Friday, December 24, 2004

WHEN IS FREE SPEECH NOT FREE SPEECH?

Why, when it's religious speech, of course. The International Bible Society sparked controversy when it paid for New Testaments to be included in a newspaper. Some, as you might imagine, are not happy:
hen the International Bible Society paid to insert a copy of the New Testament in last Sunday's issue of The Colorado Springs Gazette, it thought it had found an astute way to spread Scripture.

The volume went into the same pocket of the newspaper's plastic pouch where items like CD's from America Online or soap samples often go. The Bible group paid the standard advertising rate, and its spokeswoman, Judy Billings, said it considered the 91,000 copies of the New Testament a Christmas gift to the people of Colorado Springs....

Some Jews and Muslims said getting the New Testament with the Sunday paper felt like being proselytized in their homes. Journalism critics debated whether this was free speech or skating too close to an endorsement of a particular religion.

Does anyone assume the newspaper endorses Moe's Hardly Damaged Automobiles when he advertises? Well of course not. Thankfully, the paper's publisher seems to be a sensible fellow:
Bob Burdick, publisher of The Gazette, said that the paper regularly took advertising from religious and political groups, and that most readers understood that such advertisements did not amount to an endorsement of their ideas.

"We're not in the business of stifling ideas," Mr. Burdick said. "I don't think papers have to back away from ideas because they're religious ideas, just as they shouldn't back away from ideas because they're political ideas."

Some were a little silly about it:
Rabbi Anat Moskowitz* canceled her subscription to the Gazette because she didn't approve of the way the text was delivered.

"All Jews treat holy books with reverence and respect," Moskowitz said. "I don't like the fact that most people drive over their newspaper in the morning. We find that disrespectful."

Moskowitz and other worshipers from Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs didn't protest the giveaway per se, but have decided to give copies they received to local churches that want them.

Most astonishing to Moskowitz was that IBS spent $125,000 to distribute the New Testament rather than donate the money to a homeless shelter or some other needy organization.

"There are so many things that the money could be used for," she said. "There are families who cannot get through the week, let alone the day. Get them a box of food. Feed their bodies and their souls."

The rabbi also was disturbed that photographs of the city of Colorado Springs and other landmarks were printed on the cover as if to suggest the city is a Christians-only city.

Uh, yeah. It's the International Bible Society, Ms. Moskowitz, not Meals on Wheels. There are far too many churches already that would rather spend their time and energy handing out food for the body instead of food for the soul:
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus was quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3. Ms. Moskowitz would do well to read it and see if she's able to learn what the Israelites of that generation failed to.

But I've gotten off track. Ultimately I can think of no better evangelistic effort than giving someone a Bible. And that's what has the anti-Christians upset.

[*Obligatory woman preacher quote from Samuel Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."]
THE WORLDWIDE WAR ON CHRISTIANS

Columnist Michelle Malkin tells us that the secularist's war on Christmas is nothing to a war on Christians:
Around the world, a bloody, repressive war on Christians rages on.

In Iraq, Islamist rebel troops have declared open season on Christian churches, priests and missionaries. In February, four American pastors were traveling in a taxi near the capital when terrorists ambushed them. Rev. John Kelley, pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church in rural Rhode Island and a former Marine, was killed in the attack. The missionaries were starting up a new church south of Baghdad.

The article is enlightening and troubling. It makes me think of all the Christians I know who go to foreign fields to spread the gospel. Lord willing, I myself will be going on my first such trip in 2005. Pray for the safety of those who take the gospel, but pray more that the gospel will spread.

[Link via BuzzMachine via Instapundit]

Thursday, December 23, 2004

CANA'S WATER POTS

Archaeologists think they may have found Biblical Cana, site of Jesus's first miracle:
Among the roots of ancient olive trees, archaeologists have found pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine at a Jewish wedding in the Galilee village of Cana.

They think these could have been the same kind of vessels the Bible says Jesus used in his first miracle and that the site where they were found could be the location of biblical Cana. But Bible scholars caution that it will be hard to obtain conclusive proof — especially since experts disagree on the location of Cana.

Diggers at a rival site urged caution:
U.S. archaeologists excavating a rival site several miles to the north, however, also have found pieces of stone jars from the time of Jesus and think they have found biblical Cana.

Another expert, archaeologist Shimon Gibson, cast doubt on the find at modern Cana, since such vessels are not rare and it would be impossible to link a particular set of vessels to the miracle. "Just the existence of stone vessels is not enough to prove that this is a biblical site," and more excavations are needed, he said.

While the finding are interesting, it's always odd to me that these scientists seem to assume that if they dig up a shard in what might be Cana then it's bound to be from the water pots Jesus used. It's similar to the fellow who recently revealed the supposed cave of John the Baptizer--hey, it had some areas that look like they could have been used for baptisms! It must be John's cave.

I'm sure there were thousands of pots just like the one's used in Jesus's miracle in Palestine at the time. Who knows how many in Cana? I believe that Jesus certainly turned water into wine at Cana. I'd love for them to find the actual location of the city. We'll never know the site for the wedding or find those jars.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A PROBLEM OF PERSPECTIVE

In the middle of an article on the horrible and upsetting murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and theft of her baby was a startling loss of persective by someone who ought to know better:
The Rev. Mike Wheatly, pastor of First Church of God in Melvern [,Kansas], said he wrote his sermon about the birth of Jesus before details about Stinnett's death surfaced.

Titled, "A Baby Changed Everything," it had added relevance.

"You could've put the situation of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the same sermon because they are both special babies," he said.

Well, yes, they are both "special babies" but not in any sort of comparative sense. I understand getting caught up in the moment, but I think Wheatly might ought to read the source text of his sermon again.
THE SANTA DISCLOSURE

I was discussing with a friend of mine about whether we've allowed our children to believe in Santa. We both have, although my four year old seems hot on the trail of exposure. Having seen Santa thrice this holiday she told my wife after Santa visit #2, "Santa didn't seem to know me. He called me 'child' and not 'Haydon'." Perhaps better than the child my friend told me about who said in Bible class, "Daddy said there used to be a real Santa but he died. I want to pray for him."

The Mobile Register has polled southern Alabamians to find out when is the best time to tell children about Santa:
A new poll suggests that Alabamians have widely differing opinions about exactly when children should become more fully informed about the fellow they know as Santa Claus.

Eleven percent of respondents to the Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll said that children should be told before age 6, while 16 percent preferred ages 7 or 8. Another 16 percent said 9 or 10 is appropriate, according to the poll of 417 adult Alabama residents conducted Dec. 9-14.

If only my parents had seen this poll. I think they told me when I went to college...

Friday, December 17, 2004

THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS

We've seen how the Bible can be hate speech in Canada, in Philadelphia the Bible can be fighting words:
Four Christian protesters who demonstrated at a Philadelphia homosexual event face a possible 47 years in prison if convicted of felony charges filed against them, while a prosecutor referred to Scripture verses they read as "fighting words."

The four are part of 11 demonstrators who went before the Philadelphia Municipal Court in a preliminary hearing this week. Judge William Austin Meehan Tuesday ordered four of the Christians to stand trial on three felony and five misdemeanor charges....

It's not a pretty picture.

[Thanks to Susanna at cotb for the tip.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

POOR HERMENEUTICAL APPROACH

A woman who killed her baby by cutting off its arms was, ahem, 'guided' by the Bible:
A mother who admitted killing her baby daughter by severing the girl's arms was guided by a Bible passage, the woman's attorney said Tuesday.

In the passage, Jesus refers to cutting off body parts to cast away sin, said the lawyer, David Haynes.

Dena Schlosser, a 35-year-old housewife with a history of mental illness, has referred to the New Testament passage since the killing of her 10-month-old daughter, Haynes told The Associated Press.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Schlosser has been charged with capital murder.

Haynes said that Schlosser was mentally ill at the time of the slaying. Schlosser is still disoriented, he said, but is improving under medication.

Now, it's well to note that Jesus said "if thy hand offend thee, cut it off". He failed to mention that if your hand offends me I can cut it off. (Biblical interpretation hint: Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

DO BRITS KNOW WHERE JESUS WAS BORN?

Yes, most of them do, actually. This story seems to think it's news that "almost a third" don't. I'm shocked that many do!
Almost a third of people in the UK do not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to a survey published today.

Asked “Can you name the town where the Bible says Jesus was born?”, 28% of respondents did not know.

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov for Sky Box Office, also highlighted “You shall not kill” as the Old Testament Commandment people felt was still the most relevant to their lives.

