Archive for May, 2008
I just know that it’s going to rain. And it does. Or, just as likely, it doesn’t.
I know just what kind of person she is. Actually, I really don’t.
I never win anything, so why would I win this time. But then I do.
I know exactly what you are thinking. Of course, I am wrong.
So then, why are so many of us so certain that we know what God wants? Why do so many of us claim to know what God has in store for us? Why are we so sure, so definite, about what he is saying to us? And why do we assume he is saying the exact same thing to everyone else?
Why is it that, if the Bible is the undisputed Word Of God, so many who believe this cannot agree on what it says?
Don’t ask me. I…just…don’t….know. And I am cool with that.
The Brits must think this election is funny. So do I. I couldn’t help it, these pictures made me laugh. Follow the link to some English photo humor, made at our nation’s expense. Sore losers.
New York, 1952
“Hello friends, I’m your Vitameatavegamin girl.
Are you tired, run – down, listless?
Do you poop out at parties?
Are you unpopular?
The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle. VITAMEATAVEGAMIN.
Vitameatavegamin contains Vitamins, Meat, Vegetables, and Minerals.
Yes, with Vitameatavegamin, you can spoon your way to health. All you do is take a great big tablespoonful after every meal. Mmmmmm…. It’s so tasty, too! Tastes just like candy!
So why don’t you join all the thousands of happy peppy people and get a great big bottle of Vitameatavegamin tomorrow!
Thats Vita-meata-vegamin! “(wink)
“Step right up, ladies and gents. What I have in this little bottle will take care of whatever ails you. Be it lumbago, impetigo, vitiglio or vertigo, Dr. Jax’s Oil will do the job. If you suffer from appendicitis, colitis, bronchitis, encephilitis, meningitis, tonsillitise, mellitis, hepatitis, tendinitis or bursitis you’re prayers have been answered. Dr. Jax is here.
“Sick and tired of anemia, tularemia, bulemia and schizophrenia? Say, no more – I’ve got your ticket. Anyone out there stricken with athetosis, ketosis, salmonellosis, atherosclerosis, brucellosis, listeriosis, shigellosis or halitosis? Dr. Jax is your new best friend.”
“If you have arthritis, autism, anthrax or asthma then don’t wait any longer. Relief can be yours with a visit from Dr. Jax. From cholera to the common cold to the heart break of psoriasis, there ain’t nothin’ Dr. Jax’s little elixir can’t fix. Throw everything else out of your medicine chest. All you need is Dr. Jax. And right now, if you buy two bottles of Dr. Jax you’ll get the third one free!”
“Hello, this is Evangel Lines, can you hold please?”
“Hi, thanks for holding. What’s your problem? Alcoholism? Sure, we’ve got the prescription. You just need Jesus. Thanks, bye.”
“Hello, thanks for holding. What can we do for you? You say you’re anorexic? Poor thing. Just call on Jesus. Bye.”
“Hi, you’ve reached Evangel Lines, how can we help you? Depression? And sleep disorder ?And anxiety? And OCD? Wow, that’s quite a load you’ve got there. And no health insurance either? No problem honey, Jesus can handle it. Just call on him. We’re all prayin’ for you. Bye.”
“Evangel Lines. Whoa, hold on there babalooey. Take it easy. What’s your problem? Oh, drugs. Oh, your kid has the problem with drugs. Just tell him to call us. He won’t? Well, tell you what, that’s OK. If he won’t talk to us then you can tell him what he needs. Jesus. You say you already told him that? Well, what happened, did he call on Jesus? He did? And you say it isn’t working, he’s still hooked on drugs? Well, he must not have done it right. Tell him to keep on tryin’. Jesus will hear him, but it might be in God’s time, not yours. What’s that? You say he needs help now, that the gangs are gettin’ to him, too much peer pressure? Tell him to start readin’ the Bible then, that always helps. What, he can’t read either? Sheesh! Well…just tell him that he needs to have more faith. Faith in Jesus. Keep callin’ on Jesus’ name and the faith will come. That’s right, honey. Jesus is all he needs. Anyway, the phone’s are ringin’ off the hook. Gotta run. Bye!“
While preaching the gospel, James Ireland was grabbed by the collar and given the choice of either ceasing what he was doing or be thrown into prison. He chose the latter and spent 5 months confined to an uncivilized cell, where (under the encouragement of government officials) angry religious bigots built fires of noxious fumes outside his window that he might suffer more for his sins. Others stood on benches and urinated through the iron bars onto Ireland’s face.
