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New Speaking Engagement

April 2, 2010

Hey Thomasites,
Ashley and I will be leading an atheist/Christian dialogue at Westminister College in New Wilmington, PA on April 13. Details to follow.

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Final Reflections on New Orleans

March 28, 2010

My reflections on New Orleans begins with a calender. Why is this calender so special? That begins with where and how it was found. In the post called, “She Died in the Doorway”, I told Patsy’s story. Her house had been untouched since Katrina. Everything on the inside of the house preserved in their post storm condition, including this calender. If you notice, it’s stuck on the month of August, 2005, the month of Katrina, which hit on August 29th. It’s also the day that Patsy died in the doorway of her house as she drowned in the flood waters from the breached levees.

My crew of atheists and Christians cleaned up the inside of the house. Refrigerator, stove, broken shelves, couches, beds, clothes, books, and a petrified cat. They tore down the mold encrusted walls, ceilings, and carpet. The house has been completely gutted and ready for the reconstruction crews. This house will be made livable again for a family that doesn’t have house, something we did for another house during the week. Trinity buys these houses, fixes them, and sells them. Then, with the profits, they do the same thing for another house. No one makes a profit from the sale except the family who gets a refurbished house.

Hopefully, those in Patsy’s house will remember her. We will with this calender. It represents all the hard work our crew did. They really worked hard on those houses doing some amazing work in the space of four days. They contributed a ton of man and woman hours to rebuilding of New Orleans.

If you notice, we all signed the calender and framed it.

The importance of these signatures are obvious. They are atheists. They are Christians. People who have vast philosophical and theological differences working together. I talked about the talks at Lafite’s, but that was only a small part of the talks I heard. Talks in the cars. Talks on the work sites. Talks walking through French Quarter. Christian and atheist discussing, arguing, and laughing. It was truly Shalom. I have been on a lot of service project trips. Navajo Nation. Tohono O’Odham Nation. Ireland. With respect to those groups, I have never been a part of a group that gelled so well together. I’ll be honest, I had no idea how the group dynamics would work. It’s one thing to sit around at Ohio State for a few hours and quite another to work hard together for eight hours straight. Even in the best of groups, this can often be a formula for conflict.

Not so with this group. I can honestly say there was no tension in this group at all. Everyone in the group has plans to hang out at Ohio State. There is no doubt that the relastionship between the two groups went to another level with this trip.

So, this framed calender is going to hang at the Cloister at Ohio State. Ashley and I will probably take it places we speak together. Hopefully, people will be inspired to do the hard work of Christian/Atheist dialogue. Hopefully, they will see what is possible when everyone is willing to be humble and put themselves in uncomfortable positions.

When we do, Shalom is created. When Shalom is created, interesting things happen.

Boiler Up!

March 27, 2010

I’m going to be speaking to the Purdue Non-Theist society run by the Blag Hag, Jen.

Here is the info:

Kicking the Christian Strawman: What Christians are really like
Talk and Q&A w/ Rev. Jonathan Weyer
Wed, March 31, 2010, 6:00 pm

Purdue University, Physics Building, Room 223
Free, Open to public

Voodoo Tomb

March 25, 2010

New Orleans Ramblin’s

March 24, 2010

This trip really couldn’t be going any better. I’m serious. Everything has really just fallen into place. We have a ton of money left which we are going to apply to next year. Christians and atheists are creating an odd sort of community that’s just lovely to see. I have been on a ton of service project trips and I have never seen such a wildly diverse group of people gel like this. It’s truly awesome to see.

Make sure you check out Ashley’s videos.

If you get to New Orleans I, you have to take a Ghost History tour. Make sure you go on the tour that will tell you more history than ghost. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the Ghost, but I love the history more. My favorite story? The Singing rain. One of the best stories I have heard.

People really care about this city. I saw this in an interesting community meeting. The room was full to decided the issue of a Community center. How often do community meetings fill a large cafeteria in other parts of the country, especially over a community center?

Our team has really kicked butt this week. They have demo’d two houses, moved a ton of dirt and tutored kids.

Best argument of the trip? What constitutes a d-bag and a bro? Do they overlap? Are their distinctives to both? Similarities?

If you go to New Orleans II: Go see the Preservation Hall jazz band. If anything, just to see every generation together listening to amazing music.

Bourbon Street: Loud,  smells like piss and puke. If you just go there and say you have seen New Orleans, you haven’t.

Kevin Brown, director of the Trinity, our host, won the best US Citizen award. Looking forward to having coffee with him tomorrow.

Coming soon to Columbus, Ohio…. a joint/Christian atheist conference.

If you get to New Orleans III: Muffaletta. Eat them. Gator. Eat them. nom. nom. nom.

Which came first? Who Dat? or Who dey? Let the war commence….

If you go to New Orleans II

She died in the doorway…

March 24, 2010

Just a warning, this blog is going to be a little raw.

Trinity Community Center, our hosts for the week, fixes up abandoned houses in the neighborhood. So, when they have work groups come into town, they concentrate on fixing these houses for people who need a home.

The house we are working in right now has just recently come into Trinity’s possession. It had been owned by a very old couple. The husband had died three years before Katrina and the wife…

Well, the wife died in the doorway of her house during the storm from the flood waters.  

We found this out after we had started to demo the inside. I have no doubt this house hasn’t been touched since Katrina. From what the people at Trinity tell us, it’s exactly how houses looked just after the storm. Walls caved in, dry wall buckled and ceilings collapsed. Personal items strung about the whole house. Our neighborhood friend told us that no one in the family had come by the house since the storm and didn’t want have anything to do with it. Can’t say that I really blame them.

This story hit our group hard and sobered us, especially after we found Patsy’s wallet with her driver’s license still inside. Our crew, which is a jolly lot, have been pretty sober since we heard this story and saw Patsy’s picture.

I’m pretty ragged right now. What do you do with a story like this? I guess tell it to others, so we can remember Patsy and others who died during the storm. 

I have told what I know of it.

Pirates Parlay and our day of work

March 23, 2010

Okay, for some reason, my video camera has decided to go nuts. I’m back to writing. I’m glad. I hate video blogging. I hate taking pictures and making videos of myself is just punishment.  I’m not exactly photogenic and I feel like an idiot talking into the camera.

If you want to see great video stuff, go to Ashley’s channel. She is better at it anyway.

Today was a great day. We did a lot of great work projects . First, we finished a basketball court for Trinity Community Center, the place that is hosting us. Our group of atheists/Christians did some amazing work in a short amount of time. The job required us to move a ton of dirt that had been dug up for the basketball court and help level the ground around the court. Our group of twenty three finished this job in one morning. Everyone pitched in and really did a fantastic job. I, on the other hand, had to run around getting sweatshirts and buying us more food. Not very exciting, but had to be done. Can’t have hungry cold workers.

In the afternoon, we went to work helping to demo the inside of a house. There is something oddly satisfying taking a sledge hammer to a wall. Gestalt therapy? Well, I’m not really angry at anyone, but it’s sure a lot of fun. Once again, our crew went through the house in record time. We demolished walls, breathed in mold and filled the floor with broken plaster. Again, I think the Americorp/Trinity folk were a bit amazed. Truthfully, so was I. I can’t believe we got that amount of work done in one day and we were even done early.

After a great dinner of fried chicken cajun style and of course, red beans and rice (a New Orleans Monday night staple), we headed to Lafite’s Blacksmith shop, the unofficial home of our merry little band. I asked everyone to share why they might be a Christian or an atheist. So, imagine this, twenty three college students, sitting in an outdoor courtyard of a reputed pirate tavern talking abour issues of faith and life. That would have been interesting enough, but as is so often the case in my life, things got just a bit weirder.

Apparently, a “voodoo priestess” overheard our conversation. I used quotation marks because I’m highly dubious about her claims. For one, she gives nightly ghost tours around New Orleans. Nothing wrong with that, as those tours are very cool. She started her tours Lafitte’s and does her starting ritual in the courtyard where we were having our parlay. Asking our permission, she had her opening ritual in front of her tour group.

Readers of this blog know I believe, for a lack of a better term, the spiritual world. I think I would have been uncomfortable with observing an actual voodoo ritual, but I was pretty sure this was not going to be the real deal. I mean, she charges twenty dollars a person for her ghost tours. She has to give people the people what they paid for, right?

Her ritual consisted of putting ritualistic powder on the ground and talking about releasing the inner god within. Interesting for the tourists, no doubt. But, the whole thing came off a little staged and forced. Terms like “the four winds” and angels were invoked, common staple terms in any garden variety New Age book.

Everyone in our group thought that we probably made her nervous. Although, we argued who made her the most nervous, atheist or Christians.

I’ll let you decided that one. I’m going to bed.