Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

He’s an entertainer.  He’s rude.  He spreads misinformation.  He’s inflammatory.  He’s an author and celebrity who makes over $32 million a year stirring up fear and hatred among his fellow Americans.   He’s the conservative’s answer to Howard Stern, and equally as predictable to this listener.  C”mon, folks, can’t we see he’s only in it for the money?!?

Granted we live in a culture where the entertainment industry is the ultimate arbiter of power, where politicians and news anchors must be “personalities” rather than statesmen and journalists, where communication is measured in victories of sarcasm rather than the sharing of truth (“what is truth?”).  Sad words to write on Memorial Day weekend.

What I don’t understand is how Beck got to be the darling of the Religious Right.  Just last week he was the commencement speaker at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell and funded by Tim LaHaye of Left Behind fame.

The man is a Mormon.  He is not an evangelical Christian.  He’s not interested in promoting truth, religious or otherwise.  What he does do is support the political platform that is so sacrosanct with the Religious Right: pro-life, limited government, family values, getting out of debt.  Noble causes perhaps, but (as always) ignoring — and often ridiculing — other pressing issues such as poverty, corporate greed, and the environment.  And other Christian virtues such as kindness, joy, peace, and faith.  And his techniques are the same: intimidation, motivation through fear, and a belief that the ends justify the means.

Beck has no expertise in Christianity or in history… and in fact this past week displayed his ignorance of both in this audio.    In this clip he claims:

  • that the Council of Nicaea was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine when he wanted to conscript an army
  • that the Council of Nicaea produced the Apostles Creed
  • that the Council of Nicaea is where the Bible was first bound
  • that the Council of Nicaea said of the work they produced, “anybody who disagrees with this is a heretic and off with their head!”
  • that the Dead Sea Scrolls were produced in order to protect the Scriptures from people who were seeking to destroy the truth
  • that the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden in caves so no one could find them
  • that the Dead Sea Scrolls “were hidden scripture because everything was being destroyed that disagreed with the Council of Nicaea and Constantine”.

The man is doing Dan Brown’s work better than Brown himself.

The problem is, if people haven’t read up on these subjects, what Beck says might sound like a reasonable defense of his ideologies.  Specifically, he’s saying there’s a conspiracy afoot to deprive people of the truth, and that people in the past needed to hide the truth in vessels — in pots or in Creeds — in order to preserve it, and in our day we need to do the same.

Yeah, to protect the truth from people like Beck!

Here are the facts:

  • The Council of Nicaea was called by the Church, not any Emperor.  The Council produced the *Nicene* Creed (hence the name) — the Apostles’ Creed is approximately 200 years older.  The Bible was not bound at the Council of Nicaea; the work of determining what writings would go into the Bible was a process that took a few hundred years.  And the Council of Nicaea had absolutely no power of life or death over people.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls were produced by an ancient *Jewish* community living in Qumran, Israel, a few hundred years before the birth of Christ.  They, like many ascetics before and after them, spent much time reproducing Scriptures by hand.  The Scriptures they copied were from the Torah — what Christians would call the Old Testament — and other prophetic writings.  The scrolls they produced were carefully wrapped and stored in pots in caves not to hide them but to preserve them.  Qumran had absolutely nothing to do with Constantine or the Council of Nicaea — both of which would happen approximately 500 years later!

If Beck is this wrong about things any first-year seminarian would know, how mis-informed is he about things any first-year political science major, or meteorology major, or earth sciences major, or history major (etc) would know?

What all this points to, for me, is that the Religious Right is far more interested in politics than in Christianity.  That in some religious circles it’s more important to vote the right way (and on the right issues) than it is to seek the truth.  That the Christian veneer is just that: a facade preserved to keep people sending in their money.

Yes indeed.  Right now you can send $100 to Beck’s website for an autographed copy of a Washington Crossing the Deleware print.  Did you catch that?  *Christians* are supposed to send what for many people is about half a day’s wages to a *Mormon* *entertainer* so they can hang an icon of a *president* and a *flag* on their walls and feel good about their *spirituality*.  Say what???

