Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

If you put your religion/faith above the abuse of children your faith is in vain and you are complicit and equally culpable!

pope francis, sex abuse report

A tweet by Pope Francis on Tuesday, posted only hours before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a highly disturbing grand jury investigation into widespread child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in six state dioceses, has prompted some frustrated reactions.

“Still today there are so many martyrs, so many who are persecuted for the love of Christ,” Pope Francis wrote. “They are the real strength of the Church!”

Still today there are so many martyrs, so many who are persecuted for the love of Christ. They are the real strength of the Church!

 

The report, which is being called the most comprehensive dive by a U.S. state into clergy sex abusers, identifies 301 Catholic clergy members as “predator priests” who, the grand jury says, sexually abused more than 1,000 children while serving in active ministry.

Residents and officials, including Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, have asked Pope Francis to weigh in on the report’s findings, including allegations of a systematic sexual abuse cover-up by top church leaders. The report names Pittsburgh bishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl, one of Pope Francis’s U.S. advisers, claiming that while Wuerl reported priests’ abusive behavior to the Vatican, he allowed alleged offenders to continue serving in ministry. Wuerl has denounced those claims.

Some Twitter users found Francis’s tweet puzzling — or at least felt inclined to respond.

Still today there are so many martyrs, so many who are persecuted for the love of Christ. They are the real strength of the Church!

Are children molested by catholic priests martyrs?

 

In Philadelphia (which was not covered in this particular report), Archbishop Charles Chaput released on Tuesday a statement on the investigation, calling it “difficult to read” and “painful for everyone, most especially survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones.”

“We deeply regret their pain and remain focused on a path toward healing,” Chaput said. “We encourage victims to come forward, and we will continue our extensive efforts to help victims of sexual abuse heal.”

But like reactions to Francis’s tweet, not everyone was comforted by Chaput’s message.

full story/tweets by CLAIRE SASKO

Posted by John the Revelator/my comment

Advertisements

Americans are abandoning religion in droves, continuing a trend that has persisted over decades. Between 2007 and 2014, the number of Americans who didn’t identify with any religion jumped from 36.6 million to 55.8 million, according to Pew Research Center.

New data from a Pew survey of 1,300 non-religious people published Wednesday provides deeper insight into what is driving this phenomenon, as told by the non-religious themselves.

When asked why they don’t identify with any religion, a majority of respondents — 60 percent — said that they question a lot of religious teachings (respondents were allowed to give multiple answers). Forty-nine percent said they opposed the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, which should be unsurprising given that the nation’s young people skew liberal and churches are seen as largely conservative institutions.

Only 37 percent gave not believing in God as their reason for rejecting religion, highlighting the fact that many non-believers do not necessarily identify as atheists or even as agnostics. Forty-one percent said that they don’t like religious organizations, while 36 percent said religion is irrelevant to them and 34 percent said they dislike religious leaders.

“Those who identify as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ tend to give different reasons for their lack of affiliation, showing that they are far from a monolithic group,” wrote Pew research associate Becka Alper. “For example, about nine-in-ten self-described atheists (89 percent) say their lack of belief in God is a very important reason for their religious identity, compared with 37 percent of agnostics and 21 percent of those in the ‘nothing in particular’ category. Atheists also are more likely than others to say religion is simply ‘irrelevant’ to them (63% of atheists vs. 40 percent of agnostics and 26% of adults with no particular religion).”

Previous Pew research has found that the shift away from religion has a very broad base. The trend persists across genders, generations, and racial groups. However, about two-thirds of those who identify as agnostic or atheist are white men with higher levels of education.

Overall, though, atheists and agonistics make up a minority of the non-religious, with a majority saying they’re just nothing in particular in regard to religion.

“At the same time, however, a significant minority of ‘nones’ say that religion plays a role in their lives,” wrote Michael Lipka, an editorial manager at Pew. “Indeed, about 7 percent of U.S. adults say their religion is ‘nothing in particular’ but also say that religion is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important in their lives, despite their lack of a formal affiliation.”

By CODY FENWICK/ALTERNET

Posted by John the Revelator

 

You!

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Religion, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

As I’ve said so many times before and will continue to say “we live in a ready made world.” So many thoughts aren’t new but a continuation of something that came before but more fully realized today. With that said I wanted to briefly look at life and kinda simplify it if I may. While not going into the background, lets take an honest look at Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

We spend so much time being pleasers of others while trying to figure out how we fit in this world. What comes next is a mystery, no one has died and come back and said “you won’t believe what happens next.” The old adage is “what we don’t know we assume.” Life is hard enough, so why make it more difficult. What we have is a choice, a choice on whether “you” choose to be in the present and aware.

