili's. Jesus helped people on the Sabbath, did not end his teaching or healing, How might we emulate that...

You mistake metaphorical hyperbole (wish all people had sunday off) with literalism. It is a mistake many folk make and not just with muy blog!

Gaki said...

So ... let me get this straight.

They don't think anyone should be working on a Sunday, but they show up to a place of business, on a Sunday, expecting service.

Oh, they expect you to work, all right ... that's why they came. They just don't want to pay for it.

Cheap bastards.

ckm said...

It's like comic Ron White says "You can't cure stupid."

Kevin Camp said...

If I was her, I would have said, "That's ok, I don't either so I'm actually volunteering today. But since I'm not on the clock, I don't have to follow any of the silly rules, like washing my hands after I go to the bathroom. Now, what can I get you to drink."

And for the record, they weren't Christians, they were morons.

austin said...

"we don't believe in people working on Sundays"?????? Well, I don't believe in people eating at restaurants on Sundays - how about that?

also: Doesn't the Sabbath referenced in the 10 commandments occur on Saturday?

silly silly people.

side note: it is amazing to me that you posted this. it's cool that this story really humbled you to consider your own sin. very cool!

Keith, a former server said...

I would have served them. I would have served them with exactly the type of service you wouldn't want to leave a tip for. I also would have let the kitchen know about this table. They would love it.

Some Guy said...

So, what did these devout purported Christians do to expiate their own sin of breaking the sabbath? If it's a sin to work on the sabbath, it's also a sin to avail yourself of the services of one who does.

Sounds like they need a bit of a flogging to get themselves right with god.

BTW, Jews all over the world are appalled at the way you heretics have botched up the law of Moses.

Imagine Reason said...

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2:11-12, part of 1 Timothy 2:9-15)

Anonymous said...

The waitress should have stoned them to death.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time I was a manager at a Chili's. If this had been my restaurant I would have explained to the party that we would not be serving them today since our service would not be able to meet their expectations. I would have stood there and smiled. The first words of protest would have brought up my famous pointing arm. Pointing right at the "Management Reserves the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone" sign. They would not be missed on a busy Sunday. There probably would be several parties waiting in line that would be glad to take the table and tip generously.

People need to stop letting other people get away with stupidity. That's all I have to say about that.

The Pampered Pauper said...

You know, there's the whole thing about not casting stones.

But those people need a swift kick in the ass. I would've booted them out of my restaurant, for sure.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing your invisible friend is a fairy tale, else all of you would be going to hell for something or another.

Grow up. You're not six years old anymore.

cgull said...

The manager did the right thing and taught them a lesson. Thanks for sharing this story Pastor, we can learn from this story however disgusting their actions are.

James said...

This really lands close to home for me. It was folks like those in the restaurant that eventually convinced me to leave organized religion behind. I discovered many people either disregarded parts they didn't like, or simply didn't understand what the bible was about. I used to lead services for my church many years ago, though I am no pastor. Every single day, it would amaze me how frequently the word of God and teachings of Christ would be used to create so much negativity, hate, and disrespect toward others.

I think those patrons were hoping to teach the girl a lesson. However, instead of helping her, they decided to punish her for not being just like them. Didn't Jesus teach us to respect and love everyone, no matter what?

If I wanted to help this girl, I would have doubled or even tripled my tip, and probably written "God Bless" on the cheque. That's it. No brow beating. No punishments. No disrespect. No forcing my personal beliefs on her. That is not my place, and certainly not what I believe Christianity is about. Perhaps today's youth would be more inclined to voluntarily attend mass if people didn't forget what they learned in church the moment they step out the door. Youth are generally exceptional at spotting hypocritical behavior.

If these patrons took this approach, maybe she could then afford to take a Sunday off now and again. I would also say it's a safe bet bet she would be more willing to attend services with people that show they really care, despite any differences, rather than cast judgement.

Does anyone really believe that the intended message in the bible is for us to treat each other badly? It seems some must; considering how frequently we as a race start wars over these beliefs, and how often people can immediately hate others, simply due to their religion.

I believe if Jesus had been sitting there with those patrons that day, that he would have left the tip when they didn't.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with you all?

How about restaurants start paying their staff enough money instead of creating a situation where customers have to pay gratuity?

