Tag Archives: Christian

Buddhist, Christian holiday fall on same day this year

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

This April 8, while millions (dare I say billions) of Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands (dare I say millions) of Buddhists will be celebrating the birth of Buddha.

In a somewhat infrequent confluence of holy events, Easter Sunday this year corresponds perfectly with the Japanese Buddhist holiday Hanamatsuri.

Hanamatsuri has been on April 8 every year since Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar in the late 19th century.  Hanamatsuri literally translates into ‘flower festival’ and is one of my favorite holidays.


Hanamatsuri celebrates the folklore surrounding the story of the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. According to versions of the Buddha’s birth, Buddha could walk the moment he was born. He took seven steps with his right hand pointing towards the heavens and his left hand pointing to the earth said, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” At which point sweet nectar rained from the heavens (or in some versions perfume was poured over the Buddha by two dragon kings). Because of this story Buddhists in Japan and other East Asian countries celebrate the birth of Buddha by pouring sweet tea or sprinkling water over statues of the Buddha and decorating alters with flowers.

I have always enjoyed Hanamatsuri, and have looked forward to the ama-cha (sweet tea) made that year. Regardless of whether you believe the story about the events that transpired during the birth of Buddha, I think anyone can enjoy the beauty behind the ceremony. For Buddhists it is a holiday with traditions stretching back centuries, and it still holds a lot of meaning.

This is a concept that I find refreshing, especially during this season in which many people paint and hide eggs for reasons that are largely unknown by the common practitioner. While the church pews fill and everyone begins the conversation about the transformative power of the resurrection of Christ, temples are also filling with practitioners bearing flowers and tea celebrating the gift of Buddha’s arrival on earth.

I like to celebrate Buddha’s entrance onto this planet and reflect on my own contributions towards greater understanding. I would like to imagine it is not mere coincidence both of these significant events happen to fall on this date in the calendar. It’s nice to think that this time of year is holy to all. As I watch all my Christian friends file out of church this coming Sunday, I’ll smile knowing we share a common reverence for those who came generations before us to give us the gifts that provide spirituality to their children even today.

Help! My boyfriend is Catholic!

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Hi Karin,

I’ve been raised a Protestant my whole life and have a strong faith. My family members are also very dedicated in their faith. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is Catholic. My dad constantly tells my brothers and I that we should marry someone who has the same beliefs and religion. I tried telling him that Catholics believe the same thing but he disagrees. I guess I don’t understand where the religions disagree so much that he would be so concerned. How should I show him that they are the same? Do you have any advice or information as to things I should talk to him about?

Thank you for your time!


Dear Claire,

I think you’re strong enough to fight this through. If you truly love your boyfriend and if your boyfriend truly loves you, you’ll get through this situation and you’ll love one another even more, because this resistance will show you that you really care for one another.

Dr. Karin Heller

Catholics and Protestants have many things in common like the apostles and the Nicene Creed, the bible and baptism!

However, I do not want to undermine the differences. They can be summed up in three terms: the pope or the view of authority in the church; the Eucharist or the entire sacramental understanding of the church; and Mary, mother of the church. As you see, three times, the word “church” popped up! The misunderstandings turn all around the church, not Christ or the trinity. This spring I’ll teach a seminar entitled “Catholic and Protestant Theologies in Dialogue.” That would be the right class for you at this moment of your life!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

What “The Mighty Macs” does (and doesn’t) say about Jesus, nuns, feminism and motherhood

By Contributor Laura Kipp

In 1971, Cathy Rush, now in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, was ahead of her time as a woman, professional and athlete.  The tiny, all-girls, Catholic college, now Immaculata University, was in near devastating financial straits and facing its demise.  Despite this, and despite the fact that it was an era where women’s sports were not taken seriously, the team made it to their first national championship under her lead! Rush and many of her players went on to have remarkably successful sports careers.