This scripture can be looked at by the secular and non secular alike. As for me the secular, I look at it as Smelling the lavender, making love to my wife, listening to jazz and drinking a single malt scotch, cooking gourmet meals, painting and making art as well as being involved in the world…since I live in it. The non secular may see it a bit differently, their is a deity involved. We have too live in the moment and enjoy the moment. We don’t know when that moment will end. So for now “eat and drink and enjoy your life.” While continuing to self evaluate who you are as a human and how you fit in this finite universe.

Written by John the Revelator

I’m reading a book “There is No Messiah and you’re it.” I was hit with the phrase “our faith tradition” a phrase in which jews can hold onto firmly since they claim the Messiah is jewish following the lineage of David. Which in itself is problematic since we have no proof of his existence as a man of history. Not to get so far in the weeds, where is the faith tradition for blacks.

This is an uphill battle we’ve been facing. It can’t be in a religion we haven’t founded. If we say we must return back to some sort of ancestral worship the image of voodoo raises the ire of the black and white christian community. Anything with Jesus is the only truth. This raises another problem, while a man named Jesus may have existed and this can be debated, if he did exist, he wasn’t divine. He’s not in heaven sitting on the right hand of the throne. That belief is called theological, not historical.

Even in continuing this conversation, again where does it leave blacks? We are generally put out on the outskirts; “the culture that created the religion creates the god.” To keep it simple without confusing anyone. First-you can’t prove a god exist. Second-All religions are man made man inspired. While there have been many the only ones with the strongest following remains…simple. With that said you create how you want your god to be. He seems to have changed from the OT to the NT. This is the same god who made his prophets Ezekiel eat dung and human feces in the book of Ezekiel 4, of course there is a deeper message from the apologist. Im sure if that voice told you to eat “shit” you would without questioning.

Some may read this and fall back on the usual talking point, why does race have to come into everything. The answer is simple, your god put it there. The ideas of slavery, ethnic cleansing, separation of the races, no intermarrying. What makes me question “our faith tradition” is that blacks are taking on someone else’s tradition and trying to make them his/hers there own. Where are we in this, lets see, the OT=jews and the NT=Protestant whites. You may ask, how can this be. Protestantism was created or started by Martin Luther a racist who hated jews-OT. I wondered what he may have thought of Kemet today known as Egypt, especially with the passages of Jesus having to move in order to blend in in order to not be spotted. It only makes sense because of the meaning of Egypt, the land of the blacks. I’ll add this a caveat. If blacks want to hold onto the myth of christianity then at least make your “god” black. This is important. We have the Nation of Islam(NOI), that only makes good sense to make their god black, maybe this is the reason they are successful and are a nation within a nation. Create a religion that is black centered from the god on down and don’t be scared to be challenged. You have more allies than you will believe from jewish down to protestant sources, you also have history on your side. If they fade then so be it, we have each other.

We as individuals then down to groups must create “our own faith tradition” that isn’t obscured by others traditions and experiences. Remember we have a long varied rich history to choose from. If I have one mainline issue that would be to deal with human emotions in an ideal manner, not the cast your cares away to nothingness. We have real answers to real problems not answers from a book that was written for a certain group for a certain time. We have progressed in knowledge not relying a mute deity.

Written by John the Revelator

Cave paintings show instances of human spirtuality. (Patrick Aventurier/SIPA)

Rachel Newcomb is an anthropologist and the Diane and Michael Maher Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Rollins College. She is the author of “Everyday Life in Global Morocco.”

 

Author Reza Aslan’s “God: A Human History” is less a biography of God than a study of why and how humans tend to anthropomorphize the divine. As societies developed from small groups of hunter-gatherers to large, specialized populations supported by agriculture, ideas about God changed as well. At the core of all belief systems, Aslan observes a tendency to seek a “humanized God,” which has been “embedded in our consciousness the moment the idea of God first occurred to us.” Studies have shown that although most followers of monotheistic faiths believe God is an abstract force, they will nevertheless describe God “as though they were talking about someone they might have met on the street.” What we say about God, in other words, says more about us than about what God might actually be.

The basic religious impulse, Aslan suggests, is an evolutionary response to environmental stimuli. People tend to attribute agency to natural events (think lightning emanating from the fingertips of a gray-bearded man in the clouds), and our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have imagined that faces seen in trees meant that trees possessed spirits. Cave paintings found throughout the world, some dating as far back as 41,000 years, represent the earliest evidence of human spirituality and demonstrate our ancestors’ interdependent relationship with nature. The Trois-Frères caves of southwest France, for example, feature elaborate paintings of floating animals, devoid of hunting imagery, with a mystical creature at their center: part human, part stag and part owl. Aslan believes that these images do not represent actual animals but rather are “symbols meant to represent ‘the other world’ — the world beyond the material realm.”

