Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Death of Words: R.I.P. "Porn Addiction" Done Away With By "Researchers"

It should be obvious to everyone that access to pornography is easier than ever thanks to the likes of Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, the internet, the personal computer, the courts, and of course, the sexual desires of people. In addition, since pornography has become much more "potent" much like marijuana growers have increased the THC content of their product, one has to wonder if this has increased people's attraction to pornography. It has been consider to be such an epidemic that for many years we have read articles about "sex addiction," and "porn addiction" with all the negative connotations that go along with those labels. There are even twelve step programs for people suffering from these problems, and all the while the porn industry marches on.

Maybe like the war on drugs, people will come to feel that any war on porn is a losing battle. After a while, people who are fighting a losing battle start to look for any excuse to surrender.

It looks like "Researchers" are making some headway into creating a potential exit strategy from the war on pornography as they are now saying that there is no such thing as porn "addiction."
February 12, 2014
Journalists and psychologists are quick to describe someone as being a porn "addict," yet there's no strong scientific research that shows such addictions actually exists. So says a clinical psychologist in practice in a large behavioral health program.

"Instead, Ley and his team believe that the positive benefits attached to viewing such images do not make it problematic de facto. It can improve attitudes towards sexuality, increase the quality of life and variety of sexual behaviors and increase pleasure in long-term relationships. It provides a legal outlet for illegal sexual behaviors or desires, and its consumption or availability has been associated with a decrease in sex offenses, especially child molestation."
"The positive benefits... do not make it problematic de facto..." The clinical psychologists can call it an obsession rather than an classical addiction if they want to, but this group won't even call it an obsession. They go the full monty by stripping away all the negative connotations and exposing something that once was shameful and presenting it to all the world as a beautiful thing! I don't see the beauty, and I think there are real problems with the supposed health benefits and the alleged benefits to long term relationships the researchers claim. What does make it problematic for the Christian is that the Lord is quite specific in telling us that it is a problem,
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28

I don't know where Ley and his team are coming from, but I have a good idea as to where this advice might lead. The legitimization of any one particular sexual sin by so called "science" begins with a biased hypothesis that the behavior is natural or healthy and ends once that hypothesis is accepted as fact without ever having been fully tested. Society eagerly accepts such messages that condone sin, since they free us to pursue our human desires. We have seen this same pattern in other issues involving human sexuality where by simply changing the language of debate or by the psychological re-classification of a behavior we are softened up for the knockout punch which is, in the end, aimed at our souls.

Maybe somebody should strike back at this type of research by twisting the meaning of the word "research". On second thought, I think these researchers have already done just that.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Abortion 360 Event at Winthrop U.

The things they teach in college these days...

From the Daily Caller via Yahoo.

"The Socialist Student Union at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. set a new low for gauche and tasteless behavior this week by covering the green lawn outside the campus center with wire coat hangers to mock a prior event at the school sponsored by students opposed to abortion.

Back in January, on National Sanctity of Human Life Day, Winthrop’s College Republicans had covered the same plot of land with a vast multitude of flags representing abortions, reports Campus Reform.

Naturally, a bunch of those flags representing aborted babies were either stolen or crushed under unidentified feet.

The Socialist Student Union’s display of wire hangers was designed to promote an event called Abortion 360, which occurred on Tuesday at Winthrop. The Abortion 360 event was so named in response to an anti-abortion film shown by College Republicans named 'Abortion 180.'

The Abortion 360 event featured Jennifer Disney, a political science professor at Winthrop who also runs the women’s studies program. The point was to “provide a different perspective on reproductive rights and the abortion debate.”

Disney’s 2002 Ph.D. dissertation was called 'The Theories and Practices of Women’s Organizing: Marxism, Feminism, Democratization, and Civil Society in Mozambique and Nicaragua.'

Every student who attended the Abortion 360 event racked up a “cultural event credit” from Winthrop, notes Campus Reform.

