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Wednesday, December 14, 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 in unknowable ways, if we let it. If we stop clinging to what it is we think we know.

But I do not advocate forgetting it, or burning it or anything drastic like that. The Bible is valuable; it is necessary to read it to understand history and the current political situation; it is valuable spiritually if only for the parables of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount and many of what the historical Jesus said (one does have to realize that there is an historical Jesus, the man-Jesus, and another Superman-Jesus) as well as Psalm 23 and the Song of Solomon and many, many other writings within it.

The Bible is the enemy of the Spirit because religions keep teaching that it is unchanging, that it is fixed, that it is inerrant, has no discrepancies--is sufficient. The more you study the Bible for yourself, without the leading hand of some study manual or pastor, the more it becomes obvious that this is not history, and is not inerrant. We've been sold a pig in a poke.

Ever since the New Criticism of the mid-nineteenth century (cf Julius Wellhausen and Essays and Reviews, 1961) we have learned bit by bit that there is no original Bible. There are many variants. The variants do not always agree. They've learned that the Torah is not one story but several all melded into one, being pieced together by different factions.

And we've learned that there was no actual Eden, no real Adam or Eve (or Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, or Noah). Archaeology has not been kind to the Bible. Sure, it has found evidence for certain important events, such as the existence of many cities and civilizations mentioned in the Bible. However, the Noah's Ark, exodus, the First Temple, the wandering in the desert...nope.

They have learned that the Gospels are sometimes historical and sometimes not so much; you have to be careful to apply the tools of historical scholarship to the New Testament before saying that Jesus said this or that (cf Bart Ehrman). They have learned that Paul did not write all the letters ascribed to him. They have learned that Revelation was not written by John of the Gospel, nor did John the son of Zebedee, write the Gospel of John. Who wrote the other Gospels? No one knows.

If you read the Bible in parallel versions you will realize that discrepancies not only exist, they are everywhere. You will be unable to square certain sections such as the account of Genesis (there are two in Genesis but another in Job and another in Proverbs), which robe was placed on Jesus (the scarlet or the purple?), who saw Jesus and when at the resurrection (and where did he go and to whom did he go?), and you will be unable to account for modern scientific theories (evolution, the theory of gravity in Jericho's demise in Joshua...though alternate reading for that merely could allow for a long day's light...but still the Bible is still contradicting itself when it states that God allowed himself to be influenced by man for the first time here: "there has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice."  Um...wrong. Cf Moses, cf Abraham.) And if any book will turn you away from God it's probably Joshua, where we are given a description of God that can be likened to Stalin.

That isn't to say you cannot find God in the Bible. You just have to be discriminating. The Song of Solomon. The Sermon on the Mount. Psalm 23. Genesis (if you don't allow yourself to treat it as some sort of scientific treatise). The parables. There's a lot of great stuff here. Don't ignore it. And don't pass it all off as the skeptics often do, throwing out the baby with the bath water.

God is in there, but he is hidden.

To reveal Him in the Bible you can do the same thing that you do when you reveal Him elsewhere: stop looking for Him as a Him (or a Her or an It) and start looking for the verb, the action, the love: love as action, moving through creation: love as creative action. That is God.

The Bible has become, in the hands of evangelical conservative Christians, a house of cards that has already fallen. It came against science and science won. It came against historical criticism and the latter won. To rely on this version of the Bible, the one of literal truth, is to plant one's foot squarely on the brakes of any future revival of Christianity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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. But He who is not a He is in control and is always So God-awful good?

"God is a verb, not a noun."--Buckminster Fuller. Why isn't that obvious? He is not an old man, he is not some angel; it is not a he nor a He. Nor is he a She. Even in that dusty tome, The Holy Bible, God says to Moses I am that I am (Ex 3:14), which is a verb. I have read that in the Hebrew the phrase can be considered as conflating all the tenses of the verb "to be," past, future, present.

God is good. All the time.

Three army personnel killed in terror attack in Nagrota, India.

Where is God when a child is suffering? When a child with cancer is undergoing certain chemotherapy treatments, that child suffers torment; it is the same as if someone were torturing her. The child, she screams, screeches. The father can do nothing. Except weep. 

God is good. All the time.

Where is God then? In the space-less heavens? Where? It is the wrong question. God is nowhere. God is a verb; God is what is alive, God is creation as it is creating itself. 

There is no goodness in God except for what is becoming. There is no control from God except for what is and is to come. 

To be is not about happiness. It is merely to be. 

Perhaps we expect too much of God.  
The Michael Gerson column is pasted below: 

