Eternity is a long time

The Concept of Eternity in the Bible

sand dune with foot prints

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

There are very few passages in the Bible that refer to our modern concept of eternity. The NT Greek expression: “into the ages” or “into the ages of the ages” is the closest the biblical writers come to expressing the concept of our modern ideas of infinite eternity.

N.T. Wright in his monumental book: The Resurrection of the Son of God, expresses a common discovery by scholars that the idea of conscious life after death does not occur to biblical writers until about 700BCE (chapter 3). Wright says the thing that spurs these writers to explore the topic of life after death was the martyrdom of so many Jews, who died fighting for the freedom of Israel. Those Jews needed to be rewarded for their sacrifice.

As a former fundamentalist, when I approached topics in the Bible, I would first assume that all writers in the scriptures were equally aware of the topic being written about, and that all writers completely agreed on each topic. This is a fundamental of fundamentalism: that God dictated the Bible word for word, such that the thoughts expressed are not the thoughts of the writer, but the thoughts of God. Therefore they are all completely correct, fully formed, and fully expressed wherever they occur in the history of humanity. As a fundamentalist I believed that all believers had believed this principal all along, and used the familiar passages of 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 1:21 to prove this.

Non fundamentalists say that fundamentalism is new, that nobody in the Bible believed that every word was dictated by God. They nevertheless revered the Scriptures as having been God-breathed: generated by a higher Power, by the Holy Spirit, but certainly not infallible, only correct insofar as the listener to God’s breath was able to understand and convey what God was saying. So Martin Luther concluded that the book of James and the book of Revelation were only marginally inspired by God, and much of what they said would be burned up like straw when weighed on the Judgement Day. He gave several reasons for his thoughts. (He was not opposed to James’s concept that if you have faith, your works will show.)

N.T. Wright follows in Martin Luther’s footsteps when he traces the history of God’s revelation of eternal life throughout Scripture. Up until 700BCE there are only veiled references to life after death. He says that David’s question: “Won’t my God want to see my face after I die?” is a rhetorical question, the obvious answer being that nobody gets to see God once they are dead. I have difficulty with that, but he makes a good case for his point. N.T. Wright says there are no other statements previous to that that show a clear belief in life after death.

Jesus seems to disagree with N.T. Wright. Life after death was a hotly contested topic during his time on the earth. Jesus quoted God speaking to Moses: “‘Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. ”

N.T. Wright would argue that Jesus’ awareness of life after death was foreign to writers of the Law of Moses (pp. 424-430). His argument is that Jesus’ view was in the mainstream of Pharisaic views of the resurrection during the first century, but not the mainstream of ancient Jewish thought.

Footnote on Fundamentalism:

One of the quickest ways to stop being a fundamentalist is just to start saying: “the apostle Paul says…” instead of “the Bible says” or “the Word of God says”. In fact, the written Bible is never referred to as “the Word of God”. Some of the words of God have been recorded in the Bible, but the Bible, as a whole, is never referred to by any person in the Bible as “the Word of God.” Only Jesus Himself is referred to as the Word of God, in contrast to the Ten Words of God (the Ten Commandments) written on stone. Now we have the commandments written in our hearts.

In fact, instead of saying: “the Bible says to sing and make melody in the heart unto the Lord,” say, “The apostle Paul said to the church at Ephesus in the first century to sing and make melody in the heart unto the Lord.” That’s just as accurate, in fact, it is more accurate than saying, “the Bible says..” A fundamentalist from the Churches of Christ would never say, “The Bible says to praise God with the tambourine and with dancing!”
The Bible clearly says that, but a fundamentalist from the Churches of Christ would say, “King David in the Psalms under the Old Testament said to praise God with the tambourine and with dancing.” Somehow this is acceptable, even necessary to specify who is talking to whom, when, and where, but when I suggest we do that for the entirety of the Bible, it is seen as chipping away at our faith. To be faithful to the actual writing of the actual Bible it is necessary to specify Who is talking to Whom, When and Where. (Just like D.R. Dungan said in his text on Hermeneutics.)

To do otherwise is lazy scholarship. To do otherwise is jingoistic loyalty to a particular “ism” that may crumble under examination. If you have nothing to fear, then be more specific when you quote the Scriptures. Otherwise you are only speaking to your own tiny party.

