THE NEW REDEEMER DOCUMENTARY WEBSITE
This is a new and overhauled version of one of my long-running websites.
No, really! It is better, and you'll see why in a few weeks when I post a batch of additional content here.
In the meantime, let's focus on what actually has already changed around here.
One, the Galilee Games content is online. For the handful of you who still want to play Prodigal and haven't already done so, you can do so.
Two, all that stuff from the closing of the old Redeemer church building (which is now being demolished to make way for housing after all) cannot realistically be put online due to filesize and bandwidth reasons, but I have distributed DVDs and Blu Rays of this content locally. That's a ton of video files and they're very dull (I mean, they ARE church service footage) and I don't really know why anyone outside that specific community would actually want to watch that, but I have made that available to people in Houston. I guess the appeal is to old people who want to reminisce about the history they had with this community, and while I don't like to admit it much, I acknowledge that I'm also becoming an 'old fogey' stuck in the past in some ways and that I, too, miss some good friends I had there in the '90s who have since moved to other areas of the country and who I rarely hear from any more. There are other areas in which I'm nostalgic as well.
After all, while I love doing good 3D animation, I still have a soft spot for handcrafted miniatures and traditional art forms. I remember the early '90s culture and that stage of the digital revolution and early PC gaming in ways my peers simply don't.
So now that I'm 30 I am gradually becoming an old person and that bugs me a bit.
Three, no ads at the moment, save for the little mention of Triumphant Artists here and in the title graphic.
Four, it looks at least a little more visual than the minimalist all text version that existed before.
And finally, the fact that this website exists at all is sort of amazing, considering I haven't attended church in years (Church services are generally very boring) and I don't typically pray for anything(I agree with the conclusion of myriad scientific studies that prayer has no discernable effect on anything, except the placebo effect in certain cases) and generally like many young people in the West, I am disillusioned with religion in general. But in the end, I do have many friends who believe, and this website still exists primarily for them.
There's more details about my journey away from faith, if you're interested in why I became agnostic... but I will concede the page I wrote about my secularism isn't exactly relevant anymore and has been closed. I reacted against faith for a long list of reasons, many of them based on objective assessments of my own experiences, and other available evidence, and some admittedly affected by personal and emotional biases [it's hard for anyone to disentangle emotion from this subject regardless of their stance on it]. I am still agnostic, but my view now is that although a literal take on the Bible is deeply problematic and immensely unconvincing, the core premise of the text remains compelling. I don't really know if God exists. I strongly doubt, don't really believe, in the existence of an eternal afterlife. I find the idea of a 'spirit' or 'soul' to be in opposition to most of the available data; consciousness appears to be an emergent property of the brain and when it dies, so does conscious awareness. I'm convinced that NDEs - near death experiences - are largely an experience that occurs during brain death, sort of a dying dream state assembled out of past memories and experiences, with an added layer of bliss or euphoria resulting from chemicals like DMT released as painkillers in the body during death... compounds which also disrupt perception of time somewhat, dilating our perception of how long things are lasting. But in the end, the brain dies - senses fade out one by one, and the afterlife religion promises and which we see documented in NDEs may, in effect, wind up lasting an hour or so at most, not 'an eternity'. Nonetheless, even disbelieving in a long-term afterlife, there is in me a very clear need to be a better, more ethical person than I am or have in the past been, and there are foundational ideas in the Christian tradition which I sense at least attempt to answer ethical questions rather than ignore or sidestep them entirely [secularism cannot answer questions of ethics, of right and wrong, and basically concludes that these are subjective. Existentialism concludes that we are free to form our own personal moral codes, while many scientists now challenge even this flexible moral interpretation in assembling a fairly solid case that free will is an illusion, and that most of our actions are predetermined by evolutionary shortcuts, biases and predispositions, past experiences, and subconscious structures, i.e. quantum patterns in our neurons, i.e. what we retroactively perceive as our own free decision, is largely formed by a mass of random number generators, filtered cumulatively into a consensus, and then justified after the fact.] Simply put, there are two competing views of ethics - utilitarianism, which aims for the optimal amount of total good for the world even if at times that involves breaking moral codes to attain it - and the alternative mix of views, views ranging from Kant's philosophy to Aristotle's... views which are based on certain principles or moral codes. I see religious codes as similar, yet certain facets of these codes are troubling. I am concerned, for example, by the tendency of religious monotheistic codes to heavily promote natalist ideas [i.e. encouraging large families] partly due to environmental strain such policies produce in a world which is now very overpopulated, and partly due to the systemic abuses of those who don't fit the policy, i.e. social and often systemic legal abuses of anyone who is not an ordinary