Archive for May, 2011

John 14:6

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by JEL

We’ve taken a brief break after finishing Mark a couple of weeks ago, so we haven’t yet gotten to going through John (let alone Luke) line by line. But in my previous readings, I’ve always been troubled by 14:6, where Jesus answers Thomas’s question “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

I’m not the only one troubled. Carl Gregg has written a well-thought-out piece on his journey with John 14:6. He speaks of his “critical phase” where he wondered:

“Does this verse mean that Jesus is the only way to heaven? If so, what does that claim mean for all the faithful Hindus, Muslims, and Jews I have met, who are also good, funny, competent, kind, and smart human beings?”

Read Gregg’s story and see where he has arrived today.

Kristin Wins!

Friday, May 27th, 2011 by JEL

Some of you may know Kristin Chenoweth from Glee, others from her amazing voice and starring roles on Broadway. Me? I first encountered her as the character Annabeth Schott on The West Wing. I had no idea she could even sing. Anyway, she’s going to have to make room on her mantle (slide over, Tony and Emmy) for a new award: best quote on Christianity.

“I think it’s important to remember that Christianity was based in love and tolerance and forgiveness and acceptance. I don’t want Christianity to be a negative word anymore. I want people to understand that there is a group of Christians out there who want to be more open and understanding and tolerant and loving of all kinds of people, even the people that don’t believe in God at all. I guess that’s one of my purposes in this life is to make sure people know that Jesus would have taught the same thing and did teach the same thing. If he were alive today, where would he be hanging out? He wouldn’t be hanging out at Neiman Marcus. He probably wouldn’t even be at church. He would be downtown feeding the poor and helping the sick. That’s what it’s about.”

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone.

Ayn Rand on Religion

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 by JEL

You see Ayn Rand’s name popping up all over the place lately. I read both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” I thought the former was terrific; in fact it’s the only book I have ever stayed up all night reading. “Atlas Shrugged,” however, I thought was a tired re-write of “The Fountainhead.” Swap Dagny Taggart for Howard Roark and railroads for architecture, and you’re done.

Today, her name is constantly mentioned by prominent Republican politicians, most notably Rand Paul and Paul Ryan (say those names together 5 times fast), who feel her writing perfectly captures the morality of capitalism.

But what about her feelings on God, religion, and faith? They certainly can’t have it both ways when it comes to Ayn Rand, right? I wonder how they will explain the following to their conservative/evangelical Christian base?

Still Here

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 by JEL

Surprise, surprise: the world didn’t end on Saturday at 6:00pm. Harold Camping is apparently “flabbergasted” that his prediction didn’t come true. What he should be “flabbergasted” about is the fact that with no Biblical training, and no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, he was able to decipher the day of Judgement, convince hundreds/thousands of people to follow him, and build a $120M radio empire with 160 stations in 49 countries. I’m flabbergasted about that, too.

What does he say now to the followers who spent their life savings on billboards? What does he say to the mother in California who slit her daughters’ throats and wrists? Mr. Camping is supposed to make a statement later today.

For those who *did* believe Saturday was the end, you might want to check out this article for your next steps.

The Last Post?

Friday, May 20th, 2011 by JEL

If Harold Camping is correct and the world does end tomorrow, do you think it could happen before my son’s minors Little League game? I wouldn’t mind skipping yet another 2.5 hours watching the kids mindlessly heave the ball all over creation. Then again, Mr. Camping apparently miscalculated in his earlier date of September 6, 1994, so maybe he confused sine and cosine again.

But, if indeed his calculator gave him the right date and this is the last post of our blog, I thought it best to go out with a laugh. Take it away, Onion:

Clergy Sexual Abuse: The Causes?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by JEL

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops commissioned John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York to research the causes of clergy sexual abuse. The study concluded that homosexuality and celibacy were not to blame:

“The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally. Factors that were invariant during the time period addressed, such as celibacy, were not responsible for the increase or decline in abuse cases over this time.”

This finding, if you were wishing to maintain the status quo of an all-male, celibate priesthood, was just about the best thing you could hope for. One wonders if an independent study, not paid for by the Catholic church, would reach the same conclusions.