Among the disappointments of the 2016 election, the close identification of many evangelicals with a right-wing populism has been the most personally difficult. On Election Day, it was disturbing to see so many of my tribe in Donald Trump’s war paint.
The most enthusiastic Trump evangelicals have taken the excesses of the Religious Right in the 1980s not as awarning but as a playbook. In this political season, they often acted more like an interest group seeking protection and favor than a voice of conscience. They blessed an agenda that targeted minorities and refugees. They employed apocalyptic rhetoric as a get-out-the-vote technique. And they hitched the reputation of their religious tradition to a skittish horse near a precipice.
As a citizen, Ihope that the faith many evangelicals have placed in the Trump administration is justified. As a commentator, I expect a tunnel at the end of the light.
It is part of my job to have strong opinions on public matters. But lately I have been conscious of a certain, unwelcome symmetry. When it comes to Trump evangelicals, I have found myself angry at how they have endorsed the politics of anger; bitter about the bitter political spirit they have encouraged; feeling a bit hypocritical in my zeal to point out their hypocrisy. A dark mood has led to anxiety and harshness.
This is the mortal risk of politics: to become what you condemn. It is not limited to one side of our cultural and political divide. Religious conservatives, for example, are typically attacked by liberals for being preachy and sanctimonious. But televangelists have nothing to teach the cast of “Hamilton.” In my case, I know — in calmer and clearer moments — that an attitude of fuming, prickly anxiety is foreign to my faith, for a couple of reasons.
First, Christian belief relativizes politics. The pursuit of social justice and the maintenance of public order are vital work. But these tasks are temporary, and, in an ultimate sense, secondary. If Christianity is true, C.S. Lewis noted, then “the individual person will outlive the universe.” All our anger and worry about politics should not blind us to the priority and value of the human beings placed in our lives, whatever their background or beliefs.
Christianity teaches that everyone broken, sick, and lonely — everyone beneath our notice or beneath our contempt — is, somehow, Christ among us. “He is disguised under every type of humanity that treads the Earth,” said Dorothy Day. I suspect this also applies to Trump supporters — or never-Trumpers, depending on your political proclivity. “Those people” are also “our people.”
We show civility and respect, not because the men and women who share our path always deserve it or return it, but because they bear a divine image that can never be completely erased. No change of president or shift in the composition of the Supreme Court can result in the repeal of the Golden Rule.
Second, Christians are instructed not to be anxious —“take no thought for tomorrow” — because they can trust in a benevolent purpose behind events. This may, of course, be a delusion, though it would be a mass delusion affecting most of humanity through most of history. If the atheists are correct, the universe is vast, cold and silent, indifferent to the lives and dreams of jumped-up primates crawling on an unremarkable blue ball, destined for destruction by a dying sun — a prospect that may be even worse than a Trump administration.
If Christians are correct, that blue ball was touched by God in a manner and form that Homo sapiens might understand. And the vast, cold universe is really a sheltering sky.
Days away from the start of Advent, many Christians are beginning their spiritual preparation for God’s implausible intervention. Advent is a season, wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his prison cell, “in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside.” For believers, Christmas culminates the remarkable story of a God who searches for us. The only adequate responses are stillness, gratitude and trust.
After a dismal and divisive campaign season, many of us need the timely reminders of the Advent season: That people matter more than all our political certainties. That God is in control, despite our best efforts. And that some conflicts can’t be won by force or votes — only by grace.
• Michael Gerson’s email address is

Friday, November 25, 2016

So what the heck is evangelical Christianity?

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 Reserve Univ at the time of the publication of his book, shows that there has been a definite slippery slope toward the promotion of the Bible over the sanctity of the Bible.

Evangelicals also emphasized the "born again" experience, and the relationship with Jesus. They were true Lutherans in the original sense, believing stridently in salvation through faith by the grace of God's gift of Jesus' death and resurrection. There is a strong attraction to end times (we are always, it seems, living in the end times...until we aren't) and dispensationalism. There is also a strong tendency to judge: Gays have not been known to flock to evangelical churches (neither have any LGBTQ people).

The term, however, is difficult to really pin down. Mainline Christian churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church and even the Catholic Church (decidedly looked askance at by evangelicals) have the appellation "evangelical." Evangelicals will use the term, at least in the US, to differentiate themselves from other mainline churches, and Catholics.

There is a cultural difference, too, it seems to me. Evangelicals are largely white, and fervent nationalists, fervent capitalists, Republicans all (I am aware of something called Progressive Evangelical Christianity but it seems so far afield from what I experience in the evangelical world that I do not speak of it here), and also largely of the Tea Party/Libertarian sort.They are chiefly set in the South. But inroads have been made even in New England where an evangelical college has been started, the New England Baptist College and the Southern Baptist Association has helped to plant churches all through New England but mostly Vermont, seen as a bellwether of insidious liberalism (if they can grow churches in Vermont, one can hear them say, they can grow them anywhere).

Evangelicals love football, sports of all kinds, hunting, conservative politics, and prayer. Prayer is a biggy. Not the sort of prayer that Kierkegaard spoke of (The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays) or squishy meditation, but healing prayer, prayer that changes the lives of others and even the world. It is said often that the most important thing we can do for the nation, for the planet, for one's neighbor, for one's church, is to pray. God is always in control, you see? Nothing happens without the hand of God in it. But what of disease, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamies, war, torture, starvation, injustice... but why ask these pesky questions. God is in control!

Revival is a popular topic. Waiting and praying for revival. End times, as I previously mentioned, is another.

Climate change is not really a concern to evangelicals. Why would it be if we are living in the end times, if the new kingdom of God is just around the corner. Heck, all of politics is pretty much just a forerunner to the coming of Jesus--some even think that we can egg on God to get this going faster by pricking the Israel-Palestine conflict. Get that temple built!

All this comes at a cost. The kind of society that Jesus was teaching us about, caring for one's neighbors, peaceful but progressive change, helping the homeless the poor, widows, orphans, children, making sure everyone has healthcare, treating everyone equally and with respect, all these problems have solutions; but these solutions are not seen as necessary if we have another New Kingdom coming around the corner. Why bother changing the world if Jesus is coming tomorrow?