Students at the public, taxpayer-funded school must collect 20 such credits to graduate."

I just got finished paying my South Carolina state taxes. I want my money back.

I wonder what would have happened if someone had come in the night and hung pictures of Dr. Kermit Gosnell on those coat hangers?

The misguided young socialists at Winthrop and their professors wouldn't get it, but I bet they would clean up their coat hangers if anybody messed with them, and eventually they would get even, if the history of past Marxist/socialist revolutions holds true to form.

The current revolution, in its glorification of abortion, is targeting morality. Once traditional morality is undermined, it can be replaced by a new one.

I think I have seen this pattern before...
"The bourgeoisie, which far surpasses the proletariat in the completeness and irreconcilability of its class consciousness, is vitally interested in imposing its moral philosophy upon the exploited masses. It is exactly for this purpose that the concrete norms of the bourgeois catechism are concealed under moral abstractions patronized by religion, philosophy, or that hybrid which is called “common sense”. The appeal to abstract norms is not a disinterested philosophic mistake but a necessary element in the mechanics of class deception. The exposure of this deceit which retains the tradition of thousands of years is the first duty of a proletarian revolutionist." Leon Trotsky, "Their Morals and Ours" 1938.

What is the inevitable outcome of the devaluation of human life? It becomes just another resource to feed the appetite of Molech.

"My friends, this is what happens at the confluence of socialized medicine, the decline of morality and environmentalism.
According to the UK Telegraph, the remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as ‘clinical waste’ by hospitals in Britain with some used in ‘waste to energy plants.'” Allen West

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Red Egg of Mary Magdalene: Is it a Red Herring?

This Easter's sermon at our church started out as a good affirmation of the Gospel witness that Christ arose from the dead, but as it went on, my mind bgan to wander as we heard stories of surviving cancer being likened to "resurrection" (not exactly of the same significance to the world IMHO). As my mind drifted, the tale of the red Easter egg was recounted. I am not sure if I heard any caveats, and two witnesses likewise do not recall hearing a disclaimer to the story of Mary Magdalene standing in front of the Emperor who said to her that he would no sooner believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead than he would believe that the egg she was holding would turn red, which of course it promptly did.

That story is not in the Bible, and probably should have been prefaced with a clear statement of its folklore status.

In a fruitless quest fior the origins of this folktale, I searched the internet for an ancient fragment of papyrus, something in the writings of Dan Brown, or from the writings of a Church father that might lend some credibility to the story.

Over at Christianity Today, in an article by Anthony McRoy, Fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies and lecturer in Islamic studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, U.K., I only found more stories which add to the confusion,

"One Eastern Orthodox myth presents either Mary Magdalene or Mary, the mother of Jesus, placing a basket of eggs under the cross. The blood of Christ fell on the eggs, turning them red.
According to another tale, Simon of Cyrene was an egg merchant who had to leave his basket of eggs to help Jesus carry the cross. When he returned, he found that his eggs had changed color!"
I consider the red egg story to be a bit of a red herring, distracting us from the real meaning of Easter as the article at Christianity Today rightly concludes,
"Children eagerly anticipate Easter because of the joy that Easter eggs bring. But the joy associated with Easter traditions is dependent upon the celebration of Christ's triumph over death, and the popular anticipation associated with eggs on Easter Sunday must always be surpassed by the greater anticipation that the day celebrates—the assured hope of Christ's return and the general resurrection to come."
I can't wait until Christmas to hear how Rudolph's nose came to be red. It probably has something to do with St. Peter inventing the red plastic Easter egg...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What's the Big Deal About Easter?

The other day the following quotation was subject for discussion at the Churchmouse Campanologist site,
"Oh. All Easter means to me is exchanging stinky boiled eggs in church. I never understood why we did it."
It made me wonder that if a self professed Christian can feel this way, how does the average low information Christian feel about what was the most important day in the history of the world?

