Archive for January, 2010

Searching for Religion

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by JEL

People search for religion in many ways. They sample different neighborhood churches. They survey friends and try to find some overlap. They read books. And think. And, I guess, they also use the Internet. It’s hard to imagine looking for life meaning in the search box at Google or Yahoo!, but there are advertisers betting their dollars that some people will.

I was on Yahoo! News earlier today, poking through the news, feeling sad about Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger, and almost randomly typed in “religion” in the box. I wasn’t interested in the natural search results, but instead, the sponsored (paid for) results. They were:

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting clip art. The last one is very mysterious. It takes you to a site called Jesus 2020 and I’m not sure to what the year refers. The whole goal seemed to get you to click the big yellow “YES” button. I did not. The copyright belongs to “Global Media Outreach” which sounds kind of scary.

A New Religion?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by JEL

Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden. Metallica. Judas Priest. Motorhead. Saxon. Do these names mean anything to you? Could you perhaps find them in your CD collection? Then you finally might have the outlet you’ve been searching for.

The UK, like the US, is currently conducting their nationwide census. Rock magazine Metal Hammer has launched a campaign encouraging devotees of the music genre to enter “heavy metal” as their religion in the census. Their Facebook fan page already has 10,000 followers. Please note the category of this post before registering any alarm.

Walking the walk

Monday, January 25th, 2010 by PJM

Yesterday the Vatican celebrated “World Communications Day.” I have to admit that I hadn’t marked it on my calendar, but I came across this article about the speech given by Pope Benedict XVI. (The speech can be found here.) Essentially, the Pope asked Catholic priests to embrace new digital technologies to reach out to a wider audience. I particularly liked this quote:

A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute.

The article mentions that the Pope is no slouch in maintaining on online presence. Check out the Pope2You website. The Vatican has a YouTube page, a Facebook profile, and even an iPod app.

The Christian Blockbuster

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 by JEL

Some critics are calling “The Book of Eli” a “Christian blockbuster.” In the movie, set in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, Denzel Washington’s Eli has the last remaining copy of the King James Bible. The bad guy (Gary Oldman) wants the book as a means of controlling his ruthless band of marauders. Eli defends The Book (supposedly because he knows its power to bring good back to the world) by hacking, stabbing, and beheading—without remorse—anyone who gets in his way.

In this article, writer S.E. Cupp makes the excellent point that if Eli were portrayed as a Muslim defending the Koran with the same methods, Muslim-Americans would be outraged that the hero “acted more like a murderous jihadist than a humble servant of God.” And rightly so.

So why aren’t Christians similarly outraged? And why does Popmatters.com say, “Christians should be lining up to embrace the Hughes brothers’ brave vision.”? Seems like just another example of the message of Christianity being completely inverted by those trying to deliver it—and completely misunderstood by the recipients.

Haiti and Questions of Faith

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by JEL

Now that Haiti has been hit by a second substantial earthquake, this article gains in interest. As a believer on the ground in Haiti, how do you make sense of the death and destruction all around you? And just as you have barely begun to pick up the pieces of your life, why does the earth rumble and shake anew?

Thoughts (from MLK, Jr.) on MLK, Jr. Day

Monday, January 18th, 2010 by JEL

Every eighteen months or so I re-read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” It is thoughtful in every sense of the word. It is direct, lucid, and logical while brimming with passion. It speaks the truth to those who would rather look away. When I look at the news coverage and our politicians’ ongoing behavior and feel like the truth is dying, I re-read the “Letter.” Here are some of my favorite lines:

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
  • “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
  • “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
  • “I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.”
  • “But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
  • “I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”

(Parts of) The Bible Just Got Older…Maybe

Friday, January 15th, 2010 by JEL

Scientists have long pegged the age of the Old Testament to the earliest known Hebrew writing. Until recently, that put the Hebrew Bible’s creation date somewhere in the 6th century B.C. Now, with the discovery of a 6-inch piece of ancient pottery, the O.T. just got 400 years older. That is, if you believe that the Bible’s authors started the instant they had a written language with which to work.

On the surface of the pottery, dated to the 10th century B.C., is written some text about how one should treat slaves, widows, and orphans. The content is apparently similar to Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, and Exodus 23:3.

Selling the Bible

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 by PJM

Quick. Take a look at the following magazine covers and figure out what they have in common.

Revolve Refuel
Becoming Align

Could you figure it out without reading the text? The answer is that they are all Bibles. They are, in fact, called Biblezines, and they each contain the complete text of the NCV New Testament. As the cover teasers suggest, there is also additional material interspersed with the biblical content that addresses burning issues like “How to Attract Godly Girls” and asks relevant questions like “Do U Rush To Crush?”

The first cover clearly tries to mimic a girl’s TeenBeat-like magazine, the next is similar in style to a boy’s extreme sports mag, the next looks like Redbook, and the last version which targets men is supposed to look like…I have no idea what that is supposed to look like. If you click on the covers, you can see that they receive mostly favorable praise along with the occasional one-star review from those who are offended by the entire concept.

Texas Textbooks

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 by JEL

The Texas State Board of Education is meeting in Austin this week to discuss and debate proposed changes to the state’s history curriculum. The central issue is whether to put more emphasis on Christianity in students’ history books. Conservatives David Barton and the Rev. Peter Marshall support the move, while others turn to the separation-of-church-and state position:

“People who have a particular axe to grind, a particular view point to promote are trying to hijack school curriculum to promote their point of view about one specific religion.” — Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas

Jesus and Capitalism

Monday, January 11th, 2010 by JEL

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has been a lightning rod for controversy over the past several years. His latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story continues the trend. In the film he wonders if Jesus would have supported the current system of capitalism and concludes that He wouldn’t have. Jesus’ teachings to help the poor and give away your money, to Moore, seem incompatible with the greed for money that drives much of the market today.

This interesting article provides a number of viewpoints. Clement Mehlman, a Lutheran chaplain at Dalhousie University, agrees with Moore:

“Jesus says to follow Him, you have to give everything you own to the poor. How many Christians do you see doing that? It’s a text that should be thrown at the wealthy fat cats.”

Others feel that the problems lie not in capitalism, itself, but in the way it is used. Rev. Gary Thorne, an Anglican minister and chaplain with Dalhousie and the Canadian Forces Reserves, talks about the “intent of the heart” in looking at free markets. He cites the history of the church and points out the Martin Luther and John Calvin were all in favor of capitalism as a way to motivate people to work hard, support their families and please God. Thorne also says that the most important thing about acquiring wealth, for a Christian, should be a willingness to share it.

“Any Christian who says that we pay too much in taxes is just bonkers.”

The article goes on to talk about a middle ground and I encourage you to dive in.