This was followed by “Honour your mother and father”, “You shall not steal” and “You shall not commit adultery”.

The least relevant of the 10 Commandments was identified as “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me”.

Many theologians believe this was the Commandment Christ himself considered the most important.

The poll, which coincides with the UK TV premiere of the controversial Mel Gibson movie The Passion Of The Christ, was put together in consultation with The Very Reverend John Drury, Chaplain at All Souls College, Oxford.

It surveyed about 2,000 people on questions such as where Jesus was born, what happened on Easter Day, and who was the first man in the Bible.

I'm not the only one who was suprised they did as well as they did:
He added: “The questions were designed to be very basic but it is remarkable that 70% of all those surveyed gave correct answers. There have been times in the past when it might have been higher. However, Christian basics nowadays seems to be better than I expected.”

The survey is published just two days after the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, said that Britain would now be “hard-pushed” to be called a Christian country.

The research showed the over-50s fared significantly better than 18 to 29-year-olds when answering these knowledge-based questions:

Who is the first man in the Bible? (73% said Adam: 83% of church-goers; 70% of non-practising Christians);

Can you name the town where the Bible says Jesus was born? (72% said Bethlehem: 85% of church-goers; 71% of non-practising Christians);

What is the name of the special table normally found at the east end of a church? (61% said altar: 66% of church-goers; 62% of non-practising Christians);

Can you name the authors of the four gospels in the New Testament? (71% named Luke and John and 70% named Matthew and Mark: of church-goers Luke 80%, John 78%, Matthew 78%, Mark 80%; of non-practising Christians Luke 71%, John 72%, Matthew 70%, Mark 69%);

What was Jesus’s race or nationality? (71% said Jewish: 83% of church-goers; 72% of non-practising Christians;

According to Christian religion, what was supposed to have happened on Easter Day? (85% said the Resurrection: 92% of church-goers; 88% of non-practising Christians).

There may be hope for that bunch yet.

Monday, December 13, 2004

LDS 'DISFELLOWSHIPS' AUTHOR

The Mormons Strike Back, disciplining an out of line author:
After an exhausting six-hour disciplinary hearing Sunday, Mormon leaders temporarily suspended Grant H. Palmer's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Palmer, a longtime Mormon educator, was asked to defend himself on charges of apostasy stemming from his 2002 book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, which challenged traditional beliefs about the church's history.
The all-male priesthood leaders in his Willow Creek Sandy LDS stake could have excommunicated the 64-year-old author, but chose instead a lesser punishment - to "disfellowship" him - which means he may not enter the temple, serve in a church position, give a talk, partake of the weekly sacrament or offer a public prayer. This typically lasts about a year, but the length will be determined by his LDS stake president, Keith Adams, who may also spell out more conditions of the suspension in a letter sometime later this week. Palmer has the right to appeal the decision to higher church authorities.

What shocking things did Palmer write in his book (which has sold a staggering 3,000 copies):
In the book, Palmer argues that the faith's scripture, The Book of Mormon, reflects LDS founder Joseph Smith's own 19th-century environment, not ancient America as Mormons believe. He further suggests that Smith embellished his divine revelations to respond to critics and to stabilize the church.

This is in dispute somehow? Had Palmer concluded otherwise he would have been disfellowshiped by the historical community.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

INTELLIGENT DESIGN 'CONVERTS' ATHEIST

Long time English atheist Anthony Flew has become a believer in, at least, some sort of divine hand in creation:
A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew is far from being a Christian, however:
Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew's conclusion is an interesting one. Intelligent Design can be used as a wedge (see Johnson's The Wedge of Truth) to show that the heavens do indeed declare God's existence. Once that acceptance of God's general revelation of creation is made the next step is to gain acceptance of God's direct revelation of Scripture. Not all will do that, of course, but for a professional atheist like Flew to change is an amazing thing.
IN THE BEGINNING...

The Bible meets the Far Side is how artist Chris Sushynski describes his new comic strip, "In The Beginning...". I have to admit, this one's pretty funny.
HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA PULLING BACK?

I wouldn't risk a lot of money on it, but there is a struggle to come to grips with November's setbacks at the ballot box:
Leaders of the gay rights movement are embroiled in a bitter and increasingly public debate over whether they should moderate their goals in the wake of bruising losses in November when 11 states approved constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriages....

The leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, at a meeting last weekend in Las Vegas, concluded that the group must bow to political reality and moderate its message and its goals. One official said the group would consider supporting President Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security partly in exchange for the right of gay partners to receive benefits under the program.

"The feeling this weekend in Las Vegas was that we had to get beyond the political and return to the personal," said Michael Berman, a Democratic lobbyist and consultant who was elected the first non-gay co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign's board last week. "We need to reintroduce ourselves to America with the stories of our lives."

What November shows us is that the visceral reaction against homosexuality is still there, "Queer Eye" and "Will & Grace" notwithstanding. As I've written before, there is a window of opportunity to push through a constititutional amendment banning homosexual "marriage" but it is closing fast. I don't believe you're going to find many national politicians who sincerely want to lead the charge, the Bush Administration chief among them. They've ridden the campaign issue and will likely be content to let the issue fade into the sunset. I assure you the homosexual activists will not let the issue go away:
But others involved in the drive for gay and lesbian equality say the Human Rights Campaign's approach smacks of pre-emptive surrender and wrong-headed political calculation.

"For a certain segment of the movement, for which I would certainly elect the H.R.C. as poster child, it means that the error was that we were wanting too much too fast," said Jonathan D. Katz, executive coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale. "It is entirely characteristic for them to believe that what is required is a sort of retrenchment and a return to a more moderate message. They are, of course, completely wrong."

Mr. Katz and other aggressive advocates of gay rights said they believed that marriage rights were the key to winning fundamental equality for gay men and lesbians and that retreat from that struggle was self-defeating.

George Chauncey, director of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago, said the marriage debate had galvanized gays more dramatically than any other issue in recent years.

Those who are supporters of God instituted marriage better be sure that regardless of this past November's results, the homosexual activists aren't going away on this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

THE OBLIGATORY (& PREDICTABLE) CHRISTMAS STORIES

Time and Newsweek have both provided cover stories on the "Christmas story", i.e., the birth of Jesus. Rob Moll provides a breakdown. Needless to say, the results are predictable:
Both Newsweek and Time have Jesus on their covers, and neither article quotes an evangelical scholar in its attempt to narrate how Christians concocted the story of the birth of Jesus....

Newsweek says they want to find the middle, somewhere between London's childlike faith and severe skepticism. Then, author Jon Meacham goes on to report only what those scholars say who do not believe what the Gospels report about Jesus' birth. "The first followers, we should always remember, believed that the Risen Lord was going to return and usher in a new apocalyptic age at any moment."

But when Jesus didn't return, these followers decided they'd better write down the story of Jesus' life, says Meacham. This Gospel story, Newsweek says, cannot be trusted historically because early Christians were by then far removed from the actual events, and, besides, they were only using the story as a means to gain believers....

But, rather than telling us why many scholars find no contradiction between faith and history, Meacham gives those of us who do believe the Gospel story a piece of advice. "Christianity is a religion of perplexing contradictions. To live an examined faith believers have to acknowledge those complexities and engage them, however frustrating it may be."

Shocking! There's no place in the story for the believer's perspective? Well, there's really not at Time, either, it seems:
Time's story goes through all the same scholarly dilemmas, but with a little more sympathy. For example, some of the differences between Gospel narratives, David Van Biema writes, can be understood by recognizing the different audiences intended to read the story.

Van Biema, though, ends without condescending advice. Even those with a "politically progressive analysis of Scripture" find something miraculous in the birth of Christ, as the Gospels tell it. During the nativity pageant at Arlington Heights First Presbyterian in Illinois, pastor Dianne Shields won't be including her historical qualms. She's preached her "scholarly sermons on the Magi and the meaning of Mary's answer to Gabriel," says Van Biema. But she's also going to play the angel in the play.

As she walks down the aisle holding Jesus, Van Biema says, "Many will cry out, if only silently within their hearts, Hallelujah!"

So, even if the Gospel accounts aren't true, it really is fun to pretend it is once a year--woohoo!

I really don't think it's possible for the national news magazines to bring themselves to take the Bible seriously, or even consider letting serious believers speak for themselves.

Monday, December 06, 2004

THIS JUST IN: VIRGIN BIRTH TRUE!

Newsweek has polled Americans and they have declared the virgin birth of Jesus true:
Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus.

