Archive for category Ethics

No Hell = No Jesus


As long as I can remember  my mother has said, “As a Christian you have to believe in Hell but you don’t have to believe anyone is  there.”  This is her gracious understanding of an essential Christian doctrine.  Though she didn’t know it,  this understanding is a Christian “heresy” called Universalism, a heresy  that says all of us,  even non-Christians, will go to Heaven. And it was expressly against Catholic, and most Christian doctrine. But wasn’t she right about one thing:  Don’t you have to believe in Hell to be a Christian? This must be the case, if Universalism is a heresy.

Not long ago Rob Bell was  in the hot seat with many Evangelicals (and some Catholics)  because his recent book, “Love Wins”,  suggested that no one goes to Hell.  He set the conservative Christian bogs on fire and most of them essentially condemned Bell to hell for not believing in Hell.

The ensuing progressive  Christian defense of Bell was great.  Many Emerging Church and progressive Christian bloggers  busted the chops of people like the Three Johns ( Piper, MacArthur and Hagee) for accusing Bell of  Universalism . They rightly criticized the conservative Christian tendency to make Hell such a big part of their theology, to the point where this doctrine  obscures a lot of the Gospel message.  But, unfortunately, few of them go far enough.

Because in their defense of Bell they made it quite clear that they also believed in the doctrine of Hell, they just adapted it to make it more palatable.  Most seemed to accept the conventional orthodoxy  of a Final Judgment and the potential prospect of Hell (even with little or no scriptural support for it) coupled with the salvic solution of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, as God’s blood sacrifice, to free us from eternal damnation.  Which, to me, flies in the face of what Jesus spends a lot of time telling us about God.  As I heard a pastor once say, God is either merciful or God is just, but God cannot be both.

I think one reason why so many Christians are unyielding about Hell, and why the progressives still can’t shake the doctrine off, is that, in reality,  Hell is the cornerstone of the Church, not Jesus.  Because without Hell, what is there for Jesus to do? What does he save us from?

No Hell = no Jesus. Or at least the Jesus that many Christians claim to believe in, have faith in.  Without Hell he loses his job description. He loses his purpose along with the primary meaning he may have for millions of Christians. So the idea that there is no Hell is just too damn frightening to consider.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

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Alack, those intolerants!


Over on Facebook I’ve been engaged in another round of a continuing argument that a friend and I have been having over the years. He charges that my criticisms of those I call intolerant are hypocritical, because, in essence, this is just another form of intolerance.  To be intolerant of intolerance, he says,  is a type of circular reasoning.

He’s not the first one to say this about me, or anyone of a number of people outspoken against intolerance.  On the face of it,  this argument sounds logical but to me it seems  so obviously incorrect.  This accusation must be the one based on circular reasoning.  To be intolerant of intolerance just seems to make sense, like having nothing to fear but fear itself.  But I have never really been able to come up with a solid rebuttal.

Until now. It really boils down to a simple matter of semantics.  We are not talking about the same thing here.  According to no less an authority than Merriam Webster, “tolerance” has multiple, subtle yet significant, meanings.


Definition of INTOLERANT

1 :
unable or unwilling to endure
2
a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted

This clears things up.  I am doing my best to be the first definition as it encounters both elements of the second.

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If Jared Loughner is not evil, then who is?


Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.  –President Barak Obama

And if you read back my statement of defense, it wasn’t self defense. It was defending those who are innocent, talk show hosts, talk show host listeners, those who have nothing to do with a crazed, evil gunman who killed innocent people. –Sarah Palin

For once, Obama and Palin agree on something. But they are both wrong. As awful as this shooting is, as tragic the deaths, and in spite of what some are saying, it cannot be denied that Jared Loughner is a mentally disturbed, obviously delusional, and probably psychotic young man.  Perhaps this could be said of anyone guilty of such an act. So is there such a “thing” as evil? Well, apparently some very powerful  people think so.  In addition to Obama, both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were outspoken in their shared belief that evil exists, particularly in the guise of heinous tyrannies.  Were they correct, or were they falling back on centuries old superstition?