This is why I see evangelical Christianity as something to be fought against, something to be argued against, something to be at war with. It is one thing to believe prayer can alter the course of the universe by convincing the Creator that, Hey, that girl with diabetes should really be treated better don't you think? Those being tortured by ISIS can use a helping hand 'cause apparently you forgot about them; it is one thing to think that scripture was written by God's hand (or his inspiration whatever that truly means); it is one thing to think Jesus is coming in glory tomorrow; but it is quite another to ignore the present danger of climate warming that will destroy the lives of billions. It is quite another to ignore inequality that takes food from the mouths of children. It is quite a different thing altogether to be pro-birth but care not one wit about children drinking lead and other poisons and breathing in mercury from coal stacks, or starving, or just plain dying because their parent don't have any health insurance.

Evangelicals have also aligned themselves so fervently with the GOP that they voted (more than 81%) for Donald Trump, who cannot even be described as a Christian, let alone an evangelical. They previously voted for Romney, a Mormon, a religion evangelicals do no even consider Christian. It does not matter that Trump proved a liar, a philanderer, a man of no morals, a cheater, a xenophobe, a sexual predator. Didn't matter that his wife posed naked for a lesbian photo-shoot (I personally have no problem with the photos; but evangelicals show their hypocrisy when they don't). Didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was the "R" next to his name. It should be scarlet, and it should have been a "P" for Power.

And this is why I will no long ever consider myself an evangelical Christian.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


“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 pouring down on our shocked faces.

Not forever. But long enough. At least for a generation. Until this pitiful “Boomer” generation has passed on and we make space for our children and our childrens’ children, only then can the earth hope for some respite from our clawing, grasping hands. Has there ever been a generation more deserving of its name perishing?

The world needed one more “greatest generation.” It got instead one that can be described as miserly and measly. Another conservative court will abscond with its corruptible Citizens United verdicts, its shackling of the EPA, its allowance of Republican voter fraud (known as gerrymandering).

The novel ends hopefully. Alyosha, the true hero of the novel, spiritual heir of the author, expounds on the beauty within the ties of humanity, how they will remember their friend forever, will remember their brotherhood on that day, when they stood around the grave, humbly, together in humanity and love.

Dostoevsky hoped for great things from his countrymen. Love, brotherhood. One generation after his death came the 1917 revolution and decades of death and repression. Standing over the grave of the progressive movement, after this victory of an alt-right racist, misogynist, and it also must be said, idiot, we can remember our brotherhood as Alyosha did. That is what I prefer. But I wonder about the revolution of 1917. The progressives will always be a force. Now though one does have to wonder if it is all just too late.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

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

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, not on any day of the week ending in "y." Though they might still have some vague reverence for the Bible they do not read it. They do not know its contents (that might be a good thing as it does contain some bits that are contradictory and less than what most consider "Godly" acts).

Is it time to double down and thump our dusty Bibles? Or has that time simply passed? I say that the time has passed.

There has been some nascent efforts to bring a virtual church to the masses. Most have failed. Today's pastors just do not think it Biblical. They see the Church as having to be physical, having to be a place where physical bodies congregate and where the sacraments can be administered, such as baptism. They are stuck in the sola scriptura mode of thinking. They have made an idol out of the Bible; it has them in shackles.

It is my opinion the time has passed for the physical Church. If the Church is to continue it has to be re-made, totally; it must not even resemble the Church of the past hundred or so years. It must be spic-span-tastically re-done. For the Church to evolve it has to contain the following characteristics:

  • Relegate the Bible to archive status;
  • Create different models for different types of people;
  • Use the internet to create a network, local and international, of friendships and co-workers;
  • Rely on local models for local face-to-face interactions;
  • Become flexible in terms of meeting places and ideologies and times.

When creating that list I could not decide on what the future Church needed as far as leadership structure was concerned. Top-down? Bottom-up? Who would be the spiritual leader and how would it be decided? Who would structure the workings of the church? How would this work itself out? Not sure. So I leave that for another day.

The central focus is on the second bullet point (I will skip the first for now as it is the most controversial, but for a peek at how some see the Bible in a modern light see the blog: ) Different models for different types of people is a key point. In thinking about this I wanted to describe within the context of a metaphor how this might work. I've settled on the image of a forest.

We have a scene before us, from a bird's eye view, a large tract of wooded area, softwoods, hardwoods, streams with gullies and hilltops. Depending on the type of person you are, you can view this forest differently. There will be searchers, educators, poet-artists, builders, philosophers, biologists, climatologists ('ologists of all stripes). To strip the classification down to a core grouping, let's say they are:

  1. Educators
  2. Builders
  3. Poets
The Educators are within our forest church to teach and to learn. They point out the different meanings inherent within the areas of the forest, make analogies, and offer references to past teachings that further the understanding of the whole.

The Builders take the material of the forest and build new things, new buildings, new structures, that hold together and offer shelter and safety and opportunities to grow.

The Poets reveal the hidden dimensions of the self and how the self inside the forest is not really a self, but everyone; they take us by the hand and show us hidden paths that seem to be not paths leading outside us but paths leading within.

