Tag Archives: god

God’s Will Doesn’t Include Murder

By Jason Menard 

I can come to only two conclusions today: one is that Terry Jones is a murderer; and two is that if there is a God out there, this cannot be what he wants.

That’s the only conclusion you can come to after his supervision of a Qur’an burning on March 21th led directly to today’s murder of UN staff members in Afghanistan. Continue reading

A God-Forsaken Protest

By Jason Menard

While the old Hollywood adage is that all publicity is good publicity, it’s hard to understand the motivations behind the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church and its decision to protest the funeral of a nine-year-old girl.

The Topeka, Kansas church members are planning to protest at Christina Green’s funeral. The young girl was killed during the attempted assassination of U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords. Continue reading

Marketing God

By Jason Menard

Far from being a sign of the Apocalypse, the United Church of Canada’s decision to engage in an aggressive, and surprisingly edgy, marketing campaign is just the Church using one of its traditional strengths – business acumen.

In an attempt to make the Church more appealing for the coveted 30-45-year-old demographic, the United Church will be unveiling a series of ads designed to challenge the traditional view of religious entities. By blowing off the dust and appearing to make the Church seem less stuffy, they’re hoping that they can penetrate a market ripe for exploitation.

Statistics Canada figures show that while 80 per cent of Canadians believe in some sort of higher power, only 19 per cent actually set foot into a place of worship. For many Canadians the only time they set foot in a Church is for weddings and funerals. The United Church’s aggressive $10.5-million campaign is hoping to change that.

And while traditionalists may lament the fact that their beloved Church has fallen prey to the evils of commerce, the truth of the matter is that the Church – with a few noted slip-ups along the way — has always been a savvy judge of people and has shown a willingness to tailor the message to make it more palatable for the masses. After all, what’s the point of having something to say when you’re shouting it to empty pews?

One could take a look at the way Christianity was founded as the perfect example of supply meeting demand. Developed around a Roman society built upon classes and slaves, many people were left feeling oppressed and worthless. As slaves, they had no rights of their own and they were forced to watch as a relatively small group of people enjoyed the spoils of riches – earning lavish lifestyles in the here and now.

For the average slave – or even someone in the working classes – hope was a concept that wasn’t even worth discussing. And, lo and behold, here comes a religion that professes that no matter how challenged you are in this world, if you live a good life and give yourself to God, you’ll enjoy riches and happiness beyond your wildest dreams in the afterlife.

What a great message! And it seems almost custom-tailored to the largest audience that was most willing to listen to it. Be a good person, don’t rise up in anger against oppression, ascribe to stoic faith, and the rewards will be plentiful once you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Whether it’s been through the Protestant Reformation or the two Vatican councils, the Church itself – or significant members of its hierarchy – has shown the willingness to listen to the will of the people and adjust its philosophies accordingly. For some faithful, the changes have been too much, moving away from their static view of the Word of God, while for others there hasn’t been enough change. They feel the Church is still stuck with outdated morals and beliefs that don’t mesh with today’s believer.

And that’s where the balancing act comes in for the clergy. How do you make a text written 2,000 years ago relevant for today’s environment? As the world has shrunk and the depth of our knowledge continues to grow, can we adequately say that concepts that held true then still resonate now?

Society has changed. Far more people are willing to admit that their Atheist or Agnostic. Other religions and belief systems from around the world have found their way to Canadian soil, giving people more pause for thought – and more options for their faith. It’s a competitive environment out there – and the prize is society’s souls.

However, old messaging doesn’t cut it any more. Like watching a commercial made in the 1970s today, the style and advertising tactics look out of date. To appeal to today’s media-savvy generations, you have to embrace the voice that speaks most clearly to them. And the United Church has recognized that with its new campaign.

Chances are there are some faithful who will be offended by the image of two grooms on a wedding cake followed by the words, “anyone object?” And for some the question of “how much fun can sex be before it is a sin?” is one that shouldn’t even be asked. But the problem is, if you’re going to keep preaching to the same choir, eventually you’re going to run out of ears. You need new blood, new passion, and new ideas to keep your organization stimulated. In business, you need to change with the times. You adhere to your key values and core principles, but you bend where needed to meet today’s needs.

For the most part, people aren’t willing to blindly follow any one religion any more. They want to have the opportunity to question their beliefs, to discuss the challenging topics, and to make their decisions with the support of a higher power – not just in blind adherence to a 2,000-year-old edict mired in metaphor and imagery.

