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Sunday, February 19, 2012

We may find him in Heaven...

(October 7, 1915–June 7, 2001)

The late Charles Templeton was an evangelical minister turned agnostic and was well known for his falling away from the Christian faith. Templeton was a good friend of Billy Graham and toured with him frequently until a nagging skepticism tore him from faith and rationally compelled him to denounce belief in an Abrahamic God. When he brought these very real concerns to the floor of Billy Graham's life, Graham, though shaken, prayerfully determined that he would continue in faith. Templeton, though insisting that Graham had committed "intellectual suicide," noted that for all his perceived faults, in Graham there was "no feigning in him: he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust."

In an interview with Lee Strobel, Templeton expressed that one of the turning points for him was when he saw a photograph of an African woman holding her dead child, a child who died of severe drought, needing only a little rain. How could there possibly be a loving God when all they needed was rain? This infamous problem of evil and suffering, a problem that supposedly shows the maleficence of any omnipotent God that may exist was wholly incompatible with Templeton's belief in an all-loving creator. He went on in his later life to write a rare and intellectually honest book, Farewell to God, where he expresses with deep sadness and regret the untenable philosophical edifices on which his previous Christian life had been built.

So how in the world, short of a Universalist view of Heaven, could anyone rationally suspect that we may find Templeton in Heaven? I think this may be the case for one very profound reason. He loved Jesus. Probably more than most Christians do. In his interview with Lee Strobel, when Strobel asked what Templeton thought about Jesus, Templeton became relaxed, though morose, as if reflecting on memories of an old friend and said:
He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my reading. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world.
But there was more to be said. Templeton's heart was still heavy with emotion for this crucified man. Strobel quietly commented: “You sound like you really care about him.” To which Templeton responded:
"Well, yes,” Templeton acknowledged, “he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.
And as if his heart could bear it no longer, he bore his eyes to the ground and said, "“I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly. Is there any doubt that this man loved Jesus? He was wrong on so many levels. His literature damaging to and resentful of Christianity. His ideas heresy and his thoughts tangled and unorthodox. Almost everything he believed about faith and religion were and are utterly incompatible with Christianity. But there is one unshakable truth that inflames in me a great curiousity, could this man's heart, so burdened with love for Jesus, be enough? I wonder if he made it to Heaven after all and, quite frankly, I hope he did.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remembering a Martyr

Imagine for a moment that you live in a place where the rule of law is explicitly intertwined with religion, such that even beliefs, the content of your mind, if judged to be an error by religious authorities, could lead to your torturous execution. Now imagine further that you find yourself imprisoned for coming to bear one of these supposedly false beliefs. Now, if you happened to escape prison and the ominous flames that awaited you, and were swiftly pursued by some guard, what would you do if this guard happened to fall through thin ice into the unbearably cold and foreboding water bellow? Would you help him? What if turning back meant your life?

In 1569, the Anabaptist, Dirk Willems, did not hesitate. Willems escaped from prison using knotted rags. The moat that surrounded him was frozen over and subsequently allowed him to run hastily upon and over it. The guard who saw and pursued was not as fortunate and broke through the ice and faced certain death. Willems, knowing full well that turning back meant he would be tortured and killed, ran to the aid of his enemy and executioner. He was thereafter taken, without trial, and burned at the stake.

What does it take to have such courage? To be as Christ was and sacrifice our lives even for our enemies. This is the ugliness of history. Where Christians take other Christians and burn them at the stake for thought crimes! Where martyrs are made not by enemies of the church, but by those who are said to bear its banner. Between Willems and those who condemned him, there is no doubt in my mind which of them knew Christ and desired to live as He did. Let us not forget Dirk Willems, a true martyr for Christ, and an exemplar of Christian love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Views of Hell - Part 2