Stephen Hawking vs. “Jesus”

Monday, May 16th, 2011 by JEL

It’s always good to air opposing viewpoints, right? Present different perspectives and let people soak them in and process for themselves. The first to take today’s stage is Stephen Hawking. When asked about the afterlife, he said that it was a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Another quote from his book “The Grand Design”:

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to … set the Universe going.”

Our second speaker today is Alan John Miller. He and his partner, Mary Suzanne Luck, claim to be Jesus and Mary Magdalene and have set up shop in Australia. I think it best to let Mr. Miller present his viewpoint directly:

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 13-16

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by JEL

Chapter 13 begins with an innocent comment by the disciples at how awesome the temple building is. Jesus tells them there won’t be a stone left. They head over to the Mount of Olives across from the temple, and the disciples ask for the sign when all the terrible things will happen.

Jesus tells them that many will come in His name trying to lead others astray. Nation will rise against nation, and earthquakes and famine will abound. But that’s just the beginning. He tells them that they will be delivered up to councils and beaten in synagogues. Families will rise up against each other and “cause them to be put to death.” But watch out when the “abomination of desolation” occurs, spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Then people should flee to the mountains (without going back to get their cloaks or anything from their houses).

That’s when the real oppression will hit. And after that, the sun and moon will go dark, and the stars will fall from the sky. That’s when they “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

As for when exactly, Jesus says He doesn’t know:

“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Chapter 14

It’s now two days before Passover and the chief priests and scribes are trying to figure out how to seize and kill Jesus before the feast (“because there might be a riot of the people.”) Jesus, meanwhile, is in Bethany at Simon the leper’s house. A woman comes in with a jar of extremely expensive, pure nard. She breaks the jar and pours the oil over Jesus’ head. Some watchers grumbled that the oil could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor. Jesus replies:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying.”

Judas Iscariot slips out and tells the chiefs he will deliver Jesus to them. They’re delighted and promise Judas money as payment.

The disciples, at Jesus’ command, go into the city, meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, follow him into a house and ask the master of the house where the Teacher and his disciples may eat the Passover. The master shows them a large room upstairs with everything furnished and ready. That evening, Jesus arrives for the meal. As they’re calmly eating, Jesus drops the bombshell:

“Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me–he who eats with me.”

They all say “Surely not I?” but Jesus just says it would have been better for the betrayer never to have been born. He then blesses some bread, breaks it and hands it to the 12:

“Take, eat. This is my body.”

He then gives them the cup from which to drink:

“This is my blood of the new covenant, with is poured out for many.”

After they sing a hymn, they head out to the Mount of Olives and Jesus tells them:

“All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.”

Peter says he will remain loyal, but Jesus says that before the rooster crows twice, Peter will deny Him three times. He takes Peter, James and John with Him and asks the to keep a lookout while He prays:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Please remove this cup from me. However, not what I desire, but what you desire.”

Jesus finds the disciples who were supposed to be watching, asleep. He wakes them and returns to his prayer. Again, he finds them asleep. The third time he says,

“Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

Sure enough, Judas appears with a bunch of chief priests, scribes, and elders all carrying swords and clubs. Judas gives the “Judas Kiss” and Jesus is seized and taken to the court of the high priest. Peter follows from a distance and then mixes in with the officers “in the light of the fire.”

The council calls for witnesses against Jesus to put him to death, but all they get is a bunch of false testimonies that contradict each other. The high priest asks Him what he has to say about all this testimony, but Jesus stays quiet. Then the high priest asks him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answers:

“I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of the sky.”

This makes the high priest go berserk. He tears his clothes and says, “What further need have we of witnesses?” It’s blasphemy they all say and condemn Jesus to death. Some people start spitting on Him and beating Him with their fists.

Peter is down in the courtyard where he is spotted by a maid of the high priest. She recognizes him as one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denies it, the rooster crows. She then points him out to others nearby, “This is one of them.” Again, he denies it. Finally, some others say Peter’s speech shows he is a Galilean and that he is one of them. This time, Peter curses and swears “I don’t know this man of whom you speak.” The rooster crows a second time.