The map of this church/forest is not the Bible: at least, for us in the New Church it isn't; we don't always use the Bible for our map. Sometimes we do. Some of us choose a canon within a canon, like Luther did, and use that to show that our New Church is much like the old, or at least not quite as dissimilar as some say it is. But it is rarely used as the only map. Rather we live in the forest, and find our way by experience, by living there, by noticing things, by being aware.

But how is this Christian? Mustn't we still use the Gospel as our base? Well, yes. But the Gospel comes from the Spirit, through Jesus. We can see the Gospel in Buddha--yes, yes we can. We can see the Gospel in Lao-Tsu. We can see the Gospel in every nook and chink of space and time. But don't we have to emphasize that others are wrong? That others don't knock at the correct door? No. We actually don't. Not if Jesus is in fact the Christ, we don't. So stop worrying so much over it. Let it go. Let the question remain, and the answer pass away like a morning mist.

What if instead of studying the Bible on Wednesday nights, churches studied Dostoevsky? Or Melville? Or Goya? Or Mozart? In art we are shown ourselves, as we are and as we might be. We see the forest for the trees. And instead of studying Dostoevsky in some building which needs electricity and heat we meet in a Google Circle? Or a Facebook group? What if instead of a tithe we funded a Go Fund Me page for people in need, some we know, others we don't? What if instead of meeting on Sundays listening to a sermon on Jonah we met to repaint the homeless shelter? Or to repair someone's roof? We use the materials in our forest to build something and in so doing we create relationships and meaning in our lives.

What if some of us walked through our forest and discovered hidden meanings of who we are and what we were meant to be? The forest begins to teach us something of ourselves and our relationship not only to each other but to the world of nature. Some might see comparisons to what the Buddha taught, or Lao-Tsu.

And what if instead of handing someone a tract and asking if they know Jesus, we sent a Facebook friend request and shared an article about some bill making its way through a Congressional subcommittee (okay, not everyone is as interested in the machinations of Congress as I am).

I tend to think each Circle Church (tentative name) would evolve in its membership through time. Some would become almost evangelical in nature, its members wanting a traditional discussion of the Bible. Most would shunt the Old Testament aside and other than some mention of Jesus' words and a key teaching by Paul they would tend to the here and the now. Questions would arise. And that would be a good thing.

Questions are key for the new Circle Church: answers are to be avoided, at least hard and fast answers. We need to become familiar with living in the question. With answers we tend to pretend to know; and with this pretense we become hardened, and we fail to feel the "living waters" flowing over us. The trick is to be soft, squishy soft, to feel that sense of wonder that comes when you realize how little you know.

The danger is that we point fingers at others more answer oriented, those who see the Bible as a fundamental, as the literal Word. We can argue--we will lose. We will lose because you cannot, and should not, destroy someone's sense of mystery. The Bible, though some will see it as becoming an idol, is the touchstone for many. Leave it. Answer others with a question if need be. A question furthers the journey onward and leaves a space for others to come to you.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

What is required of us, as Christians?

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, as is often repeated, the worst translation in the Bible. The Greek is "metanoia," and it means a total transforming alignment with God. Not a feeling of sorrow for one's past transgressions with corollaries about never walking that path again. But let's say we have "metanoia'd" and we are born again into a heart-to-heart with the Creator-God. What then?

One might imagine a life lived sinless, expectation-less, without further wish fulfillment. Can you imagine such a life? Neither can I.

What I imagine is a life when one might experience the joy of metanoia, but it would be fleeting. It would be maddeningly short-lived, but it would remain in one's memory. It would have been life-changing; and we would always want it back.

How do we then live our life? Do we say, I'm born again so I am saved? Now to tell the others? What of my sins, which I know full well I'm going to commit, despite Paul's assurance that we can put it all aside? [And what do I think sin is? I think sin should more be defined by weakness, a failure to live one's life as one wants to live it in accordance to our joy in metanoia.]

Does sin/weakness mean I am no longer saved? Jesus said, Go, be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Paul said, basically, that the flesh is weak, the flesh sins ("nothing good dwells in me"), and but that the flesh isn't the "I" who sins but only the weakness of the flesh. Huh? This I think, is silly, and wrong. (As to my personal view of Paul's letters as scripture: they aren't. Paul apparently thought he was in the End Times and so I think he was attempting to be an apostle for Christ, to lead people to Christ, to explain things, but not speaking as God's Word: Why would he think of his letters as scripture if it was the time of Christ's return?)

It is weakness that lives in me, even after "metanoia." We are weak. But Grace has nothing to do with weakness. And it has nothing to do with belief (which I think really should be translated more as "trust"). A God that depends on belief --a rational, mental activity-- for being saved is not a God that I can imagine. No, belief would have nothing to do with it. It is a full-on trust; and this trust can be conceived (must in fact be) as acting on those who have no capacity for rational thought: the comatose, the mentally-handicapped. If a person with an IQ of 40 cannot be said to be saved then what is being saved for? God cannot require rational belief in order to save someone. I certainly reject such a God.

In order to envision trust, imagine a sleeping body floating in a pool. The person is incapacitated and held up by only a hand, the hand of another standing by the person's side. If the hand slips away, the person's body flips over, drowns. The mind does nothing for the grace. It is only the trust of the person for the other holding him/her that saves.