Sixty-seven percent say they believe that the entire story of Christmas—the Virgin Birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men from the East—is historically accurate. Twenty-four percent of Americans believe the story of Christmas is a theological invention written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ, the poll shows. In general, say 55 percent of those polled, every word of the Bible is literally accurate. Thirty-eight percent do not believe that about the Bible.

In the NEWSWEEK poll, 93 percent of Americans say they believe Jesus Christ actually lived and 82 percent believe Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God. Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible proclaims, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not believe it. Fifteen percent believe Jesus will return in their lifetime; 47 percent do not, the poll shows.

Really, these are some encouraging numbers. Two polls I would love to see the results of: the same questions asked of Americans in July, divorced from the Christmas season, and the same questions asked of Western Europeans.

Friday, December 03, 2004

NEW BIBLE RELATED PRODUCTS

Just in time for the Christmas season are a couple of new products for the computer inclined Bible student. First is a new Palmtop version of the NIV Study Bible, which, although not my favorite NASB version does give access to the Zondervan Study Bible notes that I consider very good. It lists for $30 but can probably be found cheaper.

A bit more expensive, but a lot of punch for the dollar, is the new offering from BiblePlaces.com, an 8-cd set of Historic Views of the Holy Land. It's high on my "to get" list. I have their original 10-cd Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which I highly recommend especially if you do any PowerPoint presentations. It's indispensible. The new Historic Views set is being offered for an introductory price of $99, which is half off regular price.

Theosebes has no financial interest in either of these products, but they both caught my interest.
THE DRUG NATION

In statistics released yesterday, the government reports that 40% of Americans are on drugs:
More than 40 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug and one-in-six takes at least three, the government reported Thursday.

"Americans are taking medicines that lower cholesterol and reduce the threat of heart disease, that help lift people out of debilitating depressions, and that keep diabetes in check," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in a statement.

The annual report on Americans' health found that just over 44 percent of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and 16.5 percent take at least three.

Those rates were up from 39 percent and 12 percent between 1988 and 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported....

The report said prescription drug use was increasing among people of all ages, and use increases with age.

Nearly half of all women were taking prescription drugs - 49 percent - compared to 39 percent of men.

Usage peaked at 84 percent for people aged 65 and over, with the top rate at 89 percent for black women over 65.

Even for people under age 18, however, nearly one-fourth - 24.1 percent - were taking at least one prescription medication. The rate rose to 34.7 percent between age 18 and 44; for those ages 45 to 64, it was 62.1 percent.

I certainly recognize the increasing life expectancy and that an aging nation will, on average, take more prescription medicine. But do one fourth of all children need to be on drugs and one third in my age group? Personally, I find these statistics highly disturbing. Particularly when it comes to mental health in children and women it seems the first option is drugs. I have a hard time accepting that as a wise choice.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

METHODISTS CONVICT LESBIAN MINISTER

The United Methodist Church has declared guilty an openly lesbian Methodist minister:
A jury made up of United Methodist Church clergy convicted a lesbian minister Thursday of violating church law by openly living with her partner in a committed relationship.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud could be defrocked as a result of the ruling, which came on the second day of her church trial. The same 13-member jury was set to meet Thursday afternoon to decide her penalty.

Methodist law bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from ministry. Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty.

The last time the 8.3 million-member denomination convicted an openly gay cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked the Rev. Rose Mary Denman.

Well, they'd eliminate half the problems with homosexual clergy if they'd stop ordaining women.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this. It looks like the Methodists will live up to their tradition of being Episcopalian Lite in the long run.
TRADITION, CONSERVATISM & POLITICS

Readers of theosebes may recall my not infrequent references to Dr. Russell Kirk, America's greatest 20th century expositor of conservatism. I had the good pleasure of working for him for a year. Dr. Kirk was, of course, a Catholic, an allegiance that informed his conservatism. I, of course, am not a Catholic and the issue of religion and conservatism came up on a listserv in which I participate. Below is a recent post somewhat adapted for inclusion here. It is presented without full context as it was part of an ongoing discussion. Still, the comments largely stand on their own. Someday I intend to write an extended essay on it all that will be of great interest to almost no one but me.
What is the purpose of tradition? Not tradition for tradition's sake, certainly, but rather as a means for generations of men to arrive at truth, or at least place a brake on man's experimental fancies. As Edmund Burke says: "The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right." Tradition is the action of the species. It is particularly valuable when it comes to political and societal concerns.

However, traditions (in this context the handed down decisions of generations of man) are not necessary to arrive at truth when we have God's revelation. God tells us what truth is, because man, regardless of how many generations, cannot ever apprehend the great mysteries that God knows unless we are told by Him, ie, revelation. In the face of revelation tradition becomes an impediment. Jesus said to the very religious, but tradition bound Pharisees "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8) They had allowed generations of man's teachings to obscure God's revelation.

My ultimate goal is to live true to the word of God as revealed in His word. Traditional responses and understandings of that word can inform my understanding of it, but it must not dictate it. Man's ways and understandings-even if done as a species-can only obscure what God has made clear in His word.

Now Catholics claim that God has instituted authority in a pope and a church, which I deny. Catholics operate from a point of definition-the primacy of the Catholic Church-which I do not accept. I see the Catholic Church as an obscuring of God's word by man's tradition. I do not think that makes me a radical at all, other than I seek radically to hold to God's word. I understand Catholics will disagree with that. But I would submit that there is, in fact, respectable ecclesiastical scholarship that disagrees with the Catholic historical understanding. And I'm not speaking of iconoclastic scholarship of the left, but rather work done by men who have great respect for God's word.

Yes, incomplete comments, but food for future discussion.

Monday, November 29, 2004

ALEXANDER GOES DOWN IN DEFEAT

Oliver Stone's $150 million movie Alexander tanked at the box office in its opening weekend:
"Alexander", director Oliver Stone's three-hour epic starring Irishman Colin Farrell as the youthful Macedonian warrior, opened at No. 6 with ticket sales of just $13.5 million (7.1 million pounds) for the three days beginning Friday.

Since opening on Wednesday to get a jump-start on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, the film has earned $21.6 million from cinemas in the United States and Canada -- short of the $25 million hoped for by the film's financier, Intermedia Films.

The Brits think its because we're 'homophobes' (whatever that is). Or maybe Americans are tired of poorly made agenda movies and being told its entertainment.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

THE SCHULLER LEGACY

Joshua Clayborn reports on a white sepulchre at the Crystal Cathedral:
Yesterday I watched "Episode 108" [of MTV's Laguna Beach] and for the first time realized that one of the show's characters, Christina, is actually the granddaughter of famed minister Dr. Robert H. Schuller and daughter to Dr. Robert H. Schuller II, also a well known minister. The two are ministers at Crystal Cathedral, which has a congregation of over 10,000 members and plays host to the internationally televised "Hour of Power." None of this would seem like a big deal if it weren't for Christina's antics and behavior, both with friends and in relation to the church.

In episode 108, Christina must stay behind from camping with her friends because of a singing engagement at her father's church. But on her way there she listens to rap music filled with profanity and, prior to walking on stage, she mercilessly mocks her father's sermon and delivery style to her sister nearby. But after a heartfelt introduction from her father, Christina walks on stage to sing an angelic, gospel song as her father and grandfather look on in admiration and prayer. The next frame cuts to Christina walking out, eager to leave and exclaiming "Thank God that's over." (You can watch part of the scene on MTV's website.) In other episodes she discusses hooking up, her desire for more sex, and other such things.

With the Schullers' continuing watering down of the Bible message are we really surprised?
RALPH REED'S (FURTHER) PERFIDY

One time head of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition Ralph Reed has reached a low even for him: liquor lobbyist. Reed, he of the perpetually boyish features (are he and John Edwards long lost brothers?), used the trust of millions of sincere religious people to launch a career of political enrichment, which is seemingly void of principle and character. Nice hire, Pat.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

HANKS SIGNS ON FOR 'DA VINCI'

In a bit of a disappointing move, actor Tom Hanks has signed for the lead role in the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie:
Superstar actor Tom Hanks has signed on to play the lead role in The Da Vinci Code. Director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer landed the actor they wanted to star in their adaptation of Dan Brown's controversial best-selling novel.

Hanks will play Robert Langdon, the professor who follows the clues into a mystery that uncovers shocking "revelations"—that Jesus was not divine after all, that he married Mary Magdalene and had a bunch of unusual children, and that The Last Supper is a painting with a bunch of scandalous secrets painted into it.

The adaptation will be written by Akiva Goldsman, who wrote Lost in Space, Batman Forever, and A Beautiful Mind.