Advertisements
Posted in Bible, Hell, Inspiration of the Scriptures, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Brett Kavanaugh’s faith

Trump and KavanaughAfter listening to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, I found her very believable.
After listening to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s refutation, I found him very believable.
So who is telling the truth?
Over the next two days I looked at Kavanaugh’s testimony under questioning. This is what I observed:
  • He was angry when his yearbook was examined, because it showed his claim that he was a religious virgin, to be not quite as true as he wanted it to appear.
  • He refused to say that he drank a lot as a 17 year old, even though he was asked directly several times. He replied that he liked beer, that it was legal for the seniors to drink beer (leaving out the fact that he wasn’t a senior at the time in question, and it became illegal to drink the year before he became a senior, meaning that all of his drinking in high school was illegal). He is hoping that by telling these true facts, that we will get an untrue picture of him as a teen.  
  • 95% chance he lied when he defined Boofed, and Devil’s Triangle, which he wrote about himself in his yearbook. His classmates refute his definitions. 
  • 99% chance he was lying when he said the Renate Alumnius club were merely admirers of Renate, instead of a club of those who had had sex with Renate. Several of his classmates refute this definition. Nobody supports his definition. 
  • 90% chance he lied when he said that he never lost track of what he had done due to drinking. Several of his peers at the time refute his claim. 
On evangelical and conservative Catholic topics he was a definite equivocator:
  • When asked about his views on the recent Supreme Court decision to guarantee the right of gays to marry, he quoted judges giving triumphant pronouncements of jubilee for gays, but refused to give his own opinion. He cleverly let people think he was in favor of those decisions for gays, while leaving out his own opinion on the matter. He clearly refused to give his own opinion.
  • When asked about his written statement that he admired Justice Rehnquist for stemming the tide of new rights not named in the Constitution, he refused to name any rights he was opposed to. 
I came to the conclusion that his faith is Stage 3: Fowler describes Stage 3 Faith as that of someone who wants to be considered by his peers as honorable. It is not the stage of reflection, or even of striving for consistency. Rather, it is the stage of loyalty to the institution that holds his faith. So Kavanaugh’s responses are an effort to please people, but also to remain faithful to his institutions (the Catholic Church, the presidency, and the Republican Party). 
 
Kavanaugh’s fiery defense after Dr. Ford’s accusations, although understandable, was even more understandable if one views him from a Stage 3 Faith viewpoint. Dr. Ford challenged his honor, a challenge that people in Stage 3 take seriously. 
In the gospel stories, almost every interaction with Jesus’ critics was a challenge to Jesus’ honor, and they took Jesus’ replies as challenges to their own honor. But Jesus’ responses are in stark contrast to Kavanaugh’s. Jesus had far less of a need to please those listening. Jesus had separated his identity sufficiently that he did not view the temple and the Sanhedrin as the institutions he needed to be faithful to. The temple and the Sanhedrin did not contain or carry his faith; his faith was independent.
Kavanaugh’s faith is clearly dependent on his institutions, and his honor can be challenged such that he comes out swinging. 
 
He has been picked by the president to do two main tasks on the Supreme Court:
  • A presidential pardon only covers federal crimes, until the Supreme Court rules that it covers federal and state crimes. 
  • Please conservative Christians, a large part of his voting base: Conservative Christians have several agenda: 
    • Reverse Roe v Wade, to save the lives of unborn infants.
    • Reverse the rights of gays and transgendered people, whom they see as having sinful lifestyles. 
    • Stop the march forward of minorities, whom they see as lazy and criminal. Keep America ruled by Christian white men like it has been since the founding of the nation. 
    • Stop minorities by putting an end to welfare. They see welfare as for lazy people.
    • Stop minorities by stopping immigration, which they see as diluting the Christian heritage of the nation.
(The American nonreligious public views conservative Christians as racist reactionaries.)
All of these initiatives require approval from the Supreme Court. 
My conclusion is that Kavanaugh is less than truthful.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How bad is the Catholic sex abuse scandal?