Unfortunately, the newly released movie about it, “The Mighty Macs,” focuses on the tension of the story as it happens, not on the bigger picture.   It’s unfortunate because all the most interesting moments were covered in the two-minute preview.

The movie has good content and decent acting, but the screenplay is deeply uninspired.  The settings are dull and grey and I nearly got whiplash from the constantly changing, abrupt, short scenes.

The audience is poorly informed of the emotional story arch and the plot is scattered and confusing. Sadly, whatever passion and platform Rush had was never fully comprehended.  And there is very little humor, in fact very little dialogue, amongst the Mighty Macs team members as the story unfolds.

Not that the movie isn’t likeable — loveable, even — if you appreciate basketball.  And it redeems itself with the important historical and teaching moments brought to light, even if sometimes the most important points are what the movie doesn’t manage to say.   For example, the underlying story of fighting for equal rights.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the movie is no Iron Jawed Angels.  Its biggest missed opportunity is that the feminist commentary is brushed, or rather stumbled over for the most part.  Despite what we might have learned from these women, the nun characters, for example, are more of a happy distraction, because who doesn’t love nuns? Admittedly, no one starts singing about “whiskers on kittens” and “their favorite things,”  as the movie is no Sound of Music, either. Although at times it’s like a true story Sister Act with Mr. Miyagi moments.

Despite the lack of song, I was reminded that nuns are a group of noble women who I am in awe of for their sacrifice and lifelong dedication (I’m nervous for my mission and it is only for 18 months).  We do have some interesting looks at the sisters’ struggles, sacrifices and idiosyncrasies.  The film includes several sassy scenes showing nuns doing all sorts of surprising activities such as riding exercise bikes, gambling (casting lots?), relaxing in a pub, talking about their (past) love lives, and of course, playing basketball.

My favorite part of the movie is when a nun tells Rush she was influenced in her decision to join the order when a sister whispered to her, “Jesus loves to dance.”  She says she interprets the wedding in Cana part in the New Testament as Jesus having a good time and wanting to stay there.  I love this idea.  I think if Jesus came to earth to get a mortal body, he would celebrate that by rejoicing in dance.  Why don’t we all do more of that? I think we should. I’ll bet He would love it.

There are a lot of cute girls in, as well as out of, religious habit. Besides nuns and basketball we meet a team of young female student athletes, some of whom have to fight for the right to be getting an education.  The fight for education is an important struggle to point out.  Although today one could argue that women have won that war in the United States, and even exceed men, it’s still a heartbreaking problem in other parts of the world. Feminists Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas Kristoff, both Pulitzer prize winners, wrote a book and are currently leading a movement called Half the Sky, that argues simply the world’s worst problems can be solved by educating women.

The Mighty Mac women were unsupported in their athletic interests (they don’t even have uniforms) and find success only after they are taught to play aggressively — like boys.  We see a lot of exciting and interesting basketball scenes as the girls use their new skills and fight for their championship.

The movie does include scenes of Rush working with the team in what I think is just about the most important thing a feminist could do. She inspires, empowers and builds up the girls on her team.  Rush’s husband challenges her on whether her students even want what she wants for them, and she tells him they have been told for so long they can’t, it doesn’t even occur to them they can.  Women all over the world don’t even realize what is out there and few of us live up to our potential.  We need someone to look up to.

Although the movie keeps quiet about the subject more than it could have, it does open with the radio news in the background mentioning the Vietnam war and saying feminists are protesting for fair pay and saying women should be training to be doctors, not marry doctors. Although times were changing, it’s made clear that the culture of the 1970s was geared toward women marrying young and ignoring ambitions that fall outside of their family life.  It’s mentioned that Rush is torn between her expectations for herself, and from her husband, to have kids, and her desire to influence her young basketball team.