If there were a massive earthquake today and thousands of people died, it would be the topic of conversation for a few days, but in a few decades there might be little talk about it.
Yet millions hear about the following event each year on Good Friday,
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose" Matthew 27:51-52 KJV
That earthquake of 2000 years ago will be remembered and celebrated long after tragedies like 09/11/2011 have been forgotten because the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus revealed to mankind something quite extraordinary: death is not final, God wants us to share in his eternal Kingdom, and He wants us so badly that He is willing to die for us despite all of our flaws, failures, and foibles.

Many people today do not believe in the underlying truth that undergirds these Holy Days, or they accept only bits and pieces while rationalizing away other parts of the testimony of the Gospel writers.

For example, it is a commonly held notion that the post resurrection appearances of Jesus were hallucinations, in which case the stinking boiled eggs quip seems to be an expected response to Easter.

It is also commonly believed that the fact that Jesus died so that we might live forever is not fact but fiction, something that was made up by his followers.

I never could understand why anyone would be willing to give up their lives for a hallucination or for a fabricated, fantastic theology.

Today I give thanks to those Gospel writers of so long ago who understood that this something that occurred on that Easter morning in Jerusalem was so earth changing that its memory must be passed on for future generations. The urgency and earnestness of their desire that we too might accept this event as real and vitally important to us and to all men is evident in their choices of language and style.
For that reason, I will simply list a few of those important messages which I trust will make up for any smelly boiled eggs folks had to put up with today.

If you are an unbeliever, please remember that it was with the hope that you would come to believe in Jesus as your Saviour as well as for us to never forget the first Easter that these things were recorded.

Mark 16:9-16 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 
Luke 24:46-48 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things. 
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
John 17:3 - And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 
John 6:50-71 - This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. (Read More...) 
John 20:19-24 - Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. (Read More...)

1 Peter 3:18-22 - For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Romans 10:13 - For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
John 5:28-29 - Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, (Read More...) 
Luke 23:43 - And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 
2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 
Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:

Romans 8:38-39 - For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Acts 24:15 - And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 
John 14:23 - Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 
Matthew 7:21-23 - Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Revelation 20:6 - Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 
Philippians 3:21 - Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Acts 2:31 - He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 
John 5:29 - And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 
John 5:28 - Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 
Luke 20:35-36 - But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 
Luke 16:22-24 - And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

Luke 14:14 - And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. 
Plus a few Old Testament verses to remember God's promise,
Hosea 13:14 - I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. 
Psalms 86:13 - For great [is] thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. 
Psalms 49:15 - But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. 
Psalms 16:10 - For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Happy Easter to all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Episcopal Priest All in for the "Second Axial Awakening"

This was not what I had in mind for the Wednesday in Holy week , but Peter Ould tweeted this story yesterday, and my head has been spinning ever since. The article was posted by an Episcopal priest serving in a tiny church in Brewster New York at "The Contemplative Journal" web page and was reprinted at a certain "progressive" Episcopal blog. If you are familiar with the time-line of the decline of the Episcopal church, you should be able to understand how this type of teaching has come to be so acceptable that it is celebrated as revealed wisdom by progressives in the church.

Here are a few excerpts from the "Second Axial Awakening,"

"Slowly we are beginning to discover that there is ultimately no separation within the field of existence—only one seamless dance. We belong deeply to this world, interwoven fully into its fabric.

This realization is forming the headwaters of a Second Axial Age, another great shift in consciousness equal in weight to that which gave rise (roughly between 800 and 200 BCE) to the impulse that eventually manifested as our existing great religious structures. With that first great turn of the wheel, we opened to the beauty of the individual and the possibility of the Transcendent, and a new human journey began. But in the process we lost much of an earlier, collective sense of belonging rooted in tribe, and a deep, felt sense of connection to Earth.