I'm not cheap - Im happy to give to charities (except religious ones) - but I'm not happy about funding the life of a waiter who should be paid by the filthy rich conglomerate they are working for.

the customers in this original post were no more daft than the rest of you, interpreting your book in the way that suits you. Judge them if you like - if it makes you feel better - but realise that they have the right to interpret your little book however they like too.

Anonymous said...

No one has the right to interpret Scripture in their own way. We have an obligation to interpret Scripture the way God intended it to be understood.

PhillyChief said...

No one has the right to interpret Scripture in their own way. We have an obligation to interpret Scripture the way God intended it to be understood.

LOL! And what way is that? Oh wait, YOUR way, right, which you no doubt believe is the way your god intends, just like everyone else who interprets it differently believes their interpretation is divinely guided. Puh-lease.

Anyway, this story is outrageous. The hypocrisy is especially delicious, chastising those working while expecting those people to work for them. Let me guess, they were all big as houses and ordered huge meals too, right?

Btw, never, EVER complain or cause a fuss in a restaurant before you get any food. Trust me, I worked in restaurants.

St. Upid said...

in light of their stand on tipping im curious why its okay for them to go out to eat on the sabbath and pay for food on the sabbath?

Anonymous said...

I find it sad that an entire group of people would sit down and force someone to work for them while refusing to pay for it, citing the Bible as a reason. I've heard of war over religion, I've heard of religious hatred, and I've heard of religious bigotry. Now being tightfisted in the name of religion? That's pathetic. If you're cheap, own it. If you're hateful, own it. If you're racist, own it. If you're stupid, own it. But for crying out loud, do no blame it on God.

I'm pagan. My best friend is an Evangelical pastor. Both of our hearts hurt for those who use any religion in place of faith, and who use that religion to harm others, be it through a lecture and refusal to tip, or through war and hatred.

Andrew S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew S said...

OK, I haven't read all of the comments, so I'm not sure if this has already been addressed, but...aren't the people from church *also* sinning to eat out on Sunday?

I mean, I don't mean in an informal sense, but how could these people even dare to say, "We don't believe in people working on Sundays." Shouldn't eating out on Sundays be just as sinful (and therefore, when they try to point of the sins of others, they point out the literal sins of themselves.)

I don't know. I come from a different church background. In the LDS church, keeping the Sabbath day holy means no eating out, no shopping on Sunday, etc., You get all of that done Saturday or you don't do it. And I mean, I know many people who don't necessarily follow that commandment to the letter (or spirit) of the law, but they wouldn't go so far as to point out what others are doing.


But then again, I don't worry about it anymore, now that I'm nonpracticing and nonbelieving.

(comment reposted so I can have follow-up comments emailed to me)

Mark said...

In Bellevue hospital, in Manhattan NYC, there is one elevator that stops at every floor, going both up or down, in the evening on Friday.

Anyone want to guess why?

Because it is a sin to work on the Sabbath, and pushing a button is work.

Sabbath here is defined by the orthodox Jews that define it as starting on sunset on Friday.

I am not making this up. As a doctor that works at Bellevue.

Anonymous said...

Please take a minute to pass this on to your daughter, "I am sorry. I mean it, I am sorry for how some who bear the name of Christ refuse to carry His cross, I am sorry for the way they act. I apologize for the preachers and teachers who failed to instill in them the very basics of the teachings of the Messiah, Love thy neighbor, love thy God enough not to make Him look bad. Please accept my apology. Some small percent of us are OK."
Please pass this on to your daughter, this post is not about the Sabbath, it is about sinning against a woman in the name of He who never sinned.

Somebody has to apologize for the flint hearted unrepentant millstones that seem to exist only to be stumbling blocks unto the Lord. He should have warned people about that,, oh yeah, He did...

Andrew S said...

Mark, I had heard of that before in other locations too.

Sometimes I wonder though if such creativity works for or against faith (let's say on the last day you meet God assuming he exists: is he going to say, "Wow, that was a really clever way to follow this commandment"?)

the chaplain said...


I know that your apology was extended sincerely, but, the problem with it is that it is not your place to apologize for the misdeeds of others. Only those who commit the wrong can offer a meaningful apology.