The person's body in the illustration is not an actual body: it is the person's oneness. Call it soul, spirit, essence. It does not rely on thought. It relies on the hand supporting it. The spirit trusts the hand of God. I think it might be this when we experience metanoia, joy. We sense it, profoundly, and at once. In the Now! [It should be mentioned that I believe it to be important to stress the "it might be this" of our little hypothesis...we have too much of the "this is that" kind of nonsense: we suppose, we guess, we wonder...we don't know squat.]

The weakness of the body --what others might call sin-- of ourselves, continues unabated in this life. We never get stronger. We can never rely on our actions to save us. Some have suggested that since we are sinful creatures we can confess our sins and then go on sinning...only to confess again. Once saved, after all, saved forever, right?

We are always floating in the pool. Always weak and almost drowning. The metanoia keeps us from drowning, the trust in the hand that holds us. To say as we just have, that we can confess and then go on sinning just misses the point: we are always sinning; we are always weak; we are always floating and in danger of drowning. Always. Being saved isn't like removing us from the pool. I know a lot of people think that it does, that we are then saved and we don't sin anymore, that we can just climb on out, say Whew! and be done. That just seems silly to me. It isn't the world that I know, at least.

I like this metaphor of floating, almost drowning, because the next question comes up quite naturally: Why do we drown? No, really drown, or die, or suffer? Where is that mysterious spirit hand then, eh?

Well, we die. We are all going to die; it is our fate. We don't like to think about it. We pretend we are going to live forever. Someday our last breath will be taken. We are saved --we experience metanoia-- in our life, while we live; it is not about any hereafter. It is about the Now! And perhaps every day there is suffering for us; there certainly is suffering all around us.

There are two human emotions that have the capacity to join us all together: Love, and Suffering. Both can have elements of selfishness. Love can veer toward desire, can be all-consuming to the point that we shut out the rest of the world. But Love can be enormous, can be world-wide in scope, it can be amazing. And strong! Suffering too can be identity focused. We are in pain and we think of ourselves and how we don't want to feel this way. But when seeing others suffer, and seeing them thus we feel their pain, we are drawn to them in that suffering: it is painful and it is awful in a way that is the complete opposite of Love. It reminds me of the taijitu symbol (yin-yang), opposites but inhabiting the whole.

The fact of our human suffering does cause many to reject God, reject Christianity. This may be wrong. We Love; we Suffer. This is being human. There is no escape. What is required of us, as Christians? Perhaps it is merely this: to Love, and to Suffer, and to reach after what joins all of us, the Now!, the metanoia, the joy.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Who are you, and what am I?

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, it seems to me, then these questions all became moot. And so the idea of Self is of particular importance...for anyone who holds certain faith questions near and dear.

First: Can I say what I am not? I think so; I am not a chair, not that hat hung on a post, not that cat linking its paws. I sense things, and this gives me a pretty good idea that I am a something that can be said to be not-that. (Maybe Hume and some others would disagree.)

Second: My idea of Self is mental. If I lose a leg, or both, or an arm or a finger, heck, a gall bladder too, I still can consider myself a self. This is a mental thing, the self. Unless we are transferring to the mind (whatever that is) merely the actionability of the brain, which can be considered just another organ, albeit one that houses the self. Is the mind merely the brain's activity or is it something else? Who knows? Let's assume it is the brain's activity since how in the heck are we going to prove otherwise?

Third: The self is my mind. But...the mind varies. And from what I read it varies quite a bit, that a "unified experience" only lasts a few seconds in the human being [Galen Strawson 1997]. We shouldn't assume that we are only one self; we might be multiple selves, even if these multiple selves are so closely related to one another that they blend continuously into one another (or seem to). From this it seems clear to me that we are indeed multiple selves. Certainly the "I" of my tenth year is different than the "I" of my twentieth year. It is very likely that each minute of each day of our existence has within it multiple selves. I doubt very much if the "I" of ten minutes ago is the "I" of my now.

Fourth: We are contingent beings. By this I mean that we can consider ourselves to be "what we desire to be" or even "what we desire to believe" or we can consider ourselves the net result of our decisions: we are the self of an act of decision. So we could say that that gentleman was the guy who decided on that occasion to sign up for the army and eventually become a veteran. Also, since employment is another popularly held view of our "self" he could be considered the gentleman who got his degree in electrical engineering while on a G.I. bill. Any decision we make really could work. But here is the rub: our decisions are contingent on many factors, pressures, that one day to the next change (and remember that we are probably different selves moment to moment). That would make our idea of self contingent. We become agents of chance, of our environment (and our natural tendencies, which though genetic, can still be agents of chance since we are from our birth chance creations through the machinations of DNA).

It is also important, too, to see ourselves as within a group, especially as within a religious group or cultural group. A Stanford encyclopedia article (to be read here if you wish) points out that there is new literature on the societal pressures that go into making one's idea of self. This seems common sense to me: the groups we belong to pressure us to conform to an identity; this pressure causes us to make decisions and to create in consequence a view of our "self" though it is only contingent on something outside ourselves (whatever "our self" can constitute).

The same article cites Velleman (1989) that shows that our desire to act in a certain way is influenced by how we predict we wish to act. Here:

Our desire to understand what we are doing, at the moment we are doing it, is usually satisfied, since our predictions about how we will act are themselves intentions to act, and hence our beliefs about what we will do are “self-fulfilling expectations”.
Thus we are what we wish ourselves to be. We want to be that hero depicted in some book and we base our expectations of our self on the prediction that this is to be our fate.