In this next great turn in the spiral dance, we are picking up what was lost—no longer at the tribal, but at the global level. We are entering a period of deep integration, weaving together the primal, collective, and cosmic with the rational, individual, and transcendent—binding together Heaven and Earth. The Divine Heart is moving towards the fullness of its expression in form. With this new turn of the wheel, we release our sense of exile and settle in for the work at hand. Our Second Axial awareness begins from a new starting place: union. We have never been separate: not from one another, not from the Earth that holds us, not from the Infinite we long for...

...We see it in the birth of Christianity, directly in the life of Jesus, who rejected a First Axial ascetic path in favor of one that fully embraced the world—he feasted, danced, and wept, all the while associating with those designated outcasts and sinners. He refused to recognize the expected divisions between sacred and profane. This full on embrace of phenomenal existence was enshrined in Christianity’s core doctrine of the Incarnation—that “the Word became flesh” in the world “God so loved”—but the Second Axial impulse of its founder was repeatedly roped back into the existing First Axial road maps.

I believe that our hope still lies in our religions, and that we abandon them at a great loss. They hold much of the wisdom we will need in this next great transformation. But the invitation now is to a dance, not a lecture. The traditions will no longer be only the teachers, but the students as well. As they teach us, we will teach them. The evolution, like all such dances, will be mutual. The wheel will turn once more and the waters will flow powerful and strong, the Divine Heartbeat loud and full."

In that last paragraph, he touches on one of the important tenets of Episcopal revisionism, and that is the notion that the Church has more to learn from us moderns than we have to learn from the Church.

The rest is such inordinately showy, colorful, non-revelatory New Age Episcobabble that it leaves me feeling oh so very happy that I'll never, ever be able to write like that.

I think most of us would agree that this priest has found his niche.

The fact that this kind of thing is not merely tolerated by the Church but is celebrated is both cause and effect of the following,

Episcopal Church Decline in ASA 
I say "effect" because the increasing homogeneity of the church into a little group of biblical, social, and political liberals leads to the placement of priests with this type of revisionist mindset smack down into small town parish ministry.

You may rest assured that the Episcopal church's decline into niche or "boutique" status will continue well into the next "Axial Awakening". 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Would Palm Sunday by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

This Sunday many churches celebrate "Palm Sunday" which is a bit of a misnomer for in today's assigned reading, palm branches were not the greatest honor bestowed on the "King" of "daughter Zion."
"A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." Matthew 21:8 
Spreading one's cloak on the road was probably a great sacrifice, because cloaks were probably quite valuable and the roads back then were pretty nasty what with all those colts and donkeys coming and going.

So why don't we call it "Cloak Sunday"? Probably because it would not smell as sweet.

People have tried to lobby for such a change, but it never caught on. I guess folks are not too willing to toss their Sunday best into the church aisle for the priests, acolytes, and choirs to walk all over in a recreation of the event.

If you ever get tired of calling it "Palm Sunday" and are not ready to make the sacrifice of  "Cloak Sunday",  here are a few of the various names used historically and around the world for today's commemoration (derived from the Catholic Encyclopedia).

  • Kyriake
  • Heorte ton baion
  • Heorte baiophoros
  • Lazarus Sunday
  • Dominica in Palmis
  • Dominica Palmarum
  • Dies Palmarum
  • Dominica Hosanna
  • Pascha floridum
  • Pâques fleuries
  • Pascua florida
  • Dominica florida
  • Dies floridus
  • Flower Sunday
  • Olive Sunday
  • Branch Sunday
  • Sallow Sunday
  • Willow Sunday
  • Yew Sunday
  • Blossom Sunday
  • Sunday of the Willow Boughs
  • Blumensonntag
  • Blumentag
  • Secundus floricultus (Armenian seventh Sunday after Easter)
  • Secunda palmarum dominica (Armenian seventh Sunday after Easter)
If you have as busy a Sunday as I have planned, you might agree to call it "Whew Sunday".