Our next view is in many ways birthed out of Christian antipathy towards the Literal Orthodox View of Hell as a place where human persons are burned in fire for a literal eternity. Many disillusioned Christians and genuine seekers wondered how, if Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place where tears will never again find reason to swell and pour and hearts will never again be burdened with sorrow, they could possibly be at ease when they would know full well that many of those they loved and cherished are in the depths of unrelenting flames. In the comment section of the first series post on Hell, I wrote the following:
To go to a burn unit and see the abject suffering and dismal pain endured by souls no less human than my own. To see eyes that cannot shut, or ones that will never open again. To see hearts that long for death to alleviate the paroxysms of agony that their afflictions bear upon them with ruthless persistence. I don’t care what skeletons are in the closets of those who suffer such anguish, my heart weeps for them! Yet to imagine that an ineffable amount of human souls whose inevitable crimes against a perfect God are to be met with nothing short of this, and perhaps much worse, for a literal eternity, seems sadistic. Where tears are formed just at witnessing such temporal anguish, what heart could bear it for infinity?
If in heaven I am no longer moved to sorrow by the suffering of human persons, I wonder how in any real way I would still be myself, and in fact, how I could still be considered loving.

The Metaphorical View of Hell

How pervasive the vanity of man, that he would so defile the sanctity and sovereignty of Scripture by replacing its clear meaning with the allegorical machinations of a clearly fallen and fallible mind. Or by letting their emotions dictate meaning when reason is against them… Or at least that is what I imagine many think when even the word metaphor is used in conjunction with the word (or any variation of the word) Scripture. I mean, if God really wanted for us to know something, why not just flat out say it? Right?

Unfortunately (at least for those who are of the aforesaid persuasion), the Bible is rife with illustrious metaphors (e.g. Isaiah 28:8; John 4:14; 7:37; 2 Pet. 2:17), profound parables (e.g. Matt. 5:14-6; 7:24-27, 9:16,17; 13:3-23) and intense hyperboles (Matt. 18:9; Luke 9:60; 14:26). From the mythopoetic imagery of the first chapter of Genesis, traveling through the incredibly touching allegorical and anthropomorphic images in the psalms, all the way to the bizarre and at times grotesque imagery of John’s Revelation, metaphor has been one of the Bible’s constant companions. To deny this is to in many ways to deny the Bible outright.

But what has this got to do with Hell? A lot, I think. As the early Princeton scholar, Charles Hodge, commented:

There seems no more reason for supposing that the fire spoken of in scripture is to be a literal fire, than that the worm that never dies is literally worm.
Ironically, one will find that one of the most famous and outspoken early reformers and prolific and talented exegetes, John Calvin, a firm proponent of scriptural authority, would have agreed with Hodge's later-made comment. I do not very much like Calvin, but it is a note worth making.

Of course, we should not affirm a metaphorical view of Hell simply because it conforms better with our sensibilities, as I think this does, in fact, undermine scriptures authority (a problem anticipated by an earlier commenter). But having a high view of scripture is not tantamount to believing that everything the Bible says is literally true, as this does horrible injustices to some of the rich parables and metaphors employed by the biblical authors. What we know is that early Jewish rabbis would employ hyperbole in order to make clear the urgency and importance of certain points. Among scholars, this is simply referred to as rabbinic hyperbole. It seems probable that Jesus was fond of using this common rabbinical device, as evidenced in Matthew 5:29:

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Now this has some radical implications if we take it literally! (As Origen did!) First, it assumes that it is the parts of the body responsible for the crime that are uniquely in need of punishment, rather than the person who brought that part into motion. Secondly, it assumes we should be chopping away at our bodies. We would be dead very quickly if we did not rightly recognize this as hyperbole and metaphor! (Similar hyperbole can be seen in Matthew 7:5; 19:24; Mark 6:23; 11:23; Luke 9:60; 14:6.)

Having distinct theological precedent for metaphor and rabbinical hyperbole in the New Testament, it remains a distinct possibility that such vehicles of meaning are being employed to deliver the message of Hell, and those with a Literal Orthodox view of Hell have simply mistaken the medium of the message (hyperbole, metaphor) as the message itself. The most obvious reason for thinking that the images of Hell are used to draw attention to the severity of God’s punishment against the wicked and not the actual existential features of Hell itself is that there is conflicting language used to describe Hell in the New testament. Not only is it described as fire, but it is described as darkness too (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 14). Luke 12:47 also describes hell as a place where they are beaten with many blows. Either Hell is a place of pitch blackness, an unquenchable lake of sulfuric fire, endless and actual bodily beatings, where the maggots that feed on you are immortal and of course, ceaseless weeping and gnashing of teeth. Or, instead, all these images may culminate in the ultimate meaning that Hell is a grim and severe reality.