I think we need to be ready for a full assault on Jesus and the Bible when the movie comes out. This is Hollywood's answer to Mel Gibson's The Passion.

Of course with Tom Hanks' recent track record (Polar Express, The Ladykillers) and the movies Goldsman has written (Lost in Space, Batman Forever) we may not have a lot to worry about...

Monday, November 22, 2004

RED STATES & BAD TV

Regardless of whether they voted for 'values' in the Presidential election or not, Americans whether red or blue are still The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising >watching bad tv:
In interviews, representatives of the four big broadcast networks as well as Hollywood production studios said the nightly television ratings bore little relation to the message apparently sent by a significant percentage of voters.

The choices of viewers, whether in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City, New York or Birmingham, Ala., are remarkably similar. And that means the election will have little impact on which shows they decide to put on television, these executives say.

It is possible that some secondary characters on new television shows will exhibit strong religious beliefs, and an occasional plotline may examine the impact of faith on some characters' lives. But with "Desperate Housewives" and "C.S.I." leading the ratings, television shows are far more likely to keep pumping from the deep well of murder, mayhem and sexual transgression than seek diversion along the straight and narrow path.

For some reason, people are a lot more willing to vote for their (self-perceived) values in the voting booth than the television. If the red states really want to have an impact they'll start changing the channel--or even (*gasp*) turning the television off.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

'HOW DO YOU GET TO HEAVEN?' UPDATE

Mentioned below is our local NBC affiliate's series on 'How Do You Get to Heaven?' done by anchor Mike Royer. Royer spoke to (in order) a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim and a Baptist. The website is updated to include all four story write-ups and also video clips if anyone is interested in watching them.

The Muslim and the Baptist both affirmed the necessity of their faiths, while the Catholic and Jew were wishy-washy about it all. The only one really to focus on the grace of Christ was the Baptist theologian from Samford, who clearly did the best job of the four. He was also the only one not to emphasize works salvation. The fact is, without the grace that comes from Jesus Christ all we have is earning it. And I think most of realize how good we are at that.

NOTE: At the time of this posting the page wasn't updated with the correct stories, but I emailed the station webstaff to alert them to it. It likely will be fixed soon.
GREEKS OUTRAGED BY STONE'S 'ALEXANDER'

Oliver Stone's upcoming movie 'Alexander' has infuriated Greeks who deny the conqueror was bisexual:
A group of Greek lawyers are threatening to sue Warner Bros film studios and Oliver Stone, director of the widely anticipated film "Alexander," for suggesting Alexander the Great was bisexual.

The lawyers have already sent an extrajudicial note to the studio and director demanding they include a reference in the title credits saying his movie is a fictional tale and not based on official documents of the life of the Macedonian ruler.

"We are not saying that we are against gays but we are saying that the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction and not a true depiction of the life of Alexander," Yannis Varnakos, who spearheads the campaign by 25 lawyers, told Reuters on Friday.

The lawyers say they have a right os keep the movie's potential audience properly informed:
Varnakaos said as Stone has the right to freely express himself, the audience should have the right to know.

"We cannot come out and say that (former U.S.) President John F. Kennedy was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and so Warner cannot come out and say Alexander was gay," Varnakos said.

Are they trying to suggest there might be a pro-homosexual agenda in Hollywood?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

'ALEXANDER THE GAY'

One of those movies I had some thoughts of seeing has been marked off the list. Oliver Stone's movie 'Alexander' (surname, 'the Great') puts heavy focus on Alexander and homosexuality:
As Alexander the Great, [actor Colin] Farrell speaks softly and sports a blond pageboy and mini-toga, looking a bit like something out of Queer Eye for the Macedonian Guy.

In scenes that may raise eyebrows with some action-movie fans, the Irish actor kisses two men - a Macedonian soldier and a hunky topless Persian castrato named Bogoas, who becomes his lover - full on the mouth.

While Farrell has a steamy sex scene with an unclothed Rosario Dawson as Alexander's wife, Roxane, the film leaves little doubt that the true love of the conqueror's life is his boyhood friend turned fellow warrior, Hephaistion, portrayed by Jared Leto.

How pleasant. I will enjoy seeing it bomb.
BEER FOR JESUS

An Australian brewery is offering a swap of beer for a stolen Jesus:
Six cases of beer for a stolen baby Jesus: that's the deal an Australian brewing company is offering.

Someone swiped the infant Christ figure from a nativity scene this week.

Now, the South Australian Brewing Company in Adelaide is offering a reward in brewskis for the return of the baby Jesus. The nativity display is an annual tradition at the brewery.

Officials say security footage showed a man climbing a fence and lifting the baby Jesus from his manger.

I suppose the fellow can partake of some holiday spirits...
FROM ALABAMA TO HEAVEN

In one of those stories that would probably only fly in Alabama, our local NBC affiliate has been doing a four part series on "How Do You Get To Heaven". He's asking representatives of four faiths: a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim and a Southern Baptist (lots of those around here). You can read the Catholic answer and the Jewish version. I'll post links to the Muslim and Baptist answers as they become available.

What has struck me in the segments is the focus on what is essentially works salvation. Yes, I too believe God will judge us on our earthly deeds. But I can tell you, if that's all I've got to go on then I'm in big trouble.

I will say, I was at least pleased the Muslim was willing to stand up for the uniqueness of his faith. So far everyone else has peddled some version of the "God's got a place for everyone" line.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

DEMOCRAT GETS RELIGION

After John Kerry's election defeat, Democrats are trying to figure out how to get some of the religious vote for themselves:
Bested by a Republican campaign emphasizing Christian faith, some Democrats are scrambling to shake off their secular image, stepping up efforts to organize the "religious left" and debating changes to how they approach the cultural flashpoints of same-sex marriage and abortion.

Some call the election a warning. "You can't have everybody who goes to church vote Republican; you just can't," Al From, founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, said last week at a forum on the election.

Religious traditionalists including Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and Jim Wallis of the liberal evangelical group Sojourners say Democratic officials are calling them for advice on reaching conservative Christians. And they and some other theologically orthodox supporters of Mr. Bush say it may not take much for Democrats to make inroads among their constituency, if the party demonstrates a greater friendliness to religious beliefs and even modestly softens its support for abortion rights.

But many--including Democrats--see difficulties ahead:
"It would not be hard," said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things and a conservative Catholic who has advised Mr. Bush on how to handle the issue of abortion.

But Democrats disagree about how to establish the party's spiritual credentials. Some play down the need for changes, saying poorly framed surveys of voters leaving polls are overstating the impact of conservative Christian voters. Others argue that Democrats need to rephrase their positions in more moral and religious language. And an emboldened group of Democratic partisans and sympathetic religious leaders warn that Mr. Bush has beaten Democrats to the middle on social issues like abortion that resonate with religious traditionalists, arguing that the party should publicly welcome opponents of abortion into its ranks and perhaps even bend in its opposition to certain abortion restrictions.

In an interview, Mr. From pointed out that Republicans invited officials who disagreed with the party's position on abortion rights, like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, to speak at their national convention. Democrats should do likewise, he argued.

"I want to win some people who are pro-life, because they probably agree with us on a lot of other things," Mr. From said.

Even that, however, would shock some Democrats. No prominent opponent of abortion has come anywhere near the podium of a Democratic convention since 1992, when abortion rights groups blocked a speech on the subject by Robert P. Casey, the governor of Pennsylvania and an observant Catholic.

"Our platform and the grass-roots strength of the party is pro-choice," said Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America. The party needs more religious language, Ms. Cavendish said, but not new positions.

The last quote is telling, and really is all we're likely to see from them. Dropping by the pulpit on the way to the abortion clinic isn't going to win them any points. The Democrats have become a party dominated by practical atheists and are awash in secularism. Don't look for the religious erosion on the Left to stop any time soon.

Monday, November 15, 2004

HOW DID TUT DIE?

We may know pretty soon as scientists subject the mummy to X-ray tests:
The mummy of King Tutankhamun is to be X-rayed in an attempt to solve the mystery of how the teenage Pharaoh died at age 17, Egypt’s chief archaeologist said Sunday.

Zahi Hawass said that this month the mummy will be taken from King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, outside the southern city of Luxor, and flown to Cairo, where it will be X-rayed in the Egyptian Museum. It would be the first time in 82 years that Tutankhamun’s remains left the tomb.

“The question of whether he was murdered or not will be answered completely,” Hawass told The Associated Press.