The problem with the Catholic sex abuse scandal is that the stats are quoted in a vacuum. There are no comparisons with other religious groups.
What would you say if I compared the Catholic sex abuse scandal with foster parents? What percentage of foster parents sexually abuse the children in their care? A foster care agency director from Pennsylvania told me in the early 1990s that the rate was 10%. Ten per cent of his parents he recruits for foster parenting sexually abuse the children in their care. The Catholic sex abuse scandal is far lower than that.  That’s not a fair comparison, though. Many, if not most, of the children in foster care are there because they were sexually abused in their primary homes, and have been removed for safety. So the children were groomed and conditioned to look for love in sexual ways just to survive. So it would be expected that there would be more sexual abuse among foster parents.
A better comparison would be other religious denominations. How do other religious leaders compare to Catholic priests (and nuns) for sexual abuse of children? We don’t know. (Perhaps insurance companies could tell us.)
In a survey of evangelical ministers that asked about sexual indiscretions, in the 1990s 30% of evangelical ministers stated anonymously that they had had sex or an affair with a congregant. Do you feel burned out? (71% said yes). Is your marriage in trouble? (70% yes). Over half wished they had chosen a different profession. Over half wished they had married someone else, etc. In fact they exhibited all of the hallmarks of a group of people who are tempted to have affairs. Couple that with the constant availability of vulnerable people to have affairs with in a church, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Here is a good place to note the fall of Bill Hybels, one of the most influential evangelical pastors in the USA. And also to note that I have written on the urge of pastors to be the opposite of genuine, and the resultant isolation, loneliness and sexual temptations associated with phoniness. When I was a young pastor, the big falls we had to deal with were: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the 700 Club, and Jimmy Lee Swaggart in Louisianna.
Recently Germany issued a statement that 3600 children had been molested over the past 70 years by Catholic priests. There are 25 million Catholics in Germany, but less than half attend church.
If we took the figure of 12 million, 6% of whom are children (divided by 3600 children) divided by 70 years, that would mean that one out of every 800 children is molested by a priest. Of course these figures are just guesstimates based on the stats we have. But is that a high number? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Regardless of whether the number is high or not, it is the covering up and facilitating of the abuse that has really gotten the Catholic Church in trouble. The Catholic Church in my city has lost half of their real estate to settle suits against the diocese brought by victims. The millions of dollar verdicts were decided by incensed juries.
2006_11_10_Duckett_DocumentaryShares_ph_Cultrera_Lennon

“You’re a sad little man!” Bishop Lennon tells Joe Contrera, brother of man molested by a priest as a child, whose molester was protected and transferred from parish to parish.

The first uncovering of the cover ups were discovered in Boston by a man who exhibited PTSD symptoms. Finally he posted an ad in a newspaper: “Do you remember Father Steve? If so, write to…” That’s all he said. At first he got no response. Then he got a letter: “I know what you are doing and you need to stop!” No other info. After the 8th week the letters started trickling in, and then pouring in. Almost all of them about sexual abuse. His brother confronted Bishop Lennon of Boston, (who had just replaced Cardinal Bernard Law) and Bishop Lennon said to him on video, “You are a sad little man!” Instead of admitting the cover up (transferring abusive priests from parish to parish) and apologizing, just shaming. Then the Boston Globe decided to investigate.

But does the Catholic Church do more child sex abuse than other denominations? Or other social work organizations? What about church camps in the summer? We don’t know, and journalists don’t seem to care to put their reporting into perspective.
The same is true of almost all news stories. They seldom compare the tragedy so that we can see how serious an issue it is. Some journalists compare. For instance heroin and opioid deaths are the highest accidental deaths in the USA. That stat compares heroin deaths with car deaths and every other category of accidental death, so it tells us the gravity of the situation.
But stats like: 3600 molestations over 70 years by German Catholic priests don’t help us gauge how severe the problem is. What is the average molestation rate for the general population of people who work with children?
If the Catholic Church hasn’t understood this yet, they need to understand that people are not made for celibacy, and they do not do better work for the Lord by choosing celibacy. Those who choose celibacy sometimes are the least sexually healthy, and are often the least able to cope with celibacy. The Catholic Church, by demanding celibacy of their clergy, may be filtering out all of the sexually healthy individuals, and then nominating the least healthy for priesthood (or sisterhood).
I was meeting someone at McDonald’s one day and a busload of young men about high school age entered and lined up to order food. The young men upset me. They were wearing a uniform of polos and chinos. A few of them looked normal, but most of them looked awkwardly feminine, or like they had Asperger’s syndrome. A few of them lined up to order food with their hands clasped as if they were lining up for the host at church. I asked a man at the next booth what the young men were part of. He asked me to guess. I guessed they were a Christian choir.  He said they were candidates for the Catholic priesthood. As a mental health counselor, and as a Christian, I was horrified.
The Roman Catholic Church stands alone among the three sister churches (compared to the Egyptian Coptic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church) in demanding celibacy of priests and nuns. The original intent of Catholic celibacy in 1139 was to avoid the accumulation of wealth by bishops who would then pass the wealth on to their children. It received a veneer of biblical teaching and a strong dash of sexual shame, and 879 years later it is still creating havoc.
We are sexual human beings. We need to model and teach our children about their sexuality. Silence, celibacy and molestation has to be stamped out.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lipscomb University hosts African-American Student Meal