As a professional nanny, I was acutely aware of a hot cultural debate called the “Mommy Wars,”  which is the struggle of modern women to find a balance between their professional life and the demands of motherhood, and the judgment those on either side heap on the others.  The guilt and insecurity of some of the moms I worked for was painfully apparent at times.  It seems most traditional cultures, including religious ones, insist upon a mother’s presence in the home.  One of my most important personal beliefs is that that presence doesn’t have to be restrictive or demeaning to the mother.  What do you think?

Rush tells one girl who backs out of the team that she can always follow her dreams and that is her gift to the world.  I never thought of my dreams as being a gift to the world, but I think it’s a great reminder for women who tend to put others first, that fulfilling your own desires isn’t selfish.  I think a lot of women take care of their families and everyone else, and put themselves last. We forget that in order to best take care of others, we first must take care of and love ourselves.  Unless we want to totally burn out, in which case we are no help to anyone else.  And there is nothing wrong with or selfish about that.

Rush gives amazing advice I think every girl should hear, to a girl whose fiancé broke up with her, “What you think about yourself should be more important than what he thinks of you.”  Rush takes the boy’s letterman jacket, tells the girl it shouldn’t define her, hands her her own basketball jacket, and explains the second jacket is one she earned, one she can be proud of, and one no one can take away from her.  It was a great moment, and I agree the only way to protect girls is to teach them to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.  They can find their true value in God, and His value of them, even when others abandon them.  I think this is the lack of self-esteem too many girls suffer from.

So, why did the Mighty Macs win their championship? Because they were committed to their dream.  If the best way to protect women, and the world, is to empower them to be strong and stand up for themselves, both nuns and athletes wonderfully exhibit this ability.  If feminism is about the right to choose (and it is), contrasting nuns and athletes is a great demonstration of two roles that seem so different at first glance, but are both great examples of role models and choices of roles women can take on.  Mighty Macs?  Good game, after all.

“The Mighty Macs” will be out on DVD Feb. 21. It’s rated G and runs 99 minutes.

Cathy Rush is played by the lovely Carla Gugino, and her husband, NBA referee Ed Rush, is played by the dashing David Boreanaz.  Seven of the original Mighty Macs appear as nuns in the movie.

For Christian women is motherhood more important than a career?

Hi Karin,

I was wondering how you would compare Dorothy Sayers’ view on women becoming human through the work force, particularly in light of the biblical call to give one’s self up in the service of others?  Is it not judgmental to say women who devote their energy to serving their children are less valuable than those who have a job?  What about the call in Titus 2:3-5 that encourages older women to teach younger women to lovingly invest in their children and their home? Isn’t it important for someone, whether the father or the mother, to invest in their children full-time?

I am a barista at this point in my life.  Does making lattes really make me more human than my mother who used her master’s degree to educate my brothers and me at home?  On a very practical level my job is just making people fatter and more addicted to caffeine, while my mother has raised, educated, and trained three gospel-believing, bright, intellectual souls. 


Dear Nina,

My answer relates to three points in your message.

Dr. Karin Heller

First, you should not choose between motherhood and a job. It’s not either-or! That’s what certain Christian cultures wants you to believe because they teach that males should hold all decision-making positions. And in order to get women out of leadership positions and back to their homes, people exalt and flatter them by saying, “By taking care of your kids, husbands and homes you’re doing a much better job than serving humankind as a female doctor, female teacher, female governor, female pastor, female administrator, female judge, female journalist.” The exaltation of motherhood is an ancient and ongoing pagan temptation. Christianity continues to struggle with this temptation in its own way. The exaltation of mothers who raised, educated and trained so bright, intelligent and gospel-believing souls sounds like a contemporary Christian variation of this temptation. I hear it every semester in my Christian Anthropology class (sigh). The churches should learn to hold at least a less pretentious language. It highlights that humankind has never ceased to identify women with mother goddesses and goddesses of love, beautiful and sexually attractive. No, women who raise their kids are not more or less valuable than those who have job and kids or job and no kids. In a Christian perspective, a woman is equally valuable as a human being. She is neither a mother goddess nor a powerful Venus warrior of economic success!