As people formed agricultural societies, they began to see humans as dominating nature, and they envisioned gods who did likewise. Perhaps, Aslan argues, agriculture was invented as a response to religion. The elaborate stone temple of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey dates to the end of the last ice age, about 13,000 years ago, yet humans had not begun living settled agricultural lifestyles at this point, leading Aslan to conclude that agriculture was invented to support organized religion, not the other way around. A tremendous workforce would have been needed to build such massive structures, and those workers had to be fed, causing people to turn away from the slender offerings of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and toward the production of crops that could sustain larger populations.

“God,” by Reza Aslan (Random House)

With settled societies came writing, and cultures such as the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks left more detailed records of their beliefs. “The act of writing about the gods,” Aslan says, “of being forced to describe in words what the gods are like, not only transformed how we envision the gods; it made conscious and explicit our unconscious and implicit desire to make the gods in our own image.” As people increasingly attempted to harness the forces of nature, the deities themselves became powerful and temperamental humanlike gods who vied with each other for control over their environment.

At some point, the gods became so humanized that the ancient Greeks began to question their legitimacy. Did gods, as depicted in Greek statuary, truly look like people? Creeping doubts led to a different proposition: maybe the gods were not many but one. Aslan lists the philosophers, pharaohs and prophets who first proposed this radical concept; however, none of these early monotheists found a willing audience since “one god conflicts with our universal compulsion to humanize the divine.” For instance, how could one god be capable of both good and evil? People were, however, beginning to accept the idea of one more-powerful god above a panoply of lesser gods, which mirrored the political hierarchies they experienced in society. “As more authority is vested in a single individual on earth, more authority is given to a single god in heaven,” Aslan notes.

It took a radical event for true monotheism to take root: the expulsion of the Jewish people from Babylon. Historical and linguistic evidence indicates that in the ancient land of Canaan, people worshiped two different supreme gods, El and Yahweh, as well as other, lesser deities. Early Israelites, including the prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would have followed El. But the burning bush that the prophet Moses encountered in the desert is the first appearance of Yahweh, the god followed by the tribe of the Midianites, whose territory was believed to be south of Canaan (Moses had married into a Midianite family). As ancient Israel united into a nation, Yahweh prevailed, yet a defeat at the hands of the Babylonians led many Israelites to conclude that the Babylonian god, Marduk, was stronger. A small group of exiles continued to profess their faith in Yahweh, believing that “perhaps Yahweh was punishing the Israelites for believing in Marduk in the first place.” At this moment, Aslan says, we see “the first expressions of unambiguous monotheism in the entire Bible.” As Yahweh proclaims, “I am the first and last; besides me there are no gods.” To move from the idea of different deities responsible for good and evil to “a single vengeful god full of contradictions” required a great cognitive leap.

Although God was now without peers, many found Him to be too wrathful. When Jesus appeared, Aslan argues, He embodied those human characteristics of the divine that people still needed, while at the same time preaching the message that God was loving and forgiving. At first, not everyone agreed that Jesus Himself was divine, and it was not until 325 at the Council of Nicea, convened by the Roman emperor Constantine, that God and Jesus were declared to be “of one substance.”

Enter Islam, which arose in the 7th century “out of the deserts of Arabia to confront Christianity’s conception of the humanized God.” Yet even as Islam denounced the idea of the trinity and insisted on a God with no image, substance or form, there are still parts of the Koran that are “replete with anthropomorphic descriptions of God.” And some Muslims still had questions: How could God be one with creation yet separate from it? Such theological conundrums led to the rise of Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that concerns itself with a direct and personal experience of the divine. It is this belief system that Aslan finds most sympathetic. “God is everything that exists,” he writes.

Aslan devotes significant time to the “big three” monotheistic religions but does not explain why other cultures have been able to follow religious systems, such as Buddhism, without a deity at their center. If the human tendency is to want a humanlike God, what explains the success of these other religions? Nonetheless, Aslan’s fluid writing style makes the reader inclined to drop any lingering questions and accept his assertions on faith alone. His use of scholarly sources from fields ranging from archaeology to neuroscience will introduce many readers to information that otherwise would be relatively inaccessible, and he combines these disparate sources in compelling ways. Whatever God may be, at the very least Aslan shows us the long history of how humans have made Him in our image, and not vice versa.

 By Rachel Newcomb
Posted by John the Revelator

DALE B. MARTIN is a well-established New Testament scholar, a Professor of Religious Studies at Yale, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also, by his own confession, a post-modernist, a Marxist (to the extent of accepting Marx’s diagnosis of capitalism and of its pervasive influence), an “orthodox” Episco­palian Christian (greatly cherishing the Book of Common Prayer) — and gay.