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Jesus is Muslim" Billboards Popping Up in Ohio

A group of Muslims in Ohio have been waging a billboard campaign to spread their unconventional ideas about Jesus in hopes of helping Christians and Muslims get to know each other better (see the story and photos here).

The "Odd News" story provides a link to the "Ask a Muslim" web site which provides the following rationale under the heading:
Want more? Here is a sample of how they came to these odd conclusions.

"For starters, Muslims are Christians – if 'Christian' means someone following the teachings of Christ, so by learning about Islam you are not disobeying Jesus.
For example the Quran forbids Swine, (Holy Quran 2:173) and so too does the bible (Deuteronomy 14:8). This is also the case with interest whereby it is forbidden in the Quran 3:130 and also in Deutronomy 19:20. This is the case of many others as well. So why is it that Muslims are the only one’s forbidding swine and forbidding Interest – as Jesus taught?
Muslims are following the teachings of Jesus, while most Christians have began to follow the Church – this is why the Quran needed to be revealed. (Holy Quran 9:31)"
I won't quibble with the grammar since I mess up all the time, but I don't understand their reasoning either. I guess they are not familiar with Peter's dietary vision in Acts 10.

Let's see how they answer questions about Jesus being the only son of God since that is something that Islam traditionally denies.
"For starters the word begotten has officially been removed from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
John (5:7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
John (3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(These verses do not exist anymore in the RSV)."
Actually the "begotten" word has been cut from John 3:16 in the RSV and not the whole verse so they are still stuck with the part about "his only Son". The first reference should be from 1 John 5:7 which becomes 1 John 5:7-8 in the RSV, "7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree." And  no, I don't understand their reasoning here either.

As if that was not bizarre enough, read on...

"Jesus has said that 'Every spirit (meaning every prophet) that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is of God' (John 4:2). Muhammad did indeed confess Jesus Christ as a messenger of God.Muhammad is also mentioned by name in (Song of Solomon 5:16). In the original Hebrew transcript it clearly states the word 'Muhammad' when Solomon is talking about His 'friend' and 'how sweet his words are'.
Once again the author meant 1 John 4:2. As far as I can tell, the name Muhammad does not appear in the Song of Solomon. Let me quote from the following,
Some refer chapter 5:16, of the Song of Songs, to Muhammad, simply because in the Hebrew the word mahamaddim, "delights," "delightfulnesses," occurs there, and is derived from the same root ([1], [2])
But we find that the word in Hebrew is a common, and not a proper noun (i.e. not a name), as the use of the plural here shows.
The same word occurs again as a common noun in Hosea 9:6,16; 1 Kings 20:6; Lamentations 1:10,11; 2:4; Isaiah 64:10; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Ezekiel 24:16,21,25. In the last passage (Ezekiel 24:16, "the desire of thine eyes") it is applied to a woman, Ezekiel's wife (compare verse 18), and to the sons and daughters of the idolatrous Jews (verse 25). It would be just as wise to apply the word to Muhammad HERE as in the Song of Songs.
In Arabic many words are formed from the same root , but they do not on that account denote Muhammad. An ignorant Muslim might just as well assert that Muhammad's name occurred in Surah 1, Al Fatihah, verse 1: Al hamdo lillahi Rabbi 'lalamin ("Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds"). In the same way a Hindu might assert that the name of Ram or some other of his deities was mentioned in the Qur'an, because in Sura 30, Ar-Rum, verse 1, we read " the Romans have been overcome," where Arabic dictionaries give "Rum" as if derived from the root "ram". This kind of argument is unworthy of men of learning and judgement.
A newsgroup article in regard to that:

      Song of Songs 5:16                       shyr hshyrym 5,16
      his mouth is sweets                      Hkw mmtqym
      and all of him is delights              wklw mHmdym
      this is my love                              zh dwdy
      and this is my darling                   wzh r`y
      daughters of Jerusalem                bnwt yrwshlm
      Song of Songs 5:16 is no more a reference to Muhammad than it is to
      Mumattaq or to David.  Finding the name of Muhammad is child's play.
      Because Arabic and Hebrew share a cognate word [Hmd], there are of
      course several other similar occurrences in the Hebrew scriptures.
      The New Bantam-Megiddo Hebrew & English Dictionary lists...
              Hmd (yHmwd) p           covet, lust after
              Hmd z                          delight, loviness
              Hmdh n                        desire, object of desire
              Hmdnwt                        covetousness, lustfulness

What follows next is a bit about Jesus' promise in John 14:16, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." I guess that Comforter = Mohammed. Once again, I cannot figure out how the author gets there, but  I believe the ultimate conclusion is this,
"His teachings are in tune with the Quran, the Quran IS the final testament. So what is stopping you from accepting Muhammad, when Jesus told you to. I hope I have shed light on this."
"Please remember Islam = following Jesus. Muhammad confirmed Jesus."
Oh yeah, that is clear as mud.

Clear enough to stick on a billboard?

Can't the truth in advertising statutes be applied to this?

Let us pray that no souls are duped into believing this deception.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Out of the Deepest Depths of Lent

Today's Psalm (130) seems well suited to the depths of Lent, and while I prefer the KJV to the NRSV that was used today in church,

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.  
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: 
I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Psalm 130 (KJV)

I would much rather have heard the John Rutter interpretation from his Requiem entitled, "Out of the Deep" which begins with a dark and gloomy cello solo in a minor chord (C minor) at the lowest note the instrument can play but changes into a more comfortable and hopeful C major by the time we hear of the Lord's "plenteous redemption". In those chords I hear and feel the promise of Jesus to redeem us from those deep and dark iniquities from which we have been so vainly trying to cleanse ourselves these past five weeks.

Listen for yourself and remember that even in the depths, there is hope, and we need to trust in Christ as our Lord to pull us out.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Bishop Gamaliel?

Should a bishop take Gamaliel's approach when he is faced with the question of whether or not to permit individual parish churches to conduct rites of blessing same sex relationships?

Our Bishop, Andrew Waldo, discussed his much delayed but soon to be released (May 2014?) theological statement on the matter during a visit to our parish last Sunday. During the process of saying that he was not sure where God was leading, and that both sides of the argument over same sex blessings had valid points, and that parish churches will soon be able to decide for themselves whether or not to conduct a modified version of these blessings after participating in a curriculum that the Bishop's Task Force on Unity will soon release, the bishop referenced our friend Gamaliel by indicating that God would eventually sort all this out in His own time,
"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."

Acts 5:38-39
So the churches of our diocese that opt to perform same sex blessings are to be pitted against the churches that don't, and God will sort it out by allowing one to come to naught. Is this leadership?
It sounds more like a trial by ordeal or a Darwinian experiment in survival of the fittest. I am reminded of one late dictator who before shooting himself 69 years ago said that because his people had failed that they "deserved to perish." Our Bishop obviously does not see this as a matter of life or death, but the redefinition of one particular sin through the approval of rites of same sex blessings will lead to the creation of a set of privileged persons in the Church who will be misled by the Church and may be judged later as unrepentant sinners boldly standing before the seat of Judgement claiming, "We did nothing wrong. We were blessed!"  This is the cruelty of the Gamaliel approach, that the people of one church may be condemned because they will never hear the same Gospel being taught in a sister church just down the road.

Is this Bishop-like or shepherd-like behavior?

What kind of shepherd divides his flock, allowing one to graze in the pasture of modern sexuality and the other to feed in the time tested pasture that scripture advises, and then sitting back waits to see which flock flourishes and which one perishes?

A shepherd like Gamaliel is probably not what the Church fathers had in mind when they listed the qualifications of a bishop or overseer.