You can offer words of empathy, outrage, embarrassment - anything that expresses what you feel, including sorrow - but an apology from anyone other than the offender is ineffectual.

HeavenlyJane said...

Not sure what part of the country this occurred. But there is always the possibility that the server wasn't Christians. Observant Jews have no restrictions about working on Sunday; ditto for Muslims and those never raised or currently affiliated with any faith. How egocentric to assume that everyone subscribes to the same rules of conduct.

PhillyChief said...

It's not about the servers though, is it? If you believe it's wrong to work on your sabbath, then you shouldn't take advantage of those who are working on your sabbath, right? Talk about "egocentric". Oh it's ok to exploit the Jews and other non-believers on your sabbath. Wow.

And of course as reprehensible as that would be, if you bothered to read the story Jane, you'd see that they never bothered to check any of that first.

Clark said...

I've seen this from both sides. I have been in church my entire life, and also worked at Shoney's during my senior year of high school. It is a well established fact that church groups are the worst behaved, most demanding customers, while at the same time being the lousiest tippers. In college I was fortunate enough to work at Chik-fil-A which is closed on Sundays. Thank you Truet Cathy.

I grew up with a father that did not believe people should work on Sunday. Living out his convictions, he never bought anything or ate out on Sunday. Jesus taught us how foolish it is to simply say to the hungry "Be fed and clothed," without giving them any food. That is exactly what these 6 church goers did.

rpmason said...

Using that line of reason, the church-goers (they're not Christians) probably don't tithe, either. Their church's pastoral staff are paid to work on Sunday.

Goliath said...

The churchgoers in the post mentioned above are just as Christian as any other Christian. No more, no less.

"Does anyone really believe that the intended message in the bible is for us to treat each other badly?"

Yes. Your god is the most evil, despicable being I can imagine. I would rather burn in hell FOR ALL ETERNITY than worship your god. Do I make myself clear?

Tom Steagald said...


I suggest the proper emphasis in your sentence falls on "your" and not "God," for our portrayals of God are often cruel and mean, whereas we believe--and are pledged to live--in God's mercy and love. Many people rightly reject our images of God, narrow and self-serving as they often are, and they reject the church that is woven throught with obvious hypocrisies. Their anger, in its own way, is an ironic commendation of the God they reject--that is, even our harshest critics have at work in them an implicit sense of what "ought" to be and often is not. If the lives of the unsaintly are proof to you of our errors, perhaps the lives of the truly saintly (those who have founded hospitals and universities, for example, or those who have given themselves unselfishly and unceasingly to the poor and outcast) might, upon less angry reflection, suggest otherwise. God, of course, will not punish you for your anger. God will continue to love all of us. THAT is the God of the Bible.

PhillyChief said...

If the lives of the unsaintly are proof to you of our errors, perhaps the lives of the truly saintly (those who have founded hospitals and universities, for example, or those who have given themselves unselfishly and unceasingly to the poor and outcast) might, upon less angry reflection, suggest otherwise.

Whether people act well or poorly is no proof one way or another of the god they believe in.

God, of course, will not punish you for your anger. God will continue to love all of us. THAT is the God of the Bible.

No, he'll just punish you for not making him your bff.

Luci said...

This will drive more people away from an already dying religion.

Good stuff, actually.

Tom Steagald said...

Sorry, chief... I do not know what "bff" means. And the saints might disagree with you.

see my post, "Benediction."

dogsmycopilot said...

Here's what I do not get: (and I admit I am an atheist) Why feel guilty even? Why not just drive through and get your morning coffee and be glad the nice lady at the window has a job and you have a coffee? Why feel like you are somehow not doing something when in reality the rules you seek to live by were written in a time when you didn't have to pay for water and electricity and car tags and insurance. Why feel guilty for just living life? To me, the real issue was that people think they can go to a restaurant and not tip and that's ok. It's not. It's mean and that they had a "reason" for doing it did not make it right at all. And why behave like that and not expect retaliation? Would they want the same behavior done to them? It has very little to do with beliefs and religion and way more to do with personal character. But in the end, why not just live? Why worry about what day the lady is working on when it's not like Jesus is going to pay her light bill? And don't you find it condescending to "pray" for someone who is doing perfectly fine? Why insult them by insinuating they need your prayer?