These affiliations make him profoundly sceptical of the value of a purely historical-critical approach to the study of scripture (particul­arly the New Testament, his special­ism). “Biblical truths” cannot be derived from historical study alone: the gains from this depend on inter­pretation, which is necessarily influenced by other factors; indeed, any “biblical theology” would be moribund if it were not constantly engaged with the realities of a “post-modern” approach to Christian sources.

Accordingly, his book does not offer a “biblical theology” in the sense of exploring what the writers may originally have “meant” — which, in any case, is hardly recover­able apart from a consider­able degree of interpretation. Instead, he arranges his book in chapters dealing with traditional categories of systematic theology: God, Christ, Spirit, Church, etc. Under these headings, he seeks to demonstrate how the insights gained from mod­ern (in­­­deed post-modern) critical analysis may feed into the faith and practice of a contemporary Chris­tian.

He denies any need to harmonise the data or seek for a consistent “theology” in the New Testament writings; sometimes, indeed, their very variety and inconsistency can inspire creative modern theology. All depends on the assumptions that the critic brings to bear on the data, and these are legitimately influenced by a Christian lifestyle sensitive to the concerns of a person such as he declares himself to be.

This approach might seem to lay the critic open to the charge of considerable subjectivity: how is one interpretation to be judged more legitimate than another? What is the control that can be exercised to exclude heterodox or even heretical interpretations? If there is no at­­tempt to reconcile apparently con­tradictory propositions, how do we judge between them?

Here the author acknowledges his debt to modern theories of know­ledge, particularly to Wittgenstein as mediated to him through the recent work of Dominican scholars such as Fergus Kerr. These expon­ents of philosophical theology have the support of the Eastern apo­­phatic tradition, and of a school of West­ern mysticism — and, in­­deed, of St Thomas Aquinas himself — when they affirm that no pro­posi­­tion can be altogether “true” about God.

This means that two contra­dictory propositions derived from scripture may be equally near to, as well as far from, any “truth” about God, and may both be accepted as throwing light on the ultimate mystery of faith.

Rigour in historical-critical study is essential — but only for establish­ing history. A search for the original “meaning” may be worth while in itself, but is not decisive for its meaning for us today. “Biblical truths” are found only through inter­pretation; the interpreter is sociologically conditioned; the active exercise of Christian faith is the necessary context for interpreta­tion, and is nurtured by biblical study.

Certainly this rings true for many of us. But a nagging question re­­mains. What is to prevent a pro­liferation of false interpretations? Martin discusses a number of these and finds reasons to reject them; but his point of vantage is confessedly personal to himself. Readers with different backgrounds and interests may (if we follow his methodology) legitimately beg to differ.

By Canon Anthony Harvey is a former Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey

Posted by John the Revelator

This is all BS ol’ Roy has always been the man we all know and despise today. He’s always been an ignorant rep for christianity as well as a racist white supremacist. He never should have been a judge but senator, that’s out of the question. What it all comes down too, is winning…and winning at any cost! Because of Roy more non believers were created.

o matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

The race between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy. Meanwhile the easy willingness of moderate and progressive Christians to cast aspersions on their conservative brothers and sisters has made many wonder about our claim that Jesus Christ can bring diverse people together as no other can.

The Hypocrisy on the Left

From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation. They call these conservatives idolaters for seeking after political power. They call them homophobes for wanting Christian bakers to legally follow their conscience. They call them racists and Islamophobes for wanting secure borders. These moderates and liberal evangelicals are so disturbed by the political beliefs of their brothers and sisters that many say they don’t even want to be associated with them anymore; they seem to view these brothers and sisters in Christ as tax collectors and sinners.

In general, we have witnessed few Christians among these critics taking the time and effort to understand the views of their conservative fellow believers or to delve into the social and political realities they might be coming from. Some secular analysts, who frankly acknowledge being on the Left, have been doing this admirably. UC Berkley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right strives to understand Tea Party advocates in Louisiana, most of whom are evangelical Christians. And law professor Joan Williams’s White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America unpacks the class dimensions of much of our political divide. And then there is Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, which demonstrates the moral ground of advocates left and right. None of these writers could be mistaken for a conservative, but they each at least attempt to be charitable and fair-minded in trying to understand the views of those with whom they disagree. If only some leading evangelical progressive or moderate would do the same.

This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore.