Recently the President of Lipscomb University, in Nashville, TN, hosted a Latino meal for Latino students at his home. The President served them fajita steak, tacos and Spanish rice.

The next evening the President served the African-American students (7% of the student population): BBQ ribs, BBQ fried chicken,  black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread and mac & cheese. The center pieces included stalks of cotton with cotton bolls attached.

When students asked the President about the choice of centerpieces, he said they were a fall theme. A student said it reminded her of her slave ancestry. He replied that “it is just cotton, everyone wears cotton, so how can one be offended?” and walked away.

The next day he issued a huge apology, also having spokespeople state that the centerpieces were the same for the Latino students, and that the choice of menu was just the food service rotating meals.

Really? So it was just a coincidence that the Latino students received fajita steak, tacos and Spanish rice? And the very next night the African-American students received fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread and black-eyed peas? Seriously? Either that is a HUGE coincidence, or the President is lying. In fact the president didn’t lie, he just refused to answer the question, when pressed, mentioning brownies and cookies, and “two or three different kinds of meats”, leaving the impression that they didn’t specifically cook an African-American meal.

Cedric Duncan, a former student, said in a Facebook forum: “they were fed cornbread and collard greens which, after working alongside lipscomb catering, i know that is pretty unusual for them to make that.”

And if the President of Lipscomb University is lying about the menu, could he also be lying about the centerpieces? Not that he personally chose the menu and the centerpieces, but someone did. Someone who was trying to be nice, but doesn’t realize they are racist, like most Christians in the Bible belt. Nobody thinks they are racist.

This is familiar territory for me, having grown up in the Churches of Christ. People in the Churches of Christ are weakest in the area of shame issues, racism and emotional honesty.

In addition to these gaffs, the students had been invited to the dinner to let the President know how they were experiencing Lipscomb University. Only they were never given a chance to say anything. They just had to listen to the President talk and talk about himself, his wife, and David Lipscomb. No listening. In his apology he stated he wanted to “engage in more conversations with students at the group and individual level.” Yeah, like they already had even one conversation? And these students would want to have more conversations with him?

So the students were pissed.

In the ensuing brou-ha-ha all the racism of the Church of Christ came trotting out in various Instagram and Facebook posts by Lipscomb students and alumni: “How could you be offended?” “Cotton is cotton, everyone wears cotton.” “They were being nice to you. Say, thank you.” “Everyone eats collard greens and black-eyed peas.” “We are raising a generation of crybabies.” “Slavery ended a long time ago. Get over it.” Etc.

That last one got me to thinking. When did racism end in the United States?

1772–a British judge brought about the conditions that would end slavery in England.

1776–The United States declared independence from Great Britain partially because Great Britain wanted to end the barbaric importation of slaves. Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave owners (41 out of 56 signers), including George Washington (who owned 317 slaves).

1790-1801–The

Alexander_Campbell_Age_65

Alexander Campbell

spawning of the Disciples of Christ, Christian Church and Churches of Christ. Lipscomb University is named after one of the founders of the Restoration Movement, David Lipscomb,

lipscomb

DAvid Lipscomb 1831-1917

one of the least racist members of the movement, who preached against slavery, and inspired several to free their slaves.

1881–The Confederate States secede from the United States because the United States was becoming increasingly hostile to slavery.

1863–Abraham Lincoln frees the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation.

1860s–The Ku Klux Klan is formed amidst Reconstruction, to keep blacks from integrating with whites, among other things. Intimidation is the main form of enforcement.

1946–The last public lynchings of black people, tickets were sold to some lynchings (before 1927), trains were chartered, picnics on the lawn before the lynching in the early afternoon, and family photos were taken with the dead body hanging in the background, and postcards of the event were sold.

1945–Black soldiers returning to the United States are denied the right to FHA and VA loans to buy houses.

