Archive for October, 2011

Halloween Trivia

Monday, October 31st, 2011 by JEL

I have lots of Halloween memories of going out trick-or-treating with my friends. Most of them are weather-related. The unbelievably frigid year (and being made to wear winter parka and snow pants underneath my costume). The balmy year. The pouring rain year when the bottom of the paper bag I was using to collect the goods got all wet and disintegrated dumping my load.

My kids will remember this Halloween for the same reason. With the weekend storm, two trees laying on my roof, wires down all over town, and thousands still without power, our town has requested that no trick-or-treating take place. In other words, Halloween has been cancelled. If you find yourself in my position, with two glum kids to entertain, check out this article.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead, and observed it May 13. Finally, in the 8th century Pope Gregory III changed the date to Nov. 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, and gradually blended with and replaced the older Celtic rites. It is believed that Christians were attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. Halloween means All Hallows Eve, or the night before the “All Hallows” also called “All Saints Day” or “All Souls Day” observed Nov. 1. In old English the word “Hallow” meant sanctify. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans used to observe All Hallows Day to honor all saints in heaven and was one of the most significant observances of the church year. Participants made sacrifices in honor of the dead and offered prayers for them.

This Jack-O-Lantern story was new to me:

The story of the jack-o’-lantern is about a shifty farmer named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. When the devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, which made it impossible for the devil to climb down. In exchange for help to get out of the tree, the devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven because of his dealing with the devil and because of his sins and Jack was turned away from hell because of his trickery with the devil. Condemned to wander the earth, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil and used it for a lantern to light his way. As he wandered the earth as a ghost, he became known as “Jack of the Lantern.” In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Jack and other wandering evil spirits.

Occupy Vatican?

Friday, October 28th, 2011 by JEL

Heck no! Turns out the Pope and the Vatican are saying the same things as the OWS protesters. In fact, they’ve written a position paper urging a global authority to police financial markets:

If Vatican cardinals have yet to join the Occupy Wall Street protesters, a document released by the Holy See calling for a “world authority” to crack down on capitalism suggests some are considering it. Written by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and released on Monday, Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority, suggests a beefed-up United Nations could police the financial markets and inject a dose of ethics to replace rampant profiteering and reduce inequality.

Fourth-Quarter Rally

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 by JEL

I’ve always liked watching Tim Tebow play football. He’s a lefty—which is always odd to see in the quarterback position—and his style is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. He also seems like a genuinely nice person who works very hard. Now that he’s in the NFL and getting a chance to actually play with the Denver Broncos, Tebow Mania is taking over. Given Tebow’s fervent faith, some in Christian circles are keeping vigil on his games, seeing his performance as, well, something a bit more than just playing football.

Over at Grantland, Brian Phillips has written a terrific piece on Tebow, God, and Country. Here’s a snippet:

I’m sure there are people who manage to escape the demographic rooting pattern this creates. But in broad strokes, it’s fair to say that how you feel about Tebow depends on how you feel about youth groups and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and, I don’t know, WWJD bracelets and raft retreats with a lot of bonfires and swaying. Other religious players are religious individuals; Tebow is a whole culture. It helps that, as an NFL player, he’s both nontraditional and kind of bad, which makes it easy to see his success as guided by a higher power — if a dude with that background and that throwing motion completes a touchdown pass, it almost has to be a miracle.

Jesus’ Take on the “Occupy” Protests?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 by JEL

Given that much of the wrath of the OWS crowd seems directed at the too-big-to-fail banks whose executives seem to bring home the bacon regardless of market conditions, I’m guessing that Jesus might just be among the protesters.

The alternative is to return to the subversive teachings of Christ. Jesus showed little patience with religious institutions. He was mostly concerned with people outside them. One of the central events of his life was a famous piece of direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, where he “overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves”.

The above block was pulled from a story about the Occupy London movement and how St. Paul’s cathedral fears the protest is keeping the tourists away.

Feynman on Science

Monday, October 17th, 2011 by JEL

When I was growing up, science was all the rage. Rockets going to the moon, pictures flying through the air (TV), plastics, it was all so cool and happening so fast. About 10-15 years ago, science started taking it on the chin. Dumb became cool, and the eggheads became “elite.” All the answers of the world, it was argued, could be found in the Bible, so why are you wasting your time on quantum physics?

