Call it spiritual… call it religious… call it whatever you like. The truth is, a weblog not set apart as faith-based from the beginning will usually take a massive reduction in traffic for writing about religion. People want the cool, bleeding edge news and gossip and technology without the morals or the history of the Church.

At CultureFeast, we’re not afraid to discuss our religious views. Anyone who doesn’t want to read what is written here doesn’t have to return. We’d love you to have you back, though.

This site will continue to confound those who demand a theme-based blog. Sorry, random thoughts is how we roll. One day it’s sports, then mortgage, then spirituality, then it’s talking about the next bastard politician.

Stick around! We want your feedback. Disagree with us. Argue with us. It doesn’t matter. Just keep it respectable.

Why do we do what we do? That’s one of those questions my peeps hate to ask. Aaron in particular. He wants the white picket fence, three kids, and the leave it to beaver lifestyle. So he’s been saying for the past three or four years. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

He’ll read this a month from now and post some comment about how he pictures me in seclusion, lighting candles and writing poetry. Funny guy. I’m not quite that dramatic (shut it, Nathan – like how I mentioned your name and yet you get no link? Your mom).

Three thousand years ago, Solomon had it right when he said that everything is utterly meaningless and futile. He tried everything, and came up empty. Whether you work hard or not at all, whether you’re rich or poor, starving or overfed, ultimately it doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of underachievers who will read this and think, So what? I’ve always thought life was pointless. That’s why I don’t do anything. That’s not the same thing. Lazy ex-pot smokers aren’t exactly equal to good ol’ Sol.

I am notorious for my insistence upon meaning and purpose. I annoy the hell out of friends, family, and total strangers with my rants about pursuing purpose. I hate seeing people waste potential. I love watching people and guessing their deep purposes and callings. See, everyone has one, even the annoying people who hate hearing that and who feel the need to violently argue against the concept.

So how does a person like me believe in the simultaneously contradictory beliefs that life is utterly meaningless and that each person has a unique calling and purpose to fulfill? That’s an easy one. Logical or not, I’m simply disillusioned by how freakin’ hard life can be. I’m not very patient. I’ve been known to be a bit anxious. Picture someone spending an entire decade anxiously flittering to and fro like a speedfreak in an attempt to achieve his purpose, and you have a fairly accurate understanding of my life a few years ago.

My “meaningless” isn’t the same as Solomon’s. I think I actually know my calling – my God-given purpose for living. I believe that I have things to do before I die. I have ways to mature. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a ridiculous notion. You’re bored and miserable sometimes as you go to sleep at night because you feel empty. You feel empty because you’ve yet to realize what that thing is that will make your life truly meaningful.

Yeah… It’s late, and I should be asleep. Consider yourself thoroughly scolded or chastised or whatever fits. I’m out.

I’m writing this for the benefit of my friends and the masses that are similar to my friends – i.e., those who have no clue about the latest and greatest news on the Web. I’ve briefly mentioned Second Life before, so use the site search engine on the right to find the other post.

Second Life is no joke. You may mock people who join online communities, but it is the wave of the future. When Reuters creates a website for the sole purpose of covering virtual community news, you know it’s worth a second glance.

LifeChurch, an Edmond, Oklahoma based church, is one of approximately twenty churches that have already bought Second Life real estate and formed virtual churches. The idea is to reach people wherever they may be.

My first reaction was that there’s no way a virtual church will thrive as an actual community of believers or as a successful evangelistic tool. I thought of the Christians who would jump on the Second Life bandwagon under the guise of “reaching the lost”, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.

Perhaps I was too hasty. I’ve joined Second Life and look forward to seeing the sites, so to speak (that is, if I ever complete the stupid training exercises!). Unlike other Christians, I’m not a member for any reason other than sheer work-related curiosity. Too many SEO and interactive marketing companies are still playing catch up by joining MySpace. Forget that. MySpace is old news. It’s so old, in fact, that I don’t waste my time on it unless I want to search for new music. That is the #1 contribution MySpace made to my life: free and convenient access to music sampling.

Second Life represents Web 3.0 technology. It’s not been said much, but it’s true. Virtual communities are the new frontier (to be followed shortly, no doubt, by 3-D holographic virtual communities). You don’t have to participate, and you won’t be “less cool” if you don’t, but you will be clueless.

And for those of you who still think Second Life is “just a game”, Second Life users spent nearly 1.5 million dollars within the past 24 hours (according to Reuters). Major brand names, including sportswear and automobile manufacturers have swept in to take advantage of the virtual advertising space.

This whole thing is huge. You’ll see. Soon enough Second Life will have its own doomsday prophets, referring to it as the path to Armageddon and the Antichrist… I know it sounds premature, but it’ll happen. I have absolute faith in the paranoia of the public.

Though I have to say, be careful if you decide to venture out into the virtual space of Second Life. There is a lot of X-rated stuff going on there that can sneak up on you. That’s actually one of the main reasons why LifeChurch has a presence there. They know that it’s a place for people to hide their sins, and they hope to be a light in the virtual darkness. Kudos to them for trying. As long as they don’t attempt to become the virtual TBN, I wish them the best.

