Saturday, April 30, 2005


Not wanting to be outdone by their high church older brothers (I apologize for my oppressive patriarchal language) over at the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists have reinstated a defrocked lesbian minister:
An appeals panel of the United Methodist Church has reinstated a lesbian minister who was defrocked in December after revealing in a sermon to her Philadelphia congregation that she was living with her gay partner.

The decision overturns a ruling by a lower church court that removed the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud from the ministry for violating Methodist law that forbids "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to be ordained or serve as members of the clergy.

Obviously, this church court has been taking notes on how to decide cases from the Federal judiciary. Still, it ain't over till it's over, and Ms. Stroud has another hurdle to jump:
The court of appeals said in its decision yesterday that it would reinstate Ms. Stroud because the lower court had committed two legal errors. One was based on the conclusion that neither the church's top legislative assembly, the General Conference, nor the Eastern Pennsylvania region of the church had ever defined what it meant by "practicing homosexual."

Ms. Stroud's case will probably be appealed to the church's equivalent of the Supreme Court - the Judicial Council - which has consistently ruled against openly noncelibate gay clergy members, said Mr. Hall and other church officials. The bishop who is responsible for deciding whether to appeal, Bishop Marcus Matthews of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, did not respond to phone calls to his office yesterday.

But in the end, does it matter? It seems Ms. Stroud's defrocking is really fairly superficial:
In her congregation, First United Methodist Church of Germantown, she has continued to preach, teach and organize youth groups, but she does not don vestments or celebrate the sacraments.

If churches are unwilling to take a stand here, then they have fully degenerated into kumbaya social clubs. When you simply play catch-up with the world, is it any surprise that people reach the logical conclusion that they're better off with the real thing. Declining mainline church memberships are no big shock.

Friday, April 29, 2005


In a brilliant column Don Feder reports that the media has discovered--to their chagrin--that the new pope is Catholic. He wonders if that might cause them to wonder about some things:
Let me share a secret with you: You don’t have to be a Bavarian cardinal who came of age witnessing the horrors of Nazism to understand this. There are millions of evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and adherents of other religions that trace their roots to Sinai who understand that liberalism has opened a chamber of horrors and unleashed the monsters that have always lurked in the dark recesses of the human soul.

Closing that door and driving the creatures back to the Stygian depths from whence they came is the great work confronting all of us who embrace the Bible’s moral truths.

You’d think the left – which treats traditional Catholics as throwbacks – would be the least bit curious as to why Benedict XVI, Dr. James Dobson and your average Orthodox rabbi – coming from radically different faith perspectives – could read the Bible and arrive at the same conclusion on ethical questions – abortion is the taking of a human life, homosexuality is (as the Bible says) “an abomination,” killing the handicapped is morally indefensible, men and women aren’t fungible commodities, etc.

In what the Times intended as an indictment, but which -- in reality -- is a commendation, its coverage of April 20th observed of Benedict XVI, “In his view, the church does not exist so that it can be incorporated into the world, but so as to offer it a way to live.”

What will those crazy religious people think of next?

Thursday, April 28, 2005


An English gardener has turned up a 'major horde' of Bronze Age tools and weapons:
A man landscaping his garden in eastern England has unearthed a major hoard of tools and weapons dating back nearly 3,000 years, an archaeologist revealed on Tuesday.

The hoard is among the largest finds in Britain from the late Bronze Age, consisting of 145 items including spear and axe heads, swords and metal working tools.

"This is one of the biggest late Bronze Age hoards ever found in Norfolk and is up there among the major finds in Britain," said Alan West, curator of archaeology at Norwich Museum some 100 miles northeast of London.

"The items are in good condition and this find is another significant piece in the Bronze Age jigsaw adding to our knowledge of the period," he told Reuters.

Included among the items is a Viking brooch, and West said it was unusual to find buried items together dating from different periods.

Good motivation to get those tomatoes in the ground.