To put Tut in Biblical perspective, he reigned (briefly) around the time of Joshua leading into the Old Testament Judges. It will be interesting to see what we find.
ATLANTIS FOUND...AGAIN

Yet another claim has surfaced (haha) as to the location of lost Atlantis:
Robert Sarmast says a Mediterranean basin was flooded in a deluge around 9000 B.C., which submerged a rectangular land mass he believes was Atlantis, lying a mile (1.5 kilometers) beneath sea level between Cyprus and Syria.

“We have definitely found it,” said Sarmast, who led a team of explorers 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the southeast coast of Cyprus earlier this month.

Deep-water sonar scanning had indicated human-made structures on a submerged hill, including a 2-mile-long (3-kilometer-long) wall, a walled hill summit and deep trenches, he said. But further explorations were needed, he added.

“We cannot yet provide tangible proof in the form of bricks and mortar, as the artifacts are still buried under several meters of sediment, but the circumstantial and other evidence is irrefutable,” he claimed.

It will be interesting to see how it pans out. Of course, you can always rely on theosebes for your breaking Atlantis updates.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

DAVE RAMSEY ON 60 MINUTES

Well, he was last Sunday anyway. If you missed seeing it you can read it. It's well worth it.
BUSH'S COURT

One of the big issues that most Republican types hammered leading up to the election was the necessity of re-electing Bush in order to secure a "conservative" Supreme Court that will perform such duties as overturning Roe v. Wade. Not wishing to spoil the party, but how many Supreme Court Justices currently on the court were appointed by Republican Presidents? And somehow another couple of appointments is going to fix it? At any rate, Jeffrey Rosen raises the question of whether Bush can deliver a conservative Supreme Court?:
Mr. Bush repeated the pledge he made in the presidential debates: "I would pick people who would be strict constructionists."

Liberals fear that "strict constructionists" - those who believe the Constitution should be read literally - would ban affirmative action, resurrect school prayer, dismantle the regulatory state and overturn Roe v. Wade.

Now I suppose if a "strict constructionist" reads the Constitution "literally" the liberal would read it figuratively? It raises the interesting question of exactly what the framers or modern legislators need to do in order to get courts to recognize their intent. Of course, "intent" simply is a fallacious "strict constructionist" assumption, now isn't it?

But Rosen exposes the dirty secret that has was alluded to above (and on theosebes in the past):
By promising to appoint strict constructionists, Mr. Bush has embraced the mantra of every Republican president since Richard Nixon, who first made that promise in his 1968 campaign. Yet Republican presidents have largely failed in their efforts.

In the last 36 years, four Republican presidents have appointed all but two of the current nine justices.

But on the most contested social issues - abortion, affirmative action, school prayer and gay rights - the court has sided with liberals, while only modestly advancing the deregulatory agenda of the Republicans.

"If the goal of Republican presidents was to build a court that exercised its own power with greater restraint or adhered strictly to the original constitutional text, then they have clearly failed," said Thomas Keck, a political science professor at Syracuse University and author of "The Most Activist Supreme Court in History."

I think we have a winner.

Why do we think that Bush II is going to succeed where others have failed (assuming they legitimately had the goals we ascribe to them)? I think we need to recognize the courts hold little promise for those seeking to preserve Biblical and Constitutional principles in our society.

Friday, November 05, 2004

DO HOBBITS GO TO HEAVEN?

Christopher Howse ponders the question of those troubling "hobbits" found in Flores:
But don’t these new creatures in Flores, so gratingly christened hobbits, prove that the Bible is rubbish, Darwin is right and everything can be explained by evolution? Well, for so-called fundamentalists, the difficulties of keeping to the sentence-by-sentence literal truth of the biblical account of the Creation should not be much greater than they already are, even if a delegation of Flores hobbits arrived in Downing Street demanding equal rights and bus passes.

For mainstream Christians, Darwin was never much of a problem anyway. He was only thought to be so by those who presumed he had somehow either: 1) proved the Bible wasn’t true, or 2) proved that men had no immortal souls. He had proved neither.

One might not agree with all of his conclusions, but it's an interesting discussion.

[Link via LRC]
WHY BUSH WON

Jane Smiley, author of the novel Moo, offers a veritable parody of elitist thinking that points to why Kerry lost. Oh, it's called The unteachable ignorance of the red states:
Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

I pulled out the part of most interest to theosebes readers. The greatest pleasure I have from the Bush victory is watching the squirming of those it upsets the most. Reading the story makes it clear who is the one who gave up on complex thought.

[Link via Power Line]

Thursday, November 04, 2004

ELECTION & VALUES RUNDOWN

Ted Olsen at Christianity Today has a nice rundown from left:
He's not one of "us," says James Ridgeway in The Village Voice. With the deck, "Bush gets mandate for theocracy," Ridgeway gets apocalyptic. "The dream of a secular, liberal democracy is lost: Christians are stronger than ever, and whether it's true or not, the spin will be that they played a key role in building the Bush base. The visceral, cutting edge of the Bush mandate is the attack on same-sex marriage, led by the Christian Right."
and right
"Evangelicals voted in force in this year's election, securing the presidency for George W. Bush, granting parents in Florida the right to be notified before their minor daughter's abortion, and passing marriage protections laws in every state they were offered — even liberal Oregon," writes [Concerned Women for America] senior policy director Wendy Wright. "President Bush knows his strongest base, who they are and what drives them. Perhaps this is because, as many evangelicals and conservative Catholics can relate, he is one of us."
on the effect of values and evangelicals in the election. Olsen points out the problems, too.
THINGS THAT WON'T WORK

Perhaps remembering the fate of Roman Christians or the danger that Daniel faced, a man in Taiwan has tried to convert lions to Christianity:
Chen Chung-ho jumped into the lions' ensclosure at the Taipei City Zoo in Mucha, reports the China Post.

Raising his hands above his head, he shouted: "Jesus will save you!" and "Come bite me!" at the two African lions.

At first the big cats, lounging under a tree, paid no attention to the man but finally they attacked him, injuring his arms and legs.

The two lions pulled back after the 46-year old man put his hands in front of his chest to pray.

After a standoff that lasted for about 30 minutes, zoo staff used water cannons to chase the lions away and calmed the animals with tranquilizer guns.

The rescued man was rushed to the nearby Wan Fang Hospital for treatment.

Zoo officials claimed Chen would have been more seriously hurt had the lions not been fed earlier in the day.

I wonder what he had in mind had they listened...

(The link actually has pictures of the guy and the lions.)
THE ELECTION & HOMOSEXUAL 'MARRIAGE'

Finally, the post I tried to write on Wednesday morning when Blogger wouldn't let me (post-election blogging overload, one suspects). Much has now been made of the fact that eleven of eleven states passed marriage definition measures:
In a pointed vote against same-sex marriage, voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported amendments to their constitutions that would define marriage as between only a man and a woman.

Voters in 10 of the 11 states with such initiatives on their ballots supported the amendments by wide margins.

Gay-rights groups had expected to lose their battle at the ballot box and said the results were not surprising.

"We knew that we were underdogs in every state when we started out," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Putting a basic right up for a popular vote is always wrong and always extraordinarily difficult to win."

Social conservatives were expectedly pleased, though they were preparing for the possibility that gay-rights groups could pull off a lone victory here in Oregon. "I think it is a real warning shot across the bow of politicians, but also a warning shot across the bow to activist judges," said Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee that supported the constitutional amendments.

Of course, it passed in Oregon (a solidly Kerry state), too.

One Kerry sympathizer even blamed the Massachusett's Supreme Court for Bush winning:
Since George Bush ended up winning, the "most important event" title ought to be something that helped him, not something that helped John Kerry.

With that in mind, I'll plump for the Massachusett's Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage. The result was nearly a dozen initiatives across the country to ban gay marriage and a perfect wedge issue for Republicans. (Link via Instapundit)

Amusing, but likely some truth to it.

The polls show that Bush rode the 'moral issues' issue to victory:
Moral values topped the list of issues voters were most concerned about when they went to the polls on Election Day, with Catholics, evangelicals, blacks and Hispanics joining an ad hoc coalition that re-elected President Bush by 3.5 million votes.
A national exit poll of 13,531 voters found 22 percent cited moral values as the "most important issue," with the economy and jobs second at 20 percent and terrorism at 19 percent, according to a joint survey by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Iraq came in fourth at 15 percent.

This, of course, is a rude awakening for the elites on the two coasts. But for Red State America it's a very real concern. People are tired of the amorality of the dominant culture being shoved down their throat and being told they're racist, homophobic, etc. [insert condescending insult here] unless they like it.