1955–Blacks begin to sit in the front of the bus.

1954–The Supreme Court rules that segregation of schools is unconstitutional.

bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday: White police beat blacks for marching for the right to register to vote and serve on juries.

1960s–Black people march for the right to register to vote, and to serve on juries. Black people begin to sit down in whites-only lunch diners.

1967–Martin Luther King is assassinated. White people laugh and rejoice. Blacks weep or riot.

1970s–The Supreme Court forces busing of students to achieve integrated schools. Whites respond by moving out of cities into white suburbs.

1972–Nixon and Ehrlichman despair of the hippies and the blacks who would not vote for Nixon. They devise a plan to intimidate and imprison hippies and blacks: the War on Drugs.

1970s–Church of Christ colleges finally admit black students, because of the threat of segregated colleges losing their federal non-profit status. This resulted in the loss of some of their donors who opposed integration.

2000s–Videos begin to appear on the internet, of police roughing up, and sometimes killing, seemingly harmless blacks: school teachers, college professors, nurses, etc. Not a single police officer is found guilty of misconduct.

2008–First black president of the United States is elected. Angry opposers insist he is Muslim, and born in Africa. Trump calls for his long form birth certificate.

2013–Black Lives Matter movement begins to counter the treatment of blacks by police.

2017–Trump refuses to endorse the Black Lives Matter Movement, instead he encourages the police to rough up their suspectsLipscomb meal

2017–Lipscomb University hosts a stereotyped meal for black students, complete with fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread, and lectures the black students on how anti-racist the university’s founder was.

So when did racism end in the United States?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in civil rights | 7 Comments

Fundamentalism is New

Christian leaders, 170 years after Christ died, were not fundamentalists. Take for example the Creation story. They had no problem saying that the Creation story was not seven literal 24 hours.

220px-Origen by Thevet

Origen of Alexandria, by Theve

Origen on the creation story:

Consider this passage from On First Principles Book 4 as translated from the Greek.

For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally. (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, p. 365)

Read more here.

So where did fundamentalism come from? Some believe it started in the 15th century after Christ, when the printing press was invented, the first Bibles were printed, and the public had more access to reading the biblical text for themselves. Previously the Church owned almost all the copies of the Bible.

pioneer familyOthers believe fundamentalism began in the United States in the 1700s and 1800s as the pioneer frontier moved westward, and each farm family had only one book: the Bible (and each church had no instruments of music). As towns became more established, and the people came into contact with theologians who questioned the text of the Bible, they reacted strongly. They insisted that the Bible was correct, and furthermore that it was to be taken literally.

Of course nobody takes every story in the Bible literally (e.g. dreams that have allegorical interpretations). But some take them far more literally than others.

Varying levels of inspiration:

All denominations confess that the Bible is God-breathed and inspired. Only the evangelical, fundamentalist and pentecostal denominations believe that it is word for word inspired in the original manuscripts. Pentecostal, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Orthodox and Methodist churches also believe that their Confessions are inspired by the Holy Spirit, as well as their books of catechism, their order of worship and prayer books.

Pentecostals often believe that their sermons, prayers and songs are inspired by the Holy Spirit, but not 100%.

Many groups have a particular leader or prophet they believe has been spoken to by God, and insist that their prophet is partially or wholly perfect when speaking for God. The Catholic Church believes that when the pope speaks ex cathedra (from the throne) that his words are completely inspired. The last two times a pope spoke ex cathedra was in 1854 and 1950 defining the doctrines about Mary’s birth and assumption into heaven. The Catholic Church also believe their places of worship, the waters of baptism, and their communion is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Roman Catholic Church owned a monopoly on religion in Western Europe and levied a 10% tax on the entire continent, resulting in fabulous wealth for the Church. Even the Catholic Church agrees that it became incredibly corrupt during the Middle Ages in Europe, as evidenced by the fact that in 1087 the pope insisted on celibacy of the clergy, so wealth could not be handed down from priest-fathers to priest-sons. Several groups made attempts at breaking away both for religious reasons and for economic reasons. Success in breaking the power of the Catholic Church only came in the 1400s with the invention of the printing press, the printing of the Bible, and the publication of dissenting literature. The Inquisition began, dissenters were burned at the stake, wars were fought, but eventually the Catholic Church lost.

