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Showing posts from 2016

The Greatest Enemy of the Spirit of God is...

[I was going to title the blog post as "The Greatest Enemy of Religion," since it is pithier; but the point isn't truly Religion's enemy, as an institution...and I like Spirit instead of God because Spirit is more numinous, more hazy: God cannot be a "being" but must be seen as more of a verb--so say I.]

The greatest enemy is...The Bible.

Now, it doesn't have to be, need to be; but it currently is the greatest enemy. I am going to use a metaphor that Timothy Beal uses in his  book, "The Rise and Fall of the Bible." Professor Beal compares the Bible (which he notes in the sixth chapter of that book, which I like quite a bit, is actually a mistranslation as the original Greek ta biblia truly means the scrolls, or the books) to a rock which people cling to, unchanging, hard, a foundation we can firmly stand on. Or...we could choose to see it as a river, which can carry us onward, to a journey that we leap into, that carries us to unknown places …

God is in control

God is in control.

So say the evangelicals after the Trump election. So says Michael Gerson albeit in a more honest and intellectual way (I have pasted his column to the end of this blog). And so say I, though with a different inflection, a different meaning entirely, from the Christian Right.
Today I saw that, while traveling in a plane to the finals in Colombia, the Brazilian soccer team, Chapacoense, crashed and all but three team members and some from the crew perished. God is in control.
God is good, all the time. So says the evangelical Right.
Aleppo battle continues. 16,000 civilians flee.
God is in control. God is good. All the time.
Think of the God of the Now. Think of His presence throughout all the created universe, His influence, His power, His essence. Where is this God, this He? Nowhere. Not in heaven, which is not a place any telescope can point out; not on Mars or any star; He is not in the Kuiper Belt or in the sun or on the dark side of the moon, hiding. 
He is not a He…

So what the heck is evangelical Christianity?

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So what is evangelical Christianity? There are the basics, or five fundamentals (or more depending on your particular denominational flavor): Biblical inspiration and the impossibility of error within scripture; the virgin birth; Jesus' atonement for sin; bodily resurrection of Jesus; belief in Jesus' miracles.

Okay, so that is a beginning.

But at some time, not sure when but probably around the mid-century, something else happened, something that created a sub-set of fundamentalism: the evangelical movement. They still liked the five F's but seemed squishy regarding other non-fundamentalists, more likely to reach out, as Billy Graham did, to the youth. Youth for Life and like-minded organizations sought out the young with rock concerts (Christian rock concerts, but still) and Bibles that emphasized paraphrastic interpretations, emphasized form over content one might say. In his book, The Rise and Fall of the Bible, Timothy Beal, a professor of religion at Case Western Re…

Epilogue

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“Our names may perish” said the boy, Kolya, at the funeral of the little peasant boy, Ilyusha, in Dostoevsky last masterpiece. And they will. Time will fly on by, like the sparrows that the boy wished to flock to his grave, to keep him company.
The election now seems like a funeral, so that is why the reference to The Brothers Karamazov. And for those who dislike veiled references, I point out that the progressive movement which hoped to push the nation into the future space of its past promises, Ilyusha, the poor peasant boy struck down by a mixture of peasantry and bad luck, is that very same progressive movement; a movement that hoped to quell the poverty and homelessness of a sick, anti-Christian austerity, heal the earth from a despoilment of over a century of greedy oilmen, and finish the social movement built on equality and fairness for all: gays, refugees, immigrants, Muslims, and the transgendered.
It was all going so well. Until it wasn’t.
Now we face the shovelfuls of dirt …

What might the Church look like without a steeple, without a door?

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The churches where I live are experiencing highs and lows. Most have decreasing congregations, and whether they are so-called Bible-believing churches or more liberal mainline, it doesn't seem to matter. The Southern Baptists have for the past few years come into New England with an influx of leadership and money and are attempting a large church planting effort. Hundreds of small churches are being seeded here in New England. But these are pitiful efforts (just speaking honestly). They involve grabbing some Bible believer and trying to make a pastor out of him (it is always a man). The congregation might just be his family. A cynic could be forgiven, I think, for suggesting these plantings are an effort to show the hand of God on some spreadsheet handed around a table back home in the more fertile fields of the South: See! The Hand of the Lord is at work in New England!

New Englanders have voted with their feet. They do not like going to church. Not on Sunday, not on Wednesday, …

What is required of us, as Christians?

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Is Evangelical Christianity the worst evil ever manifested by humanity, as averred by a recent online article? No, I do not believe that. I put that in there to manifest not its inherent evil but to 1) prod the reader; and 2) to bring up the underlying premise of that article: what is required of a Christian?

The blog's author, CK Ratzer, basically states that nothing is required. Christ has given his Grace once and for all and the Law is without effect (this is the antinomian view, from anti=against; nomos=law). That is the Good News. He then postulates that Evangelical Christianity preaches a "mixed" gospel, one of repentance and grace, then one of required action, action that never accumulates into goodness, but is a cause of guilt and shame and never-ending judgmentalism.

Anyway, I didn't want to argue what he has already argued. Read the article and see for yourself.

As to what is required...