PhillyChief said...


bff - best friend forever

The saints can't disagree with me because they're dead, but if good deeds of Christian saints are evidence their god is real, does good deeds by Hindus make their gods real, too? Does Tom Cruise's charity work mean there really is a Xenu?

Anonymous said...

The manager could have brought them a dinner roll and a piece of fish, and said, "Multiply that. In the parking lot."

Tom Steagald said...

dog... prayer is never condescending. If it is, it is not prayer. I am thankful, and especially these days, that the lady in Hardee's has a job, but almost as big a problem as unemployment is the problem of overwork. And in point of fact, it is my belief that all of us are in some way overmatched by our circomstance, whether that be our work/non-work, our finitude, or any of a host of other things that leave us with hearts two sizes too small, as Dr. Seuss would say, and heads that mistake our own opinions for anything like the reality of things.

That is why I look to the saints, among others, for guidance. That is why I look to scripture. That is why I pray. Not for the sake of condescension, or making myself feel better about myself, but in order to find deeper humility and solidarity with others.

Chief--acts of charity are acts of charity. I am talking about something much deeper. Those who live in service to others, even to their their own detriment (which sets one apart from, say, a suicide bomber who indeed sacrifices self but in order to hurt others, and those who die in that service (martyrs) testify to me that there is something profound at work. I have no trouble considering Ghandi a saint, for example, or others from other traditions. I can only give testimony from my tradition, however. I am not afraid of saying that God is the God of all...though I am not wise enough to know how all of that factors out.

Nor how never to end a sentence with a preposition.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Well, I guess it's a good thing she was working or they'd have no one to serve them at all!

PhillyChief said...

...testify to me that there is something profound at work.

and to me, such things show me human potential, and nothing beyond that.

dogsmycopilot said...

Tom, condescending is an opinion. So yes, prayer is condescending. That is my opinion, and I recognize that theists see it as good. But maybe theists should see how condescending it is to the rest of us. The post points out how religion is viewed, well maybe not seeming so condescending to others would be a good move. You can pray for the person, but don't tell them it's rude to those of us that are not theists.
You say people are overworked. Some may be, some are not. that is an individual judgment. Forcing people to not work one day a week is not the answer when it is hard to earn enough for basics. If some need more time off take it, but don't force those who may be in need of their lights more than a rest. And for the record, Gandhi was a monster. He denied one of his sons an education, and stood by while his wife died without care even though she needed a simple medicine he himself took. Gandhi was no hero. He was a war hero and racist who was obsessed with people's toilet habits. If he was not a saint in any sense of the word. If you do not believe me, read his son's book or any history of the Zulu uprising.

Tom Steagald said...

I would suggest that there is evil in the world transcending what might be described as the human capacity for evil. call it synergy, the mob mentality or what you will, but certain villainies leave even the casual observer with a deep sense of abiding wrong.

In the same way I would suggest there is something at work in the world that trancends mere human capacity and leaves one with the sense of goodness, or holiness.

Yes, that is my faith tradition speaking. It is also my experience and therefore testimony. I simpy suggest that if you have a prior, or a priori sense of good or evil, there is room for discussion.

I do not intend to be argumentative, only to say I have at least a passing understanding of religion's "cultured despisers." I would simply ask that you try to view us by our best examples, not our worst.

And again, prayer, as I understand it, is not condescending. Anymore than a nontheist would consider "have a nice day" or "best of luck to you" to be condescending.

PhillyChief said...


I see humanity capable of far more than you, good and ill, and asking to view religion and/or believers by merely their best examples is rather ridiculous for the obviously incomplete image that would create.

Tom Steagald said...


Then you are left with the question as to why people do not, in fact, exemplify and/or fulfill those capabilities--as least the capability for good. I fear we see all too often the eager willingness to demonstrate the other.

Of course I am not suggesting you "throw out the low," like a perversion of Olympic scoring, only that you entertain the notion that people of faith are neither mindless nor unaware of the difficulties related to faith. If we do not reject the faith outright because of our worst exponents, it is a similar impulse as those who do not reject science when some falsify data or medicine when some are guilty of malpractice or Medicaire fraud.

Faithlessness, as Sarte would readily admit, has its own set of problematic issues.