In 2009, Roger Simon, of Politico,  talked about how, though once a skeptic,  he now believes he has literally met evil,  in the person of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In another article two days ago, he wonders whatever happened to a general belief in evil and why so many are willing to accept an ‘insanity defense’ for Jarred Loughner’s actions:

Which leaves me with just one question: Whatever happened to evil?

Why have we rushed to the judgment of insanity? Legally, very few defendants are found guilty of insanity.

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them, for pity’s sake, has got to be crazy.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

We hope. We live in an age in which virtually all our problems have been medicalized. Not that long ago, compulsive drinking, compulsive gambling and even compulsive eating were looked upon as human weaknesses. Now, we treat them as medical problems.

Evil has been medicalized (sic) into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Stalin and Mao. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics, we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people, and you are nuts — but you cross the line and kill more, and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious, or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

Simon raises some interesting questions. But I think the ultimate conclusion he comes to is incorrect.  Perhaps there is is such a thing as evil. But there is a significant difference between the Tuscon killings and those committed by the regimes of  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Saddam Hussein.  Infamously atrocious acts but,  at the risk of offending some,  I would like to add to this list the American enslavement of black Africans, the genocides of  Sullivan’s March, Wounded Knee, Rwanda and Dar-fur, the horrors of Andersonville, the Rape of Nan King, and the indiscriminate bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Maybe even the corporate dumping of toxic waste like what the Hooker chemical company did at Love Canal.  If the definition of evil requires that violent or harmful actions be premeditated and that the actors be perfectly sane, placing their own well being above the suffering of innocent people, then all of the above certainly qualify.

The difference between Jared Loughner and Adolf Hitler is not just about the numbers, although the real difference certainly would certainly seem to result in many more deaths than otherwise might take place.  The real difference here is that in one case we are talking about the tragic work of one lone madman as opposed to  institutionalized murder, which requires the wholesale complicity of a nation, a political party, a corporate entity –  a community.  The difference between the compulsive behavior of the delusional versus the calculated and coordinated machinations of those who certainly should, and do, know better. When we blame ‘evil’ for violence and murder we tend to deflect the focus away from the real causes, in which we might possibly even play a part. Which is a lot more scary than believing evil walks among us.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke

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Liberals reveal hidden puritanical streak. Again.



The latest political silliness, now from the Democrats, rivals the absurdity of conservative ‘birthers’ and Islamophobes .  This from Matt Lewis at Politics Daily:

While it’s impossible to know, some are beginning to speculate that Boehner’s penchant for turning on the waterworks might have some connection to his consumption of wine. Liberal MSNBC host Ed Shultz, half-jokingly, called Boehner a “cheap drunk” the other day, Capitol Hill aides of both parties are wondering, and there’s even a web page devoted to it.

For years, political professionals have quietly discussed Boehner’s drinking. Some have told me off the record that his mannerisms remind them of that of an alcoholic. So far, most of the public speculation having to do with the connection between drinking and Boehner’s crying has come from the left. In addition to Ed Shultz, liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes recently implied Boehner’s crying was due to his drinking. But the speculation is becoming more widespread. Earlier this year, Joe Scarborough noted of Boehner that “by 5 or 6 o’clock at night, you can see him at bars.

Well, that is the traditional time, Joe.  It’s called the cocktail hour.  And drinking in bars?!  Sinful!  I guess Boehner would feel more comfortable drinking behind closed doors, with the puritanical hypocrites.  Probably not.  And Randi Rhodes calling someone a drunk?  Talk about people who live in glass houses.

So is drinking the issue — and why might a person struggling with drinking be more prone to weeping in public?

Really? Is that the important question? I’m not too crazy about the recent spate of conservative histrionics but you’d think that liberal progressives would be a bit more accepting of a man’s emotional openness. I mean, aren’t we supposed to be overcoming our gender stereotypes? Maybe all the conservative rhetoric about the nanny-ness of liberals is not so far off.  Time to stop playing to the namby-pambies in the Democratic party and let adults decide for themselves if, and how much, they should drink.