When you actually talk to such supporters face to face, you often find more nuanced and reasoned political views, grounded in moral principles, combined with a ready willingness to condemn the immorality and verbal carelessness of these two men. These conservatives are of a view one can appreciate philosophically: Sometimes in a nation’s life, one must for prudential reasons cast one’s lot with a morally unsavory candidate. Sometimes it really is a choice between the lesser of two evils, and sometimes three. We can respect that while continuing to disagree with some of their prudential choices, as they disagree with ours.

Our concern here is with a cabal of noisy conservatives, whom the press has apparently (and unjustly) appointed as spokesmen for all conservatives. This group pretends that the choice for someone like Moore represents unalloyed godliness and refuses to unmistakably criticize immorality in other leaders they admire. To justify or ignore the moral failings of a politician because he champions your favored policies—well, that is to step onto the path of self-deception and hypocrisy, which according to Jesus, leads to no less place than hell (Matt. 23:15).

Of course, this charge of hypocrisy cuts both ways. It has applied equally well to progressive and moderate Christians, who have in the past turned a blind eye to the moral failings and moral bankruptcy of liberal candidates they support and who have decided, at best, to whisper truth to power lest they delegitimize their candidate or office holder. Clearly, there are moments on the Left in which partisans are too weak to resist the temptation to entrust themselves to the power politics of the moment instead of “to him who judges justly,” to whom “the nations are like a drop in a bucket … regarded as dust on the scales,” who “brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isa. 40:15, 23).

Hypocrisy on the Right

As suggested above, some of the critiques by the Left and center (matched by a fair amount of critiques by leading conservatives, by the way), are hard to argue with. Hypocrisy is again the most salient charge.

As recently as 2011, PRRI found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But by late 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that number had risen sharply to 72 percent—the biggest shift of any US religious group.

The reason for the flip is not hard to discern. David Brody, a correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, has noted the desperation and urgency felt throughout much of conservative Christianity. “The way evangelicals see the world, the culture is not only slipping away—it’s slipping away in all caps, with four exclamation points after that. It’s going to you-know-what in a handbasket.” The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”

Apparently yes. This is precisely why, when serious and substantial allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Roy Moore, many doubled down on their support for him. Within days of this news story in The Washington Post, polls indicated that not only would 57 percent of evangelicals continue to support him, another 37 percent said they were now more likely to vote for him.

As some have pointed out, many conservative Christians simply don’t believe the many news accounts and chalk it up to a secular, liberal, Democratic conspiracy against Moore. Others acknowledge that while the charges may be true, they are minor in nature or happened so long ago they don’t matter today. Some are simply Machiavellian, saying they are not electing Mother Teresa but a man who can look out for the interests of conservative Christians.

What is going on here? Among other things, there is this: Many conservatives feel marginalized by the culture and remember the days when a Judeo-Christian morality didn’t need explaining or defending. They know that a people without a vision of sound moral grounding will perish. They don’t want to perish, and to give them credit, they don’t want this nation to perish. They really do believe that this is a matter of life and death. To them, our choices are simple and stark: devilry or godliness.

They are right, of course, about moral decline in America. Yes, there are all sorts of qualifications and nuances to make, and our culture, in fact, champions many biblical values (the recent #MeToo campaign and the fight against racism are but two examples). But there is no question that from a biblical perspective, our nation has lost its moorings. Nearly everyone does what is right in his own eyes, which results in moral, psychological, and social suffering unheard of in our history. The gap between rich and poor, the number of abortions and fatherless children, the steady rise of drug addiction, the increasing sympathy with euthanasia—these are but a few indicators that something is deeply wrong.

The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.

They have forgotten that old evangelical idea (and, before that, a Jewish idea) of putting a “hedge around the law.” That refers to behavior that is not wrong in itself but is practiced so as to not give even a hint of wrongdoing. It is not immoral to drink alcohol as such, but many Christians refuse to do so because they recognize that drinking alcohol may impair their judgment about matters that in fact are moral. When it comes to choosing leaders and shaping our life together, we’ve rightly followed this biblical teaching: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV).

This attitude has sometimes nurtured legalism and self-righteousness, to be sure, but it has also helped us to lead lives that are often respected by unbelievers, even when they don’t agree with our choices. We have taken seriously these words of the apostle Peter: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12).

When a public Christian is accused of some immorality, the honorable and moral thing to do has been to take a leave of absence until the matter of settled. This is precisely what Moore, who sees himself as a godly and moral candidate, has refused to do.

But what if this is merely a political ploy to remove a candidate from running for office, and what if it’s all a lie in the end? What if our godly candidate is merely being persecuted and harassed (by “the powerful Obama-Clinton Machine,” as Moore put it), and this is further evidence we’re not in just a political battle but a spiritual one (as Moore has repeatedly claimed)?