All this is to say that we are not what we seem. We live our lives pretending to be someone. Pretending to be part of one's chosen group, but that choosing itself was a result of some contingency. In the end we are fluid. The Tao Te Ching, in its first chapter:
The Way - cannot be told.
The Name - cannot be named.
The nameless is the Way of Heaven and Earth.
The named is Matrix of the Myriad Creatures.
Eliminate desire to find the Way.
Embrace desire to know the Creature.
The two are identical,
But differ in name as they arise.
Identical they are called mysterious,
Mystery on mystery,
The gate of many secrets. [A.S. Kline tranlator]

Could not this be speaking of the Self? Matrix of the Myriad Creatures?

But, so what? This question: When can I say I have achieved Myself? When can I say "I believe this!" or "I am born again!" We are acting, pretending, that we are making rational decisions that create our own being, and that this being is unchanging somehow (though we all recognize the mutable nature of being).

Am I born again? Do I believe in Jesus, the Christ? Am I the person who chose to wear a blue shirt this morning? But differ in name as they arise. Identical they are called mysterious. 

We ask questions of people, spiritual questions, that no one can answer honestly. So we should stop asking these questions. Or, asking them, expect no answer, and if an answer does come, expect it to float away. What is there but to look into the eyes of another, and try to see oneself? Isn't that what Jesus meant when he tasked us to love one another? Another non-self, mysterious, a gate of many secrets.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creepy Nationalism

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 you'll be pilloried, cursed at, and generally demeaned by all those good flag-wearing people out there. Right, Gabby (but why wasn't Michael Phelps similarly pilloried--oh, yeah, he's a white guy)?

And by the way, where is your Bible?!

There are citizens of this country that do not feel they need to wear a flag or have one within ten paces every moment of their waking day (nor to sleep under flag-decorated bedspreads) in order to feel proud of their American heritage. That should be okay. There are also some people who feel that there is a problem with displaying the flag overmuch, that this reeks of fascism and a tendency to be hypercritical of anyone daring to point out deficiencies within our nation. This is highly ironic, since those on the far-right (do we need to say "far-right" anymore since that is the only locale on the entire right-wing political spectrum?) commonly criticize this nation. Indeed, the left has now become the arbiters of a neo-Reaganism with regard to national oaths if the recent Democratic convention is any example. 

If you do not display the flag that doesn't mean you hate America. It doesn't mean you disrespect veterans. It probably just means you think the American flag should be displayed at grave sites on Memorial Day, on public buildings, and at memorials. Not on fire trucks. Not on underwear. Not on swimming trunks. Heck, most of the time, a flag just isn't necessary to be in view. I so wish we could get rid of the flags that serve as a prop backdrop for candidates.

Let's not turn the flag into an ornament of discord--Francis Bellamy (socialist Christian minister that he was) wrote the Pledge of Allegiance so that the North and the South could have something to rally behind, to be united under. Hatred, it seems is always the disease of the nationalist. Do we really need to wrap it up in a flag, hang it on a cross, and salute it?

Friday, August 05, 2016

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Finessing the Green Vote?

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? Of course it would: the platform is even better than Bernie's for appealing to those with college loans and anyone concerned with the future of this planet.

But wishing doesn't make it so. We are left with a Corporate Clinton vs a Troglodyte Trump.

Both would harm the nation; both are false choices. No one wins with either candidate.

I have been lectured to that this is not the time to throw in with the Greens. Work for the Green Party in off-year elections, build up support little by little. Now is too dangerous, what with Trump threatening our very stability as a country. We just cannot risk a Trump presidency, I am told.

Thing is, it is only during a presidential election that the focus can be put on the Green Party. In off years even Democrats don't turn out to vote. Does the average voter even know who their congressman is? No. Vice-President, even?

The typical American is ignorant of all politics. All economics. History. And that is the problem.

There has to be a focus--this year--on the Green Party. Bernie's supporters are too critical to lose. Next year they will go back to voting for corporate candidates within the Democratic Party. Now is the time to get the Green Party message out.


I can understand someone voting for Hillary in a purple state, such as Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina. But in a state like Vermont, like New York, or Hawaii, or Rhode Island or the District of Columbia, which will all run Blue for Hillary, these are the states where many more people are needed to vote Green. There is no --ZERO--chance of Hillary losing in these states. But if the Green Party could pick up ten percent of the vote it would be considered viable. The media would then have to turn the spotlight onto it. The movement would have a foothold.

And on the other side of the aisle, if you live and are a Bernie supporter in Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Oklahoma...your vote is meaningless. You and Hillary are going nowhere. But if the Green Party got a sizable increase in their vote tallies it would count a great deal. Trump still wins your state but a progressive voice has been shouted from the mountaintop. Believe me, the DNC will hear it.

And we would not be blamed (as Nader so often is, wrongly) for a possible Trump presidency.

The Greens can have their cake and it it too. It just takes a bit of finesse.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is Franklin Graham a Christian?

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 salary has not gone unnoticed by many within the Christian church. Some comments on Charity Navigator are as follows:

To Franklin Graham, "How much is enough for you?" It doesn't matter if you give much of it back to the ministry, why take it in the first place? Your children are grown, expenses must be modest at this stage of your life. Would you do the same work for less? If so, then why not take less? What other compensation do you receive? Allowances, vehicles, book royalties, etc. We fill 1,600 shoe boxes each year. You could fill a lot of these boxes with some of your income.