Upset after handing over their earthly possessions in hopes of seeing Jesus, two women are suing:
Kaziah Hancock and Cindy Stewart say they gave large sums of money to The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of The Last Days (TLC). Stewart says she gave her life savings, and Hancock says she sold her farm and handed over the cash.

In exchange, the two women allege in a state district court lawsuit, church founder Jim Harmston promised they would be members of the "Church of the Firstborn," would see Christ face to face and would receive "stewardship" of land.

Hancock and Stewart allege none of those promises were kept, including receiving land, and they allege they are victims of fraud and a violation of contract.

During oral arguments Tuesday, an attorney for Harmston and leaders of TLC argued the promises cannot be cause for a lawsuit because they are based on religious doctrine and not a business contract.

I think I'm on the side of the two bilked women.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


With my upcoming trip to India Christian Today > this attack in northern India caught my eye:
Assist News Service yesterday reported that the Jesus Film crew has been attacked by a group of Hindu extremists while carrying out their mission in the Uttar Pradesh state, Northern India

The JESUS Film Project, spearheaded by the Campus Crusade for Christ, distributes the film "JESUS" - a two-hour docudrama about the life of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke. The film has been seen across the world and translated into hundreds of languages since its initial release in 1979.

This time the Film has now stepped out into the land of Northern India, however, the local Hindu extremist groups seem have reacted vigorously to the movement. Assist News Service said a raid was carried out by at least 35 Hindu extremists on a showing of the Jesus Film.

George Ninan, the South Asia Director for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) described, "When the film showing was going on, around 35-40 men attacked them, tearing up the screen and beating up people."

During the attack, all the viewers fled the scene. Karan Bahadur, the leader of the film team suffered the most. "He could not escape and was badly beaten and became unconscious," Ninan said.

It was reported by Assist News Service that Bahadur was taken captive, tortured, and questioned in detail about his family and work. The following night he was released near some railroad tracks and told to run for his life. He ran as far as his strength allowed, then hid himself in bushes that lined the track. The next morning Bahadur jumped aboard a slow-moving freight train, then eventually made his way by truck to Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

The article reports the police have been less than concerned. The gospel is met with a lot more than apathy in a lot of places in the world.

I will be in south central India, by the way, quite a ways from the events described above.

Monday, April 25, 2005

WITH ALL THIS RELIGION IN TV SHOWS...I think I liked it better when the networks simply ignored it.

Long time readers of theosebes (both of you) know of my frequent posts on archaeology. Along those lines is ArchaeoBlog, a weblog devoted entirely to items of archaeological interest that I dug up (hahahaha). I've added ArchaeoBlog to the blogroll in the right sidebar. I think it will be worth your time to drop by.

Senate majority leader Bill Frist is causing a stir with his televised broadcast to churches on the Senate filibuster issue. The connection is the idea that Senate Democrats are deliberately blocking 'people of faith', a charge that I tend to believe.

Liberals and media are up in arms about the broadcast claiming that religion and politics should be kept separate, which is ridiculous, of course. It's simply a way to push out a powerful part of the electorate the left knows will disagree with it. It's especially disingenuous when at least every four years we see white Democratic Presidential candidates clapping and swaying out of time in any number of black churches.

Quite frankly, I am uncomfortable with bringing partisan politics directly into churches. I know the church I work with would never tolerate it, although addressing certain public issues that clearly are connected with Biblical morality or freedom of religion are fair game. But those who are religious must never allow themselves to be forced from the public square, nor can we allow a not disinterested media to impose an unsurprising double standard into the debate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Of course, I'm not a Catholic so Catholics shouldn't care one whit about what I think about the new pope. But as he seems to be conservative in an uphold Biblical principles sort of way, I like him. He seems to upset all the right people, so I can't think it's a bad choice. Obviously I have fundamental problems with the Catholic Church, so I don't even endorse the idea of pope in the first place, but that's why I'm not a Catholic. It seems to me that all the faux Catholics running about--you know, "I'm a Catholic, but I reject all of the Church's teaching on anything of importance."--would be much happier if they would simply find a religion to play around in.

FIRING WITH AN UNLOADED GUN...I watched a bit of Scarborough Country on MSNBC last night (I'm at my parents where they have many more cable channels than I do.). They were discussin, you guessed it, the pope, and one of my favorite political commentators, Pat Buchanan, was on so I watched. Joe Scarborough, appealing to his Baptist background, kept attempting to join the debate with his insights and recollections of Scripture (his favorite Biblical quote: "Let those without sin cast the first stone." Profound.). Now I know what happens to kids who sleep through Bible class when they grow up. They get their own show on MSNBC.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND...My old roommate Raymond Arroyo, EWTN broadcaster and sometimes writer for National Review Online (but I forgive him for that), was on Hannity & Colmes last night (and will be again tonight). It appears Raymond interviewed then Cardinal Ratzinger a couple of years ago, an interview that is now a hot property. Way to go Ray!

HOW LIBERALS DEBATE...One of the common lines you'll hear from liberals in regard to the Catholic Church and the new pope is how there needs to be an open exchange of ideas. We need to debate all these issues like contraception, abortion and women priests. That's all fine and dandy until one day, say, the Vatican says "okay, we'll allow women priests." Suddenly debate and free exchange of ideas is no longer welcome. The liberals have fulfilled their agenda. Any further discussion of disallowing women priests would certainly be "turning back the clock." Liberals love debate...until they get what they want. The only decided issues are liberal issues.

AND THE DARKNESS DID NOT COMPREHEND IT...A talking head--a Vatican "analyst" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)--on one of the networks was telling us about the new pope. He's the sort of fellow, you see, who actually thinks Christ is the only way to heaven and that Christianity is actually a superior religion to other religions. Some people might consider that--gasp!--offensive. And he wants to return the Catholic Church to its traditional core values thus leaving some people feeling cut out of the process and marginalized. It's really instructive watching how a relativistic world reacts to someone with strong convictions and belief. They really don't know how to react. To see a pope's view that Christ is the only way to heaven treated in any way as "news" tells us a lot more about the news reporters than it does about the pope.

FILLED PEWS OR NO?...In response to a conservative lay Catholic activist, a liberal Catholic pointed out how Catholic attendance has been dwindling over the past generation. A clear statement, he seemed to think, that it was high time the Vatican got with the modern program. On another show it was pointed out that in American old-line liberal churches (eg, Episcopalians) have lost members right and left (well, mainly right) as conservative churches are bursting at the seams. The liberal Catholic priest piously pointed out that Jesus seldom went with the majority.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Using advanced imaging techniques, a pile of Greek documents that have thwarted scholars for a century are now revealing their secrets. But does that include 'lost gospels'?
For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament. [italics added, nac]

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye - decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".

This sort of discovery just gets my blood pumping--the possible recovery of ancient lost documents is right up my alley. Lost histories, plays and poems by the ancients' finest (and probably a few hacks) is wonderful.

But what about this claim that ancient lost gospels dating to the time of the earliest NT writings will be uncovered? Well, we'll see, but I think it says more about the biases of the scholars--and probably a little bit of deliberate PR hype--than anything else. 'Lost' gospels are quite the hip thing these days. The church hid them all you know because they wanted to fool you. I know that because I've read scholarship like The Da Vinci Code. But the fact is, the 'lost' gospels invariably are late gospels, many not even deserving of the 'gospel' moniker.

The proof will be in the pudding, but while there may be some writings related to early Christianity (I really hope there are), I feel extraordinarily confident that no startling discoveries of 'lost', 'hidden' or 'secret' gospels will come to light that in any way question the validity of the witness we have in the four we already have.

[Thanks to Susanna at cotb for the link.]

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

THE ONION REPORTS that the pope finds heaven, well, disappointing. (Pardon the ads!)

[Thanks to old school reader T.P. for the link.]

Forget those new Star Wars action figures, buy the new talking Jesus figure instead:
A talking Jesus doll is due to go on sale in May, along with versions of Moses, the Virgin Mary and David, as a teddy bear maker tries to find a market with churches and religious families.

The foot-tall Jesus doll will be able to recite five Biblical verses at the push of button on its back, while the Moses doll will recite the Ten Commandments. The Mary doll will recite a long Bible verse.

Joshua Livingston, one of the original founders of Valencia, Calif.-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. has returned to the company to head its new Biblical doll unit, One2Believe. In the past, Beverly Hills Teddy Bear mostly manufactured bears and other plush toys on a contract basis for other retailers.

Watch out, George Lucas!

Make sure your brackets are filled out before the conclave begins. (I'm picking Duke...)

Monday, April 11, 2005


Well, you just can't beat this in the pulpit:
Her limousine pulled into the church parking lot. An expectant crowd watched as the door opened and a pair of peach-colored stilettos stepped onto the pavement.

Oprah Winfrey had arrived, looking every inch the star with glamorous hair and a form-fitting peach suit that instantly set the crowd abuzz.

But from the moment she bounded out of the limousine with companion Stedman Graham at her side, she presented herself as a simple churchgoer who merely craved a chance to visit the church of "my all-time favorite minister so far" - the Rev. Otis Moss, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. Winfrey, who was the guest speaker Sunday for Olivet's Christian Family Unity Day observance...

Ah, limo and long-time "companion". It's Oprah's world, and we're just living in it.

Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code is receiving renewed interest in Rome with the death of John Paul II:
Two novels by American mystery writer Dan Brown, "Angels and Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code," are big sellers here in Italy, just like in the United States.

"They are the books of the moment,'' said Ray Esteves Nepomuceno, the manager of a bookstore in Rome's main train station.

They are also the first thing his customers see when entering his shop - a huge pile of the two books by Brown, including an illustrated Italian edition of "The Da Vinci Code."

It's hard to find Romans who have not read his best-selling works, and sales have been boosted by a recent condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church.

Massimiliano Mariani was on an airport shuttle bus last week with a copy of "Angeli e Demoni" tucked under his arm. The book revolves around murder, a secret society of scientists sent underground by the church some four centuries ago, the kidnap of cardinals and the threatened destruction of the Vatican.

But not everyone likes it, of course:
Last month, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone used a Vatican Radio broadcast to urge all Catholics to boycott "The Da Vinci Code," becoming the highest-ranking member of the church to condemn it.

"My appeal is as follows,'' he said. "Don't read and don't buy 'The Da Vinci Code.' "

Just last week I finished my thrift store copy (Dan Brown ain't gettin' my money) of The Da Vinci Code. It's a decent thriller, but a historical and theological disaster. Theosebes recommends Ben Witherington's The Gospel Code for much needed balance. More about both books soon.

Friday, April 08, 2005


The wife and I watched Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie, the author of "Peter Pan", in Finding Neverland last night. There were thumbs up all around. This review at Christianity Today gets it right, I think. Also worth reading is this biographical sketch of Barrie to compare to the movie presentation.

That was the Biblical insight we got in the made for TV Noah movie a few years ago. Now, NBC is ready to cash in with "Revelations", in which
Bill Pullman ("Independence Day"), stars as a scientist faced with the toughest personal, professional and philosophical challenges of his life. Dr. Richard Massey is searching for reasonable explanations -- to explain signs that seem to indicate the apocalyptic end as foretold in Scriptures is in motion. To save humanity, Massey will have to let go of scientific facts and embrace faith. His first step in his quest to conquer the impending evil is to align himself with a nun (Natascha McElhone, "Solaris") whose devout beliefs are unshakable. Despite many obstacles, including their own fears and doubts, the two remain determined to prove that Man can regain control of fate. Time is literally running out in their thrilling, fast-paced race around the globe to thwart Armageddon -- and restore hope.

These Hollywood apocalyptics are always about restoring hope and man regaining control of his fate. That is, they are always about man being in control, which somewhat misses the Biblical point of it all.

But this is NBC's way of cashing in on the public's reaction to Mel Gibson's "The Passion" with a good dose of "The Da Vinci Code" throw in:
Due to the popularity of such books as 'The Da Vinci Code' and the box office success of such movies as 'The Passion of the Christ,' there's no denying the general public's interest in the supernatural and the spiritual realms," added Vince Manze, president and creative director, The NBC Agency.

For some reason, of course, we need a nun and the return of the Christ child (I guess they missed Acts 1--Christ isn't coming back that way). I bet there's a demonic priest somewhere, too.

I know you're worried that Revelations is only a six episode mini-series. Don't fear, more great Bible inspired shows are on the way:
"The Book of Daniel," about a minister (Aidan Quinn) who abuses prescription drugs and is visited by a "cool, contemporary Jesus," is in development at NBC. Fox is working on "Briar + Graves," a pilot about a priest who teams with a neurologist to examine unexplained events.

I'm so excited to see how Hollywood would make Jesus cool and contemporary....

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mark Almond says Protestant England is dead. Catholicism is chic.

Openly homosexual Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson Christian Today >denies saying that Jesus might have been a homosexual:
Robinson reported that his comments were taken out of context and interpreted in an incorrect way. He has since commented that he has been "flooded with angry messages". However, he was adamant that he was simply making the point that the nuclear family was a fresh idea and that Jesus had lived a non-traditional life.

The openly homosexual bishop said, "What I recall is that the question was trying to get me to say that Jesus affirmed the nuclear family as the only way a family can be. I was just pointing out that you best check scripture again before you use the life of Jesus to try to pronounce a blessing on that."

What did he say, then?
The Christ Church website has a recording of the forum, and in it Bishop Robinson commented, "Interestingly enough, in this day of traditional family values and so on this man that we follow ... was single as far as we know; who travelled with a bunch of men, although there were lots of women around; who had a disciple who was known as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’; [italics added, ac] who said my family is not my mother and father, my family are those who do the will of God – none of us like those harsh words. That’s who Jesus is, that’s who he was, at least in his earthly life."

He continued, "I happen to think the traditional family is a wonderful thing. I’m a product of it. I dearly love my family, and I love my own family, with my own two kids. It just looks a little non-traditional. But this Jesus, when you ask who is Jesus, he was not terribly mainstream, was he?"

Does Robinson say it? No, not explicitly. But he's certainly implying an equivalency while still maintaining deniability. The Episcopalians can have him.

Friday, April 01, 2005


The ACLU is shocked to find that a new government website promotes abstinence:
A new government Web site [that seems to be the one, ac] gives parents advice on how to convince their children that “abstinence is the healthiest choice.” That’s dictating values, say organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to gay rights groups, and they want the site taken down.

...[T]he ACLU, the National Education Association and more than 100 other advocacy groups are asking HHS to take down the Web site.

Bill Pierce, an HHS spokesman, said he was not surprised certain groups dislike the site.

“They’ve always opposed us on the issue of abstinence. That’s fine,” [Health and Humans Services spokesman Bill] Pierce said. “One thing we do know about abstinence is that if you practice it, you will not have an unintended pregnancy or risk catching a sexually transmitted disease.”

Of course, on its face, the HHS stance is incontrovertible: abstinence is the healthiest choice for the very reasons he outlines. Is that relevant to these organizations supposedly concerned about children's rights and well-being? Of course not because despite their protestations to the contrary, they have their own 'values' to promote.

All the right people are against the website. Keeping it must be a good idea.