John Waller was leading Christian worship without the permission of the local theocratic government, when he was accosted by the local religious chieftain, who verbally abused him and then had him whipped bloody by constables. Waller soon returned to his open air pulpit, proclaiming that the he did not feel his wounds, as God had poured love into his soul. For this crime Waller spent 113 miserable days sweltering in one of the many primitive jail of this sub-tropical country.
John Weatherford, also imprisoned for Christian ministry, served five months in a filthy jail cell, where he continued to preach through the bars to those anxious to hear the Gospel. Angry at this, some of the local population lashed at him with knives and even built a wall ten feet tall to separate him from his flock.
Dave Barrow was almost drowned when, in the middle of a Christian service, an angry mob forced his face into a mud puddle and held it there. Archie Roberts was indicted for singing Christian hymns. Witnesses told of other Christian ministers being dragged from their homes, taken from pulpits and beaten with sticks and canes, worship services broken up by mobs who than pulled pastors down and hauled them about by their hair. Some were even shot. All with the approval of the religious governing authorities.
These civil rights abuses did not occur in some sub-Saharan Africa Muslim nation. Nor did they take place in any of the impoverished theocratic dictatorships of Turkestan or Asia. These Christian men (and women) were persecuted for their beliefs in colonial Virginia, the cradle of American democracy. From 1760 to 1778, the Anglican government of Virginia engaged in an active campaign to eradicate the rapidly growing Baptist denomination.
The location of these official persecutions was also the area that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry and James Madison called home. (Virginia was not the only example of religious intolerance: In Massachusetts’s the empowered Calvinists had hung a few Quakers and imprisoned many more. A burgeoning Protestant population in Maryland, which had been established as a sanctuary for Catholics, had become successful in declaring practicing Roman Catholicism a criminal offense.) The significance that this religious tyranny played in determining the course of revolution should not be understated. It was this tendency of the state sanctioned Christian religion, to persecute even other Christians, that so disgusted our nation’s founders that they went to great lengths to ensure that any new government would endorse no one religion over any other. Virginia herself later became a champion for religious tolerance.
In his book “Founding Faith” (2008, Random House) Steve Waldman, tells how James Madison, a conservative Christian by even that day’s standard, was so dismayed at what he saw that it caused him to ask “Is an Ecclesiastical Establishment absolutely necessary to support civil society in a supreme Government?”. Although that idea was the prevailing wisdom of the time (even by other non-religous and Deist founders) apparently he thought not. Madison decided to use Pennsylvania’s constitutional example of civic religious tolerance while formulating his ideas for a fee American government.
Though many of the founding fathers were Christian (and many were not) and many of our democratic ideals have their roots in Judeo-Christian (as well as Greek, Roman and Native American) principles at no time did the majority of our early leaders ever intend for this to become a country that favored one particular religion over any other. They saw firsthand the illicit offspring that such a marriage can and will produce.
Well, it’s happened again. Another group of religious fundamentalists have zealously declared that the mysteries of science are explained by the words of Holy Scripture. I thank God that these folks have not been allowed to push their religious beliefs into our nation classrooms and laboratories (yet), relying as they are upon faulty science to hide their true agenda. This particular version of scriptural science presents us with a new twist on “Medieval Times”. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Right now in Europe, Christianity is not the the majority religion. It could happen here some day.
I did a very un-Christian-like thing in Wal Mart the other day. I left my loaded cart standing in the middle of the check out aisle, telling a young employee “It’s all yours dude. Have fun with it.” Oh, and the cart had two gallons of ice cream in it. Good thing I don’t wear Christian tee-shirts anymore.