One of the big questions was: how inspired is the Church, the hierarchy, the bishops, the archbishops, the pope? How inspired are the cathedrals and churches? What about the altar inside the church? What about the bread and wine of communion that has been blessed by the church? What about the holy water, and the rituals of baptism, marriage and funerals conducted by the church?

There are multiple beliefs, with the older hierarchical churches (Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist) maintaining some of the apostolic succession, and some of the beliefs in the indwelling of the communion bread and wine.

ulrich-zwingliThe strongest winner, though, was Ulrich Zwingli, city chaplain of Zurich, Switzerland, the second great Reformationist, after Luther, who taught that Christ was the only mediator, not the church, that communion and baptism were only symbolic, and that there was no indwelling in the water, bread or wine. 

It is odd for us in this century to imagine what it was like to oppose the Church in the 1500s in Europe. Where did the Church get its authority? The Church had a huge miltary, the Church owned huge estates, kept records on who laid hands on each priest all the way back to the apostles and Christ. The Church took charge of all the manuscripts of the Scriptures, and was in charge of all the translations into Latin. (None of the Scriptures had been translated into the language of the people until upstarts published translations not sanctioned by the Church, which the Church burned, along with their translators.) The Church baptized infants, performed legal weddings, performed last rites, funerals and burials in holy ground. The Church operated all of the licensing of the trades, from bakers to carpenters. The Church appointed Kings of each nation.

If you were to attack the authority of the Church and establish your own authority for a competing church, where would you start?  Luther nailed 95 theses to the bulletin board on the church door, objecting to the corruption of a money-hungry Church, trying to pay for the new St Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, with ceilings painted by Michelangelo. The Church sent a slick salesman to sell newly printed (and inspired) indulgences (forgiveness of sins) throughout Germany (the riches country at the time). Luther was furious. But he only attacked the papacy and the selling of indulgences; little else.

Zwingli went much further. And he won.

Days of Creation

Today’s evangelicals: do not believe their songs are 100% inspired, do not believe their prayers, sermons, commentaries, or books are completely inspired, do not believe their translations of the Bible are 100% inspired, do not believe their church buildings, denominations, or charities are completely inspired. But they insist the Bible is 100% inspired, in the original manuscripts, which they agree no longer exist. They agree the handmade copies of the original manuscripts are not 100% inspired.

And for some reason this prompts them to insist that the Creation story be taken literally, seven 24 hour days, even though the sun, moon and stars don’t show up until Day Four.

Yes, I know these are two separate subjects: “how literally to take inspired scripture?” is a separate subject from “how inspired is the Bible?”, but evangelicals see them as one.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Evangelicals and Racism

charlottesville-torch-protest-0513-exlarge-169

May demonstration around statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee

With the recent alt right demonstration, counter-demonstration and violence in South Carolina, I would like to reiterate my understanding of white evangelicalism in America: That it is used largely as a cover for racism and ethnocentrism. We don’t want to change, we don’t want to look at how other people are hurting, we don’t want to look at our own sins, so we create unconsciously, a system of churches that helps us stay in our denial.

I wrote a year ago that Trump was the last great hurrah of white racism in the USA. Whites know that the percentage of their piece the American pie is shrinking. They know they will never be able to elect a president again, so they are trying to figure out how to reverse history. How can they suppress more non-white votes? How can they stop non-whites from immigrating?

Nixon&EhrlichmanI grew up in the Nixon era. Recently Nixon’s top aide, John Ehrlichman stated that they had conversations in the White House as to how to stop the rise of black voters and anti-war voters (who were against Nixon). They came up with the War on Drugs. They figured out how to criminalize the drugs of choice of black people and hippies. So even though whites and blacks have the same drug taking levels, black men spend more time in jail. Anyone convicted of a felon is not permitted to vote in many states. This lowers the voting power of blacks just enough to make it difficult for their vote to matter. All they needed in many areas was to tip the scale by 3%. The older generation cheered the War on Drugs, most not knowing it was a racist war, thinking it was against opium dens. TV and movies played along with the black actor playing the obligatory drug dealer or pimp, and the black actress playing the stereotypical drug addict or whore.

Photo of Michael JacksonI remember clearly when the supreme court forced integration on white high schools in the early 1970s (when Michael Jackson was growing up). The white high schools hit back by making rules that no student with an Afro hair style could have their photo taken for the yearbook, because Afro hair styles weren’t decent, they were hippie hairstyles. White churches remained silent. White parents were devastated and terrified that their children had to go to school with those violent black students, who swore and had sex, took drugs and stole things. Welfare children! White families moved out to whiter suburbs.