I confess that all of this began as an attempt for me to speak "from faith to faith," hoping by way of this story to encourage those of us who claim Jesus to be reminded that all we do has some power to well- or badly-represent Him. It has turned this comment section into a rudimentary forum for Christian apologetics, which clearly is not my forte. But I have enjoyed the give and take.

I close with this: as George MacDonald said long ago (the same author I mentioned in the original article) "I would rather die forever more believing as Jesus did than live forever believing as those who deny him."

Truer words were never written, as least as far as my own heart goes.

PhillyChief said...


Your science analogy is not applicable for falsifying data and other such crimes in science can be exposed, but not so with faith. Someone believes one thing, someone else believes another, two people allegedly of the same faith, reading the same words walk away with two different interpretations and do two very different things as a result. Who's right? Who's wrong? It's all arbitrary. This story of the restaurant patrons is a wonderful example of that, as are the various comments here which have followed it. I love the comments which basically say those people are doing it wrong, but by what authority can anyone claim that? So no, I'm sorry, the science analogy doesn't work.

I don't reject faith because of bad apples. Faith is unwarranted, and saying it's good because it makes you feel good or inspires you is simply an example of ends justify the means. Hell, drugs do that for some people. For others it's a pint of Hagen Daz every day or a couple of packs of smokes.

Difficulties related to faith? Well it should be difficult for any rational human being to accept that which is unwarranted. What, I should be sympathetic to people acting irrationally because it's hard to be that irrational? Uh, I don't think so.

As for your MacDonald quote, I'm sure that could be repeated billions of times over for humans across the planet over the centuries, just replace Jesus with another deity. Thoughts of Odin, Ahuru Mazda, Wakantanka, Jupiter, and the like have no doubt comforted humans long ago like your Jesus belief comforts you. In fact, you don't even need a deity...

"I would rather die forever more believing I could win the Lotto than live forever believing as those who deny it's possible."

Whatever floats your boat I guess, but things don't necessarily need to be real to float your boat. ;)

Tom Steagald said...


Someone taught you what "rational" is. You trusted them, and trust them still, to give you a lens on the world.

Not all accept your definition of rational. For example, many members of the Human Genome project, pretty "rational" folk, are in fact believers. They have no trouble reconciling faith and science. Some do. You do.

I don't.

And the article began as an exposure of falsehood in the name of faith. Such discernment is possible in fact.

PhillyChief said...

No, someone didn't teach me their definition of rational and I swallowed it whole cloth. That's how religion works, not knowledge.

Faith is, by definition, irrational. Despite what makes sense, you make a leap and believe something else. If there was evidence, you wouldn't need faith, would you? If you can stick your finger in a wound, then believing ain't faith anymore, is it?

I know of one member, Collins, from the Genome project. I'm not sure where you're getting "many" but regardless, that's fine. There are plenty of examples of highly rational people rationalizing irrational behavior. Ironically, the more rational one is, the more adept they are at rationalizing! Our President smokes, our last one tortured people, Collins saw a three pronged icicle and now believes in the trinity. It happens. It all starts with wanting something and then making excuses or rationalizing to allow yourself to indulge.

I don't reconcile faith and science. I'm not sure what I said which gave you that idea. Those two things couldn't be further apart from one another.

Collins has a science and religion reconciliation in his head which is comparable to the way many scientists thought in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, that, believing his god is the creator of everything, scientific study then is a means to better know that god, to observe his workings.

Now how such a reconciliation works when facts oppose scripture, well, I have no idea how that gets rationalized, but the human mind is capable of some wild things (ie - see much earlier comment regarding human potential).

Anonymous said...

the Chaplain, If my brother or sister is too_______[fill in yourself] to apologize I must. I spend a big chunk of ministry apologizing for Priests, and Preachers who have hurt the sheep. I did not do it but those who claim my title did, so perhaps i do not apologize for the individuals, but for the tribe that spawned them. Somebody needs to apologize for a lot. It is a start.

Tom Steagald said...


Actually, the post-modern or emergent world "view" sees reality in vastly less mechanistic terms than you suggest. Most feel that the older "scientific" or rationalist model, itself more comfortable in an earlier century and a holdover from a discredited Enlightenment, has given way to a "stickier" and, in a word, more "mystical" understanding of the relationality and relatability of all things, science and religion included.