heterosexual. The notion of radical grace, as taught by Jesus, is a more nuanced path. It is not constricting or punishing as religion typically is, grace forgives people and embraces them instead of alienating them. Jesus, in my view, has one seriously problematic element, and one only - he struggles to position himself both as rejection of and thorough revision of, Old Testament religious orthodoxy, and yet also messianic fulfillment of and extension of, that same tradition. It's difficult to walk such a line; Jesus seemed to want to upend almost every assumption of who God was, yet to attain the following required to disperse such a concept, he needed his teaching to relate to, and connect to, the social context of the world he was born into. The result is a faith that simultaneously embraces the cruelty and illogic seen at times in Jewish tradition and yet simultaneously claims God is forgiving, merciful, kind. And that disconnect persists, quite frustratingly, today in the modern church which retains this dissonance, between judgement and compassion. Some people veer more towards one or the other, often applying both depending on context. I personally tended to judge and hate myself and view my own existence as an affront to God for years, while also immediately accepting everyone else outside myself as forgivable. I cried a lot in church. I'm crying again while writing this. Maybe I pushed back against faith because I was tired of reminding myself that I was a monster. I was tired of self-hate and the way that, with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I was agonizing over every decision I made and its 'eternal repercussions'. I was so sure God hated me, and I agreed that I deserved to be eternally damned. It was only relatively recently that I began coming to terms with the notion that maybe the God who I saw in the Bible was not like that, that a lot of the most horrific ideas in the faith weren't even written by him. Rejection of literalism, allowed me to consider that [perhaps] Jesus's teachings were from God, along with certain texts attributed directly to the hand of God [i.e. the Ten commandments] but that a lot of the other nonsensical and upsetting material was the written result of people who simply were tacking on their own personal interpretations of historical events and attributing a lot of things to God that in many cases weren't from God. In rejecting full Biblical literalism, fundamentalist ideas, etc, I feel far more free to actually *like* God. Granted, I'm still not sure there even is a creator behind the universe, and I still don't really believe in an afterlife, nor do I expect a personal relationship with God, nor do I expect God to [ever] intervene here on Earth for people I care about, or to answer any of my prayers with miracles. Even setting all these caveats front and center, and even lacking certainty of God's existence, I still find myself thanking him on a daily basis for giving us the lives we have, temporary as they may be, and accepting the existence of the universe itself as a sort of miracle. There seems o me no convincing reason why existence itself should exist; the fact that anything at all exists is actually kind of astonishing. So I thank whatever entity or force built this - personal or impersonal, I cannot say for sure - I thank that being for the chance I had to, for a brief cosmic moment, exist here and live this life in all its beautiful and sorrowful and painful and joyful elements. I don't ask for anything more or less ha that, and I am grateful that God, should God really even be there, gave me this chance to live on Earth, a chance which I never remotely deserved and will be thankful for until the day I cease to be.
WHAT IS THIS "CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER" PLACE?
The Church of the Redeemer (Episcopal), in Houston, Texas, dates back to the 1910s. The church experienced a wave of growth during the 1960s-1970s, which included charismatic worship, communal living, and extensive outreach to the Eastwood community. By the late 1970s, the revival was dying and the church's attendance was deteriorating steadily.
The church never really recovered, and in early 2011 the historic church building was abandoned. The congregation, or what remained of it, relocated to share the building of the nearby Redeemer Lutheran. Some young adults from Redeemer have recently formed a small church called Missio Dei Houston. The history of the church in the 1960s-1980s is documented elsewhere, in video and in a few books such as Julia Duin's somewhat controversial "Days of Fire and Glory".
This website's emphasis is not on revisiting the heyday. Rather, the focus is on preserving more recent history... and explaining what is happening in the church today.
Recent news regarding the Church of the Redeemer includes:
-Redeemer had a Ugandan pastor recently, though not anymore, and for a few months shifted back to the original building (but some parts of it were still off limits). There was a gap of six years between when we thought it'd be destroyed (2011) and when it actually is being torn down finally (starting in 2017) and the thought that it'd remain intact resulted in a couple of projects going on the backburner, including those DVDs, but also including the Redeemer building virtual tour.
-The formation of Missio Dei, and former Redeemer youth pastor Mark Ball's effort to crowdsource a thriving younger church.
-Redeemer's current search for a new youth pastor to fill in now that Mark Ball has moved on.
-The scouting programs of Redeemer Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran worked together to form a massive group consisting of one boy scout troop (Troop 4), a venture crew, and cub scouts, followed by deterioration in these areas. Today, the only part of the Redeemer Scouting program still existing is Boy Scout Troop 4, and without new members that too is likely to dissolve by the end of 2017 after nearly a hundred years of activity.