Folks.  If you’ve got $100 to spare send it to the nearest overseas missionary you know.  It might make the difference between life and death for someone you won’t ever meet.  You won’t get a plaque to hang on your wall… but then Jesus said it’s only when our left hand doesn’t know what our right hand is giving that we will be rewarded in heaven.

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This news story is incredibly apropos our current readings in Church, Ministry and Sacraments class.  In it you will read about members of the hierarchy of The Episcopal Church soliciting contributions from lawyers to support lawsuits against individual parishes who are leaving the national church.  Notice that the lawyers’ fund (The St. Ives Fund) is self-described on the website as “Mission Funding”!  (I wonder how many new converts they’ve won…?)

Our class has been reading Lesslie Newbigin’s The Household of God, in which Newbigin teaches that salvation apart from the church is impossible — not because the church dispenses salvation (it doesn’t) but because all who have become one with Christ are one with each other in His Body, the Church.  He says the Protestant concept of the “spiritual” church  as opposed to the “physical” church is judgmental and sounds like something the Pharisees would have come up with.

I like Lesslie Newbigin a lot, and his points are very well taken.  But there still must be some way to distinguish The Church (God’s people, the Body of Christ) from the church (the man-made institution).  Confronted with deliberate evil and strategically planned disobedience to God within the church (the man-made institution) isn’t it essential for the Church (God’s people) to take a stand?

When the leadership of a church (the institution) is deliberately deceiving the Church (the people) by calling a lawyers’ war-chest “missions”, and using the money to sue other Christians (which is forbidden by Scripture)… how is it remotely possible that the church can remain undivided? The very act of deception is in itself a breaking of Christian fellowship.

Near the end of his book Newbigin makes a very good point though (speaking of missions): “our Lord forbids His disciples to stay and argue with those who do not receive them…” (p. 144)  It’s a sad thing not to be received, and in fact to be preyed upon, by one’s own church.  It’s no way to run a church, and certainly no way to do missions.

Time to move on and follow Him.

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I don’t usually write about politics on this blog, but I’m really sick of seeing this carp in my face every time I go grocery shopping.  Rant mode on.

The current issue of the supermarket tabloid The Globe features a cover photo and story on Michelle and Barack Obama and alleges our president has been doing things he shouldn’t with someone he’s not married to.

Question: How is it the highest office of our nation (or any other nation for that matter) is appropriate fodder for the gutter press?  Have they run out of Scientologists to harass? 

It’s one thing to report facts and debate issues.  Our national leaders are not above reproach.  But they should not be placed in the same category as Hollywood stars-du-jour and oversexed children of hotel tycoons.

Dignity, that’s the word.  When a person does a difficult job to the best of their ability, they deserve a little dignity.  And a little respect for the office they hold.  No matter how famous they are.

It’s the tip of the iceberg to a much larger issue: sensationalism and its effect on our culture.  People are becoming numb.  The usual reaction to an article like the one I saw is “who cares?”.  Apparently there are just enough people left in the country who find this kind of thing titillating in order to keep the trash press in business.   Neither reaction is healthy.

Lord heal our land… help us take pleasure in what is true and good and beautiful, and get rid of the false and harmful and ugly.

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Will this kind of nonsense ever stop?

I’m not endorsing or supporting any Presidential or VP candidate on this blog, but yes, I will vote tomorrow.  But tonight I’m more troubled by the blindness, the coldness, the manipulativeness coming from the “Radical Right” who call themselves evangelical Christians.

Evangelical Christianity is best represented by intelligent, good-hearted people like CS Lewis, John Stott, and/or Billy Graham.  The “2012 Letter” is NOT evangelical Christianity.   It is hate mail wrapped in the flag and coated in a quasi-religious veneer.