But I sense an increasing stridency here that does not increase mutual understanding. So I will wish you well.


PhillyChief said...

I know you address your comments to me Tom, but your comments seem to have little to do with my actual comments. They border on being non sequiturs.

I also don't think you have any idea what postmodernism or emergence are, nor have you exhibited an understanding of science or the Enlightenment. Either that, or from a deliberate attempt to confuse, you've masked "god of the gaps" with a seemingly deep and respectable position through philosophical sounding words.

Also, like when referencing the Genome project, you assert a majority where there is none. "Most feel" what you're asserting? Hardly.

The increased "stridency" is a result of your continued refusal to actually address anything I say honestly. That's if you're reading what I say. It appears your not. I'd say that would be a good first step towards mutual understanding.

Sadly, I feel I'm understanding you all too well.

Tom Steagald said...


I understand more than you credit me--not just by education but by experience. And I do believe I have read what you are writing and have tried to respond as honestly as I can.

Religion, or faith, is irrational by definition? Only by some select definitions. Part of what postmodernism teaches is that there is no absolute objectivity to anything, even the scientific method. Any cursory reading in the field will suggest that every statement is made from a particular viewpoint, and that that viewpoint has both inherent bias and an interest in self-service. That is of course true for those of us in the church--but some of us at least try to hear that critique, to see in ourselves, to confess so as to achieve and retain some humility.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that you are unable or unwilling to apply to your own thinking the very criterion you apply to mine. Uncritical acceptance of any starting point is itself a kind of irrationality.

"Most" refers to thinkers in the field of postmodernism, beginning with the New Critics, who have long scolded both science and religion for an unwillingness to scrutinize their own assumptions.

"Many" in the Genome project comes from a quote on NPR related to the make-up of those involved, whether they were people of faith or not. I take their word for it.

You do not take seriously what I say because you say I do not take seriously what you say... Condescension, it would seem, is not unique to the rantings of the faithful, and fundamentalism exists in fields other than religion.

If I have offended or been dismissive, my apologies. Again, I wish you well.

Over and out.


Christina said...

I have an uncle who refuses to tip anyone at any time for any reason. This self-proclaimed "good Christian"
explains (complains) that when he himself was growing up during the depression, he had many odd jobs such as washing windows, etc. and no one ever tipped HIM--so why should HE tip anyone?!?!

Both he and his wife, my aunt, are the most hypocritical, hateful, judgmental people that I have ever had the displeasure to know; they study the Bible constantly as they become more and more bigoted toward anyone who does not believe what they believe. Despicable.

So, who are these people? I am a lifelong agnostic bordering on atheist and, by the absolutely reprehensible behavior of so many religious types, I sincerely believe that religion, particularly the various and horrible forms of Christianity, is far more damaging than helpful. I do not believe that one can do one horrible deed after another and then simply repent and ask forgiveness; rather, you, um, to quote the bible "reap what you sow."
In Buddhism it's called "Karma." And I am certain that every religion and belief system around the world has a word or phrase for it.

If more so-called "good Christians" would actually follow the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, the prophet, then they wouldn't be the hypocritical, right-wing, bigoted, judgmental cretins that so many of them are in reality. There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior from anyone in this world of ours.

Believe whatever you'd like but, quoting from the bible again, if you're going to pray (or preach) do so silently in your own room. Don't go babbling on like the heathen...


Christina Marlowe

Christina said...

If these self-proclaimed so-called good Christians would only focus on kindness toward all, without exception, they might find themselves a bit happier in general. Or is it a "sin" to be happy?

Every one of these ridiculous and godforsaken rules, such as the "sabbath," take away from what one can achieve in kindness, which is the entire point of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The more these religious types dwell on insignificant, pointless, idiocies, the less they accomplish in being a good person, which, as I have found, no thanks to any religion, brings peace, contentment and happiness to everyone involved.


PhillyChief said...

Religion, or faith, is irrational by definition? Only by some select definitions.

Yes, like the ones you'll find in the dictionaries, for instance:
• Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
• firm belief in something for which there is no proof
• belief that is not based on proof

If to be rational is to be consistent with or be based on reason, and reasons require warrants of evidence (ie - "proof"), then faith is, by definition, irrational.