As for blaming this new political emotionalism on alcohol consumption, tell that to Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy, neither man likely to refuse a drink and neither man prone to silliness. In fact, I thought that cigars and whiskey were the main staples of a political diet (which, I guess, is one reasons why I am a frustrated amateur pundit). Besides, Glenn Beck will break down at the drop of a tricorn hat and he’s a teetotaler.

It’s bad enough that the neo-cons resort to this type of sensationalist rumor mongering, and I can understand the liberal media’s frustration with that, but this kind of foolishness can eclipse any credibility they might have. No longer will serious people  swallow any story at Fox News without a liberal dosing of salt because of this penchant for reporting on sensationalist non-news stories.

For his part, though, Boehner — who was described in one profile as “a heavy-smoking, hard-drinking former linebacker” — has made no secret of his affection for merlot, and those familiar with Capitol Hill know he frequents The Capitol Hill Club, as well as a favorite Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill, where he is frequently spotted sipping vino.

Good for him. I’m not likely to vote for Boehner but I probably would enjoy sharing a meal with him (but sorry, no Merlot, please).  Dinner without wine is no dinner at all (unless it’s brats or BBQ and then beer is essential).  I myself enjoy at least two glasses of wine with my evening meals and maybe a cocktail before and/or after.  And then I might smoke a nice big cigar.

I know this admission will horrify some of you, but I can’t remember the last time I cried, drove off a bridge, beat my wife or flew a plane into a mountainside.  My blood work just came back and my liver functions are all A-OK, thank you very much.

C’mon liberals. For folks who are always crowing about a personal right to privacy , it’s time to pull your noses out of peoples lives and let them eat, drink and smoke what they want.  Just like you want for your selves.  And as for you conservatives out there, I meant just that:  whatever they want, even if it’s not made by your friends over at Phillip Morris or Bacardi.

The first vice we should worry about is our unhealthy addiction to hypocrisy.

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Here’s a way to help with the deficit: a 100% tax on Wall Street bonuses


After bailing them out of the hole they dug for themselves with shovels they stole from middle class investors, tax payers are pissed off about the crazy bonuses Wall St. firms are awarding themselves this year.  Wall St. is finishing up a strong year, but lets no forget that this was accomplished with Federal money.

A little glimpse into how greedy and immoral these fat cats really are is with the reason they give for being able to award such large bonuses: so many of them have been laid off or incarcerated that everyone else gets a bigger slice of the pie.  Even though many of the remainder should be out of work themselves, if not in jail, they are able to stuff millions of bonus dollars under their mattresses (can’t trust the banks, now can they?)  Why do they deserve these rewards? It’s not like they are providing a benefit to the country and I can’t think of any jobs they are creating.

Because of these selfish Scrooges, a lot of Americans, if they are fortunate enough to be employed, are not getting Christmas bonuses this year, if ever again.  So, I say the Feds should tax the banker’s bonuses, every penny,  and then use it to help fund extended unemployment benefits. They should be able to muddle through on their six figure salaries.

Merry Christmas Mr. Potter.

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What’s all the fuss about anyway? I mean, the firemen were only following orders.


Hm. That sounds vaguely familiar.

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The story of the Good Samaritan, Tea Party style


On one occasion Jesus was talking and said” Love your neighbor as you would love yourself”.

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.  “And what would that look like, pastor?”

Jesus  looked at him and smiled. “Why don’t you tell me?”

“OK,  a trucker was going up to Troy from Nashville, when he fell into the hands of hijackers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and left him beside his rig, half dead.

“A preacher happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a county councilman, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Tennessee State Trooper, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

He called in the man’s license plate number and found that he had not paid his Emergency Service Fee.  So he turned his Crown Vic around and drove away.”

“Hm. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” asked Jesus

The expert in the law replied, “Well, they all were.  But he’d made his choice, now he just has to deal with it himself”.

“So, that’s what is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “That’s how you read it? Nothing else?”

The man answered:” Of course. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

“And?”

“Oh, and make sure that you take care of yourself, that you  are responsible for your own actions and hold others accountable for theirs.  So no one gets anything they don’t pay for.”

“You just don’t get it,” Jesus replied.

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