Well, how does the Bible say we fight spiritual battles when, for instance, people “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” (Matt. 5:11)?

By turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).

By forgiving 7 times 70 (Matt. 18:22, KJV).

By doing good to our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48).

If we’re really anxious to help the nation become more godly, we have to act godly even when we think we are unfairly judged, even when the stakes are at their highest:

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:20–23)

Some have argued along these lines: We have the best chance in decades of reversing Roe v. Wade, protecting the religious liberty of the church, and reversing unjust and immoral laws! Let’s say for the sake of argument that such a political agenda could be enacted in the next few years by the means chosen—electing and supporting officials whose behavior is widely viewed as immoral. Will our political enemies be convinced of the righteousness of our moral agenda? Or will they think we are hypocrites who are using political power to force our wills on others? Will they more deeply respect us, or will they more deeply resent us and disbelieve our faith?

When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Resisting the Temptations of Political Life

What events of the last year and a half have shown once again is that when Christians immerse themselves in politics as Christians, for what they determine are Christian causes, touting their version of biblical morality in the public square—they will sooner or later (and often sooner) begin to compromise the very principles they champion and do so to such a degree that it blemishes the very faith they are most anxious to promote. And one of the biggest blemishes—for it is an open refutation of Jesus’ prayer that we be one—is when we start divorcing one another over politics. Jesus said it is our unity in him that will, more than anything, help the world see “that you [Father] have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). No wonder few believe much of anything we say anymore.

The way forward is unclear. For to love one’s neighbor in a democratic society means that Christians must participate in the public square to seek the common good. We cannot forsake our political duty, and that duty will lead believers in different directions. It’s just that when we do engage in politics, we so often end up doing and saying things that make us sound and act like we don’t care about the very values we champion. Perhaps the first step is for Christians Left and Right, when they stand up to champion a cause, to stop saying “Thus says the Lord” and “Lord, I thank you that you have not made me like these other Christians,” but frame their politics with, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

By Mark Galli/ChristianityToday

Posted by John the Revelator

 

Before the European Enlightenment, virtually all New Testament experts assumed that handed-down stories about Jesus were first recorded by eye witnesses and were largely biographical. That is no longer the case.

Assuming that the Jesus stories had their beginnings in one single person rather than a composite of several—or even in mythology itself—he probably was a wandering Jewish teacher in Roman-occupied Judea who offended the authorities and was executed.  Beyond that, any knowledge about the figure at the center of the Christian religion is remarkably open to debate (and vigorously debated among relevant scholars).

Where was Jesus born? Did he actually have twelve disciples? Do we know with certainty anything he said or did?

As antiquities scholarship improves, it becomes increasingly clear that the origins of Christianity are controversial, convoluted, and not very coherent.

1. The more we know the less we know for sure. After centuries in which the gospel stories about Jesus were taken as gospel truth, the Enlightenment gave birth to a new breed of biblical historians. Most people have heard that Thomas Jefferson secretly took a pair of scissors to the Bible, keeping only the parts he thought were historical. His version of the New Testament is still available today. Jefferson’s snipping was a crude early attempt to address a problem recognized by many educated men of his time: It had become clear that any histories the Bible might contain had been garbled by myth. (One might argue that the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of the books of the Bible that they called “apocrypha,” was an even earlier, even cruder attempt to purge the Good Book of obvious mythology.)

In the two centuries that have passed since Jefferson began clipping, scores of biblical historians—including modern scholars armed with the tools of archeology, anthropology and linguistics—have tried repeatedly to identify “the historical Jesus” and have failed. The more scholars study the roots of Christianity, the more confused and uncertain our knowledge becomes. Currently, we have a plethora of contradictory versions of Jesus—an itinerant preacher, a zealot, an apocalyptic prophet, an Essene heretic, a Roman sympathizer, and many more —each with a different scholar to confidently tout theirs as the only real one. Instead of a convergent view of early Christianity and its founder, we are faced instead with a cacophony of conflicting opinions. This is precisely what happens when people faced with ambiguous and contradictory information cannot bring themselves to say, we don’t know.

This scholastic mess has been an open secret in biblical history circles for decades. Over forty years ago, professors like Robin S. Barbour and Cambridge’s Morna Hooker were complaining about the naïve assumptions underlying the criteria biblical scholars used to gauge the “authentic” elements of the Jesus stories. Today, even Christian historians complain the problem is no better; most recently Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith in the 2012 book Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.

2. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Every bit of our ostensibly biographical information for Jesus comes from just four texts – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Though most Christians assume that associates of Jesus wrote these texts, no objective biblical scholars think so. None of the four gospels claims to be written by eyewitnesses, and all were originally anonymous. Only later were they attributed to men named in the stories themselves.