This is supposed to be a Christian based organization. I don't remember Yeshua comparing his salary to Pontius Pilate, saying it's not so much. Reminds me of Matthew 7:15--ravenous wolf anywone? Or Micah 3:11: ...her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the LORD's support and say, "Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us."

Samaritan's Purse has been connected with political support for anti-gay legislation in Uganda, other countries in Africa, and in Russia. This political work, far outside their core mission and focus, should be of concern to anyone donating to the charity and interested in where the money is really going.

Graham's actual salary is higher if you take into account that as a non-profit he is being subsidized by the government.

Franklin Graham is now touring America, going to all fifty states, holding prayer vigils for our politicians and candidates, so that Americans will support candidates who will support "biblical values." There is no political affiliation as such, however it can be assumed that "biblical values" does not include the Democratic Party or progressive ideals. Biblical values has long been code for supporting anti-gay legislation, anti-gay marriage (supporting the supposedly biblical definition of marriage as being one man, one woman except that there is no "biblical definition" of marriage), support for pro-discriminatory laws such as that attempted in Indiana, and of course anti-abortion laws. He has supported Republican candidates in the past but for this year's election he has stated he endorses no one, wishing only to get out the Christian vote in a "campaign for God."

He hasn't said if he believes Trump is a Christian (he said nearly the same thing regarding president Obama, which implied that he wasn't positive the President wasn't a Muslim either) and that voters needed to make that decision for themselves. He has supported statements that Trump as made in the past, particularly re the Iran treaty and the candidate's views on political correctness:

"This political correctness, everybody's afraid of offending somebody or saying something that's going to turn somebody else off. I mean it's terrible," Graham said.

This is a bit odd for a Christian pastor to say, since offending people is likely not to be considered along with loving one's neighbor. Franklin's own father, Billy Graham, always made certain not to offend people since this would take away from his chief ministry, leading people to Christ.

It is chiefly Graham's stance on supporting anti-gay rhetoric and legislation in Africa and Russia that leads some to question Graham's own christian beliefs. Would a Christian say, as Graham has, that President Putin, who cracked down on the gay community in Russia, has a better policy toward gays than our own President Obama? These laws have put the lives of gays within Russia in danger. [This has earned Graham his very own "Pukey" award.]

Samaritan's Purse has also been very active in South Sudan, and throughout Africa. Its support for the anti-gay agenda has put many people's lives at risk throughout the continent.

Christians often see a duty, an obligation to help the less fortunate, those in poverty, the sick, those seeking asylum. This comes from Jesus' own ministry (cf Matthew 25). However, Graham is very outspoken regarding the obligation of Americans to help immigrants coming from the war torn areas of the Middle East. He lauds Trump for his call for cutbacks --a ban-- on Muslim immigrants. He's fine with letting Christians in, but not others. Here is his Facebook post:
Four innocent Marines(United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga‬ yesterday including a policeman and another Marine--all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we've got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.
Samaritan's Purse no doubt has done its fair share of charity work in undeveloped areas of the world and during catastrophes. One does question how it can withhold aid though until after a half-hour or so prayer meeting. The people in El Salvador, after  enduring an earthquake, were told they would be shown how to construct shelters but were told to wait after a prayer meeting was held. It must be noted also, that these people were likely already Christians, as El Salvador is a Catholic dominated nation. But protestant evangelicals see Catholics as a field for harvest; you apparently can be Christian, but Christian of the wrong sort.

If one takes a broad view of Graham's activities, and his statements, one might conclude that he is no Christian at all. Remember Jesus' own words, "You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" The fruits of Graham have consistently been of hate and greed: grapes of thorns, one might say. That is not behaving as a Christian would behave, if one had truly undergone a transformative spiritual experience, which is what evangelicalism actually means. 

So is Graham a Christian? Perhaps. Let's have the voters decide. 


Friday, June 24, 2016

The best 7 minutes on gun control by the Virtual President

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 health facilities are the two gigantic prisons in Chicago and Los Angeles. It needs to be said that the mentally ill are not likely to commit violent crime with guns. Highly unlikely, in fact. To stigmatize them is to misdirect the discussion from the real causes to another, although it would be nice if mental illness were treated in this country with doctors and nurses, instead of with jails and guards.

"If you make things easier for predators you get more predators." So says our "Virtual President." He wants us to consider that if we take guns away from law-abiding folk then we just clear the aisle for the bad people. Better to have the path blocked by an AR-15 or some-such. And yet...

one might also claim that the more guns out there the more likely it is that people are going to die or be injured from those guns. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, says he would “bet a lot of money” that the prevalence of guns increases homicide, all other things being equal. “I think the evidence is very consistent with the notion that more guns have made us less safe.” But it’s “almost impossible” to prove a causal relationship. “All the data are consistent with a causal relationship, but it’s very hard to say anything is causal,” he says. [Taken from]

While gun enthusiasts will point to statistics showing a net decrease in some crime statistics they will often leave out the number of suicides committed with guns. The response to this is sometimes to say that someone hell-bent on killing themselves will simply jump off an overpass or some cliff if a gun isn't readily available. Wrong. Psychologists will tell you that having a gun at hand increases the likelihood of its use when undergoing a depressive episode. Guns that are available also increase the likelihood of accidental death in childhood injuries. Gun availability actually increases the likelihood of you dying from a gun--guns do not afford one protection, but increase your chances of dying.