A lot of people, even those considering themselves to be faithful Christians, find the Bible difficult to read. Not only are the stories not presented in chronological order, but they are written to address problems of 2,000 to 4,000 years ago. It’s fair to say that a little has changed since then.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong (as unlikely as that is), but it appears to me that the most drastic change affecting our perspective and approach to Christianity is Christendom. For those of you wondering what the heck Christendom is, it’s defined as

Traditionally, the part of the world traditionally dominated by Christianity: most of Europe, Australasia and the Americas, plus parts of the Third World (thanks to http://www.csa.com/hottopics/religion/gloss.php).”

So when we speak of Christendom, we’re referring to world as influenced by Christianity. What I meant by calling Christendom the largest difference is this: we face a unique set of challenges, questions, doubts, resentments, and teachings which we must overcome that the pre-Christ world and early church had no way of predicting. No one who wrote or influenced the writing of Scripture had to deal with Baptist doctrine, Presbyterian doctrine, Methodist doctrine, Charismatic doctrine, etc. None of them grew up in a country claiming to be Christian. They grew up in a country claiming to be God’s chosen nation, which is somewhat similar, but they didn’t have the same Gospel message or road to salvation to deal with.

Pick twenty people off the streets in the United States and ask them what it means to be or become a Christian. On some level, you will hear twenty different answers.

My point is this: when a message has been around for 2,000 years, people are bound to screw up the details. That’s just how it is. Back when the New Testament was being written, people were being introduced to what they considered a “completely new religion”, even though it was only the planned transformation of Judaism. They didn’t grow up with Jesus being so common that they used the name while swearing without even realizing that they were mentioning deity. It just didn’t happen.

In today’s culture, Christianity is so “obvious” that most people assume they’re a part of it without even knowing what it is. Even those of us who think we know at least the fundamental ins and outs still have to deal with our stupid self-improvement culture that looks for the 7 Steps to a Fulfilling Life or the Top 10 Ways to Be a Good Christian. The Bible wasn’t written like that (yes, I realize that there were a Top 10 of sorts when it came to commandments). It was written to people who didn’t live based on the fundamentals of marketing and self-improvement. When they were told that Christianity is about relationship with God, they understood it on a level most of us have yet to fathom. For us, we tend to skip over that relationship stuff and look for a list of things to do to check off. We tend to believe that if we’ll say a prayer, tithe, read our Bible, pray over meals, avoid X-rated material, be faithful to our spouses, and avoid hurting other people as much as possible, that we’ve done our duty.

Someone has to address this crucial misunderstanding to the masses. It’s not enough that pockets of people are getting close to God at some churches. We live in a country of 300 million people who need to understand that God is not who the televangelists say He is. They need to know that God is not after their money (though He will require us to give it). They need to know that just because some old white haired guys and purple haired ladies with too much makeup get up on fancy stages on television and act like buffoons doesn’t mean that Christianity is a ruse.

And most of all, they need to know that it’s okay to throw out the rulebook and start from scratch… that God won’t be offended if they approach him with sincerity, even if they come with STDs, guilt, shame, depression, anger, lust, addictions, fears, doubts, or any other problem. People need to know He will accept them. They need to know it like they need to know that a real human being will accept them with all they’ve got going on inside and outside.

They need to know. It’s not fun to stop our ranting and raving about the coolest gadgets or websites or whatever drives us nuts. But there’s more to life than going to a Billy Graham crusade and working like a dog for the rest of your life. There’s more, and it’s my hope that we’ll cover more of this in the months ahead. I won’t burden you too often, since I know we all need to take in important truth in small doses until we grow accustomed to it. But we’ll take this journey together, throwing American religious traditions out the window and approaching God with fresh eyes and as few preconceived notions as we can manage.

I don’t know if it’s in the water or what, but my personal experience has proven that people in Tarrant County pray over meals more than people in Dallas County. We can’t really include Collin and Denton Counties in this comparison. Denton County is perhaps the most bizarre in Texas, and Collin County is full of overachieving business types – we all know they don’t pray ;).

To the point, I cannot count how many people pray before their meal in restaurants all over Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Arlingtonn, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Southlake, Colleyville, etc. As we speak, I’ve seen two of four tables nearest me pray before their meal.

My parents would probably say how sad it is that so few people pray in comparison to when they were my age. I, on the other hand, do not expect to see people pray in public ever, and it continues to startle me and make me feel oddly uncomfortable.

When did this become a problem for me? I realize now that I have slipped out of the habit of praying over every meal. It is a habit I kept for ten years, and only in the past year have started forgetting. The discomfort of public prayer for me has been largely that of making public something that is very personal. Despite the fact that I blog, which is an extroverted activity to say the least, I do not like having my personal details aired in front of everyone.

I admit it – I am still self-conscious and concerned about what others think.

But this article isn’t about me. Or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe Christians just gravitate towards Starbucks and Panera Bread. Whatever the case, I am amazed that so many people still pray. I don’t know why I am so pessimistic, but I tend to assume that most people attending church are Sunday Christians only, and any expression of faith throughout the week is unintentional.

Keep praying, Tarrant County. I don’t mind being wrong.