In addition, you should think in a more inclusive way about education.  It’s not only the woman’s job to raise the kids! That’s what some Christian cultures wants you to believe. The husband and father are called to raise his kids just as the wife and mother is. For many centuries education, especially education of young children, has been “abandoned” to women by telling them that they were doing such a “great job.” When males do not want to do something, they usually entrust this task to women presenting the task as a “promotion.” Many women fell, and still fall, into this trap and then one day the bill arrives for being so naive! In the 20th century there were many women who raised their kids as they were told to by males, without any retirement plan, social security, Medicare and other insurance. Then their husband died and all what they had to survive was a tiny pension one cannot make a living with. And what will a woman with kids and no education or job do, in case her husband files for divorce out of the blue, loses his job, becomes disabled, or has to cope with a long-term disease? You have to think about the future.

My second point relates to your quote of Titus 2:3-5 which speaks about women being called to invest in their children and home. Again my question is as follows: why is it only up to women to invest in their children and home and not to the father and the mother? Such a stance is based more on culture than on the gospels, which present Jesus travelling around in company of female disciples (Luke 8:1-3).  The stance held by Titus reflects a typical Roman context in which the average destiny of a Roman female of the upper classes is summed up in the following funerary inscription. It runs as follows: “Veturia was married at eleven, bore six children and died at 27”! In the Roman Empire, Paul or other authors could not envision an average life expectancy of women being 80 or more. Paul’s advice to Titus is advice, not a command from the Lord for all women in the entire church throughout the ages!

Third, the work you do right now may not be the right work that makes you more human. There is work our there that can be demeaning to all human beings, male and female. Therefore, the reflection on responsible fatherhood and motherhood, from a Christian perspective, has to go hand in hand with a reflection on one’s vocation. A Christian vocation in a 21st century context is different from a vocation lived out in a 1st century context.  Your vocation is probably not to remain a barista your entire life. If you perceive this work as demeaning, then leave it as soon as you can and figure out how you can make an authentic Christian contribution to this world. In a Christian perspective being a mother is not being better than other women who combine work and raising kids, if this is their calling. I don’t say, that a woman should not raise her kids and instead go to work. I say, there should be equal opportunities for man and woman, husband and wife, to raise their kids together and to be invested, both in a fulfilling work.

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Meet Steve Hart, our church planting writer

Pastor Steve Hart

Pastor Steve Hart knows a thing or two about starting churches. In 2004 he planted the Vintage Faith Community, fulfilling his dream of, “seeing the good news of God’s grace do a subversive work of renewal in our city.”

He writes about “grace and the beautiful mess of church planting.”

He says, “I’ll write on whatever I’m dealing with in the context of starting and leading a new church, and in particular looking at how beautifully messy it is to live in a community of grace. It seems like in almost every sphere — from work to school to religion and beyond — we live in a culture of performance where my identity and sense of worth is a product of what I can do, who I know and how I measure up. Jesus invites us into a different kind of world, an upside-down kingdom, where I find my identity is a gift of what he has done for me. His work, his life, death and resurrection says that I’m worse than I’d ever own up to, but more loved than I can even begin to dream. The question for us as Christians is: How do we live together in that identity and in that kingdom?”

Hart grew up in central California and graduated from Whitworth University in 2000 with a degree in theology. He and his wife have five children.

Twitter: @vintagepastor

Website: http://www.vintagefc.com

Survey names Whitworth as a top Christian workplace

Contributed Article

Whitworth University photo

Making a difference, using their gifts, authentic leaders, fun colleagues and changing the world are all reasons employees like working with these dream workplaces. Meet the organizations that have most recently qualified as Best Christian Workplaces by obtaining a high score in the anonymous BCW employee engagement survey.

The BCW survey has been conducted in the United States and Canada for the past 10 years and made its debut in Australia last year — surveying over 100,000 employees to date. Each participating organization has a stated Christian mission and/or values.