As a recent Politifact story shows there is a general correlation between states that have restrictive gun laws and a reduction in gun deaths. Stanford professor, John Donohue states,  "Guns are a bit like chest x-rays. If you really need them, they can be helpful to have around, and even save lives. If you don’t need them, and yet are constantly exposed to them, they represent a constant threat while conferring little or no benefit." The LA Times also has an article showing quite conclusively that owning a handgun puts you at risk...and yet people are buying them in order to feel safer. 
The problem with this Old-West style of argument, the one that says that a guy carrying a gun can stop a bad guy on a rampage is that it simply is not true. Worse than merely not being able to stop a bad guy is that the supposedly good guy will just make things worse. We do have to add one proviso this this statement, however. While it is true that if that good guy with a gun happens to be a currently well-trained individual, that is trained in all aspects of the firearm as well as trained in combat situations, then you might be right. He might be able to help. But if that good guy with a gun is anyone else, anyone other than say James Bond or Jason Bourne then things are not going to go so well. It has been said, by police trainers, that unless you are trained--every month, repeatedly--you better not try and intervene in a situation involving a mass shooting. Bullets will fly, more innocent by-standers will be hit--heck, it is likely the good guy with a gun will end up shooting himself as he desperately tries to get his/her gun out of the holster.

And now we come to the figures trotted out by our Virtual President about all those crimes prevented by guns. Up to 2 million per year, so says the NRA. So where do they get that figure? Well, some Florida criminologist apparently does phone surveys...I know, scientific, right? But there is a place that actually attempts to answer the question, and it is called the VPC, or Violence Policy Center. And their figure isn't 2 million. Not 1 million, either. Not even 100,000. Try 67,000. And as a NY Times column states, that isn't nothing, but it sure isn't 2 million either. They also point out that there are only about 230 justifiable homicides per year in the US. Compare that figure to the number of firearm homicides (8,275) and then think about the number of gun-related suicides per year (21,000+), number of deaths caused by accidental discharge (500+) and the number of nonfatal injuries caused by guns (84,000+)...kind of puts it all in perspective, yes? 

Think of it this way: Imagine America as if it never had a 2nd Amendment. Let's say no one is allowed a rifle or handgun, and where police don't even carry weapons except when called upon in special force teams. All those injuries, all those deaths by suicide and accidental discharge deaths...they go away. Even the deaths caused by police discharge of weapons, they go away. There is, of course, a nation with this precise regulation of firearms. It's called England. They had 0.23 firearm deaths per 100,000 people per year on average. But I could have used another nation, could have stuck a pin at random in a map and as long as it fell on what we call a developed nation and not a third world state then the figure would have been lower--by a lot--than the US.

The speech then takes a bit of a weird turn. Our "president" says that despite what his argument has stated thus far gun ownership isn't prevention of crime (maybe he is remembering that he was using made up figures) at all. Oh no. But to prevent tyranny. He brings out false history speaking of Communist China and the Soviet Union, of Pol Pot and the Cambodian genocide, of Nazi Germany. And all that would be fine except it never happened.

Hitler actually loosened gun regulations. [The often trotted out quote supposedly from 1935 to prove Hitler's gun regulations is false.] True, he ended up taking guns from minority groups, mostly Jews. His point was to make it easier to subjugate them. He allowed the German people to own guns and he made it easier for them (think of the modern day NRA and the GOP). Now, if you think owning some rifles and pistols would have protected the Jews from Hitler I have a bridge in Florida I'd love to sell you cheap. 

The story of the Soviets and Communist China is another false analogy. When the Bolsheviks and the Maoists came to power it was due to their having guns that allowed them to fight a civil war...let's be clear about this. They weren't so much fighting tyranny as replacing regimes with tyranny. [One could regard the Czars as tyranny...I get that, but Lenin wasn't some softy.]

As to Pol Pot there simply is zero evidence for this charge that weapons were taken away. Zero. This is made up "evidence" to pile on a point. People do that when they truly have nothing else to offer.

Our Virtual President is great with a video editor; not so great as an historian. Worse, he trots out only those statistics that bolster his point, and others he just makes up. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The New Christianity, La Iglesia Nueva

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, some will remember, is the motto on the emblem of the Theosophical Society. The watchword should be: Is it true?

2) Jesus is many things to many people: Doctrine does not inform, it limits.

3) The Bible is among the great books of the world and it should be read and studied, but it is not any different in kind than other great epics, such as the Odyssey, the Iliad, the Aeneid, or The Brothers Karamazov or Don Quixote for that matter. All works are equally to be studied, all religions can teach. The Bible is not The Holy Word.

4) Art and Science are the chief means for spiritual inquiry.

5) The New Christian Church tears down walls, it does not build them. If an idea of a Temple is desired, it can be thought that the Earth or the Universe is that temple.

6) The New Christian Church is not a church of miracles, but of community. Prayer is not to be thought of as somehow influencing a theistic God, but is useful for meditation and influencing those that pray.

7) Questions are more important than answers; poetry greater than creed. All language is metaphor and translation.