Four issues which the letter raises that I’d like to address here:

1.  The USA is not a Christian nation — it is a nation in which the majority of people are Christians.  There is a difference: the latter is a majority; the former is a theocracy.  It’s high time the Radical Right stopped trying to take over the government.  Wrapping a (so-called) Christian message in the flag does a disservice to our Lord by encouraging people to think that (a) the problem of sin can be solved by legislation, and (b) that a vote for Candidate X is a vote for Jesus.

Jesus never supported any political party, nor did He encourage His followers to do so.  He encouraged His followers to obey the law, and to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

When will the Radical Right stop portraying Jesus as a supporter of white upper-middle-class American values of the 1950s?  When will He be seen for what He really was: a dark-skinned man from a Middle Eastern country, Jewish by faith, who worshipped in the Temple, ate with sinners, and hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes?  When will His message of redemption and love and hope be taken to EVERYONE regardless of race, ethnicity, economic level, gender, denominational affiliation… and yes, even sexual activities?

2.  The “2012 Letter” focuses on the wrong issues.  In the beginning, God gave humanity the task of caring for the earth — this was the first directive we received from our Creator.  Doesn’t obeying Him mean caring for the environment?  Shouldn’t this be a top priority for Christians?

Then in the New Testament, Jesus affirms that the greatest commandment is to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves”.  With all the donations the “2012 Letter” will generate, would it not be better to use these funds to promote hope rather than fear?  To develop ways to reach out with Christ’s love to women with problem pregnancies, or to develop ways to reach out to the gay community (rather than trying to outlaw the participation of gays in public life)?  To provide resources for Christian ministry in the inner cities, or through the arts, or through education, or in health care.  Isn’t it time to stop complaining about how good the world used to be, and deal with present realities?

3.  Nowhere in Scripture does God recommend a Democratic Republic above other forms of government.  (As far as I know, the only form of government God ever set up was the pre-monarchy system of judges in the Old Testament.)   In fact, if anything, Scripture makes it clear that humanity’s ability to govern itself is a myth.  Human beings are deeply flawed and are NOT capable of governing themselves equitably or in a way that honors God.  Therefore the very foundation on which the USA is built — a belief in self-government — is flawed and will eventually fail.  The “2012 Letter” is at best an attempt to spray termite-repellent on a crumbling sandstone foundation.

Lastly, the marriage between evangelical Christianity and the Republican Party needs to end.  It is not an indication of second-class faith to vote for a candidate outside the Republican party.  The Republican party has used Christians as a power base for decades and has consistently failed to live up to its promises and/or listen to Christian concerns.  The Republican Party’s Christian veneer is so thin I could chip it off with a fingernail.  (Granted the veneer of acceptance of faith-based views is thin in the Democrat party too.)   The Republican Party has been completely unfaithful to Biblical mandates to feed the hungry, provide for the poor, minister to the sick and imprisoned, or even to prevent corporate evildoers from walking off with millions of taxpayer dollars.  (The Democrat party OTOH has been completely unfaithful to those within its ranks who are people of faith, who would like to see a more moderate party, and who would like the right to keep the money they work for… but that’s an argument for another day.)  It’s time Christians got out of this unholy union, one which never should have happened in the first place.

So enough already.

Tomorrow, may the man who loves Jesus best win.

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I haven’t posted anything about the banking scandal till now, mostly because I’ve been at a loss for words.  The greed of the few and the willingness of those with real power to rob the average person blind — as if the nameless masses were put on this earth only to be pillaged — seems to know no bounds.

Rest assured God WILL have the last word, and payback is… not going to be pleasant.  Greed is NOT good, and massive layoffs and massive losses of profits and pensions are NOT just acceptable collateral damage in the war games of Big Business.   This is sin at its worst, all wrapped up in designer suits and respectability.

In the meantime the Brits have once again provided me words where there were none.  (Warning: the stuff on the other end of this link may be offensive.)  Found on The Daily Mash, the UK’s answer to the USA’s The OnionBanks to Lend You Your Own Money.

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Found in an article my brother pointed out this week.  Note to self: save for future use.  Sadly I can already think of far too many applications…

“Don’t actually solve anything. Just keep the issue alive as a societal scab to pick as needed.” – Kevin Ferris, Philadelphia Inquirer

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As promised, here is some background information on Dominion Theology. I write this because (1) this stuff in its pure form is not Christianity (in spite of what it calls itself), and (2) very few people or organizations come straight out and say “this is dominion theology” — it’s almost always presented as something else.

For the first article in this series click here.

Some clear and predictable signs that the religious person / organization you’ve come across is being influenced by dominion theology are…

Abuse of Prophecy

Dominionists often claim to have “apostolic” or “prophetic” “visions” and may even call themselves “apostle” or “prophet” the way the leaders of most churches call themselves “reverend”.  I believe the gift of prophecy does still exist in our time, but the real thing is not showy or self-promoting.  Biblically the spiritual gift of prophecy is the ability to speak God’s truth into a specific situation, not to predict the future, and NOT to tell other people what to do. When dominionists tell you they have received a “word from the Lord” it usually involves you giving either time or money or both.

If you’re not sure what you’re hearing is from God, compare the person’s words against scripture, and compare their lives against the lives of the disciples described in the book of Acts. Does the person’s teaching agree with the teaching of Biblical apostles and prophets?

A Distorted View of the Work of the Holy Spirit

Dominionists over-emphasize the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and tend to form spiritual pecking-orders in the church based on the number and quality of gifts a person appears to demonstrate. Worse, they believe all Christians must speak in tongues and anyone who doesn’t is not a real Christian. This teaching is the clear opposite of Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians.

A Distorted View of Repentance and Salvation

Dominionists teach that “It is simply not true that a person can repent at any time. Repentance is dependent upon the convicting action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners and believers. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, which often accompanies the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will result in the revelation of the sinfulness of self which should lead to Godly sorrow.” (quoted from CIST website – Christian International .org )  In short, a person needs to be convicted by a sermon or teaching while in church.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that God is always calling His people to Himself, and that a person can repent and believe anytime, anywhere and in many different ways. Conversion can happen in hotel rooms, in the car, while at home… not necessarily in church, not necessarily with anyone’s guidance other than God’s, and not necessarily with immediate “evidence” of spiritual gifts.

A Damaging Distortion of Evangelical Christianity

The media and the general public are not aware that the teachings of Dominion Theology do NOT represent legitimate evangelical Christianity. As a result, secularists (and some Christians as well!) are often led to believe that all Christians think…

(a) that the mission of the church goes beyond the spiritual transformation of individuals, and should include a kind of “moral patriotism” in political opposition to secular humanism.

(b) that Christian hope is to be found in the plan to restructure society along Biblical lines.  (On the contrary, Christian hope is in the return of Christ at the end of the age, when there will be “a new heaven and a new earth”.)

(c) that health and prosperity is the right of every believer, and anyone who suffers is not obeying God or living the Christian life correctly.

(d) that Christians replace the Jews as the new or true Israel, the “chosen people”, and Israel has no future as a distinct nation within God’s plan. Historically, this has been the theological foundation for anti-Semitism among Christians who don’t know the Bible’s teachings to the contrary.


Dominionism uses a lot of spiritual-sounding buzzwords that aren’t found in the Bible or whose meanings have been distorted from the original concepts. Watch for these key buzzwords:

Five-fold ministries” – the restoration of apostles and prophets to the Church to take their place alongside evangelists, pastors, and teachers

God-given destiny” – “We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s instrument to establish and extend God’s Kingdom until the literal coming of Christ to reign over all the earth” (CIST website)

Deliverance” – an over-emphasis on the works of the Devil is easily observed. Dominionists are keen to ‘cast out’ not only spirits but things, bad habits, etc – anything “mental (emotional), physical or spiritual normally associated with demon activity” (CIST website)

Christian Reconstructionism” – Sara Diamond of theocracywatch.org calls Christian Reconstructionism “the most intellectually grounded, though esoteric, brand of dominion theology.” She notes, “promoters of Reconstructionism see their role as ideological entrepreneurs committed to a long-term struggle. […] Christian Reconstructionism was the most influential form of dominion theology, and it influenced both the theological concepts and political activism of white Protestant conservative evangelicals mobilized by the Christian Right. But very few evangelicals have even heard of dominion theology, and fewer still embrace Christian Reconstructionism.” – Sara Diamond quoted on theocracywatch .org)

Theonomy” – defined as ‘the application of God’s law to all spheres of everyday life’, this differs from traditional Christianity in its focus on legalism.  Dominionists really believe it’s possible to live out God’s law as given in the Old Testament.  Jesus’ sacrifice therefore becomes meaningless; the true faith is based in faith in Him, not in peoples’ obedience to religious law.)

Key Organizations

Christian International School of Theology (CIST) is a foundational seminary / training ground for movement leaders. Similar to the school described in my piece on the prosperity movement found here,  CIST is run by a handful of families whose names appear throughout the school’s documentation.

The course catalog includes: for a Bachelor of Ministry degree – 34 credits in prophecy, 6 credits in church destiny /church growth, 15 credits in spiritual gifts / miracles / deliverances. For the Master of Ministry degree – the program is mostly custom-made from a list of electives. Students may choose from a list of 45 credits in prophets & prophecy, 12 credits in scriptural study. Other courses in specific books of the Bible, offerings are up to 24 credits. Greek and Hebrew are added at the end of the course list like an afterthought. At the Doctoral level many of the course titles — including most of the core courses — are the same as the master’s level courses. Added are required courses in “ministry training” or “mentoring”. Electives include Angelology and Demonology. Many of the above courses are offered only in “seminar” form, not as regular classes at the school.

To see how far this differs from typical seminary degree requirements, see the list of required courses from our local seminary, (scroll down to page 21).

Other key players/organizations:

Pat Robertson’s CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network)
Institute for Christian Economics
Coalition on Revival (COR)
Bill Hamon
R.J. Rushdoony

Gary North

Earl Paulk
D. James Kennedy
– not a full-fledged Dominionist but strongly influenced by the movement
The Vineyard Movement – not full-fledged in the movement but leaning that way. I love their contemporary worship music but I take their theology with a huge grain of salt.

Commentary from Outside Researchers

Chip Berlet writes:

In its generic sense, dominionism is a very broad political tendency within the Christian Right. It ranges from soft to hard versions in terms of its theocratic impulse.

Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists. They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. They fear that America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals. Purists want litmus tests for issues of abortion, tolerance of gays and lesbians, and prayer in schools. Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Hard Dominionists believe all of this, but they want the United States to be a Christian theocracy. For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law. They claim that Christian men with specific theological beliefs are ordained by God to run society. Christians and others who do not accept their theological beliefs would be second-class citizens. This sector includes Christian Reconstructionists, but it has a growing number of adherents in the leadership of the Christian Right.

As I have written elsewhere, crafting an appropriate response depends on what sector of the Christian Right we are criticizing:

Christian Conservatives – They play by the rules of a democratic republic, and so our response should be to develop better ideas and carry out better grassroots organizing campaigns.

Christian Nationalists – They erode pluralism, and we must defend separation of church and state, but also engage in a discussion of the legitimate boundaries when religious beliefs intersect with participation in a secular civil society.

Christian Theocrats – They want to replace democracy with an authoritarian theocratic society run by a handful of Christian men. They seek to supersede the Constitution and Bill of Rights with Old Testament Biblical law. We must oppose them and not give an inch in our defense of democracy against theocracy.

see http://www.talk2action.org/story/2005/12/5/10810/4239 for the complete article above.