Part of what postmodernism teaches is that there is no absolute objectivity to anything, even the scientific method.

Part of what one branch of postmodernism professes, which shouldn't be confused with 'all things are equal'. The absence of absolutes does not render equal revelation and empiricism. The scientific method practiced by one individual may be prone to subjectivity, but science relies on a multitude of repeated exercises of the scientific method, by a multitude of separate entities, to account for and mitigate such subjectivity. The self challenging nature of science is in fact a perfect example of postmodernism, for it both acknowledges the absence of absolute objectivity and values a pluralist approach to arriving at accepted theories (and by "theory", in case you're not aware, there is a scientific definition for the word which differs greatly from the common pedestrian usage of the word, and I'm using the former). It also rejects the holding of sacred any "truth", which is the foundation of postmodernism, if one could say a philosophy which rejects accepted foundations can have a foundation. :)

Uncritical acceptance of any starting point is itself a kind of irrationality.

Don't confuse acceptance with uncritical acceptance. Are you in any way critical of your acceptance of your religion?

You do not take seriously what I say because you say I do not take seriously what you say...

That's incorrect. Clearly I take seriously what you say because if you look back, I've clearly taken the time to both read your comments and respond to them. What I objected to is such respect was not reciprocated. Your responses to me have mostly come off like blindly reaching into a bag of 'what to say to an atheist' talking points, with two examples where you addressed positions of mine I never said, which is either indicative of having not actually read my comments or consciously creating straw man arguments.

What I don't take seriously are your claims of actual understanding of the things you cite, such as science, the scientific method, postmodernism, or the claims of majorities which agree with you.

Tom Steagald said...


Fine. First I had no knowledge of Postmodernism or emergence; now I seem to have some knowledge of at least one wing of it.

Can we leave it at that?

We are talking past each other at this point and that is unseemly, at least to me. I am content to wish you well and to acknowledge that you consider me either serenely ignorant or willfully deceptive. To the best of my awareness--informed by the regard of others--I am neither of those things. But if I have no understanding anyway there is no reason for you to argue with me.

Ice-Breaker said...

Sad Post, similar to some of the thing I speak out about on my blog...sigh, whats wrong with people.

Pastor Ed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Neale said...

Interesting Post and VERY interesting comments! I hope you don't mind if I post this blog on the website of the Salvation Army Ethics Centre in Canada. You can check it out at
Thanks for writing and keep up the thought provoking posts.

Tom Steagald said...

Hey, Christine.

Do not mind at all. This little piece has found its way to several sites, ethicsdaily among the rest, and so I am glad for the SA's ethics site to pick it up.

I will keep writing if you will keep reading!


Charles said...

The UMC Portal has your blog reposted there titled as "Churchgoers exhibit blatant hypocrisy on Sabbath rule-keeping"

To many Christian church promote a false belief that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. It isn't the Sabbath, even though many like to think of it in that way. By putting the Sabbath title to Sunday many miss the true meaning behind the Sabbath, and if they did they would find that being att he restaurant was just as much of a sin for the sabbath as those working on it. It was meant to be a day of rest. A rest we have in Christ every day of our lives.

Not only were they wrong but the church that taught them this is wrong, and holds just as much guilt as they do. They learned it from someone!

Stephen said...

Wow, this was very worthwhile. I was impressed by all the responses as well, and found alot of them to be very challenging and thought-provoking. Thank you for this post, and to those who responded to it.

Robert said...

Just read this in the March 6 UM Reporter.
(I'm a little behind in my reading.)
I loved the story for its blatant hypocrisy.
But one question. Are you still calling young women "girls"? The feminist movement knocked that out of me a long time ago.

Tom Steagald said...


quoting my daughter on that was her story, after all.


Shattered said...

The same sort of thing happens on holidays, really - this season I had to work Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Person after person voiced their opinions on the matter (especially on Christmas, of course), yet none of them stopped to realize that if they weren't coming in to get the last-minute foodstuffs that they needed to make their holiday meals, coffee, and donuts, I could have had the day off.

It amazes me how rude some die-hard religious people can be when they think it will all be fixed by saying "I'm sorry, I screwed up." to God...before repeating the same behavior another day. I will stick to agnosticism, thank you.