I’ve finally had it with Wal Mart. I have been forgiving their execrable service for too long. This visit was typical: Most of the items that interest me are missing prices. After hauling the items around the store looking for the poorly marked price scanner I find the device broken, yet again. In the music section none of the ‘convenient’ listening posts are very helpful with my selection. They are all broken and apparently have been since they were installed. Approaching the cashiers I am confronted with very long lines. It is mid-afternoon on Saturday, the busiest time of the week, and they have less than half of their registers manned. Some of them even have their lights out – the cashiers are going on exceptionally well timed breaks.
Choosing a smaller self-checkout line I wait about 20 minutes until it is my turn, all the while listening to a loud recorded voice repeatedly recite “You have activated Wal Mart’s security system! Please wait for assistance!” as hapless innocents are cavity searched for contraband. Finally I am at the register and after the third time the computer tells me that there is an “unknown item in the bagging area” I throw up my hands and leave. Thank God Wal-Mart is there to provide us with the best prices available on Chinese made goods. How in the world did we survive before they ran off all those uncompetitive local merchants?
So I go down the road to Sears (K-Mart in disguise) and I am pleasantly confronted with a very uncrowded store manned by a sharp looking sales staff in crisp uniforms, all eagerly awaiting an opportunity to serve me. I am sympathetic, having worked for commissions myself in the past. I peruse the hardware section (terribly expensive Craftsman tools presented along side very cheap looking K-Mart offerings) and I am again plagued with missing price tags. Their ‘convenient’ price scanner is down as well. Meanwhile the crisp sales staff are standing about awaiting the arrival of customers. I am no longer so sympathetic. Perhaps their down time could be spent putting price tags on the shelves? Anyway, S-Mart doesn’t have what I want and I split.
I consider going to Home Depot but they are mobbed and it is absolutely impossible to just run into that store, find what you need, check out and leave in under 30 minutes. You need a map to locate your potential purchase, often it is down an aisle they have blocked off with orange gates while three of them try to figure out how to operate a fork lift and the only check-out aisles open are the four self-service types, one of which is always broken.
(If you think that poor service is a only a product of discount chains you have never been to an Apple store. Last year I spent an hour in one only to be told that there were no “Geniuses” available to replace my faulty IPod with a used and rebuilt one (fully warrantied yet they only replace them with used product…hmm.). You need to be a genius to exchange boxes with someone?
Meanwhile my car is in the shop having a new (used) engine put in, to the tune of $1500. One reason that I bought this Saturn LW200 (they changed the name every year, to fool us) was because the engine uses a timing chain instead of a belt. Unlike expensive rubber timing belts, steel timing chains are designed to last as long as the engine. Except for Saturns, that is. My chain broke at a little of 70,000 miles. Over 42,000 incidents of timing chain failure with this model Saturn have been recorded (which is estimated to be less than half of all incidents). The NTSB is looking into a safety recall and there is a class action lawsuit in the works. I just signed on.
What does GM/Saturn have to say about this? “Gee, that’s too bad. It must be due to owner negligence – too infrequent oil changes. But heck, even though we just insulted you let us put in a new engine for only around six grand“. Which leads me to ask the question; Why are Saturn owners so damn negligent? Have the plastic body panels lulled us into a false sense of automotive immortality? Interestingly all their service managers received a factory bulletin telling them that as of the 2004 model year there were changes made to the engine for the purpose of rectifying this ‘non-existent’ problem. I was going to buy another Saturn, trading in my wife’s van for something a little smaller. I’m driving a Hyundai now and you know what? Not only is it less expensive it’s built a hell of a lot better than what’s currently coming out of Detroit.
There are a few American companies that stand out well in the area of customer service, though right now I am having a hard time thinking of any. Why do we keep on taking this crap? With me, I’ve been working under the assumption for the past few years that angry and irate does not come under the heading of “Christ-like” behavior. I think now it’s time to start tipping over some tables, slinging some rope and abandoning more carts in the aisle.