John Dean, former counsel to the President, writes on: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20060825.html

Some General — and Disturbing — Information about Christian Nationalism

Christian Nationalists are a small but highly influential minority. They certainly do not represent a majority of Americans, or even a majority of evangelicals. Rather, when chatting, Goldberg compared them to neoconservatives, who are a small minority of conservatives, but a highly (if not a disproportionately) influential one. By way of further comparison, she explained that Christian nationalists operate and proselytize in ways not unlike those American Communists once used. (Based on my own research, I agree with her analogy.)

Christian Nationalists dominate today’s Republican Party. Goldberg conducted her research much as an anthropologist might; she traveled to Texas, Colorado, West Virginia and other places to mix and mingle with Christian nationalists at the grass- roots level, in their churches, conventions and other places where they congregate. She asked questions and listened to answers. In her book, Goldberg cites a 2002 study regarding the “strong influence” of the religious right “in eighteen state Republican parties” and “moderate influence in twenty-six others.” As she no doubt correctly suspects, “their control has only expanded since then.”

Pat Robertson is a central figure, and probably the best known figure, in the development of Christian nationalism. Goldberg reports that it was Pat Robertson who encouraged “the idea that Christians have a God-given right to rule … at the center of the movement to bring evangelicals into politics.” Robertson, however, was forced to remove the Christian-reconstructionist dean of his law school in order to get the school accredited.

D. James Kennedy, probably the least-known figure, is now a key player in Christian nationalism. When I spoke with Goldberg, she mentioned that James Kennedy should not be overlooked, as he often is. Indeed, I had never heard of him, and I have read widely about the religious right. In her book, she describes Kennedy as the leader of the evangelical Presbyterian Church in America — which is not related to the mainstream Presbyterian Church, but rather serves as “the bridge” connecting many influential reconstructionists to the larger evangelical world. Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries is one of the “popularizers of dominion theology,” Goldberg explains. Not surprisingly, these good Christians simply smear those with whom they disagree, most recently claiming a direct link between Charles Darwin and Adolph Hitler — and the Holocaust.

Christian nationalists want to protect those who defy the federal courts, by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving any state or local government’s “acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” In response to the removal of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore — for defying a federal court order to remove the 2.6 ton Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the Montgomery judicial building — reconstructionists rallied to Moore’s defense. Indeed, they sought legislation in both houses of Congress to prevent federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over such state or local matters. Indeed, it is the courts that Christian nationalists seek to rely on to impose their agenda on America.


Material in this and companion reports has been excerpted and/or adapted from three sources: (1) “Dominion Theology,” Pastor Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel, January, 1996; (2) Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?, by Thomas Ice and H. Wayne House; and (3) Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion, by Albert James Dager.

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This past week a stack of report booklets from this year’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) appeared on a table in the church where I work, so I picked up a copy.  I was deeply troubled to read on the first page:

“the 218th General Assembly was a typical blend of the bold and the cautious as it:

“>  Approved a proposed amendment to delete G-60106b — the “fidelity and chastity” standards for church officers — but rejected a proposal to change the church’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people”…”

In other words, the most recent Presbyterian General Assembly has said it’s OK for ordained people — ministers, elders, and deacons — to have sex within or outside the bounds of marriage, whether they’re married or not, with whomever they like, if they feel the spirit is leading them to do it; but homosexuals aren’t allowed to get married.

I can’t help asking: where exactly is the “boldness” here?  Or “caution” for that matter?  It sounds to me like just more of the same double-standard weasel-words we in the pews have come to expect from church hierarchies. If it’s OK for people in ordained positions to have sex with anyone they want, what difference does it make whether they’re married or not?

Whatever happened to God’s call to His people to be countercultural?  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Whatever happened to God’s call to holiness, and righteousness, and to seeing life as more than just the body?

Scripture’s teaching on sexuality — both Old Testament and New — is that sex is reserved for monogamous heterosexual marriage.  Apart from this, no matter what your preferences are, God’s answer is NO.