Plus, people seem to love when scientists get it wrong. See? See? I told you those eggheads were worthless. But as Richard Feynman explains, scientists have always been in the process of discovery. They learn new things which puts past lessons in a whole new perspective. It even makes some of those past lessons downright wrong. Which is kind of the most awesome thing about discovery.

That Ole’ Lefty Bible

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by JEL

We here at What He Said headquarters have long scratched our head at religious folks and their conservative views. It’s part of the reason why we created the book in the first place. Do conservative Christians ever actually read the Bible, and the Four Gospels in particular? Those messages about helping the needy and the poor? Funny how Jesus never says the poor should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Sandalstraps?

Christianity Today published an interesting analysis of the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey which asked a whole range of folks about their Bible reading and views on a variety of topics. The survey found that people who read the Bible the most tend to be more conservative, BUT BUT BUT the more these same folks read it, especially on their own, the more liberal their views become. That pesky Jesus!

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible’s prominence in our society, it’s little wonder that many people think they know what’s in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

How Close and How Far?

Monday, October 10th, 2011 by JEL

Who knows if Mitt Romney will be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012. I do know that his Mormon faith will be getting an increasing amount of attention as the next thirteen months tick by. Mormons say they are “Christian,” but many Christians say/believe that Mormons are not Christian.

I found this Reuters “Factbox” illuminating. Among the article’s points:

  • The religion is growing fast and half of its members live outside the U.S. (many in Latin America).
  • “Mormons have three books of scripture other than the Bible.”
  • “Mormons also believe that Jesus visited the Americas after his resurrection and that there is no eternal hell.”
  • The church policy of polygamy was removed in 1890 as a bargaining chip for Utah statehood.

And two more:

* The LDS Church says it is truly Christian, believes in Jesus Christ and corrected mistakes it says mainline Christianity made in its early centuries. But it has a different view of the Trinity from mainline Christians and additional teachings — such as the prophesies of Joseph Smith, Jesus’s visit to America, baptism of the dead or the existence of God the Father married to a Heavenly Mother — that those churches reject as unbiblical or un-Christian.

* While most Christian churches do not require rebaptism if a believer switches from one denomination to another, Mormons do not recognize baptisms in other churches and require all converts from those churches to be rebaptised. The Roman Catholics and Methodists require converts from Mormonism to be rebaptised while other Christian churches cast serious doubt on the validity of Mormon baptism.

Ten Things Everyone Should Learn

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by JEL

Kathy from Canyonwalker Connections is sharing some insights she’s learned from 10 years of working on the front lines of a very important issue. Take a gander (and bring your notebook):

Bible Readers Want Accuracy

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 by JEL

When we were drawing up plans for What He Said, there were a number of paths we could have taken. There are plenty of books out there that take Jesus’ quotes in the Bible and package them in a myriad of ways. We chose an alternate route: to present them unedited, word-for-word, and in context. We used design to improve the usability and readability, not editorial edict.

A new survey from LifeWay Research seems to confirm our approach. They asked 2,000 people who read the Bible by themselves (outside of church) or as part of a family activity a number of questions about the Bible.

When asked whether they prefer “word-for-word translations, where the original words are translated as exactly as possible” or “thought-for-thought translations, where the translators attempt to reproduce the intent of the original thought rather than translating the exact words,” 61 percent chose word-for-word.

Other findings:

  • 68 percent want language to be simpler to understand while 7 percent want it to be more difficult to understand.
  • 81 percent say it should be more enjoyable to read while 4 percent prefer it to be more of a chore to read.
  • 27 percent favor contemporary language while 46 percent want traditional language.
  • 36 percent want more modern language while 37 percent favor more old-fashioned language.
  • 19 percent feel understanding the language should require a higher level of education while 49 percent say it should not require a higher level of education.
  • 63 percent believe it should be simple for anyone to understand while 14 percent say the language should be meant more for people who have a lot of experience with the Bible.
  • 40 percent prefer more formal language while 26 percent say should be more informal.
  • 22 percent want language more for casual reading while 44 percent say it should be designed more for in-depth study.

Easy to read and word-for-word accurate: What He Said.