Now, will all of those evangelicals and religiously minded Bush voters be rewarded for their loyalty? I keep being told that a Republican had to be elected so we can overturn Roe v. Wade. Well, it's been 32 years and counting and after five Republican Presidents since the ruling it still stands. How many current Justices were appointed by Republicans? How many GOP appointed Justices sat on the court in 1972? You do the math.

After that reality sets in, lets see which happens first: Roe v. Wade is overturned, or the Supreme Court finds a Constitutionally protected right for homosexual marriage and all those state initiatives passed on Tuesday suddenly become little more than wasted ink. I know which one I'd be more likely to pick.*


*Note that GOP Senator Arlen Specter already is warning Bush not to send nominees to the Senate who might overturn Roe v. Wade.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Monday, November 01, 2004

BRITAIN'S DESIGNER BABIES

In the first step toward designing your own baby (maybe one day with a little polo pony on the chest) Britain has okayed embryo choice:
PEOPLE with inherited forms of cancer have won the right to select embryos free from genes that might trigger the disease in future generations, The Times has learnt.
Four couples affected by a genetic form of bowel cancer will start the procedure by the end of the year, after the Government’s fertility watchdog allowed a London clinic to screen IVF embryos for the disorder.



One of the patients, a 35-year-old accountant from Bristol, said: “We are overjoyed to have been given this chance, not only to do as much as possible to make sure our children don’t have this gene, but to stop them from passing it on.”

The ruling by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority deepens the controversy over designer babies. It sets a precedent that will allow doctors to “cherry-pick” embryos for a much wider range of traits than at present. Applications to extend the procedure are expected within months.

Such tests can potentially eradicate some disorders, enabling parents to be certain of having healthy children. But critics said that the decision will push Britain farther towards “designer babies” chosen for social reasons.

Of course, this is simply the next step after the widespread acceptance of abortion. I really don't see a happy end for this, certainly not for the embryos that don't measure up.

Friday, October 29, 2004

GOD FOR KERRY, SAYS HARKIN

The GOP isn't the only party to make claims of Divine endorsementIowa Sen. Tom Harkin says John Kerry has been gaining in the polls every day since Oct. 21, and George Bush has been going down every day.

"That's how God wants it to be," Harkin told a group of about 25 people at the Benton County Headquarters in Vinton on Thursday afternoon.
Harkin was touring the state to stump for Kerry and Democratic legislative candidates.
Just make sure you don't pray for it at church.
THE EVANGELICAL ANSWER TO BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

With the Boss appearing daily (it seems) with John Kerry, P. Diddy warning "Vote or Die" and MTV Rocking the Vote, evangelicals have their own answer:
This is the evangelicals' answer to Bruce Springsteen: an anguished rocker prowling the stage in a black shirt and tight faded jeans, hair matted with sweat, licking his lips and turning his bright, beckoning eyes to the teenage mob in the front row:

"Get out to the polls and affect this country," says Jason Roy, lead singer of the band Building 429.

"Can you do that?"

"Yes!" they roar back. The kids are jumping. The room is hazy with fake smoke. A boy in a ski cap sneaks a hand around his girl's waist. It's chilly outside but it's really hot in here.

The scene could be part of a Vote for Change concert tour, but as with everything else in the vast parallel world of Christian pop culture, it is hard not to notice what's different from the secular version.

The show takes place not in a concert hall in the city, but in the sanctuary of Gilead Friends Church on a rural road an hour north of Columbus. Aside from Ski Cap Guy, most of the couples showing any public display of affection are married. The brown liquid in all those bottles is iced tea or soda pop. And when a screaming girl leans over to give the guy beside her a kiss, he's likely to be her dad.

Of course, I'd probably rather listen to the Boss but not as long as I have to look at Kerry.

It's an interesting cultural phenomenon, which has some validity. At the same time it gives interesting insight into how the evangelical culture often strangely mirrors the culture at large, offering something akin to "secular light". The article is worth a look.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

THE SANHEDRIN RE-ESTABLISHED?

A group of Jewish rabbis claim to have re-established the Sanhedrin Robin Juhl reports. It's an interesting step, and one that Dispensationalists like Juhl seem excited about. The post is worth reading for the premillennial perspective of it. Of course, readers of theosebes will know I am no Premillennial Dispensationalist.

The last time we saw the Sanhedrin they really weren't looking too good...

[Thanks to Robin for letting me know about the post.]
OKAY, THIS IS GOING A BIT TOO FAR

In a letter of clarification, the IRS has ruled churches can't pray for a Bush victory:
In a letter of clarification requested by a traveling minister, the Internal Revenue Service has declared people gathered in tax-exempt churches can't pray for President Bush to win the election on Tuesday.

The ruling comes in response to a request by the Christian Defense Coalition, which is in the midst of a 15-day prayer tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania....

"This is rank censorship," [Rev. Patrick J.] Mahoney [who requested the clarification] told WND. "If churches felt compelled to pray for Senator Kerry, they should be able to do that, too.

"Now we have the IRS not only limiting what can said behind a pulpit in terms of electioneering, but churches aren't even allowed to pray the dictates of their consciences."

Okay, I'm no advocate of churches openly choosing sides in an election, but I'm much less of an advocate of the government telling groups of God's people what they can and can't pray for. This one certainly qualifies as an outrage.
PORTLY VIEWS

On the new weblog, The Portly Paleo, proprietor Shane Scott detects hypocrisy:
When former Alabama state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore issued a ruling in a child custody case in which he stated that homosexuality is a sin that violated natural and revealed law, Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, objected: "It appears that Justice Moore is once again making his decisions on the basis of his personal religious beliefs, not the commands of the law...Justice Moore would make a great official of the Inquisition, but he doesn’t belong on a state supreme court.”

But it appears that the good Mr. Lynn does not consistently apply his views:
Lynn is always quick to drive a wedge between religion and public policy - except for a law signed by former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Dean was the first governor to sign a bill legitimizing "civil unions" between homosexuals. And what was Dean's motivation? According to the Washington Post: "Dean said he does not often turn to his faith when making policy decisions but cited the civil union bill as a time he did. 'My view of Christianity... is that the hallmark of being a Christian is to reach out to people who have been left behind,' he told reporters Tuesday. 'So I think there was a religious aspect to my decision to support civil unions.'"

Actually, he's very consisitent. Religion on the right=bad. Religion to justify left-wing lunacy=good.

Shane, by the way, is a personal success story. When he and I discussed politics several years ago the poor fellow was actually an admirer of Lincoln. A little education and he's come along nicely. Now we just have to have a lesson on how to do hot links...
RUSSELLO ON McDONALD ON KIRK

The always insightful Gerald Russello has a review in Crisis Magazine of Wesley McDonald's Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology. The review, and the book, are worth your time.

If you're a glutton for punishment you can read your humble servant's thoughts on the book as well. (Yes, I've linked it before, but it's been a good month or so!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

JESUS: 'BLACK ICON'

New Nation, an "ethnic paper", has named Jesus its number one 'black icon':
Jesus has been named No1 black icon of all time.

Ethnic paper New Nation asked experts to list the 100 most important figures in black history.

They put the Son of God - traditionally portrayed as white - at the top of the list.

New Nation editor Michael Eboda argued that the Bible describes Christ as "dark skinned" - and that 2,000 years ago, the people of Bethlehem were a "mix of Ethiopians, Egyptians and Babylonians, all mixed with people from central Africa."

He said: "Jesus was more likely to be black than anything else."

Church of England spokesman Lou Henderson added to the confusion, saying: "In fact Jesus was a Palestinian Jew."

Yes, calling the self-identified Palestinian Jew Jesus a "Palestinian Jew" certainly confuses things. The BBC weighs in, debating the issue:Was he white, white-ish, olive-skinned, swarthy, dark-skinned or black? There are people who believe he was any one of those shades, but there seem to be only two things about the debate that can be said with any degree of certainty.

First - if the past 2,000 years of Western art were the judge, Jesus would be white, handsome, probably with long hair and an ethereal glow.

Second - it can almost certainly be said that Jesus would not have been white. His hair was also probably cut short.
I think we have a winner. No, Jesus would not have looked like He was from Norway. Nor would he have looked like He was from Ethiopia, either. He probably would have looked (gasp!) just like he came from Galilee: dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes. Very much like the Middle-Easterner He was.

My favorite justification for the "black Jesus" was this from the New Nation:
As light-hearted evidence that Jesus was black, it adds that he "called everybody 'brother', liked Gospel, and couldn't get a fair trial".