The problem is no one is able to live up to God’s standard.  No one.  Even the rare individuals who manage to remain pure until and throughout marriage have impurities in their hearts.  Re-writing church rules to match our imperfections does nothing other than create a feeling of self-righteousness among people who need to repent.

I take that back: re-writing church rules accomplishes one other thing.  It makes it impossible for the people in the pews to complain if one of their ministers has an affair with a spouse or an over-18 child.  The church says it’s OK so it must be OK.  There won’t be any discipline because in the eyes of the church no harm was done.

More and more I see why so many people feel it’s time to close the doors of the mainline Protestant churches and write “Ichabod” (“the glory of the Lord has departed”) across them.  Is there any other choice? — that’s a topic for another post.  For now I’ll just say, sadly, I expect to see mass departures from the Presbyterian Church USA over the next 5-10 years as more and more people realize they’ve been betrayed by their leadership.

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Debt. It’s a four-letter word. It came home to me a few weeks ago when I tried to have some obscenely high fees removed from a credit card account. It’s been a long time since I read the small-print notices the companies send out telling me what they’ll do if the account isn’t paid on time (read: 10 days before the due date — it takes them that long to “process” a payment. It does not, however, take them 10 days to process the addition of interest.) As someone said on a recent documentary, credit companies LIKE it when your due date is missed… that’s what they’re hoping for, and they will do whatever they can to help make it happen.

From the national debt which is robbing our children of their future, to the Enron scandal which robbed their employees of their future, to the people out west who are losing their homes in record numbers, to friends who have faced (and some been forced into) bankruptcy, it’s all about ravenous, uncontrolled, unchecked GREED, combined with corporate practices that result in the inhumane treatment of the individuals who pay their employees’ salaries.

I only have two questions: Where is God in all this? And where is the Church in all this?

To the second question first: I do hear solid strategies from Christian teachers about getting out of debt and staying out of debt, and this is good advice. But for those who through no fault of their own find themselves needing to go into debt to survive, where are the Christian voices reminding corporate executives and stockholders not to make profits on the misfortunes of others? When was the last time anyone heard a sermon preached against greed?

To the first question: God has a great deal to say about this. Here’s what He told Moses, and these words were made law in ancient Israel. I’d like to see something like this in today’s world too — what better way to put a check on greed?

“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today…

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” – Deut. 15:1-11 (edited)

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“To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. ” (Deuteronomy 10:14-19)

“Love those who are aliens,” says the Lord. Why? Because once we were aliens to God and He chose to love us… and He calls us to be like Him.

How is it the church is missing this teaching? (more…)

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The inability to recognize when two concepts oppose each other, or when one belief damages or discredits another. They miss it every time, and so does the media (with rare exceptions).

Case in point: This past week’s brouhaha about Pastor Wright. He hasn’t said anything the “left wing” (I put this in quotes because it’s the very reason I hate politics: everything must be dealt with in labels and stereotypes) hasn’t been saying for years. He’s just repeating common mistakes.

#1. “We’ve been biting our tongues because we don’t want to offend our Jewish friends and our Muslim friends. The new movement is toward not being afraid to talk about your faith. But you should also stop thinking you have absolute truth — that your faith is the only one.” (interviewed on Spiegel Online International)

Textbook definition of pantheism: “Stop thinking you have the absolute truth — that your faith is the only one.” If you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, your holy writings require you to believe your faith is the only true faith. Deny this and you deny your faith.

The “liberals” in my own denomination would answer, “well that’s not how I believe it.” NEWSFLASH: You don’t get to vote on this! God’s kingdom is not a democracy. You either believe what God says or you don’t.

That said, if what Pastor Wright means is that we need to be aware of the beliefs of other faiths and learn to live peaceably with people who believe differently, then I agree with him. He just needs to find some other way to express the concept than “stop thinking you have the absolute truth.”

#2. “SPIEGEL: Can you be a good Christian and be pro-choice?
Wright: Both. You can be a good Christian and be pro-life. You can be a good Christian and be pro-choice.”