This was the same era that denied black families the right to buy homes through the FHA program. So black families were renting in crowded inner cities. If they moved into a white neighborhood they risked having their house burned down. Who wanted their white daughters marrying a drug dealing black man and having criminal babies?

Now that the percentage of nonwhites has gone up, and the percentage of whites will soon fall below 50%, whites have become desperate. So they elected Trump who promised a war on Muslim immigration, a wall to keep out illegal Mexicans, and a defense of rough police tactics against drug-dealers and protesters. This will be the last president they have the voting power to elect.

What is the most segregated hour in America? Sunday morning worship time. Church planting boot camps teach that if you want to start a church, it has to be homogeneous (only one kind of people), so choose your race and your income bracket and stick to it. Those churches that are integrated struggle with how to respond to pressing moral race issues of the day. The whites want things to stay the same, and blacks want people to know that things haven’t been anywhere close to fair for 500 years. How can they worship together when blacks feel they are not heard?

Confederate General Robert E. Lee:

The war was not about slavery, but if it was about slavery, it was only out of Christian devotion that white southerners fought to keep blacks enslaved…unless some humane course is adopted, based on wisdom and Christian principles you do a gross wrong and injustice to the whole negro race in setting them free. And it is only this consideration that has led the wisdom, intelligence and Christianity of the South to support and defend the institution up to this time.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

How St Augustine made Sex Evil

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

St Augustine and his mother, Monica

I recently read an article by Stephen Greenblatt in the New Yorker about St Augustine, who fomented the worst turn in Christianity. He came up with the idea that all sexual urges are sinful, all sex is somewhat sinful, and the only people who were born without sin were the two who were born without sexual intercourse: Adam (and Eve) and Jesus. Along the way he had to invent original sin and predestination to make his theology work.

St Augustine has probably done more to tear down real Christianity than any other church father.

St Augustine was born to Patricius, a pagan father, and Monica, a Christian mother, about 300 years after Jesus. His father was unfaithful and sometimes mocked Monica’s belief. Patricius took Augustine to the public baths one day when Augustine was around 16 years old, and was thrilled to see his son’s boner. He brought his son home and announced to his wife that his son had a wonderful man’s boner and would soon be using that boner to produce children, and wouldn’t they be proud of their grandchildren? (First of all, was Augustine traumatized by his Dad pointing out his boner at the public baths?) Augustine’s mother was horrified by the prospect of her darling son having carnal sex. Augustine writes that his mother, “in whose breast God had already started to build his temple…endured a violent spasm of reverent, tremulous trepidation.” (Augustine seems unaware of how much sexual energy he attributes to his mother’s chaste attitudes toward sex.)

Monica impressed upon her son that sex was evil, carnal and ungodly. “She made a considerable bustle,” Augustine writes in his Confessions to God, “to insure that you, my God, were my father rather than him.”  Patricius died the following year, and Augustine does not sound sad when he records his passing, even though his father and his father’s mother had converted to Christianity that year.

Augustine was split between his mother’s view of sex and his father’s view of sex. He began studying to be a lawyer at the university of Carthage, had a series of affairs (he describes as “putrid rutting”), and took a mistress. For the next 14 years he remained faithful to his mistress, and had a son, Adeodatus.

His mother Monica, was upset that he had studied Manichaeanism, the belief that there are two opposing forces in the world: good and evil. She cried and wept as if Augustine had died. When he prepared to leave for Rome and Milan for a promotion as a university lecturer in philosophy, she wept: “She was hanging onto me coercively, trying to stop my journey or come along with me on it.” He told her a lie to get away from her. Augustine describes her longing as “carnal desire” or “physical longing”, the curse that Eve had to bear after tempting Adam with the fruit in the Garden of Eden.

In Milan Augustine listened to the sermons of Ambrose and began to soften in his view of the Biblical stories, beginning to see them as stories of profound mysteries. And his mother moved in with him. She arranged a marriage to a suitable girl of status, who would be marriageable age in two years, and arranged for Augustine to send his mistress and son away.

Augustine writes, “My heart, which had been fused with hers, was mutilated by the wound, and I limped along trailing blood.” His mistress vowed never to take another man. He sent the mistress and son back to Africa where she came from, never to support them or hear from them again, and quickly took another mistress as he waited for his fiancee to become old enough to marry. He expects the reader to understand the difference between a legal marriage for the purpose of bearing children, and “a deal arising from lustful infatuation.”