And there you have it.
LA BLOCKS MESSIANIC JEWS' BANNER

The City of Los Angeles blocked the display of a "Jews who believe in Jesus" banner, which has led to the group suing the city:
A Virginia-based religious rights group has filed a federal lawsuit against the city for its refusal to permit the display of a banner with the phrase "Jews who believe in Jesus."

The American Center for Law and Justice maintains the city violated the constitutionally protected rights of free speech and liberty.

"The City permits a wide variety of religious and secular banners to be displayed publicly on streets. The decision to censor this banner was made strictly on the basis of the content of the banner," senior counsel Stuart J. Roth said in a statement Monday.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of Michael Brown, Pastor of the Messianic Jewish group Adat Y'shua Ha Adon. It calls for an injunction that would prevent the city from baring the banner.

According to the center, Brown hung similar banners for three consecutive years on city streets, but this year the city rejected his request.

Isn't freedom of religion great?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

DO BUSH'S CHURCH AND POLICIES ADD UP?

The always reliable New York Times in full election mode raises questions about President Bush's choice of church on the one hand and public policies on the other:
n Sundays when President Bush goes to church in Washington, he chooses the 8 a.m. service at St. John's Episcopal Church Lafayette Square. A short stroll from the White House, St. John's has been the parish for many presidents, but it is still a surprising choice for Mr. Bush.

A president who has been typecast as the champion of Christian conservatives, who has proposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, finds fellowship in a church where the priest and many congregants openly support the blessing of same-sex unions.

When it comes to understanding the president's religious convictions and the role they have played in his presidency, there appears to be a disconnect between Mr. Bush's personal beliefs and his public policy.

The article does raise legitimate questions on the issue. Where does he stand?
Besides worshiping in an Episcopal church that welcomes gay couples (and in Texas, in a Methodist church where many congregants support abortion rights), Mr. Bush has prayed with Jews and Sikhs and volunteered that Muslims worship the same God as Christians - a comment that stunned evangelicals. Mr. Bush uses evangelical terms to convey his devotion to God and to prayer, but he is not the Bible-thumping fundamentalist that some of his opponents have made him out to be.

When it comes to policy, however, his opponents and supporters agree that he has done more than any president in recent history to advance the agenda of Christian social conservatives. On domestic issues, he has opposed same-sex marriage, favored restrictions on abortion and imposed limits on embryonic stem cell research. He has promoted vouchers for religious schools and shifted money for sex education and reproductive health programs to those that instead promote abstinence.

Without a doubt there is political posturing involved. (Does anyone think John Kerry worships at black churches regularly?) I also suspect that there is probably something of a disconnect between the people Bush feels comfortable with socially (high born Episcopalians) and agrees with socially and politically (middle class evangelicals). Keep in mind the Bushes are old line New England Episcopalians. That's where Bush would feel at home. This tells us a lot about where he's coming from:
Mr. Bush was born an Episcopalian, attended a Presbyterian church as a youngster and joined a Methodist church when he married - a denomination-hopping that is common among many Americans.

Evangelicals claim Mr. Bush is one of their own, but he has intentionally been vague about whether he actually shares their beliefs. In his last presidential run, Mr. Bush granted a brief telephone interview with this reporter on his faith. Asked whether he regarded the Bible as the literal and inerrant word of God, Mr. Bush said: "From Scripture you can gain a lot of strength and solace and learn life's lessons. That's what I believe, and I don't necessarily believe every single word is literally true."


Of course, John Kerry openly contradicts the Roman Catholic Church and its stands on such issues as abortion. Of the two, I actually do think that Bush's faith does inform his actions, whether I might agree with all of those actions or not

Friday, October 22, 2004

FINALLY, A PUBLIC SCHOOL RESPECTING RELIGION

With Halloween upon us some evangelical churches are backing away from Halloween because of its perceived ties to the occult. The Pullayup School District in Washington state is backing away, too:
The Puyallup School District in Washington State has canceled its annual Halloween parade and banned all other Halloween activities, insisting the costumes may be offensive to real witches and followers of Wicca — a form of Paganism.

A school district spokeswoman, quoted by local KOMO-TV, says, "Witches [masks] with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion, and so we want to be respectful."

Well, we wouldn't want to offend any witches, now would we?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

CANADIAN BANK BACKS DOWN

Canada's largest bank decided that it would be absolutely great if all its employees displayed a pro-homosexual sticker:
the Royal Bank of Canada directed its employees to "be supportive" of "gay, lesbian and bisexual issues" and to show that support by displaying the homosexual movement's rainbow triangle symbol in the workplace. The statements were made in the first edition of a new newsletter called "Rainbow Space."

Thankfully, the story doesn't end there. Faced with a boycott, the bank backed down:
But after a boycott was launched by the Canada Family Action Coalition, the bank backed down, saying the rainbow promotion had "unintentionally created divisiveness."

David Moorcroft, Royal Bank's senior vice president announced the course reversal in a letter dated Oct. 14.

"Effective today, the sticker component of the program is being eliminated," wrote Moorcroft.

Well, it's encouraging that sometimes those things actually work.

Monday, October 18, 2004

HMMM, THIS SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA...

It's probabaly happened to every church these days. Everyone's bowed in prayer or listening to announcements and suddenly an electronic version of the William Tell Overture begins. Some churches are fighting back:
It was the reporters who noticed first. Unable to call their editors while covering the weddings of the rich and famous, they asked the priest why their cell phones never worked at Sacred Heart. His reply: Israeli counterintelligence.

In four Monterrey churches, Israeli-made cell phone jammers the size of paperbacks have been tucked unobtrusively among paintings of the Madonna and statues of the saints.

The jarring polychromatic din of ringing cell phones is increasingly being thwarted — from religious sanctuaries to India's parliament to Tokyo theaters and commuter trains — by devices originally developed to help security forces avert eavesdropping and thwart phone-triggered bombings.

Well, no pictures of the Madonna (or even Madonna) or saints (although we had several dozen actual saints in attendance yesterday) but we could probably find somewhere to hide one of those. Of course, we won't be getting one any time soon:
Purchased for about $2,000 each, they can be turned on by remote control and emit low-level radio frequencies that thwart cell phone signals within a 100-foot radius.

Users get a "no service" or "signal not available" message on their cell phones.

Although Mexico has no law against the devices, the private use of cell phone blockers is illegal in the United States and most Western countries.

But the tide is turning.

Japan allows public places such as theaters and concert halls to install jammers, provided they obtain a government-issued license. And last week, France's industry minister approved a decision to let cinemas, concert halls and theaters install them — as long as provisions are in place so emergency calls can still be made.

Canada had considered allowing blocking in similar situations. But Industry Canada, which regulates the country's telecommunications, decided against it, saying the devices could infringe on personal freedom and affect public safety by crippling communication with law enforcement and security agencies.

Oh well. Maybe one of these days.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

GIBSON'S GAMBLE

About a year ago there were many predictions of Mel Gibson's demise as a Hollywood icon if he went through with his silly plan to film a movie about the death of Jesus. The press and the Hollywood establishment pulled out all the stops to convince Gibson to stop the film or at the very least change into something unrecognizable. The plan then shifted to suppressing the movie. All the while the drumbeat continued: Mel Gibson will never work in this town again. Well, the movie was released, the DVD was released, who's smiling now:
Mel Gibson, the maker of the controversial “The Passion of the Christ,” dominates Entertainment Weekly’s annual power issue.

“What once seemed like a zealous bit of risky business (Gibson even said God was directing the movie through him) has proved to be one of the most successful power plays in Hollywood history,” the magazine says, “with $610 million in global sales.”

Sometimes there is earthly reward in sticking by your guns. Regardless of the quality of Gibson's movie (which was excellent, in my opinion) seeing its success is gratifying in the face of his anti-religious Hollywood naysayers.

Friday, October 15, 2004

WHY APPRENTICES CAN'T TALK

I admit to being a big fan of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice". But Sarah Bunting has an amusing article surveying this well educated gang's constant stream of malapropisms. In the end, Ms. Bunting stumbles into the reason:
It's amusing in its way, watching overeducated MBAs trip over themselves to prove their expertise in the high-powered corporate sphere when they can barely get subjects and verbs to agree. But in another way, it's pretty bleak. Why on earth would Trump hire a right-hand man or woman who can't express a cogent thought without clich├ęs like "the weakest link" and "on the same page"?
The key is they are well-educated, but most of them have a strong business education. Finally! Proof you do need all those humanities classes (or maybe some time in Toastmasters).