The 2012 Best Christian Workplaces in the United States include:

American Bible Society — New York, NY

Apartment Life — Hurst, TX

Ben Lippen — Columbia, SC

Briarcrest Christian School — Nashville, TN

CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) — Pittsburgh, PA

Church Web Works — Renton, WA

English Language Institute/China — Ft. Collins, CO

Free Will Baptist Bible College — Nashville, TN

Heritage Christian Academy — Overland Park, KS

Joni & Friends — Agoura Hills, CA

KSBJ — Humble, TX

Lake Ann Camp — Lake Ann, MI

MOPS International — Colorado Springs, CO

Olivet Nazarene University — Bourbonnais, IL

Phoenix Seminary — Phoenix, AZ

Samaritan Ministries — Peoria, IL

Santa Fe Christian Schools — Solana Beach, CA

SpringHill Camps — Evart, MI

Upward Sports — Spartanburg, SC

Wheaton Academy — West Chicago, IL

Whitworth University — Spokane, WA

World Harvest Mission — Jenkintown,PA

Al Lopus, President of BCWI notes, “We salute this year’s Best Christian Workplaces for doing far more than just surviving despite the challenging economy. These organizations set the bar in terms of employee engagement and serve as an inspiration for all. While overall survey trends indicate employee engagement is struggling to recover from the shock of the financial recession, these leaders recognize the importance of nurturing healthy organizational cultures to better achieve their vision. They understand that healthy organizations are fruitful.”

To earn the distinction as a Best Christian Workplace, organizations participate in the Best Christian Workplace Institute’s employee engagement survey and meet predetermined standards of excellence. The survey covers issues such as: job satisfaction, commitment, Christian witness, supervisory effectiveness, work satisfaction, personal growth and development, management effectiveness, customer/supporter satisfaction, teamwork, communications and pay and benefits. Employees confidentially respond to more than 50 questions addressing these topics.

How can I preserve my children from bad things happening to them?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller


I’m terrified that something bad is going to happen to my children.  I know that most parents have this feeling too, and feel the need to try to protect their children, but I also know that many things are out of my control and that I can’t keep my kids in a bubble. I have found comfort in the Bible before, but no matter how I try I can’t find a way to let go of this fear and have faith that my children are in God’s hands. How can I let this fear go? I want to have faith, but I can’t seem to detach my feeling for my children from trusting God with things that are out of my control. And when bad things do happen, how can I explain to my children, on a level they understand, why bad things happen to them or to other people?

– Allie

Dear Allie,

Dr. Karin Heller

Your problem can only be fixed if you let the attachment to your children go. A French proverb says, “Get detached from things before they get detached from you!” Your children, one day, will leave you, believe it or not, like it or not. If you learn to get detached from your children now, little by little, then you will not suffer, or at least you will suffer much less the day your children quit. Women in particular struggle with this problem. They want to control to the very end whatever they have given birth to! So, how can you progressively learn “to let go?”

As a Christian mom you did not give birth to your children to keep them, but to let them go so that they may become believers on their own and follow Christ! You could only give them human life while Christ can give them eternal life. If you don’t let them go, they may miss ETERNAL life! This would be really too bad!!! You cannot protect them from death, only Christ can bring them into LIFE! Therefore, do whatever you can to make them love Christ.

Don’t try to transform your kids in what you want them to be. Ask God for what he wants them to be and support in your kids whatever is according to God’s design. Give to God what belongs to God! If YOU and your children belong to God you’ll find them in God again! If you wish to keep your kids in the long run, then let them go to be what God wants them to be and make sure you, too, wholly belong to God! As you see, the big problem is to figure out what it means to belong to God. What did it mean for Jesus to belong to God? It meant for him to go through hardships for the love of his father and return to God by standing firm in faith that God had the power to guide him safely through the hardships of this life!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.