True. You can be a good Christian and be mistaken, you can be a good Christian and waffle on an issue or two, you can even be a good Christian and defend the right of a non-Christian to an abortion. But the Christian scriptures are clear in their teaching that abortion is the ending of a human life. As such we must acknowledge what we are talking about is a matter of life and death. Equivocate all you like, that’s what the book says. Under what circumstances it is appropriate to end someone else’s life?

#3. “SPIEGEL: Can you as a pastor help move voters from the right side of the political spectrum back to the left?
Wright: First of all, not that many people are church goers. But that’s America in general. That said, historically, the black church it has been the political force… A clergy person needs to be aware of that and needs to keep in mind the clergy’s role in changing the public life for the betterment of all… How do we treat the most vulnerable in this society? What are we doing for our old people? What are we doing for our kids? What are we doing for our poor? The clergy need to put those questions on voters’ minds.”

Wright is making the same mistake pastors on the “religious right” have been making for decades. The calling of the pastor is to introduce people to God, preach God’s word, and tend to the needs of the individuals in his or her care with kindness and compassion. Do anything else and all you’re doing is fleecing the flock.

Teach people to read the scriptures and they will figure out for themselves how to vote. Top-down “Theory X” management is not how Jesus led. Stop dictating your politics to the rest of us. It’s BECAUSE people get this stuff shoved down their throats that they’ve stopped going to church. They haven’t stopped going because they don’t want to know about God… they’ve stopped going because they do. That’s why so many churches are dying — because people aren’t finding God there.

Denial, as they say, isn’t just a river in Egypt.

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Totally off-topic, but I wanted to write this down so I won’t forget and to make the information public even if just in a small way.

A couple weeks ago our local PBS station aired a live town-hall discussion on the subject of Bodies: The Exhibition.  The purpose was to present the various viewpoints around an exhibit that is highly controversial because of lack of information as to the source of the dead bodies, most of whom are Chinese.

Leading up to the special broadcast, the station posted an online survey asking people three questions, which were (essentially, I don’t have a photographic memory): (1) Do you approve of unidentified bodies being used for scientific purposes? (2) Do you approve of unidentified bodies being used in educational exhibits (including mummies)? (3) Do you approve of unidentified bodies being used in police forensic work?

For two weeks, up until just under two hours before the show, answers to all three questions were running over 50% “No” and approximately 35% “Yes” to all three questions, with about 15% undecided.  But those weren’t the results given on the show — the results were announced as over 50% in favor.  And the survey results have now disappeared from the station’s website.

I’m not the only one who noticed.

Deliberate subterfuge? Wishful thinking? Unwillingness to admit that the vast majority of people want dead human bodies to be treated with respect, whether we know who they were or not?

What do you think?

(if you’re interested in my take on the subject click here.)

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…is another search term by which people frequently find this blog.  Go figure.

Actually, I know what it is they’re looking for.  The sarcastic posters are not on this blog.  I know where to find them but I’m not telling because they’re not very nice, and besides, sarcasm is the lowest form of humor.   You should know better.   Do you feel properly scolded now?

It will do your heart and soul much better to look at something like these.

Go thy way and sin no more.

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It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud at a blog post.  Blogger iowahawk lampoons the Archbishop of Canterbury, Shari’a Law, and the whole ultraliberal crowd with the greatest of wit and in ye stiyle of ye goode manne Chaucer’s olde Englishe: Heere Bigynneth the Tale of the Asse-Hatte.  No special interest group is left untouched.  If you are easily offended do not click the link. 

91  “Sharia is Englishe as tea and scones,
92  So everybody muste get stoned.”

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That’s all I can think of to say at this moment.   Breaking news from England is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said the introduction of Shari’a law into the UK’s system of government is “unavoidable”. 

For background see the following stories and posts:

This is all so wrong on so many levels.

There’s the issue of human rights.  Shari’a law treats women like chattel.  (more…)

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