Chapter 15

The next morning, the chief priests bind Jesus and take him to Pontius Pilate. They accuse Him of many things, but when Pilate asks Jesus about the claims, He remains silent. At the feast, Pilate always releases a prisoner to the multitudes. Knowing that jealousy is behind the chief priests’ actions, Pilate asks the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” No, the crowd wants Barabbas (as they were persuaded to do by the priests). When Pilate asks what he should do with Jesus, the throng bellows “Crucify him!” Pilate answers:

“Why, what evil has he done?”

But the crowd will not be turned, so Pilate hands over Jesus. Soldiers flog Him, dress Him in purple, and put a crown of thorns on His head. “Hail, King of the Jews!” This sarcasm is followed by spitting and beating. They then remove the purple clothes, and put His old clothes back on Him.

They take Him to Golgotha (“the place of a skull”) to be crucified. They offer him wine mixed with myrrh, but Jesus declines to drink. In the third hour, they crucified Him along with two others, a robber on His left and another on His right. While on the cross, Jesus is subjected to more mockery from passersby:

“Ha! You who would destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

By the sixth hour, darkness had come and stayed until the ninth hour. At that ninth hour, Jesus cries out in a loud voice:

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? [My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?]“

Somebody fills a sponge with vinegar and puts it on a reed for Jesus to drink. Jesus cries out once more and dies. Immediately the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion standing opposite Jesus’ cross said:

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

A number of women watched from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses. Evening comes and Joseph of Arimathaea boldly goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Pilate agrees and has the centurion grant the body to Joseph. Joseph wraps the body in a linen cloth and places it in a stone tomb. He rolls a large rock against the door of the tomb while two Marys watch.

Chapter 16

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, buy some spices with which to anoint Jesus’ body. They wonder how they will move the rock in front of the tomb, but find it has already been rolled away. Heading inside, they see a young man dressed in a white robe. He says that Jesus has risen and to tell his disciples that Jesus will be in Galilee. They flee and are too afraid to tell anyone anything.

Jesus then appears to Mary Magdalene and she finally tells those who had been with Him, but they don’t believer her. Jesus then reveals Himself “in another form” to two others who again tell the group. They still don’t believe. Finally, he reveals Himself to the remaining 11 disciples and rebukes them for their “unbelief and hardness of heart.” He tells them:

“Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation.”

He says some other stuff too, like those who believe will be able to cast out demons, speak with new languages, be able to drink “any deadly thing” and be fine. After He finishes speaking, Jesus is received up into heaven and sits down at the right hand of God. The disciples disperse and preach everywhere.

Note: We’ll take a little time off before we tackle Luke. I’ll let you know when to start.

AOK Wednesday…sort of

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 by JEL

I was in the mood for something positive, something kind to share with everyone. I haven’t done an Act of Kindness (AOK) Thursday post in a while, so I started foraging for stories about people being kind to one another and came across this.

There’s this company called eFoods Global that has introduced Acts of Kindness (AoK) Currency, and the press release certainly sounds like people can get free “money” for food simply by being kind to their fellow humans. And I believe that they can. Awesome, right?! Except the only kindness that qualifies is referring other humans to eFoods Global’s products.

Go to their website and view the video on the Home page. They make storable food, the kind you put in your bunker, bomb shelter, or basement in case of crisis. Their business model relies on network marketing, meaning people referring people who refer people who refer people. It’s a powerful model, good business, and their video has all the polish of a Saturday afternoon infomercial.

But, really, is it kindness–or commerce?

Religion and Politics

Monday, May 9th, 2011 by JEL

How’s that for a combustible post title? Feeling a little feisty this morning, I thought I’d stir up the pot. I’m a little late to this piece from David Barash over at The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website. He did indeed publish it on April Fool’s Day, but he assures everyone there is at least some seriousness to his argument. Which is, devout people should be excluded from politics. There, the lightning is striking all over the place!

In response to a radio talk show caller who said “I don’t really care what religion [a presidential candidate] might be, I just want a president who prays,” Barash writes:

“But how about, instead, a president who reads: briefing papers, and maybe some detailed, complex, and even occasionally contradictory and nuanced analyses of alternative courses of action and their likely consequences? Someone whose views are reason and reality-based, founded on good, hard thought instead of theological doctrine? Instead of someone who prays, what about someone who thinks?”

Perhaps the two sides are not mutually exclusive?