Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Fun Interpretation of the Google Books Settlement

What I love about my Bible study: we talk a LOT about current affairs. Part of the conversation recently, in reading the 23rd Psalm, was “What IS evil?’ One of the examples I thought of was the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to incite.

We also were distressed about the new Arizona immigration law Two thoughts on that. Remember the Sun City (video) album from the 1980s? Sun City was the resort town in South Africa, which, during apartheid came to symbolize the difference in conditions for blacks and whites. On that album was the song, Let Me See Your ID (video).

The other thing is that famous quote by theologian Martin Niemöller
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Having been profiled one or twice (yeah, right), this really disturbs me.
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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: FOX News, GOP further ‘the un-mooring of politics from fact’ (video)
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Gunn High School Sings Away Kansas Hate Group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (video).
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The vengeance of Bernie Goldberg on the Daily Show (Link to video). I don’t recall Goldberg being quite so wack when he was on CBS.
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Plaque in honor of activist William Moore unveiled. He was a civil rights activist from around my hometown of Binghamton, NY, who was murdered in Alabama in 1963. The local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, with which my father worked, was named after him. It even rhymed: The William L. Moore chapter of CORE.
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Very soon, you can listen to the sounds of the cosmos yourself. All of the data from the SETI program will soon be available at setiQuest.org to download or play.
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New national park quarters unveiled: U.S. Mint debuts designs for the first five coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will honor 56 national parks. The rest will be released through 2021. I probably WON’T collect them; still haven’t found most of the 2009 quarters.
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MAD Artist Jack Davis’ Illustrations of NBC’s 1965-66 Season for TV Guide is really cool, especially if you remember the shows, which I do.
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Angelina Jolie is in the summer movie I can’t wait to see, Salt, which was filmed in part in Albany, NY. The filming caused massive traffic delays for days.
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Siren’s Crush Receives Rave Reviews from NAMM (short video). This is my niece’s group; Rebecca is the brunette female.
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My friend Deborah, who I met in 1977 in Manhattan, and who’s been living in France for the past quarter century, recently bought a beautiful old stone house in Brittany with a plan of partly financing the loan by renting it out as a holiday home.

The Kan ar Vouac’h website and its listing on VRBO are finally done, and she’s hoping to be putting the final touches on buying the final necessaries over the month of May.

I’m told it’s a lovely and reasonable place to stay in Brittany.
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Retiree Bathtub Test

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not a retiree should be put in an old age home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the retiree and ask him or her to empty the bathtub”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

ROG

There was a piece in a Times Union blog written by high school student Allison Moss a few weeks ago, addressing the question “Was Jesus Gay?” This was based on something singer Elton John reportedly said. Well, Jesus Christ Superstar suggests that he (or He) was bisexual. Of course, as much as I adore JCSS, I never considered it theologically authoritative.

It was that question that prompted me to revisit the notion, “Was Jesus homely?” As I understand it, we really have no idea about the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. Looking in the Bible, there appears to be no description whatsoever, except an interpretation of Isaiah 53:2, which says, “He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him”. If this is in fact referring to Jesus, and the subsequent verses of the chapter are used in Messiah (Handel) as Jesus verses, then this Jesus fellow was rather plain-looking.

There’s a lengthy Wikipedia description about the depictions of Jesus, which I don’t treat as gospel either, but it IS interesting. My favorite section is on this point: “But when the pagan Celsus ridiculed the Christian religion for having an ugly God in about 180, Origen (d. 248) cited Psalm 45:3: ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, mighty one, with thy beauty and fairness.’ Later the emphasis of leading Christian thinkers changed; Jerome (d. 420) and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) argued that Jesus must have been ideally beautiful in face and body. For Augustine he was ‘beautiful as a child, beautiful on earth, beautiful in heaven’.” So humans, using their own sensibilities, created the appearance of Jesus in their own image of what he (or He) must have looked like. The beard and long hair was copped, ironically, from the image of competing “gods”.

In other words, early depictions of Jesus suggested that He was plain-looking, but other religionists stuck their thumbs in their ears, wiggled their fingers, and chimed in a sing-songy voice, “Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah, nyah, nyah, your God is ugly!” So Christians made THEIR manifestation of God look more like OTHER people’s manifestation of the gods. Given the Biblical directive way back in Genesis that God made humans in God’s image, it seems as though people feel compelled to return the favor.

Moreover, He was probably short. How else does he evade the madding crowd that wants to throw him over a cliff?

So eventually, Jesus started looking, more or less, like this guy:

Theologically, it would make more sense to me if Jesus was less than handsome. It is now well documented that tall, handsome people fare better in social interactions than others. What would be the theological point if Jesus were physically appealing? One might ask if people were following Him for shallow reasons based on His countenance rather than for his message.

When images of “black Jesus” became popular four or five decades in some households, people were shocked, SHOCKED. “THAT’S not what Jesus looked like!” Maybe, maybe not. He probably looked more like that than this, given the geography:

I think this Time magazine cover is a fairly accurate representation of what Christ, and indeed Christianity, looks like; it depends on the point of view.

***
Yes, this is a rewrite of a post from six months ago. It just felt like a Holy week piece.

ROG

Sometimes I write a post which I start then forget about, then find again. This isn’t one of those. This was actually found in our front lawn by my wife, a green handkerchief with two notes on either side of the fold.

One note reads, in all capital letters:

{Name 1], I long to meet your needs in a supernatural way. I want to bless you more than you even can even imagine. Don’t hold back by limiting my ways to your ways. I can make a way where there is no way. Even as Paul sent forth handkerchief, so my servant, [Name 2- first and last name], has sent you this handkerchief in obedience to me, as an act of faith, that I will meet your need with a miracle. Release your faith now and believe my word.

Then, handwritten (though it looks Xeroxed):

[Name 1], receive this word.
I am standing in prayer with you. [signed Name 2, first name only]

On the other side of the hankerchief is Name 1′s full name and full address, three or four blocks from our house.

Then the message:

Write the amount of money you need here:

Initially an amount was written, then whited-out and replaced with the handwritten, “Thousands of dollars.”

Sign your name here, claiming Matt 18:19. [Name 1 has signed].

In the King James Version, Matthew 18:19 reads: “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”

WOW. This disturbs me more than I can explain. There’s an old tradition of taking a Bible verse, pulling it out of context and “proof texting” a point. It seems clear, at least to me, that the two gathered together would be praying for God’s church, not personal wealth. And this commentary agrees:

WHAT VERSE 19 IS NOT
1. Verse 19 has NOTHING to do with requests to God by a believer, in relation to health, wealth, happiness or any other aspect or desire in their own life…
5. The two persons of verse 19 are NOT individual Christian believers making requests for themselves.

This reeks of charlatan theology in the Oral Roberts/Reverend Ike tradition. I’m wondering what kind of “contribution” this person made to receive the “gift” of the handkerchief. Yet another example of “Christians” making Christians look bad.

ROG


I finally figured out why I’m so annoyed when Pat Robertson talks about Haiti’s earthquake essentially being the Haitians’ own fault, just as I was ticked over similar comments from Pat and his ilk about New York City after 9/11 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I realized that they embarrass ME.

Pat’s like that creepy uncle that you really don’t want to invite to the next family wedding because everybody’s still talking about what he did and said at Cousin Sally’s nuptuals a couple years ago. Or he’s that used car salesman with the gaudy sports jacket who tells you what a great deal he has for you, right after he’s jimmied the odometer.

Someone asked me if I thought Pat was crazy. I think not; I believe these comments are deliberate attempts to provoke. Sometimes they’re followed by what I called a man apology. You know, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” with the implicit “but it’s your own fault if you are.”

But of course, since this is my blog, I need to address how does this all effect me. Well, my of my Christain friends have had the same experience as I do, trying to explain (they can’t) or at least distance themselves from such hateful speech allegedly uttered in the name of Christian love. I’m reminded of the Bon Jovi song, “You Give Love A Bad Name.” One of my Internet buddies opines: “Pat Robertson has done more to drive people away from Christianity than any other living person. Obviously HE has a pact with the devil.” Don’t know about the latter, but the former sounds about right.

So I hope people continue to contribute to the relief effort in Haiti. Curious about finding a charity you can trust? Check out this site.
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As for Rush Limbaugh, who I cannot explain, Craig Ferguson said it best; the Red Cross is awaiting your check.

ROG

When I was pondering the notion of “value”, this came unbidden into my head:
When the values go up, up, up
And the prices go down, down, down.
Robert Hall this season
Will show you the reason
High quality! Economy!

music by Leon Mitchell; words by Charles A. Gaston; original version (c) 1946

When I was growing up in Binghamton, NY in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Robert Hall was THE place to go for back-to-school clothing. The clothing was inexpensive but solidly made, the kind of place a working-class family wanted to shop for their children’s apparel.

The secret of the stores’ success was told in this 1949 TIME magazine article. But what sold me were the nifty ads, sometimes with the lyrics slightly altered, which you may be able to hear here and/or here.


But the more pervasive meaning of the word “values” involves the “set of emotional rules people follow to help make the right decisions in life.” Or the wrong ones, I suppose. In a large country such as the Unites States, not to mention a vast planet, one hopes for commonality in values, but certainly cannot expect unanimity.

Yet some groups have successfully seemed to have hijacked the term “values”. There is a group of “values voters”, for instance, who are in the right wing of American politics. Based on their recent summit, they are concerned about the “silenced” Christians, the evil of “Obamacare” (health care), “defending marriage”, and in general, the “vast left wing conspiracy.”

While I support differing points of view, I’m troubled by the notion that only those people of a particular political persuasion are the only ones with “values”. It’s similar to the notion that “Christian” only represents a certain political POV.

As a “liberal” and a Christian, my values are just as legitimate. Oh, and I vote, too.

ROG

I suppose a couple caveats in order: I am a Christian, but I have no desire to proselytize. Conversely, I have no desire to mock the faith. Surely one or more people will think I’m doing one or the other.

I thought this Time magazine cover(#) was a fairly accurate representation of what Christianity looks like; it depends on the point of view.

Take, for instance, the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. What did Jesus look like? Looking in the Bible, there appears to be no description whatsoever, except an interpretation of Isaiah 53:2, which says, “He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him”. If this is in fact referring to Jesus, and the subsequent verses of the chapter are used in Messiah (Handel) as Jesus verses, then this Jesus fellow was rather plain-looking.

There’s a lengthy Wikipedia description about the depictions of Jesus. My favorite section is on this point: “But when the pagan Celsus ridiculed the Christian religion for having an ugly God in about 180, Origen (d. 248) cited Psalm 45:3: ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, mighty one, with thy beauty and fairness.’ Later the emphasis of leading Christian thinkers changed; Jerome (d.420) and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) argued that Jesus must have been ideally beautiful in face and body. For Augustine he was ‘beautiful as a child, beautiful on earth, beautiful in heaven’.” So humans, using their own sensibilities, created the appearance of Jesus in their own image of what he (or He) must have looked like. The beard and long hair was copped, ironically, from the image of competing “gods”.

So, the “standard” look of Jesus is understood to look something like this:

But of course, there are blond Jesus portraits:

In many homes, in the 1960s United States, there were pictures of Jesus that looked more like this montage:

Some folks saw the depiction of a black Jesus as a source of pride, while others called it blasphemy. Given the Biblical directive way back in Genesis that God made humans in God’s image, it seems as though people feel compelled to return the favor.

I was going to continue on a slippery slope of the differing philosophies of various Christian denominations, and the various depictions of Jesus as everything from a Pascal (sacrificial) lamb to a guy who turned over tables in righteous anger, but instead I’ll just leave you with this delineation of church memberships in the United States.

Oh, and this story: back in 1995, when I was still a Methodist, I was in a class called Disciple, where we poured through the whole Bible in 34 weeks. Among other things, one week’s exercise was to go to a faith community different from your own; getting out of one’s comfort zone is something I am in favor of.

As it turned out, there was a Coptic church in Albany at the time. The Coptic church is the Egyptian Orthodox church. The service, mostly in Arabic, but some in English, lasted over three hours! After the service, I had a conversation with a knowledgeable member. Everyone who participated in communion drank from the same cup; they did not worry about communicable diseases because the Lord would not let that happen in the Sacrament. As a non-Orthodox, I was not invited to partake of communion, although a Roman Catholic, who believe in transubstantiation, could have. In fact, the gentleman, in the nicest possible manner, assured me that I was going to hell for my Protestant beliefs. It was all VERY interesting how different the teachings of Jesus can be interpreted.

(#) First three images from LIFE, for personal non-commercial use only
ROG

Pearls Before Swine
I’ve only been a Presbyterian for about seven years. So I know far less about John Calvin than I do about John Wesley, a founder of Methodism. Calvin, who founded a reformed movement that is represented in the United States by, among other denominations, the Presbyterian church, was born 500 years ago on July 10. One of the most difficult concepts for me is this:

John Calvin: On Double Predestination

In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name and the sanctification of his Spirit, he affords an indication of the judgement that awaits them.

In other words, if I understand it correctly, some are born to be saints going to heaven, and others sinners going to hell. As one theologian friend of mine opined, “And you may THINK you have free will, but it was predestined that you think that.”

This hurts my head.

Here’s another take on double predestination.

Am I a bad Presbyterian because I’m a “free will guy? Where do you stand on this?

***
BTW, I went to the Pearls Before Swine website, having seen the strip in the newspaper, and the SITE provided the specific URL for the graphic. Cool.

ROG

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