Is Pat Robertson Crazy or Does He Just Play Dumb on TV?


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

The Award-Winning…

Jaquandor was kind enough to bestow upon me a “Kreative Blogger” award of some sort.

I feel a certain obligation to pass these kinds of things along, based on the theory that, back in the olden days when I started blogging, some 4.7 years ago, it made the blogisphere – dare I say it? – FUN. Blogging should be fun, even if one’s venting one’s spleen to do so.

You’re supposed to reveal seven things about yourself. Of course, the problem with that I’m almost out of stuff to “reveal” that 1) I didn’t reveal before, 2) require more than a line or two, or 3) I’m not planning to reveal at this point, or quite possibly, ever. No guarantees that the list below might not have bumped into the first category:

1. I receive an irrational amount of pleasure when I delete one piece of spam in Gmail and it says I’ll be deleting “the one conversation”, or “both conversations” when I delete two, as opposed to those programs that will delete “all 1 conversations”, or some such.

2. I once got a B in art in 7th grade. My parents were at a loss as to how I did so well. This explains almost everything you need to know about me and doing art.

3. I once almost flew with someone who was traveling on someone else’s ticket. He got detained by airport security and the police for about seven hours until he showed his security clearance. This, BTW, was before 9/11.

4. I have no tattoos. I’m not opposed at this point, but 1) it would keep me from donating blood for a while and 2) my wife would hate it. Then there’s the pain and permanence thing, but those are secondary.

5. At least twice, I took jobs because of affairs of the heart. Neither was worth it; the jobs weren’t, that is, but the affairs of the heart were.

6. I tape sporting events then watch them later, going through lots of machinations (no news watching/reading or e-mail/Facebook/Twitter). Sometimes it works (Jets/Bengals, Eagles/Cowboys Saturday games I watched on Sunday; Packers/Cardinals Sunday game I finished Tuesday morning); sometimes not (the Patriots loss on the front cover of Monday’s Wall Street Journal).

7. I’m allergic to penicillin and Naprocyn, have been for years, yet I’m too lazy to get one of those tags. But we have one for my daughter with her peanut allergy.

Then I’m supposed to pass the award along. That’s a bit tougher. I’d have considered Jaquandor’s Byzantium Shores. I’d also have picked SamuraiFrog’s Electronic Cerebrectomy, except he gave the award to Jaquandor and that’s a bit too circular for me. Then there are the bums gentlemen who stopped blogging in the last year, who I used to follow.

Still, there’s:

1. Arthur @AmeriNZ – your usual, everyday blog of a gay man from Illinois who moved to New Zealand for love. OK, there’s a LOT more to it: talk about politics, comparative US/NZ culture and whatever enters his fertile mind. He also has a couple podcasts, one on politics, the other, more general.

2. Coverville – the blog is primarily a support mechanism for Brian Ibbott’s great podcast “featuring unusual covers of pop, rock and country songs by new and established performers.” But in the last year or so, he’s added a song rating system to the site. Also, he and his listeners have found some nifty videos of covers that he’s posted.

3. Progressive Ruin: Unfortunately, I gotta give props to Mike Sterling, even though he’s a cheater pants, not just for his persistence – I think he posted 364 days last year – but for some of his regular features, such as his deconstruction of the absurd items Diamond comics catalog, and especially Sluggo Saturdays. Still his obsession with the comic creature Swamp Thing is…disturbing.

4. And speaking of Swamp Thing, its best renderer, IMHO, my buddy Steve Bissette posts his Myrant, a mix of digital comics, comics & film history, political tirades and more.

5. Scott’s Scooter Chronicles is about music, books, beer, and hockey. Truth is that I’m not a big fan of the latter two, but he even makes those interesting. It’s also about his two young sons and being unemployed in America. SOMEONE GIVE THIS MAN A JOB!

6. Anthony Velez’s The Dark Glass is a series of theological musings. Sometimes I don’t understand, but he always explains it, or tries to.

7. Gordon at Blog This, Pal! is mostly a pop culture (comics/TV/movies) blog. He knows more about Doctor Who and Kids in the Hall than anyone has a right to. I happen to particularly enjoy those too-rare glimpses of his personal side (his mom, St. Louis vs. Chicago). He also has a podcast that he’s rethinking. He knows I’d always vote for keeping the music, but really, he should do what brings him joy.

ROG

Camel through the Eye of A Needle

The liturgy for this week in my tradition includes the Gospel of Mark, the 10th chapter, starting with the 17th verse. It’s about a rich young man who follows all the laws, but Jesus said, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The young man was NOT happy.

Then Jesus said, at verse 25, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Similar scripture can be found in Matthew 19:24 and Luke 18:25.

A couple thoughts on this: There are lots of folks who seem to think that what is meant by the eye of the needle is a small gate or a rope, thus difficult but not impossible to achieve. I don’t buy it and this site explains it well as any.

Also, it’s clear that most of the poorest Westerners are much better off than the poor in developing countries. Does this lead some in the United States, e.g., to decide that the poor in their own country are not worthy of compassion? When I type the word “underserved” in Blogger and in other word processing formats, the spell check wanted to know if I really meant “undeserved”.

Mostly, though, I was thinking of last week’s PARADE magazine survey of How Spiritual Are We?, we being Americans. In the print version, the visual representatives of faith leadership were were Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. Rick Warren is problematic for all sorts of reasons, including his apparent homophobia.

But I want to concentrate on Joel Osteen, who is engaged in what’s commonly referred to as the “prosperity gospel.” Essentially, if you are positive, then God is going to give you all of the goodies of this world. To my ears, it’s just a more polished version of the late Rev. Ike, who would say, “Why have that pie in the sky, when you can have it NOW, with ice cream on the top.” I find myself agreeing uncomfortably with some evangelicals (as the term is commonly understood) when I suggest that Osteen’s teachings are heretical to Biblical teachings. I watched him two years ago on 60 Minutes, and I’m more inclined to believe so after the program than I did before it, even though the interview was designed to answer his critics.

“Love of money is the root of all evil”, the Bible says. Even when preached by a reputed man of God.
ROG

J is for Jesus

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

Theology QUESTION

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?

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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