I still like Raj's bow ties...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

KERRY'S REVIVAL

John Kerry's recent appearances at black churches has drawn the ire of liberal religious groups:
Two liberal religious groups are asking Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry to "stop politicizing religion," even going so far as to call a partisan church service on behalf of the senator "over the top."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Miami violated federal tax law during an Oct. 10 service featuring speeches by Mr. Kerry, former presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent Democrats.

As everyone knows, appearances by Democrats particularly at black churches is always overlooked with a wink and a nod. One doubts that George Bush could hold a religious tinged political rally at an evangelical megachurch and get away with it. Quite frankly, churches aren't the place for religious rallies by either party, and really it is high time that they stop on both sides.

By the way, you like to see this sort of measured introduction:
During the service, the Rev. Gaston E. Smith introduced Mr. Kerry as "the next president of the United States" and told the crowd, "For every Goliath, God has a David. For every Calvary's cross, God has a Christ Jesus. ... To bring our country out of despair, discouragement, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."

The Kerry campaign said neither it nor the pastor did anything wrong.

Or possibly Nebuchadnezzar, but who's to say?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

DIVORCE & HOMOSEXUAL 'MARRIAGE'

Jennifer Morse well points out that the degradation of marriage through rampant divorce has opened the door for homosexual 'marriage':
Divorce is in the background of the gay marriage debate in at least three ways. First, gay marriage is the end of the trend that no-fault divorce began. The legal innovation of unilateral divorce began to reduce marriage to nothing but a temporary association of individuals. If marriage is merely a free association of individuals, there is no principled reason to exclude gay couples, or even larger groupings of sexual partners. The permanence of marriage was one of the key features that distinguished it from an ordinary contract.

Second, the high divorce rate and the resulting non-permanence of marriage made the institution of marriage more attractive to same-sex couples than it otherwise would be. If marriage still meant one to a customer for life, I seriously doubt that we’d be hearing about same-sex marriage today. Gay couples evidently have a more relaxed concept of both permanence and fidelity than do heterosexual couples. Gay activists would be much less likely to invest time and energy working for the right to marry, if divorce were available only for adultery or cruelty.

Most importantly, the high divorce rate has made it difficult to articulate opposition to gay marriage. People who have been divorced may feel hypocritical if they voice opposition to a system they felt they had to use. People who secretly fear they may need a divorce someday are reluctant to bad-mouth the easy availability of divorce. People who are not confident in their own ability to keep their marriage together for a lifetime, won’t speak out against the culture of divorce. A significant subset of such people will be reluctant to voice their opposition to gay marriage. People who have lost confidence in marriage as an institution of exclusivity and permanence are simply not going to have the heart for a fight over gay marriage.

She's right, and it's time we put the institution of marriage in order; from the beginning this type of divorce was not so (Matthew 19). Our standing to oppose the nonsense of homosexual 'marriage' will improve dramatically when we shore up our own.

Monday, October 11, 2004

WISE WORDS FROM AFRICA

Reacting to the American Episcopal Church's advocacy for homosexuality, Nigeria's Archbishop Peter Akinola expresses his displeasure:
Akinola insisted he did not hate gays, despite his fiery comments in the past protesting against the growing acceptance of homosexuality.

He once called the trend a "satanic attack" on the church. But he said he could not accept attempts to "superimpose your modern culture on Scripture" by ignoring what he said were Biblical injunctions against gay sex.

"I didn't write the Bible. It's part of our Christian heritage. It tells us what to do," Akinola said.

"If the word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it."

Those who support ordaining gays contend Scripture does not ban same-sex relationships, and that there was no understanding in biblical times that homosexuality was a natural orientation, not a choice.

Akinola said this reasoning sent an offensive message that the Bible "is only for the prim-itive people".

Akinola is exactly correct. Many Americans have become far too sophisticated for the "primitivism" of the Bible. They cannot accept the "foolishness" of God.
CHRISTIANS & THE MILITARY

A frequently raised question is whether or not Christians should serve in the military. Laurence Vance is leaning "no". I think the case can be made, but others have done it better. Vance tends to mix in too much politics (not surprising for LRC), and falls back on the Ten Commandments per se, a new covenant no-no. Still, he raises some good points that ought to be considered.

In case you're wondering, I do believe Christians can serve in the military. However, I certainly understand some having conscience problems with it, which must be respected. And, no, I didn't serve, either.

Friday, October 08, 2004

ROBERTSON REVISITED

Yesterday we looked at Pat Robertson's comments on the status of Islam and Jerusalem:
"I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Yasser Arafat. I see that as Satan's plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ the Lord," said Robertson, a Christian broadcaster.

This is where the fundamental weakness of the premillennial position is made manifest. Satan can do nothing to prevent the return of Jesus. Of course, this is a natural extension of the dispensational notion that Satan did in fact prevent God from establishing His kingdom in the first century, and instead was forced to go to Plan B and establish the church instead. Now, according to Robertson, Satan is scheming to keep the Creator of the universe from returning to it. The God that Robertson imagines is a weak God that cannot be relied upon to bring about His plans in the face of Satanic opposition. He is certainly a God who seems far too weak to offer the salvation that the Bible promises.

Robertson and his kind would do well to read Revelation and see the true message there. Despite what may seem like earthly evidence to the contrary, Satan has already been defeated. And while he is allowed certain powers in this world they are not unlimited, but rather he is operating on borrowed time. His defeat has occurred. The only question that remains is whether we will decide to join the losing side (the path of least resistance) or the side of the already victorious Christ. When He returns at the time of the Father's choosing those who have chosen correctly, and endured to the end, will share in His victory as Satan is finally cast away with his followers for eternity.
THE LAW ON DANISH NAMES

It's like an old Monty Python skit--The Ministry of Silly Names. But Denmark has essentially that; you can't name your child anything you want:
People expecting children can choose a pre-approved name from a government list of 7,000 mostly Western European and English names - 3,000 for boys, 4,000 for girls. A few ethnic names, like Ali and Hassan, have recently been added. But those wishing to deviate from the official list must seek permission at their local parish church, where all newborns' names are registered. A request for an unapproved name triggers a review at Copenhagen University's Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, which has the ultimate authority. The law only applies if one of the parents is Danish.

Many parents do not realize how difficult it can be to get a name approved by the government. About 1,100 names are reviewed every year, and 15 percent to 20 percent are rejected, mostly for odd spellings. Compound surnames, like Tan-Farnsden, also pose a problem.

And apparently so does "Molli":
Greg Nagan, 39, and Trine Kammer, 32, thought it would be cute to name their daughter Molli Malou. To their surprise, Malou was not a problem, but Molli with an I, which they thought sounded Danish, had to be reviewed by the government. The church told Ms. Kammer she needed to state in a letter the reason for choosing Molli. She did so, and said she told the clerk, "Here's your stupid letter: The reason for naming her Molli is because we like it."

"Isn't this silly?" Ms. Kammer said. "We love to make everything a rule here. They love to bureaucratize."

As the father of a "Molly" we would have been approved. Of course, my wife's name is "Traci". Good thing she's not Danish...
WHEN BAD ACADEMICS MEETS BAD THEOLOGY

The worst thing that can happen to any subject (great historical figure, moving poem, profound novel) is when the academicians get ahold of it. As someone who has been to academic conferences, I can attest that it all quickly deteriorates into self-parody. It appears there's nothing different at religious academic conferences:
An annual convention of American religion scholars from prominent institutions will feature sessions favorable toward sadomasochism, transvestism, transsexualism and polyamory – participation in multiple sexual relationships.

One paper scheduled to be presented interprets a passage in the book of Jeremiah "through the lens" of a sadomasochistic encounter between God and a man.

The presentations offered at the American Academy of Religion's 2004 Annual Meeting in San Antonio next month demonstrates that "bringing male homosexual behavior into the mainstream produces a slippery slope" that serves only to destroy basic societal norms rather than tame risky behavior, says Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Two workshops on the sexual themes are being offered by the Gay Men's Issues in Religion Group at the meeting, scheduled for Nov. 20-23.

"One wonders what is next for the Gay Men's group at AAR – the promotion of incest, 'pedosexuality' and bestiality?" Gagnon asked in a written critique. "There is certainly little or nothing in the presenters' theology that would lead away from such ultimate absurdities."

Of course, the primary reason to even mention this is to make fun of it. But the reality is that in a nation where many of our most prestigious universities and colleges were founded with a conservative religious mission, it is a testament to how far our nation has come when we see how 'scholars' from some of those same institutions of higher learning view scripture.

[Thanks to Mitch for the tip.]