The United Church gets that. And this new advertising campaign shows that the Church is more than just a place for spiritual enlightenment – it’s got a pretty savvy business sense to go with it.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

You’ve Got to Have Faith

By Jason Menard

In a world increasingly divided by religion, perhaps we should be focusing on the spirit behind religion that has the power to unite us all.

We’ve seen our current global landscape rife with turmoil that’s, in large part, founded on religious differences. And we can’t even make the claim that this is an unprecedented event, because our world has been shaped over thousands of years by religious conflict.

At the same time as many of today’s North American youth have turned away from organized religion, religious fervour exists as a driving force in our world. Whether it’s recent reports of a Jewish soldier killing Arabs due to his opposition to the Gaza Strip pullout, or Al Qaeda leadership brandishing Islam as a weapon, or fears of the religious right dominating U.S. policy, our secular world is impacted greatly by the intervention of religious influence.

On a macroscopic scale, we find ourselves wondering if religions can truly co-exist on this planet. The challenges and the history seem so daunting that there often doesn’t seem to be a way to find a peaceful, harmonious co-existence. But hope for a better future is there when you look on a microscopic level. Despite our difference, we’re able to peacefully and happily co-exist amongst our friends of different faiths, so why does that grass-roots tolerance not trickle up?

I can’t ascribe to any more religion any more than I can sign up for a political party – I just don’t believe strongly in any one perspective that I would be willing to drink the Kool-Aid. However, while I can’t hold hard and fast to one God and one religion, the basic undertones and themes present in a majority of these religions speak to me not only on a spiritual level, but on an intellectual level.

Raised in a relatively Christian family, I turned my back on organized religion during high school and never looked back. While I respected others’ need to find solace in a God, I was unable to believe – or feel – that sort of presence in my life. But far from reject religion outright and entering into a hedonistic lifestyle without remorse, I chose to appreciate the underlying themes and messages that the Bible was trying to teach.

And, as I’ve aged, I’ve had the pleasure to learn more about other religions. I can proudly boast friends from across the religious spectrum: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu – and I’ve tried to learn more about their lifestyle and appreciate their devotion. What I’ve learned is that while many of the religions of the world differ in their icons and dogma, they hold a basic common set of principles dear.

Essentially, what most of our world’s religions preach is the idea of being good people. Whether it’s doing good deeds to promote the glory of God or engaging in Shabbat or Ramadan observances to cleanse our souls, these actions are, at their very base, designed to improve us all as people. The Ten Commandments aren’t a revelation, they’re simply common sense.

As I age, I appreciate the words that the noted religious prophet, George Michael, once sang: “You’ve Got to Have Faith.” I find myself embracing the spiritual nature of humanity – one that is often defined by religion, but is not exclusive to religion. There is a spirit that moves us, and whether you believe it’s the Tao, Karma, or the will of a Creator, we’ve all been given this gift of life and we should be celebrating it, not squandering it.

Unfortunately, religious understanding seems to be a limited proposition. There are reasons that politics and religion are topics to be avoided in casual conversation. I have been told I’m going to Hell because of my lack of belief in a higher power, but – to be honest – if God’s going to punish me for not believing in him (or her) then that’s not a God I want to party with in the afterlife.

If I’m wrong, then I hope that whichever god greets me once I shuffle off this mortal coil will look at the life I’ve led. By no means have I been perfect, but I’ve tried – and continue to try – to be a good person, do right by my family, and appreciate others for who they are and what they bring to this global potluck.

On the other side, some of the so-called saved or chosen ones are the same that are killing in the name of their god, or discriminate against other members of the human race based on colour, race, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Essentially it comes down to the company you want to keep when (or if) we reach the afterlife. If I’ve got to spend the ever after with the same type of people I try to avoid on Earth, then I’ll choose to hang out in purgatory, thank you very much.

Yet, for the majority of us, we’re able to appreciate each other’s differences in beliefs. Other people’s beliefs are not something to fear, but rather something to learn from and appreciate.

Although I can be accused of over-simplifying deep-rooted issues, the fact of the matter is that we need to rebuild our relationships from the ground up. And there’s no better way of doing so than building upon the essential foundations that religion, spirituality, and belief offer – that of tolerance, compassion, and respect for humanity.

We have to start somewhere. And instead of destroying the world in the name of religion, we can choose to honour whatever god you believe in by making the world a better place to live through love, understanding, and appreciation for one another.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved