Tag Archive: Faith and Doubt


As I write this, I have not seen the final Star Wars film: The Rise of Skywalker. Yesterday I saw its latest theatrical trailer. After viewing its sequence, I placed my pen on the nightstand, took off my eyeglasses, and rubbed my forehead. 

I winched.

I watched these characters from late high school through near retirement. Each trilogy was, in effect, a story. The prequels were of Anakin Skywalker. The original trilogy seen in late high school was of Luke, Leia, and Hans Solo. And the remaining sequel is of Rey. 

I winched not because the movies were terrible. There weren’t. My anguish came from the bowl of my soul. It came from the fact that in forty-years of watching, what good has “The Force” produced? 

Yeah. Yeah. I get it. The movie is of good over evil — lightsabers, and light versus darkness.

I told a friend of my thought during lunch. 

Without hesitation, she stated, “Indirectly, perhaps you’re asking what does the belief in God produce?”

Perhaps,” I replied.

Maybe I’ve come to these conclusions after having only two, three, years of life. If the characters had been real, what did belief in “The Force” produce? Did the technology provide any benefit to life? Many people died. People on various planets suffered interminably, and several planets were destroyed, meaning millions, if not hundreds of millions, died. By all accounts, there is no Shangri-la, no affordable healthcare, technology is used to versus cure and idiot leaders. 

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos acquired the infinity stones that let him snap his fingers and turn half the population (universe) to dust. In doing so, Thanos believed he achieved his goal, a universe free of suffering. If any one of us held such power, why is it that the first creative thing we must do is kill? 

Hey! The same holds today.

Maybe Huffington Post Contributor Anamika Ojha was right. She once wrote, “The most crucial lesson that Star Wars taught was that there are heroes and villains in each of us.

You’ve seen God,” my friend stated. 

Yes. I have.” 

“I haven’t,” she replied.

And it’s true. I have seen God. I have seen heaven, a darker side courted me, and yet embraced by beauty. And by God, I continue to question today what the hell is going on.

Yet, I believe.

Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Maybe that’s the lesson. Belief. 

The final shot of Star Wars: The Rise of Sky Walker, projects a gorgeous image of Rey. She’s the new icon of hope. Daisy Ridley becomes our sense of hope. And the voice from elsewhere in the room (or maybe from beyond) echoes some memorable lines from the first film: “The Force will be with you,” says Luke. “Always,” adds Leia.

Yes, Luke. I believe.

pastor-andrew-hamblin-of-tabernacle-church-of-god-in-lafollette-tenn-preaches-while-holding-a-snake-above-headCable television is filled with stupid shows, from The Kardashians, truTV’s World’s Dumbest …, Bill and Giuliani, Housewives of Beverly Hills, Atlanta or whatever city, Bad Girls and a host of others. Accordingly, someone at the National Geographic Channel decided “stupid” was good TV fodder, so they started airing “Snake Salvation,” a reality based television show oozing in “double stupid.”

The promo reads accordingly,In the hills of Appalachia, Pentecostal pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin struggle to keep a 100-year-old tradition alive: the practice of handling deadly snakes in church.” Snake Salvation pastors are one homily away from being another Darwin Award winner, a website recognizing individuals contributing to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization via their own (unnecessarily foolish) actions.

The series follows Pentecostal Pastors Andrew Hamblin of Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette, Tenn., and Jamie Coots of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church of Middlesboro, Kentucky. Coots has been a long-time mentor to Hamblin and inspired him to start his own snake-handling congregation. (Note to self: be sure to always get a good mentor.)

From what I understand, these whack jobs believe God commands them to dance around with Diamondback Rattlers and other assorted venomous snakes, following the Biblical teaching of Mark 16:18:

And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

I believe these types of pastors are missing, that in theory, we are not to put the Lord to the test (Exodus 17:2; Matthew 4:7). Yeah. I know, I know. The human race seems to challenge that concept on a daily basis. However … just as Jesus refused to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, so we are to not intentionally put ourselves in situations requiring God’s miraculous intervention. First Corinthians 10:9, while not speaking directly of snake handling in churches, says it best: “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.”

The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone’s faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one’s faith, it’s simply wrong. We read the Buddha’s instructions, which advises testing things for oneself and seeing it as an invitation to believe or not.

One does not have to go looking for a snake in an effort to prove their faith. I don’t believe that’s what God’s about. Live your faith by helping the unemployed get employed, feed the hungry, help the homeless, help a child study for a difficult math test, love your wife and honor your employer and coworkers.

For snake based faiths, pastors and members alike, your actions are deeply rooted in ignorance.

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