While the four gospels were traditionally held to be four independent accounts, textual analysis suggests that they all actually are adaptations of the earliest gospel, Mark. Each has been edited and expanded upon, repeatedly, by unknown editors. It is worth noting that Mark features the most fallible, human, no-frills Jesus—and, more importantly, may be an allegory.

All of the gospels contain anachronisms and errors that show they were written long after the events they describe, and most likely far from the setting of their stories. Even more troubling, they don’t just have minor nitpicky contradictions; they have basic, even crucial, contradictions.

3. The Gospels are not corroborated by outside historians. Despite generations of apologists insisting Jesus is vouched for by plenty of historical sources like Tacitus or Suetonius, none of these hold up to close inspection. The most commonly-cited of these is the Testimonium Flavianum, a disputed passage in the writings of ancient historian Flavius Josephus, written around the years 93/94, generations after the presumed time of Jesus. Today historians overwhelmingly recognize this odd Jesus passage is a forgery. (For one thing, no one but the suspected forger ever quotes it – for 500 years!) But defenders of Christianity are loathe to give it up, and supporters now argue it is only a partial forgery.

Either way, as New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman points out, the Testimonium Flavanium merely repeats common Christian beliefs of the late first century, and even if it were 100% genuine would provide no evidence about where those beliefs came from. This same applies to other secular references to Jesus–they definitely attest to the existence of Christians and recount Christian beliefs at the time, but offer no independent record of a historical Jesus.

In sum, while well-established historic figures like Alexander the Great are supported by multiple lines of evidence, in the case of Jesus we have only one line of evidence: the writings of believers involved in spreading the fledgling religion.

4. Early Christian scriptures weren’t the same as ours. At the time Christianity emerged, gospels were a common religious literary genre, each promoting a different version or set of sacred stories. For example, as legends of Jesus sprang up, they began to include “infancy gospels.” As historian Robert M. Price notes, just as Superman comics spun off into stories of young Superboy in Smallville, Christians wrote stories of young Jesus in Nazareth using his divine powers to bring clay birds to life or peevishly strike his playmates dead.

Early Christians didn’t agree on which texts were sacred, and those included in our New Testament were selected to elevate one competing form of Christianity, that of the Roman Church over others. (Note that the Roman Church also proclaimed itself “catholic” meaning universal.)

Our two oldest complete New Testament collections, Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus only go back to the beginning of the fourth century. To make matters worse, their books differ from each other – and from our bibles. We have books they don’t have; they have books we don’t have, like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Gospel of Barnabas.

In addition to gospels, the New Testament includes another religious literary genre—the epistle or letter. Some of our familiar New Testament epistles like 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude were rejected as forgeries even in ancient times; today scholars identify almost all of the New Testament books as forgeries except for six attributed to Paul (and even his authentic letters have been re-edited).

5. Christian martyrs are not proof (if they even were real). Generations of Christian apologists have pointed to the existence of Christian martyrs as proof their religion is true, asking “Who would die for a lie?” The short answer, of course, that all too many true believers have died in the service of falsehoods they passionately believed to be true—and not just Christians. The obvious existence of Muslim jihadis has made this argument less common in recent years

But who says that the Christian stories of widespread martyrdom themselves were real? The Book of Acts records only two martyr accounts, and secular scholars doubt that the book contains much if any actual history. The remaining Christian martyr tales first appeared centuries later. Historian Candida Moss’ 2014 book The Myth of Persecution gives a revealing look at how early Christian fathers fabricated virtually the entire tradition of Christian martyrdom—a fact that was, ironically enough, largely uncovered and debunked by later Christian scholars.

6. No other way to explain the existence of Christianity? Most people, Christians and outsiders alike, find it difficult to imagine how Christianity could have arisen if our Bible stories aren’t true. Beyond a doubt, Christianity could not have arisen if people in the first century hadn’t believed them to be true. But the stories themselves?

Best-selling New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman believes that the biblical stories about Jesus had their kernel in the person of a single itinerant preacher, as do most New Testament scholars. Historian Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald (co-author of this article) take an opposing position—that the original kernel was a set of ancient mythic tropes to which unsuspecting believers added historical details. Ehrman and Carrier may be on opposite sides of this debate, but both agree on one important fact: the only thing needed to explain the rise of Christianity is the belief fostered by the rival Christian preachers of the first century.

Witchcraft, bigfoot, the idea that an American president was born in Kenya, golden tablets revealed to a 19th century huckster by the Angel Moroni . . . we all know that false ideas can be sticky—that they can spread from person to person, getting elaborated along the way until they become virtually impossible to eradicate. The beginnings of Christianity may be shrouded in mystery, but the viral spread of passionately-held false ideas is becoming better understood by the year.

Keeping Options Open 

University of Sheffield’s Philip Davies—who believes that Christianity probably began with a single Jesus, acknowledges that the evidence is fragile and problematic. Davies argues that the only way the field of New Testament studies can maintain any academic respectability is by acknowledging the possibility that Jesus didn’t exist. He further notes this wouldn’t generate any controversy in most fields of ancient history, but that New Testament studies is not a normal case.

Brandon University’s Kurt Noll goes even further and lays out a case that the question doesn’t matter: Whether the original Jesus was real or mythological is irrelevant to the religion that was founded in his name.

That is because either way, the Christ at the heart of Christianity is a figure woven from the fabric of mythology. The stories that bear his name draw on ancient templates imbedded in the Hebrew religion and those of the surrounding region. They were handed down by word of mouth in a cultural context filled with magical beings and miracles. Demons caused epilepsy. Burnt offerings made it rain. Medical cures included mandrakes and dove blood. Angels and ghosts appeared to people in dreams. Gods and other supernatural beings abounded and not infrequently crossed over from their world to ours.

Who, in the midst of all of this, was Jesus? We may never know.

Note: This story was co-authored with David Fitzgerald, author of “Jesus: Mything in Action.”

By VALERIE TARICO/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

This is what happens when you are to sanctimonious and ardent in your beliefs. When something reveals itself from your past you immediately go to your bible and accuse everyone but yourself. This couldn’t have happened to a better person. All is fair in love and war. We send him our coldest regards…all those christians camping for this derelict, you have and share in his values. 

Roy Moore’s brother compared the U.S. Senate candidate to Christ in an interview with CNN on Friday, saying that the Alabama Republican is being persecuted “like Jesus” in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl.

Jerry Moore told CNN correspondent Martin Savidge in a phone interview that allegations about his brother’s history with teenagers when Roy Moore was in his 30s, reported Thursday by The Washington Post, are “not true at all.” He said that the Democratic Partywas behind the “false allegations,” adding: “These women are going to … have to answer to God for these false allegations,” Savidge reported. He said that his brother was being “persecuted like Jesus Christ was,” Savidge told CNN anchor John Berman.

Savidge described Jerry Moore as “very defiant and very outspoken, relying on his faith and defending his brother to the hilt.”

Jerry Moore also said he was worried about what effect the allegations would have on the brothers’ 91-year-old mother.

Roy Moore has denied the accusations. Asked Friday on Sean Hannity’s radio program if he remembered dating teenagers when he was in his 30s, he responded: “Not generally, no.” He said he didn’t recall dating “any girl without the permission of her mother.”

It was at least the third biblical reference someone has used to defend Roy Moore since the Post article Thursday. One of the four women interviewed in the article, Leigh Corfman, said that she was just 14 years old in 1979 when Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, took her to his home, removed her shirt and pants, fondled her and asked her to touch him. Three other women said Moore sought dates with them when they were 16 to 18 years old and he was in his 30s.

After the story was published, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler compared Moore to the biblical Joseph.

“Take Joseph and Mary,” Zeigler explained Friday. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

He also compared the situation to the biblical description of an elderly Zechariah and wife Elizabeth, who were the parents of John the Baptist.

“There is nothing to see here,” Zeigler told the Washington Examiner.

 

Roy Moore tweeted after the Post story: “We are in the midst of a spiritual battle with those who want to silence our message.”I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values!

Our nation is at a crossroads right now — both spiritually and politically. (3/4)

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said Moore should withdraw from the Dec. 12 special election — if the accusations are true.

Corfman told the Post, “I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” when she was at Moore’s home. She said she recalled thinking: “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”

By Mary Papenfuss/HuffPost

Posted by John the Revelator

The House Republican tax bill released Thursday would allow churches to endorse political candidates, rolling back a 1950s-era law that bars such activities.

The proposed change is listed at the end of the 429-page legislation.

It states that churches should not lose their tax-exempt status based on statements about political candidates made during the course of religious services.

The change to what is known as the Johnson Amendment has long been a priority of leaders on the religious right. They say the policy violates the First Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in certain political activities.

President Trump vowed to repeal the amendment during the campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”

Shortly after taking office, Trump said he would “totally destroy” the amendment, which allows the IRS to revoke a church’s tax exempt status if it’s deemed to be participating in a political campaign.

A group of more than 4,000 religious leaders from around the country wrote a letter in August opposing efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, saying it “would harm houses or worship, which are not identified or divided by partisan lines.”

BY BRETT SAMUELS/TheHill

Posted by John the Revelator