We know that "repent" is a mis-translation. It may well be,…

Who are you, and what am I?

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The philosophy of self is one of those nitty-gritty subjects that Hume and Kant and Descartes liked to discuss. What is the self? And why is that at all important?

It is important to me personally in that a main tenet of my religion--which up until a few years ago (not sure how I would describe it today...perhaps progressive Christian) would be described as evangelical protestant--was that one needed to be "born again." Also, obviously, having a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior. Other creedal beliefs were also thrown in (the Bible being inspired by God, the miracles of Jesus, the virginity of Mary, the belief in scripture).

So that was "me." But what if "me" were not me? What was the "me" of me? If anything? If I could not answer that question, then in what sense could I say, for instance, that I was an evangelical Christian? That I was born again, that I was destined for union with God? If I could not answer that question,…

Creepy Nationalism

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Poor Poughkeepsi. They had to take a flag off a fire truck. Seems most fire trucks weren't built to hold a flag and somebody thought that perhaps it is not the best place for display. But now outrage has set in. Once a flag goes up it is such a delicate matter to take it down. Another example of the creeping fascism within this country. Don't have a flag on that fire truck? Well, why do you hate America? Every photo opportunity for every candidate for public office now has the guy or gal standing before a dozen or so flags. Flag lapel pin? Check. Flag tie clasp? Check. Flag underwear? Check. If you're caught on the beach somewhere and you are a public employee you better have your flag swim wear. Oh, and gymnasts everywhere, when that anthem plays you better hurry up and stand with your hand over your heart (which got its start in the 1940s due to the prior stance of the Bellamy Salute--essentially the Mussolini/Hitler salute--being, well, deemed less suitable), otherwise …

The Church in an Age of Doubt

"Science, in other words, thrives on anomaly, inconsistency, controversy, and doubt. Certainty kills it."
Hans Christian Von Baeyer, Discover, Mar.'96

Finessing the Green Vote?

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Sanders' supporters, take heed! A write-in vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump! A vote for Dr. Jill Stein is a vote for Trump! Or so we hear. (Way too often.)

And yet a vote for Hillary is a vote for the corrupt DNC. What to do?

Up to this moment I've stood against the tide and advocated a vote for conscience. A moral stand for whomever you felt should be president. And if everyone did that--if everyone was informed--my guess is that Jill Stein would make a run for it. But the vast majority of people do not even know her name. Do not even know there is something called a Green Party.

The media has black-balled her. No debates. Few interviews. Of course this is a chicken and the egg problem: She cannot get traction unless she gets some of the free corporate media bestowed on Trump. (The reader is left to form his/her own opinion if this has anything to do with Stein's anti-corporate platform.)

Would Stein's platform appeal to all those millennials who supported Bernie? …

Is Franklin Graham a Christian?

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Franklin Graham is the son of America's leading evangelist, Billy Graham, and runs Samaritan's Purse, a Christian international relief organization. He also runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic organization and he gets a hefty compensation package for both, totally over $880,000 per year (last figure reported in 2015). So we can assume it is higher than that at the present time.

That figure is in the upper tier of compensation packages for mega-pastors and their ilk. Some such as Pastor Rick Warren "reverse tithe" and give much of their salaries back to various charities and their own congregations. Graham has said that he is not doing so in order to accrue enough money so that he can work for free when he is 70. One wonders how much work he will be doing at that age.

It must be said that Samaritan's Purse receives a high rating by Charity Navigator, despite Graham's salary being about 50% higher than average for aid organizations such as Graham's. His sal…

The best 7 minutes on gun control by the Virtual President

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Bill Whittle, aka the Virtual President, created several years ago a speech where he pretends he is speaking to Congress. The speech concerns the rights of gun owners, and the 2nd Amendment in general. And boy is is viral. If you are on Facebook, you've probably seen it.

The beginning is hokey, sure. There are shots throughout of various members of Congress seemingly listening to this presidential speaker. The only thing missing was "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims" line. But, it is kind of effective, at least for those already in the guns-are-cool camp.

The first appeal (one cannot really call it an argument) is that violence and insanity is built-in, innate, and there is nothing that can be done. Well, except focus our laws on those things...but if they're innate then what is to become of that? Oh, well. This tends to create a focus on mental illness. As a country we treat mental illness by throwing people in jail. Our two largest mental …

The New Christianity, La Iglesia Nueva

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Much of what I have lately posted has to do with a general criticism of the current state of the Christian church. I have criticized it for its dogma and doctrinalism, its closed-mindedness, and its adherence to anti-scientific principles.

It's all well and good to point out the weaknesses within a movement or organization; but without a perspective on what might replace it or at least remedy it, then what good has been done?

If the Church is now dead or dying, if it is a mere matter of a generation or two from disappearing, it would be well to begin the work of the New Church, la iglesia nueva (I've recently begun to learn Spanish, and here I thought a different language might underline the near complete break with the past that I see as necessary: queria destacar una ruptura completa!).

Although I've only just begun to formulate these ideas, I think that the New Church must have within it certain descriptors:

1) "There is no religion higher than Truth." This, …