Today in church, a woman read aloud Psalm 131:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
New Revised Standard Version
But I like this version just a little better:
Lord, my heart is not proud;
I don’t look down on others.
I don’t do great things,
and I can’t do miracles.
But I am calm and quiet,
like a baby with its mother.
I am at peace, like a baby with its mother.
People of Israel, put your hope in the Lord
now and forever.
New Century Version
As she later mentioned, when we think of a weaned child the first things that come to mind are not calm and quiet. But that’s because we mistakenly associate a constantly crying infant with weaning. But once it is taught that it need not obsess over where it’s next meal is coming, thought not visible, Mommy has not abandoned it, then the child begins to break that exhausting cycle of demanding attention and reassurance. Around this time the bodies of most of the world’s children cease producing the enzyme lactose and even no longer metabolize milk, further encouraging an appetite for solid food.
When I first came to Christ, I was like that infant, alternately clamoring for God’s attention and then His services. I prayed fervently for anything and everything, anxiously worrying that God would find me lacking and withhold from me those things I yearned for; health, security, prosperity, and ministerial accomplishments.
I worried daily what it was that God wanted me to do, belaboring decisions until a clear sign was visible. When things went well then I thanked God for His guidance and His blessing. When they went wrong I apologized for not listening attentively enough, with the understanding that misfortune was God’s way of teaching me. Other Christians who were faring better than I were, for some reason, favored by God.
I prayed that God would use me for great things and threw myself into what I believed was the service of His kingdom; youth group, children’s sermons, leading retreats, Sunday school teaching, organizing church functions and serving on church committees. Although left unsaid, I believed that God would ‘bless’ me with the abilities and time to do all these things and to eventually recognize me as making a ‘difference’ in this world. Like a child towards a parent, I performed to please Him, as well as for the praises of my brothers and sisters.
It may sound off-putting, but having been slowly ‘weaned’ of God I now enjoy an internal quiet and calm that comes from knowing that He loves me as I am, that I need not (nor could I ever) perform well enough to earn His pleasure. I understand that God is not interested in profound eloquence, great accomplishments, mighty battles won or crusades fought well. He does not require great sacrifices or offerings and flamboyant achievements and spectacular miracles are not the daily fare of a disciple. As I stopped working so hard at being a good Christian I began to rest in His grace.
I still thirst for God but He calls me with whispers, not exhortations. Though I may not always be aware of His presence, I trust that He has not left me. It is that same trust that allowed me to venture outside of the sanctuary of the modern church and see what God has been up to with the rest of His children. Occasionally even sharing a meal or two with them.
On Wednesday I was TAGGED by Ric Booth (aka ric booth). Sheesh!
The four requirements for this meme are:
- Write the title to your memoir using 6 words
“Hot Feet: Pan to Pan Adventures “
(unlike Ric’s entry I did stick to the rules, something new for me)
- Post it on your blog
- Link to the person that tagged you
- Tag five more blogs
OK now, Ric?
Throughout these discussions a persistent question has been raised; how can anyone be blind to the obvious scriptural supports for the doctrine of Hell? It has even been pointed out that Jesus himself talks very clearly of a definite place called Hell.