Criticism of this View

What is unique about this view is its versatility with other views. The metaphorical view, for instance, is a springboard for conditional or annihilationist views of Hell, that, like the metaphorical view, see literalism as a part of the problem. This means that criticisms of the metaphorical view will have to be specific to the subtypes of this view (yes, there are a lot of views on Hell!). For instance, many who hold to a metaphorical view of hell still believe that Hell is a place of conscious and everlasting punishment – they simply make no claims to the nature of the punishment. The criticism of this view is that it may not even be an improvement from the Literal orthodox view. How do we know that this eternal, conscious punishment is not something just as bad, or worse, then the view it seeks to oppose? For instance, the theologian J. I. Packer warns:

…the mistake is to take such pictures [of Hell] as physical descriptions, when in fact they are imagery symbolizing realities… far worse than the symbols themselves.
This, then, is hardly an improvement. There are some who are more than willing to bite the bullet on this issue and accept that Hell is as the literal orthodox view (and some strands of the metaphorical view) explains, and agree that Christians will witness their suffering from Heaven and rejoice. One professor puts it this way:
Once we see the glory of Christ and the hideous nature of sin as God sees it, hell will be understandable. If my own mother were being carried to the mouth of hell, I would stand and applaud.
If this logic is sufficient for some, let it rest were it does and may nothing further be said about it. As for the other criticisms, they will have to be made against some of our other views that require this metaphorical foundation.

More forthcoming in the next part of the series…

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feminism's failure to draw conclusions

When perusing through a few different news articles, I came upon this gem of feminist reasoning left as a comment:
Catholic-run hospitals used to require women coming in for childbirth to sign a statement that required them to acknowledge that in an emergency, should there have to be a choice made between saving the life of the mother or that of the child, the child would be the one to be saved. This was an acknowledgement of the idea that the child really was a "product" of the father (his "seed"), and that the mother was merely the "farrow" in which the seed happened to fall and grow.
This abysmal reasoning is self-evident and requires little by way of pointing it out, but let’s do it anyway. What sort crack does one need to be smoking in order to come to the verifiably errant conclusion that because the doctors would work to save the child’s life even to the point of maternal fatality that they therefore must be misogynistic dunderheads who merely see the woman as a vessel for the father’s seed? That is literally profanity against all reason. What if instead of there being some deep-rooted male hegemony that proliferates within the minds of the medical staff, there is a real and genuine belief that the child is, indeed, a child. Perhaps it has nothing to do with vessels or seeds, but everything to do with the ontological worth of the one seeking to take his or her first breath of air. For those of you with children, look to your child or imagine him or her for a moment. Have you the moral wherewithal to honestly look at your child now, and say, “In a moment of grave crisis, where the choice is your life or mine, I would not hesitate in my choice to eliminate you in order to lessen my own danger.” No sane, thinking or moral person could utter such narcissistic repugnance. Yet these very words are emboldened by the actions of those who would have their own child discarded like petty trash for the sake of their own wellbeing or comfort.

While we know that apparently a feminist has no moral compunction in discarding her own child, it is a little arrogant to think that a Catholic medical staff would share her sentiments. It is at the height of Christian love to lay down your life for those you love, and pray we never forget it. (Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

God has no perfect plan for us...

As explained by one of my favorite bloggers:
Either there is no need to pray at all, which contradicts the entire point of Jesus telling his disciples how to do it, or God's will is not presently being done on Earth. His will prevails in Heaven, as it does not on Earth, just as His kingdom reigns in Heaven, as it does not on Earth.
I had not previously given this idea much thought, as I think I had already subconsciously inferred it. But it seems fundamentally true. I know those of a strict reformed position that hold to a view of meticulous providence (the idea that God determines the course of every detail, big and small) will not agree with me. That's fine, we share radically different worldviews and there is not much by way of convincing that I could possibly do here.

But it does seem true that God does not micromanage our lives and, by order of His Will, does not superimpose upon our human autonomy. If prayers are to be meaningful, we have to accept the fact that we are asking for things that are not already a reality. I truly believe that God does not desire for there to be such abject suffering in this world, where children starve to death every day. I truly believe that God does not desire the grotesque and barbaric practice of human-trafficking. I truly believe that God does not desire the helpless to die alone in shadows and the weak to never find strength. By extension and consequence, I don't believe that God plans for these things either. But out of the freedom of humankind we have built shrines to the decadent and glorified the most profane things. In our freedom we have subjugated the weak and through the rapine of the helpless, caused untold suffering. What we know is that God interacts with our freedom in some untold way, knitting plans out of broken seams and creating an arabesque of colors out of haphazard knots and toneless hues.

As Christians, we ought to be praying as Jesus requested, for his kingdom that is in heaven to be so on earth. We must pray for God's will to be here just as it is in heaven. But most importantly, we MUST be forces for the things we pray for. Let the helpless know mercy because we have brought them to God's son. Let the broken know healing for we have brought them to our savior who was broken. Let the thirsty and hungry find water and food in our hands and let violence tremble at how big Love can get.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Views of Hell - Part 1

When I was beginning the process of looking for a school that would be best for my graduate work, I came upon a belief statement (which admission to the University would require I sign) that said something along the lines of “we believe that Hell is the eternal, conscious torment of those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.” I thought to myself, surely there is an even more gruesome and explicitly cruel way of wording it! Why not, “We believe that in Hell, nonbelievers will remain eternally conscious as they forever suffer the most excruciating, torturous pain imaginable – both physical and psychological. Amen.” Must a genuine follower of Christ really commit themselves to such a literal interpretation of Biblical imagery? 

Hell is not something a lot of Christians like talking about. Most all Christians believe in it in some form or another, but the reluctance to talk about it stems mostly from the cruelty inherent in it (or so I imagine). Often times when a pastor begins to talk about hell, I bring my fingertips to my ears, not to eliminate all sound of it, but only to muffle it—as if to lessen the cruel and barbarous sound of a place where souls suffer immensely for an unimaginably long duration. I don’t like to talk about hell. Could even the most profane and indecent acts of cruelty deserve such malice in punishment? What temporal crime can deserve such infinite punishment? Because of my emotional reaction to the doctrine of hell, I began a long process of seeking to understand it. There is no person less wise than the one that denies the truth of something simply because he does not like it—so if it were true, I would submit to it.

Moreover, it is precisely because I believe in heaven and that not everybody is going there that I think Hell is an important topic that deserves more vigorous attention then it is generally allotted.

Because this topic is so robust and there's a lot I would like to say about it, I have decided to make this my first series. I will try my best to remain impartial (to the extent that it is possible) regarding the explanation of the differing views.

Christian Views on Hell

There are at least five
 prominent and distinct views on hell that are worth discussing here. 

(1) The Literal Orthodox View
(2) The Metaphorical View
(3) Annihilationist/Conditional View
(4) Purgatorial View
(5) Universalist View

The Literal Orthodox View

For the first part of this series, I will discuss the Literal Orthodox View. As is inherent in its name, this view is both seen as a literal interpretation of the verses regarding Hell and is seen within Protestantism as the orthodox view, inasmuch as hell is eternal and conscious punishment. The clearest rendering of the traditional understanding of Hell can be seen in the Greek word gehenna, translated Hell. From a biblical point of view, what this view has going for it is that literally all instances of gehenna in the New Testament were uttered and explicated by Jesus (save for James 3:6).

There are quite a few passages that talk about being thrown into hell or hell being a place where God will destroy both body and soul (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33, etc.). But what is at hand is not really an existential question of hell but rather a question of its nature and eternality. Is hell eternal, conscious torment? What are the passages that speak to this?

Revelation 19:3 says that in Hell, “The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

Revelation 20:10-15 makes a pretty definitive case for the eternality of Hell, or at least the future eternality of it:

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever… then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Moreover, there is an explicit reference to the eternality of Hell in Jude 7:
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
The idea then, that Hell is also a place of conscious torment, or literally of something substantially similar if not ontologically identical with fire, follows by an application of literal consistency. If the Bible is considered to be best understood in its literal reading, then Hell is a place of fire (James 3:6). For instance, in Mark 9, we’re informed three times that Hell is a place of “unquenchable fire” and where the worm “does not die.” Moreover, in Luke 16, the Parable (or not?) of Lazarus is told, and Lazarus is said to be in a place of conscious torment (though the place is referred to as hades and there is a relevant distinction to be made between hades and Hell).

The weakness of referring to Hell as a literal place of fire is that it is an application of selective literalism. Hell is referred to as a place “where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth,” “outer darkness,” "worms that do not die," "destruction," and "death" as well (Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Lk 13:28). Are we to really believe that hell, in addition to being unquenchable fire, is full of worms that do not die? Moreover, don't the implications of a place of eternal destruction and death portray a radically different picture of what hell is? This sort of selective literalism functions as a hermeneutical filter that may give us a less realistic view of hell.

The Philosophical Criticism

If hell truly is a place where people consciously exist and suffer for eternity, not as a redemptive process but as a wholly punitive or retributive one, there seems to be a level of logical inconsistency. Sermon after sermon expresses the deep, unconditional love and mercy of God and Jesus, and the apostle John even expresses the ontological nature of God as Love itself. This inconsistency is most clearly seen in the problem of disproportionality. The temporal crimes of any given individual can never merit infinite punishment; as such a punishment is not proportional to the crime.

This is answered by many traditional proponents by assuming the infinite nature of sin. That is to say, sin itself is infinite in its transgression and thus merits infinite punishment. It is unclear as to how or why sin is of infinite magnitude, as this necessarily renders the fall infinitely greater in proportion to the redemption. Moreover, it raises the larger problem of what gruesome judge would ascribe infinite magnitude to a crime committed in space and time and demand infinite, torturous retribution? How could someone truly be satisfied with such superficial reasoning on a topic so serious as this one?

Next series post I will discuss some more criticism of the traditional view and also look into how the metaphorical view may both escape some of these problems whilst creating some of its own.

Monday, February 6, 2012

When discrimination policies become self-refuting

SUNY apparently fails to see the logical inanity in requiring groups to revise its leadership requirements in the name of nondiscrimination:
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at the State University of New York at Buffalo has three weeks to come into compliance with the school's nondiscrimination policy or risk losing its status as an official campus group. 
A committee formed to investigate allegations of discrimination announced Sunday that InterVarsity's constitution, which includes a clause requiring leaders to agree with a statement of faith, violates school policy. 

dis·crim·i·nate (

verb (used without object)
to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality: The new law discriminates against foreigners. He discriminates in favor of his relatives.
to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to discriminate between things.

The purpose of many groups is to meet around a central thesis or movement on which they all agree. But even if you do not agree, you may certainly be a member (as IV Christian Fellowship allows). But why in the world should groups with a specific intent and worldview be required to allow for leaders who intentionally do not agree with everything that the group stands for? This sort of nondiscrimination policy is NECESSARILY discriminatory when applied and is the very antithesis of diversity in thought. 

Look at it this way. If I decide I want to form an official campus group I must conform to a standard of belief on pain of disqualification. A collection of individuals that group and conclude that by virtue of what they stand for they want all their leaders to at least believe in what it is they are appointed to represent, will be discriminated against per SUNY's nondiscriminatory policy. In essence, the policy shows partiality to groups that agree with SUNY and subsequently is guilty of the very thing it seeks to mitigate.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Richard Dawkins is Bad at Philosophy

Richard Dawkins, the septuagenarian evolutionary biologist well known for his visceral atheism demonstrates his inability to make logical inferences: 
To explain [something] by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. (The Blind Watchmaker pg 141.)
If Dawkins' childish reluctance to debate actual professionals on the topics he debates wasn't sign enough of his philosophical illiteracy, he really goes out of his way in his books The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker to make it even more abundantly clear.

What's so bad about the aforementioned quote by Dawkins is that so many atheists are under the enormously misinformed notion that such logic is valid! They regurgitate similar logical failures with petty smirks as if they have just uttered the profound and anxiously await the impending intellectual retreat of their religious victim. When I hear such arguments, I am immediately aware of the logical immaturity and philosophical incompetence of the person making them.

When I conclude that the universe was designed by a cosmic designer, have I REALLY explained "precisely" nothing? If the designer is left unexplained, have we really made no progress? This is rationally absurd, for it necessarily leads to an infinite regress of explanations, that even Dawkins' precious theory of evolution by natural selection must succumb to. For instance, if I dig a hole in my backyard and excavate a shoe box with the skeletal remains of a cat, I may rightly posit that somebody buried the feline. But have I explained precisely nothing about this box simply because my explanation leaves the person who buried it unexplained...? It borders outright stupidity to think so.

William Lane Craig says it this way:
...if in order to recognize an explanation as the best you have to have an explanation of the explanation, that leads immediately to an infinite regress. You’d need to have an explanation of the explanation of the explanation and so on… to infinity. You would never have an explanation of anything, which would destroy science. [So] Dawkins’ principle, if adopted, would actually be completely destructive of science. That’s how inept this argument is.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Greatest Travesty Ever

Or at least that's what one New York Times' author paints it as:
The nation’s leading breast cancer advocacy organization confronted the growing furor Thursday over its decision to largely end its decades-long partnership with Planned Parenthood, with rising dissension in its own ranks and a roiling anger on the Internet showing the power of social media to harness protest. 
All seven California affiliates of the organization, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, released a statement saying they opposed its decision. Twenty-six senators urged the foundation to reconsider its decision. And a pledge of $250,000 from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York helped Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning and abortion services in hundreds of clinics across the country, to more than make up the money it lost. 
“Politics have no place in health care,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement, an echo of the complaints voiced by many women elsewhere.
Mr. Bloomberg is just wrong. Healthcare IS politics. There is nothing inherently healthy about abortions and any organization that willing provides them should be defunded by every charitable organization until they only provide services that are actually related to health. In fact, what it is verifiably certain is that actually bringing a child to full-term is beneficial and protective against breast cancer. Let's look at it this way. Planned Parenthood provides approximately 750,000 cancer screenings annually. Let's also give them the generous estimate that 1 out of every 8 of those women screened did have breast cancer. Let's also give the even more generous estimate that all those screened with breast cancer were in the first stage, giving them an 88% chance of survival. This leaves us with .88(1/8 x 750,000) = 82,500 women becoming at least five year cancer survivors.

Now let's compare this to the annual amount of abortions performed by planned parenthood. In 2009, Planned Parenthood performed 332,278 abortions. We will assume that all abortions were performed with 100% success, with the mother neither suffering death nor adverse side effects and the human embryo or fetus being completely terminated. So why in heaven's sake would any thinking person who understands that the child being terminated is a human being ever think that the lives of 82,500 persons is worth more than the lives of 332 thousand prenatal infants?

So far as I can see, any organization that masquerades as a champion of human health all while systemically performing one of the longest campaigns of human genocide in the history of the world SHOULD be defunded and replaced with a system that more accurately lives up to that label. What's so bad about this outrage is that it fails to note that the money provided by the Komen foundation does not just fizzle out of existence, it still will be provided towards some agency with hopefully more pure aspirations towards human health and wellness.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

AbraSham Lincoln and Pseudohistory

Here are the words of our great emancipator:
There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races ... A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas ...
There are few historical figures so gloriously enshrined as champions of human progress like our long deceased 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. We often regurgitate praises upon Lincoln based on the publicly instilled sentiments of the psuedohistory of childhood and the inexhaustible library of revisionist textbooks conscripted by our local penitentiary school systems.We built a monument to this sensationalized figure, making idol of the legacy of decadence and decline. The Civil War was absolutely unnecessary and the unconstitutional, tyrannical executive ambushes of Lincoln were reminiscent of the very tyranny that the American people had fought against just a century prior. Lincoln, immortalized as the "Great Emancipator" was a racist, white supremacist who used American soldiers to suppress and kill American citizens and deserves only infamy.

One may rightly wonder why I uphold such a seemingly perverse disposition. I say just explore the legacy of Lincoln and see if you are not dissuaded of some of your dearest historical assumptions. We are told that the civil war was the justified northern aggression against southern slavery. But this is fundamentally false. Though slavery may have been a cause, the root of the Civil War had everything to do with whether or not the States' have the right to secede from the federal union. Moreover, in response to the Confederate States of America, Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus, suppressed, censored and illegally detained those who disagreed with him and was responsible for the death of over 600,000 American citizens. Basically, the very centralized government from which the commonwealth revolted, was reestablished under the Lincoln presidency.

Furthermore, this "great emancipator" did not free the slaves until two years into the civil war! Meaning that most of the war was fought while slavery remained within the States' 10th amendment right to legislate. The 13 amendment was ratified into law conveniently prior to Lincolns reelection. This was not done because of some belief in universal equality, as it is demonstrably clear that Lincoln was a white-supremacist who wanted to ship all the slaves (mostly all of whom were born on American soil) to Liberia. Moreover, if Lincoln wanted to end slavery, he could have found far more peaceful ways of doing it, as is evident by the British Empire's peaceful abolition of slavery in 1833.

Creationism in Public Schools

This kind of bogus stuff just hurts Christianity 
Indiana’s public schools would be allowed to teach creationism in science classes as long as they include origin of life theories from multiple religions under a proposal approved Tuesday by the state Senate. 
The Senate passed the bill on a 28-22 vote even though some senators raised questions about the measure’s constitutionality.
Creationism is not science and neither are the origin theories of any other religious faith. (Save that stuff for a comparative religions course.) It's an anti-theory and not in anyway a theory in its own right. Any self-respecting Christian can certainly believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob authored the cosmos and uniquely fashioned humankind in His own likeness. But any self-respecting Christian should also rightly admit that such a belief in not science and should consequently not be taught as science to children. Creationism is NOT the only alternative to the modern evolutionary synthesis. Instead of making a mockery out of Christianity by trying to pass off explicitly religious dogma as science, we should be encouraging schools to be teaching more science. For instance, modern work in the field of intelligent design has fashioned really compelling and alternative theories to the evolutionary synthesis.

If parents do not want their kids to be exposed to Darwinian theory at all, they should avoid the public school system and home-school their children. If they did, their kids would have a higher statistical probability to exceed in life and be successful anyway
The results of those tests demonstrated that on average, home-schooled children regularly outperformed their peers.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Genesis

This blog is totally experimental as I have no idea what I like talking about quite yet. Don't expect any sort of organized theme or cute pictures of cats and dogs.

Pastoral Problem of Failure

If it was not already clear, it seems that pastors screw up too:

A study of pastors sponsored by Christianity Today found that 23% of 300 pastors admitted some form of sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry
I have often reflected upon the difficulty I would have being a pastor. Not because of some sort of noxious sin problem lurking beneath my Christianized facade. I am confident that I could get up in front of people and present a reasoned exposition of some biblical truth or pressing social matter. I am confident that I could educate a congregation about the systemic evils within our current systems and the call we have as Christians to  fight for the poor and weak and marginalized. But that's not what would really be expected of me. I would be expected to be a mouthpiece of God, not delivering a prepared message, but delivering an inspired message. That's a lot of pressure. I'm not sure I could do it.

I daily sit with pastors of varying denominations, genders and ethnicity, many of whom have very real struggles and problems. These pastors have pressing questions, wrong ideas, doubts, questions and brokenness. They are human. Many of these struggles and problems are kept from their congregations entirely (and maybe rightly so). Because none fall so hard as the giants of the pulpit, whose explication of the Holy writ and prophetic message brings sinners to repentance and lost souls to prostration. Every sermon preached is expected to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, tongues possessed with divinity. Are we not fools to wallow in such self-deceit, believing that every preacher with an MDiv (or not) is endowed with lips of infallibility (or maybe we only think that of our own pastors or priests). How we must burden our preachers with such expectations. It’s one thing to feel compelled to deliver a powerful, reasoned and biblical sermon every service. It is another thing all together, however, to feel compelled to be breathing the word of God, every idea a revelation.

Let us not forget that pastors share in our brokenness, their nature just as fallible as our own and their questions just as pressing. God is bigger than all of this. Maybe his power REALLY is made perfect in our weakness, despite the moral failings of even the holiest among us; despite the abject brokenness of the church and all those who inhabit it. Pastors screw up! We all do. Pastors are wrong as often as the rest of us. But that doesn't matter, because that's not the point. Christ is greater than that. A pastor needn't be perfect in order to bring us the Gospel, he need only be willing, and God will find a way to do the rest.