In the course of the Bishop's visit, he was asked how we might "market" our church. This elicited a fairly standard response about greeting people and learning more about them as well as sharing what God has done for oneself. I, for one, thought back to Bishop Waldo's pledge that the
 "way forward (to unity despite same sex blessings) must be deeply rooted in the evangelical imperative..." (link here).
That made me think about what a lousy evangelist and apologist Gamaliel would have made.

Seeker: It looks like this is a welcoming church.
Gamaliel: Thank you. How about some coffee? They have regular and decaf.
Seeker: Umm... No thanks.

Gamaliel: How about some ice tea. They have sweet tea and unsweet.
Seeker: Umm... No thanks.
Gamaliel: Did you like the service?
Seeker: It was very traditional.
Gamaliel: They also have a contemporary service on Wednesdays.

Seeker: Oh, I am not into guitars and tambourines.
Gamaliel: They offer a clown Eucharist four times a year.
Seeker: Oh my.

Gamaliel: And they have special services for the Equinoxes and Solstices.
Seeker: We never had that at my old church.
Gamaliel: This one does a lot to help in your spiritual development.
Seeker: Tell me more.
Gamaliel: This one's priest guides us as we walk the labyrinth once or twice a year.
Seeker: Okayyyy.... Do they do the same things at the other Episcopal church down the road?

Gamaliel: This one is probably more progressive.

Seeker: In what way?
Gamaliel: Well, just the other day the priest conducted a baptism in which the little one being baptized had two fathers standing as his parents, one male godparent, and the only woman present was the priest.

Seeker: And the other Episcopal church wouldn't do that?

Gamaliel: No, and in fact they will not do same sex blessings either.
Seeker: And both churches claim to be Episcopal?

Gamaliel: That's right. The Episcopal church is a "big tent."
Seeker: What does being Episcopal mean then?
Gamaliel: It means that we have  a hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons.
Seeker: And different beliefs that COEXIST, right?
Gamaliel: Correct.

Seeker: That is a wonderful concept. I wonder why nobody ever tried that before.
Gamaliel: Actually, I was the first one who proposed it a long time ago...
Seeker: But which church is right for me and my family?
Gamaliel: Heaven knows! That is not for us to decide.

Gamaliel the Evangelist is stating some things that might convince a few liberal minded seekers to nod their heads in agreement, however this is not evangelism, nor will it work when applied to apologetics. It would appear to me that Gamaliel's lack of certainty would fail to win many converts to Christ especially when pressed with other questions such as how such "coexistence" leads to the acceptance of certain Episcopal churches that deny the atonement and entertain preachers who deny the physical resurrection of Jesus.

And how does Gamaliel answer the modern seeker when he invariably questions the exclusivity claims of Christ being the way, the truth and the claim that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6)? Does he refer the seeker to the church down the street? Apologist Gamaliel cannot answer the question. He can only suggest to wait for God to sort things out.

After the Bishop's performance, the restroom conversation was mostly about how he seemed to be playing both sides like a politician. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), who was quoted in the BibleGateway summary of Gamaliel, nails both the renowned Doctor of Jewish law and our bishop,
"Digging beneath Gamaliel’s able and successful performance before the Council at Jerusalem, Alexander Whyte feels that he was only a 'fluent and applauded opportunist' and warns young men against his presentation. 'He was a politician, but he was not a true churchman or statesman. He was held in repute by the people; but the people were blind, and they loved to be led by blind leaders, and Gamaliel was one of them.' With all his insight and lawyerlike ability, Gamaliel turned all things completely upside down when he sat in judgment, and gave his carefully balanced caution concerning the Son of God, comments Dr. Whyte."
"Perhaps the renowned author of Bible Characters is right when he suggests that Gamaliel made the tremendous and irreparable mistake of approaching Jesus Christ and His cause on the side of policy, handling Him as a matter open to argument and debate. But Christ is an Ambassador of Reconciliation, and we are not permitted to sit in judgment on God, and on His message of mercy to us. Without apology Dr. Whyte pronounces Gamaliel as 'a liberal long before his time.'" (From Biblegateway)