Since both the scriptures and the Messiah are Jewish, it may help if we understand a little bit more of how the Jews have historically considered this idea of an afterlife, particularly one made up of eternal punishment. Here are just a few references that may easily be found on the internet;
While rabbinic Judaism subscribed to a notion of life after death and resurrection, it tolerated a great deal of speculation concerning the particulars, as well as a wide range of views concerning how this would all come to pass. Much less was said about punishment, and the concept of hell was never extensively developed in Judaism. Its origins are in a specific site, the Valley of Gehinnom (from Gei Ben hinnom) a valley that was the site of a heathen cult whose rituals included burning children (see the description in II Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 7:31). The Talmud paints a graphic and frightening picture of what happens in Gehinnom, but overall it receives only modest attention:
Wrongdoers of Israel who sin with their body, and wrongdoers of the gentiles who sin with their body, go to Gehinnom and are punished there for 12 months. After 12 months, their body is consumed and their soul is burned and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous. [Rosh Hashanah 17a]
In contrast to the opinion expressed above, Rabbi Akiba argued that punishment is not eternal; it is limited to one year: So, too, the Talmud affirms that the judgment of the wicked in Gehinnom shall endure only 12 months [Babylonian Talmud, tractate Eduyot 2:10]. Eventually Rabbi Akiba’s view was adopted. Jewish Ideas and Ideals
The Torah, therefore, might have been silent about afterlife out of a desire to ensure that Judaism not evolve in the direction of the death obsessed Egyptian religion. Throughout history, those religions that have assigned a significant role to afterlife have often permitted other religious values to become distorted. For example, belief in the afterlife motivated the men of the Spanish Inquisition to torture innocent human beings; they believed it was morally desirable to torture people for a few days in this world until they accepted Christ, and thereby save them from the eternal torments of hell. Jewish Virtual Library
Only the very righteous go directly to Gan Eden (Heaven). The average person descends to a place of punishment and/or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom (guh-hee-NOHM) (in Yiddish, Gehenna), but sometimes as She’ol or by other names. According to one mystical view, every sin we commit creates an angel of destruction (a demon), and after we die we are punished by the very demons that we created. Some views see Gehinnom as one of severe punishment, a bit like the Christian Hell of fire and brimstone. Other sources merely see it as a time when we can see the actions of our lives objectively, see the harm that we have done and the opportunities we missed, and experience remorse for our actions. The period of time in Gehinnom does not exceed 12 months, and then ascends to take his place on Olam Ha-Ba.
Only the utterly wicked do not ascend at the end of this period; their souls are punished for the entire 12 months. Sources differ on what happens at the end of those 12 months: some say that the wicked soul is utterly destroyed and ceases to exist while others say that the soul continues to exist in a state of consciousness of remorse. Judaism 101
There were about 24 different Jewish religious/political groups during the time of Christ. The three main movements were:
….the Pharisees embraced much of the recently introduced Greek Pagan theology. They believed in resurrection and an associated system of rewards and punishment after death. They did not expect justice to be achieved on earth.
….the Sadducees believed that God would reward the righteous and punish the wicked during their lifetime on earth.
….the Essenes…taught that the soul separated from the body and was resurrected to eternal life.Religious Tolerance
Now, of course none of this effectively refutes the doctrine of eternal punishment nor the popular notions of Hell. But there is strong evidence to suggest that there was no true Jewish consensus on an afterlife during the time of Jesus’ ministry. The evidence also suggests (to me) that Jesus, speaking as a first century Jew and not a 21st century Christian, likely never intended for speculations about hell and damnation to become so critical for people of faith.
OK, I’ve got a question about babies. Are they innocent?
Let’s first take a look at a mini-’Cliff Notes’ version of a popular interpretation of sin:
Adam disobeyed God, committing the first sin (Eve was there, too, but apparently the buck stopped with Adam). The result of his disobedience was that every generation to follow Adam, every person who will ever live, will be born with the blemish of original sin. This original sin amounts to a sentence of eternal damnation. Thankfully, there is a way to remove it.
Some traditions, particularly the Roman Catholic, say that the only way for original sin to be removed is through holy baptism, resulting in the baptizing of infants, to ensure they make it to heaven. Other traditions say that baptism is merely symbolic, and that the only way to salvation is through a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior.
The Roman Catholic church has dispensed with the doctrine of limbo, saying that all children are innocent before they reach the age of reason ( seven? eight? twenty eight? ). So the Catholic view here is that babies are not damned but go to heaven.
But what is the typical Evangelical Protestant diagnosis for the child who dies before reaching the age of commitment? Do these babies and young children go to heaven or hell? I discussed this with a fellow the other day and he said that his church’s position is that they are covered by God’s grace. But aren’t we all? Is it Biblical to think that we are all born ‘bad’? And if so, is it Biblical to think that God has special exemptions for children?
I don’t mean to sound silly or trite. I think this speaks to what we believe about sin, how much of our doctrine about sin is biblical and how much of that doctrine we truly accept.
What’s your take on this?