Within a year he converted to Catholicism, broke off his engagement, took a vow of chastity and determined to go back home and found a monastic community. He was diving headlong into his mother’s dreams.

The day before Augustine and Monica sailed for Africa they concluded that their joy was much greater than anything carnal, this was the joy of the saints and nothing carnal could compare with it. Then they experienced a physical feeling of climbing higher and higher, “stretching upward with a more fiery emotion,” “while we were speaking and panting for it, with a thrust that required all the heart’s strength, we brushed against it slightly.” When the 32 year old Augustine and his 55 year old mother were done, they sighed. (Notice the sexual wording Augustine uses in this description.)

A few days later, Monica died. Augustine’s Confessions then move on to discussing how evil sex is, and how everyone is born with the original sin that sexual intercourse implants in each one of us. Augustine dissects and re-dissects the story of Adam and Eve until he can get it to say that sex is evil, and no sex happened before the Fall.

Augustine broods for decades over the fact that we don’t have logical power over our sexual desires, and we can’t just command our sexual parts to procreate at appropriate times. He acknowledges that sex is the greatest physical pleasure, but insists, “surely any friend of wisdom and holy joys…would prefer, if possible, to beget children without lust.”

Augustine is horrified by the “very movements which it causes, to our sorrow, even in sleep, and even in the bodies of chaste men”.

The biggest voice that disagreed with Augustine was the British born monk, Pelagius, who believed that we are all born innocent. We are free to serve God or serve Satan.

Augustine said that was hopelessly naive. that we are in a mass of sin.

Pelagius countered that Augustine was just repeating the old Manichaean belief that the flesh was evil. This could not be, because clearly Christ had become flesh and dwelt among us, yet without sin.

Detractors of Pelagius said he was teaching salvation by works, or earning one’s salvation. Salvation by grace and forgiveness are the cornerstones of Christianity. Pelagius maintained that he was in no way teaching salvation by works, but his detractors won the battle.

Augustine said that Christ was born of a virgin, conceived of “not flesh but spirit, not lust but faith,” therefore without the original sin of Adam stamped upon his spirit, “lust being utterly absent.”

AdamEveSo Augustine delved deep into the story of Adam and Eve. After the fall they knew that they were naked and felt ashamed. That was the dawn of lust, as far as Augustine was concerned. That is when the first sinful boner occurred. His mother had been proved right and his father had been proved wrong.

Pelagius was eventually excommunicated for heresy, believing that we have the power to obey God of our own free will. This “heretical” doctrine is still in practice with the Churches of Christ, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptic Church, Judaism, and others.

JohnMiltonParadiseLost

Illustration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Augustine shows all the signs of emotional incest. Parents who are split in their childrearing. A mother who is horrified by sex (probably having been sexually traumatized as a child). A son who tries to rescue his mother from her trauma, but who only reinforces it. A son who is taken over by his mother as an emotional spouse, sending his mistress and his son, whom he loved dearly, away, and vowing never to have sex again.

Augustine is histrionic: overly dramatic and easily influenced by his mother. Histrionics usually are ignored by the same-sex parent and made into a mini-spouse by the opposite sex parent.

The Christian world has been duped by sexually traumatized people. John Calvin based his theories of predestination on St Augustine’s: Humans, born in sin, cannot of their own free will choose God, they have to wait  for God to choose them. God knows who he will choose before they are born, therefore we have been predestined to heaven or hell before we are born. Nobody can complain about this because we all have fallen short of the glory of God through our progenitors, Adam and Eve.  Truly one of the most evil doctrines ever foisted upon Christianity.

Sex is exactly the way God designed it. (Yes, we live in a fallen world. Yes, nobody has a perfect sexuality). But to decide that sexual desire itself is evil? Only a traumatized person could come up with that theory.

Our spirits are housed in a physical body. We have only to look at animals to see what natural human bodies function like. We have spirits that live inside animal bodies.

Pelagius:

“You will realise that doctrines are the invention of the human mind, as it tries to penetrate the mystery of God. You will realise that scripture itself is the work of human recording the example and teaching of Jesus. Thus it is not what you believe (in your head) that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions. It is not believing in Christ that matters, but becoming like him.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments