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MOVIN’ PITCHERS

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Two “faith-based” movies opened this weekend:

Two movies coming out this weekend that aim to attract a faith-based crowd join a glut of biblical films for 2014, testing the limits of Hollywood’s appetite for religion.

The two films, “The Good Lie” and “Left Behind,” both opening Friday (Oct. 3), reflect two different filmmaking strategies: One is geared for a wider audience that could attract Christians, while the other produces a movie clearly made for the Christian base.

“The Good Lie,” starring Reese Witherspoon helping four young “Lost Boys” from Sudan adjust to life in the U.S., has underlying faith themes. The refugees rely on their faith as they try to leave homeland strife behind, and Witherspoon’s character works closely with a faith-based agency to place refugees with families.

The other film out this weekend, “Left Behind,” starring Nicolas Cage, is more overtly religious, based on the best-selling books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins about the world after Jesus returns, when true believers are swept into glory and everyone else is left behind.

The first “Left Behind” book, published in 1995 by Tyndale House Publishers, was a surprising best-seller, spawning a series that has sold over 63 million copies. The series’ sales figures would rival “The Hunger Games” trilogy, “The Hardy Boys” series and even “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

The book had already been turned into a 2000 film starring Kirk Cameron, grossing about $4 million, barely breaking even.

Give me the choice, which isn’t going to happen since I no longer own anything powered by an internal combustion engine so that I can easily travel somewhere in order to see one of these two movies, and I’d opt for “The Good Lie.”  Know why?

The Omega Code,” a movie that told the same story as “Left Behind.”

That was the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s first attempt at reaching the world through major motion pictures.  I watched TBN’s hype of the thing in which regular people told me how “thrilling” and “exciting” they thought the thing was.

And given that I was, and still am, a fiercely-conservative evangelical  Protestant Christian, I enthusiastically drove to a local multiplex one evening, enthusiastically paid full admission price, enthusiastically bought myself a Diet Coke and other refreshments, enthusiastically entered the theater and enthusiastically sat down to watch…

…the SINGLE worst movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

As far as movies are concerned, I have a personal rule that I call the “Oh, come on now” rule.  See, I can forgive quite a bit when I watch a movie.  Case in point: I don’t know how many times I’ve watched “Armageddon” and I still love it.

But if I ever find myself saying, “Oh, come on now,” while watching a movie, I know I’m watching a turkey that I will never watch again.  I said that over and over while watching “The Omega Code.”

This thing wasn’t just bad; it was humiliatingly bad.  I had two thoughts as I watched this train wreck.  What in God’s name was Michael York, who played the Antichrist, thinking?  And if any non-Christians happen to see this thing, they’re going to think that Christians are blithering idiots.

If you can find it at Netflix or some other online movie service and if it’s not too expensive, it’s worth a look if you want to find out just how awful a movie can be.  If you do, here’s a bit of a spoiler alert.

Although this was the first time in my life that I ever seriously considered walking out of a movie, I stuck it out until the closing credits.  You know, what with Christ returning and all.  Let’s just  say that the ending of “The Omega Code” pissed me off more than the rest of the movie did.

So I don’t like “Left Behind’s” chances.

THE SECRET STORM

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 42 Comments

In case any of you haven’t been keeping up with the current goings-on at General Theological Seminary, the New York Times provides this handy summary:

The General Theological Seminary in Manhattan, the nation’s oldest Episcopal seminary, seemed to be regaining its footing after almost having to seek bankruptcy protection in 2010. It sold off some valuable real estate — its leafy campus in Chelsea is just steps from the High Line — and hired a new dean and president, the Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, who promised to make the struggling institution a “joyful, thankful and useful” place.

Insert “but” here.

A year after his arrival, however, the seminary has fallen into turmoil. Eight of its 10 full-time faculty members walked off the job on Friday to protest what they described in letters to the school’s board of trustees as Mr. Dunkle’s overly controlling management style, his habit of making vulgar and offensive remarks, and his frequent threats to demote or fire those who disagreed with him.

Seems that nobody much liked Dunk.

The work stoppage, faculty members said, was intended to force a dialogue with the board and, ideally, to lead to the firing of Mr. Dunkle. Instead, the tactic backfired. On Monday, the board dismissed the eight faculty members, leaving the seminary’s roughly 140 students, a month into their term, without professors to teach them.

Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Self?  Since what’s taught at GTS has the same relationship to actual Christian theology as crystal meth does to exceptional bourbon, why should I care whether some lefties threw a temper tantrum?”

Fact is, you shouldn’t.  No one should.  But let’s move on anyway since I’ve got nothing much else happening at the moment.

A note on Tuesday from Mr. Dunkle to the students, reprinted on [SOME BLOG OR OTHER], a blog, explained that about half of the classes were in session as the school scrambled to find qualified personnel for the other classes. Students have taken to social media to express their dismay, often siding with the faculty. Dozens of faculty and clergy members from other seminaries have signed a petition asking that the professors be reinstated.

Content edited slightly.  And maybe it’s me but the lefties seem to be reaching just a bit.

[Dunkle] once described Asian people as “slanty eyed,” the professors reported to the board in a detailed letter on Sept. 17. At a meeting last spring, Mr. Dunkle compared the technical side of theological education to “looking up women’s skirts,” the letter said. He said that he did not want the seminary to be known as the “gay seminary.” He once commented to a female faculty member that he “loved vaginas,” according to the letter.

An Episcopalian said all that.

Yeah.

Right.

REQUIESCAT IN PACE

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 | Uncategorized | 52 Comments

The Anglican Communion.  1868-2014:

The 2018 Lambeth Conference has been cancelled. The precarious state of the Anglican Communion has led the Archbishop of Canterbury to postpone indefinitely the every ten year meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

A spokesman for Archbishop Justin Welby told Anglican Ink that as the archbishop had not yet met with each of the primates of the communion, he would not be commenting on the news. Since his installation last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled extensively and plans on visiting the 37 other provinces of the Anglican Communion within the first 18 months of his term of office.

News of the cancellation was made public by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori on 23 Sept 2014. In response to a question from the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, who asked if money was being set aside to fund the Episcopal Church’s participation in the 2018 meeting, the Presiding Bishop told the Fall Meeting of the House of Bishops gathered in Taipei, Taiwan, that she had been told by Archbishop Welby the meeting had been cancelled.

According to a report of the exchange printed by the Episcopal News Service, the Presiding Bishop said Archbishop Welby had “been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present.

Who’s to blame for finally killing off Anglicanism’s pretensions at being a global Christian church?  Justin Welby’s broccoli-shaped predecessor.

In organizing the 2008 Conference, Dr. Rowan Williams – who had endorsed a minority statement on homosexuality at the conference – changed the parameters and purpose of the meeting. A format of Real African Word, a South African word that the conference organizers interpreted as meaning a form of guided conversation, was adopted. The new format did not permit formal or conclusive statements and was designed to prevent action through what critics saw was conversation without end.

Content edited slightly.  Anyway, a little more than a third of Anglican bishops recognized Lambeth, 2008 for the sham that it was.

However the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to invite the American, Canadian and Central American bishops who consecrated the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson to Lambeth led to 206 diocesan and 8 suffragan bishops to reject Archbishop Rown Williams’ invitation.

In 2008 the Anglican Communion consisted of 729 dioceses, missionary districts, and ecclesial entities divided into 38 provinces and six extra-provincial jurisdictions. Approximately 260 dioceses and jurisdictions within the Communion were not represented by their diocesan bishops at Lambeth.

So what does all this mean?  First and foremost, it seems to mean this.  If 2008 was, in fact, the last Lambeth Conference, the question of Anglican “legitimacy” is officially, finally and completely dead.

Which means that you’re Anglican if you think you are.

THE SECOND TIME AROUND

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Since I live here, I’m supposed to think that St. Louis, Missouri is to Kansas City, Missouri what Manhattan is to Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  But I don’t.  Since my paternal grandmother, uncle, aunt and cousins lived there, my family would drive up to Kansas City two or three times annually,

Except for the time that my dad’s tomato plants kept producing tomatoes and wouldn’t stop.  My dad grew so many tomatoes that year that I think that my family at least doubled our annual KC trips, desperately trying to give those tomatoes away.

Then there was my grandmother’s recipe for Kansas Chowder.  If I’m ever going to be executed for first-degree murder, I want that to be my last meal, that’s how great it was.  I have never been able to reverse-engineer that thing.

Welcome back, guys.  I hope we get another crack at you.

TILL DEATH DO US PART

Monday, September 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 100 Comments

The other day, Russell Moore pondered one of the toughest of tough questions:

This week my denomination, through its executive committee, voted to “disfellowship” a congregation in California that has acted to affirm same-sex sexual relationships. This sad but necessary move is hardly surprising, since this network of churches shares a Christian sexual ethic with all orthodox Christians of every denomination for 2,000 years. One of the arguments made by some, though, is that this is hypocritical since so many ministers in our tradition marry people who have been previously divorced.

You’re perfectly okay with accepting one group of open sinners.  Why not be okay with accepting another?

The argument is that conservative Protestants already embrace a “third way” because we’ve done so on divorce. Couples divorce, sometimes remarry others, and yet are welcomed within the congregation. We don’t necessarily affirm this as good, but we receive these people with mercy and grace. Why not, the argument goes, do the same with homosexuality?

Moore admits that the argument has merit.  There have been and, what the hell, let’s just come right out and admit it, still are times when the Church has been too gutless to deal with the issue with any degree of honesty.

The charge of hypocrisy is valid in some respects. I’ve argued for years and repeatedly that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are slow-motion sexual revolutionaries, embracing elements of the sexual revolution twenty or thirty years behind the rest of the culture. This is to our shame, and the divorce culture is the number-one indicator of this capitulation. The preaching on divorce has been muted and hesitating all too often in our midst. Sometimes this is due to what the Bible calls “fear of man,” ministers and leaders afraid of angering divorced people (or their relatives) in power in congregations. Sometimes it’s due to the fact that divorce simply seems all too normal in this culture; it doesn’t shock us anymore.

Got that right.  I grew up in a parish where I can’t recall a single sermon against adultery or extolling the merits of marital fidelity.  Let’s just say that in my parish, a sermon like that would have REALLY hurt the parochial bottom line if you know what I mean and I think you do.  But, says Moore, we’re not talking about the same thing.

But divorce and remarriage is not, beyond that, applicable to the same-sex marriage debate. First of all, there are arguably some circumstances where divorce and remarriage are biblically permitted. Most evangelical Christians acknowledge that sexual immorality can dissolve a marital union, and that innocent party is then free to remarry (Matt. 5:32). The same is true, for most, for abandonment (1 Cor. 7:11-15). If the church did what we ought, our divorce rate would be astoundingly lowered, since vast numbers of divorces do not fit into these categories. Still, we acknowledge that the category of a remarried person after divorce does not, on its face, indicate sin.

The second issue, though, is what repentance looks like in these cases. Take the worst-case scenario of an unbiblically divorced and remarried couple. Suppose this couple repents of their sin and ask to be received, or welcomed back, into the church. What does repentance look like for them? They have, in this scenario, committed an adulterous act (Matt. 5:32-33). Do they repent of this adultery by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another? No. In most cases, the church recognizes that they should acknowledge their past sin and resolve to be faithful from now on to one another. Why is this the case? It’s because their marriages may have been sinfully entered into, but they are, in fact, marriages.

An example.  A non-Christian man and a non-Christian woman find partners and get married.  Both marriages took place in churches and, for whatever reason, both marriages shortly fail.  They might have gotten married too young, there may have been family pressures involved, etc.

Then this man and woman meet each other, fall in love and get married.  A couple of kids ensue.  Then both husband and wife find the LORD and both begin enthusiastically devouring the Scriptures.

Whereupon both encounter Christ’s teachings about divorce.  And when they both talk with the pastor of the Southern Baptist Church they’d like to officially join and he asks them whether they have anything they wish to repent of, both tell him about their previous marriages and divorces and how neither will happen again.

Is that all you’ve got, Johnson?  Your hypothetical Baptists merely have to repent of their divorces and that’s that?  Then answer me this: what’s the difference between “repenting” for one divorce and “repenting” for two or three?  For that matter, why should anyone trust a person who essentially stands up before GOD and declares, “Okay my first two didn’t take but I totes mean it this time.  Swear to You.”

Which is why recent Catholic talk about ways to “accommodate” the divorced and remarried regarding the Sacraments is so worrisome to so many of us on the outside looking in.  No, if your church wants to demonstrate that it is genuinely serious about these matters, something like this has to happen.

In Montana, a gay couple who have been together for more than three decades have been told that they’re no longer really welcome in the Catholic parish where they’ve been worshiping together for 11 years.

This happened last month, in the town of Lewistown. By all accounts, these two men, one of them 73, the other 66, had done no one any harm. They hadn’t picked a fight. Hadn’t caused any particular stir. Simply went to Mass, same as always. Prayed. Sang in the church choir, where they were beloved mainstays.

There was only this: In May of last year, without any fanfare, the men had traveled to Seattle, where they had met and lived for many years, to get married. And while they didn’t do anything after to publicize the civil ceremony, word eventually leaked out.

So in early August, a 27-year-old priest who had just begun working at the parish summoned them to a meeting, according to local news reports. And at that meeting, he told them that they could no longer be choir members, perform any other roles like that or, for that matter, receive communion.

If they wanted those privileges restored, there was indeed a remedy, which the priest and other church officials spelled out for them over subsequent conversations. They would have to divorce. They would have to stop living together. And they would have to sign a statement that marriage exists only between a man and a woman.

Translation: Renounce a love fortified over 30 years. Unravel your lives. And affirm that you’re a lesser class of people, barred from the rituals in which others blithely participate.

If I’d been that priest, I might have left out that “stop living together” part.  But it’s nevertheless encouraging to see a Christian church institute what used to be called church discipline.  Because the destination of any other way is Episcopalianism.

Is this the start of a new trend?  Probably not.

A bishop in Montana conceded to a local newspaper that half the congregation was upset by the men’s ouster. Wojtowick told me that the choir had essentially disbanded, in solidarity with him and Huff, and that some congregants had stopped attending services, Huff among them.

That echoes what Moore said above about how clergy regularly ducking this issue “is due to what the Bible calls ‘fear of man,’ ministers and leaders afraid of angering divorced people (or their relatives) in power in congregations.”

Or people not in power but who nevertheless write pledge checks with lots of zeroes on them and who like to be liked.  Face facts.  The laity shares at least as much of the blame for this situation as the clergy does.

NOTES FROM A PEACEFUL RELIGION

Friday, September 26th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Islam?  We have a problem:

FBI officials are investigating a beheading at an Oklahoma food distribution center after co-workers said the suspect tried to convert them to Islam after his own recent conversion.

The suspect, Alton Nolen, 30, was recently fired from Vaughan Foods in Moore prior to Thursday’s attack. Moore Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Lewis told KFOR that Nolen drove to the front of the business and struck a vehicle before walking inside. He then attacked Colleen Hufford, 54, stabbing her several times before severing her head. He also stabbed another woman, 43-year-old Traci Johnson, at the plant.

Lewis said Mark Vaughan, the company’s chief operating officer and a reserve county deputy, shot Nolen as he was stabbing Johnson, who remains hospitalized in stable condition Friday.

SCHORIOLATRY

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Katharine Jefferts Schori will become an Anglican saint if somebody named Anna has anything to say about it:

Bishop Katharine is, in my humble but undoubtedly correct opinion, the best thing that’s happened to Christianity since the resurrection of Christ. Her worldview has always been centered on the idea of radical inclusion, respect for the dignity of all people, justice, peace, and stewardship of creation. She speaks often of “shalom”— that is, God’s dream for humanity: a perfectly reconciled world where everybody eats, there is no poverty or greed, and nobody studies war anymore— and our role as children of God in helping to usher in that dream of God’s Kingdom coming and God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.

She has served under tremendous theological, social and financial pressures with grace and style, intelligence and wisdom, all of which is obviously steeped in prayer, discernment, and enormous spiritual depth. She is unflappable, which seriously annoys those with serious theological, social and financial differences. Her leadership has been nothing short of prophetic, and has never had a problem calling [expletive deleted] when she sees it. In other words, she’s a badass. And, like most prophetically ill-behaved women, she’s hated and demonized by many who feel insecure around strong women who refuse to be silenced.

Hail Katharine, full of grace, Anna?

HANDICAPPING THE FIELD

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 55 Comments

Let’s get one thing clear at the very beginning of this post.  I don’t care in the slightest who the Episcopalians select as their next head cheese so the following is strictly an academic exercise.  And no one mentioned here has been formally nominated anyway.

There’s something else that you all need to keep in mind.  Katharine Jefferts Schori had never pastored a parish before she became a bishop.  She is also, as anyone who has ever read her stuff knows all too well, a theological airhead so ability, achievement and theological depth need not, indeed must not, be factored in.

Remember: the Episcopalians care more about market share than they do about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And if anyone’s wondering, Gene Robinson is too old.

Granted, the Episcopal bishops may well be the single most unimpressive group of men and women in the history of the world.  But let’s look at some possible candidates anyway.  First, Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s suggestions:

Ian Douglas (Connecticut) – An academic, Douglas would be a safe pick (he can be counted on to maintain TEO’s crypto-Unitiarian drift) but not a particularly exciting one.

Shannon Johnston (Virginia) – Nope.

Michael Curry (North Carolina) – The African-American angle might have worked in Mike’s favor a decade or so ago.  Right now, though, if you factor that out, he’s just another run-of-the-mill Episcopal squishop.

But there are two far more exciting picks available.

Alberto Cutié (Parish priest, somewhere in Florida) – Remember this guy?  Celebrity Roman Catholic.  EXTREMELY telegenic.  Gets caught canoodling with his girl friend and leaves Christianity for Episcopalianism.

Dude’s never been a bishop, Chris.  So what?  Mrs. Schori never ran a parish before she got a miter.  Why can’t Cutié skip a step or two?  Think of the bennies.

Obviously, you attract Hispanics since you made a Hispanic into an Anglican primate.  You attract those ladies who don’t think real hard about this stuff.  You might even pull in a celebrity “conversion” or five so it’s basically a win/win.

And if Francis were to die between now and next year and the College of Cardinals selected another Benedict XVI, you can also count on legions of Catholic leftists willing and eager to make the jump.

But there’s a MUCH better possibility at hand.

Mary Glasspool (suffragan bishop, Los Angeles) -  The perfect Episcopalian storm.  Not only a woman but a lesbian.  Give Glasspool the Big Miter and you not only guarantee months of favorable, if not fawning, American media coverage but, by making a homosexual into an Anglican primate, you basically blow the Anglican Communion apart, pick up the pieces and form something more in tune with your views.

ONE AND DONE

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Although the idea has been suggested and while she is certainly not averse to the concept, Katharine Jefferts Schori formally announces that she does not wish to be considered for another nine-year term as CEO of the Episcopal Organization:

I have spent many months in discernment about how I am being called to serve God’s people and God’s creation in this season.  I have resisted the assumption by some that presiding bishops can only be elected to serve one term, knowing the depth of relational work and learning that is involved in this ministry.  There is a tradeoff between the learning curve and the ability to lead more effectively as a result of developed relationships both within and beyond this Church.  At the same time, I recognize that standing for election as Presiding Bishop carries the implicit expectation that one is ready to serve a full term.  I do not at present believe I should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years.

I believe I can best serve this Church by opening the door for other bishops to more freely discern their own vocation to this ministry.  I also believe that I can offer this Church stronger and clearer leadership in the coming year as we move toward that election and a whole-hearted engagement with necessary structural reforms.  I will continue to engage us in becoming a more fully diverse Church, spreading the gospel among all sorts and conditions of people, and wholeheartedly devoted to God’s vision of a healed and restored Creation.

I will continue in discernment about the ministry I may be called to in the coming years, but my present focus is and will remain on being the vigorous and faithful leader I believe I am called to be.  God has called us all to be instruments of shalom, and we have miles to go before we live in that world of justice and peace.  We are marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.  Siyahamba!

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

A note to the reader: avoid the comments at the end of this article unless you’re badly in need of an emetic.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey provides a brief summary of Mrs. Schori’s Reign of Terror.

Those affiliated with ACNA led an exodus of theologically conservative Episcopalians under the watch of Jefferts Schori, who upset conservatives with theological statements on things such as salvation. In an interview with Time magazine, she was asked, “Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?” She replied, “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”

In 2009, Jefferts Schori denounced “the great Western heresy — that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God,” which angered evangelicals and church traditionalists.

Before Jefferts Schori took office in 2006, then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold had a hands-off policy on litigation against departing parishes, leaving those decisions to local dioceses. Under Jefferts Schori’s leadership, however, the national church spent millions of dollars in litigation against five dioceses in church property fights. In most cases, the national church won.

Then, of course, there’s her unrelenting hostility toward traditionalist Anglicans which caused her to force the Diocese of Virginia to back out of a thoroughly-Christian separation agreement between itself and its conservative parishes in favor of going to court and legally forcing the Neanderthals out.  And, as many of us will never forget, this happened on her watch and, no doubt, with her approval.

There’s really no point in rehashing all this since almost all Episcopalian traditionalists have long since fled TEO for other, Christian pastures and don’t really give a crap any more.  Which is one hell of a thing to say about the Christian tradition that your mother had you baptized into.

So who’s the current leader in the clubhouse?  Bailey suggests a few names.

A nominating committee is expected to present the church with five nominees to succeed Jefferts Schori. Likely candidates could include Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia and Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina.

SYLLOGISM

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Premise: a Christian event that happened over 2,000 years ago has been pondered, studied and debated from the moment it occurred until the present day and general agreement about the significance of that event has been reached.  You, on the other hand, with the able assistance of “Christian scholarship,” have come up with a Radically New InterpretationTM of the meaning of that event:

Jesus may have been crucified because his followers were carrying weapons, according to a scholarly analysis of New Testament books.

Dale Martin, a professor of religious studies at Yale University, says that this aspect of stories about Jesus, as told in the gospels, has received too little attention, but could alone explain Jesus’s execution and also show that the man from Nazareth was not the pacifist he’s usually made out to be.

The biblical books of Mark and Luke both state that at least one (and probably two or more) of Jesus’s followers was carrying a sword when Jesus was arrested shortly after the Last Supper, at the time of the Jewish festival of Passover. One disciple, Simon Peter, even used his sword to cut off the ear of one of those arresting Jesus, according to the Gospel of John.

This militant behavior almost certainly wouldn’t have been tolerated by the Romans, led by the prefect Pontius Pilate, Martin tells Newsweek. For example, historical documents show that it was illegal at the time to walk about armed in Rome and in some other Roman cities. Although no legal records survive from Jerusalem, it stands to reason, based on a knowledge of Roman history, that the region’s rulers would have frowned upon the carrying of swords, and especially wouldn’t have tolerated an armed band of Jews roaming the city during Passover, an often turbulent festival, Martin says.

“Just as you could be arrested in Rome for even having a dagger, if Jesus’s followers were armed, that would be reason enough to crucify him,” says Martin, whose analysis was published this month in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament.

Conclusion: you’re not only wrong but you’re dumber than a bag of hammers.

Paula Fredriksen, a historian of ancient Christianity at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says Martin’s paper has several holes “that you could drive trucks through.”

For one, she doesn’t think it’s legitimate to assume that since carrying arms was illegal in the city of Rome, the same laws necessarily applied in Jerusalem. Control of the city wasn’t too tight, she argues, and the Roman prefect visited only during Passover, to help keep the peace. And during this time it probably would’ve been impossible to police the thousands of Jews that spilled into Jerusalem.

“I can’t even imagine what a mess it was,” she says.

Furthermore, she says, the Greek word used in the Gospels that Martin interprets as sword really means something more akin to knife. And these could be easily concealed, she adds. “Only professionals,” like soldiers, “carried swords,” she says.

While we’re on the subject of weapons, people didn’t carry staffs back then only because they needed help navigating the terrain.  Staffs also offered [limited] protection against wild animals.  Or wild people, whatever the case may have been.

Dear Newsweek or the Daily Beast or the Daily Tina Brown’s Ego or whatever you’re calling yourselves this week.  Stop writing about the Christian religion.  Just stop.  You people have no idea how stupid you’re making yourselves look.

ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

The following story is, at exactly the same time, one of the saddest and one of the most encouraging that you will ever read:

Even while imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit, Tim Cole never stopped acting like a big brother.

“He would send us letters, telling us what classes to take, telling us to look out for a subscription to Money magazine he was sending us,” brother Cory Session remembers.

Cole was a student at Texas Tech when he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1985 rape of 20-year-old Michele Mallin.

Cole was eventually cleared of the rape charge.  Ten years too late.

In 2009, DNA would exonerate Cole, but not until a decade after he died in prison, at age 39, from heart complications related to his asthma.

But Tim Cole was never embittered.  Far from it.

Behind bars, Cole refused to lose faith, telling his sister Karen Kennard — the only African-American enrolled at Texas Tech’s law school at the time — not to give up pursuing her law degree.

“I still believe in the justice system, even if the justice system doesn’t believe in me,” he once wrote in a letter.

Kennard finished her degree and went on to become the city attorney for Austin, Texas.

His brotherly attitude extended beyond his kin as well. His family wouldn’t learn about it until later, but Cole used the money he earned from his GI Bill to make thousands of dollars in charitable donations from behind bars.

“He knew he couldn’t help himself, but he could help other people,” Session said.

Cole always maintained his innocence, even after he was offered parole in exchange for admitting to the rape. He never confessed, and in 2007, Texas inmate Jerry Johnson — who didn’t realize Cole had died eight years before — wrote to Cole, confessing the rape and offering to submit to DNA testing to clear Cole’s name.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is true repentance.

To those who loved him, Texas can never right the false conviction, but the Lubbock City Council wants to make sure Cole and his case are not forgotten. The city unveiled a statue of the Fort Worth native across the street from the Texas Tech campus on Wednesday afternoon and dedicated the area where the bronze likeness will stand as the Tim Cole Memorial Park.

“The government has enormous power to take one’s life or liberty,” Klein said. “When we make a mistake we should admit to it. We should make amends where we can.”

The bronze statue, standing at least 13 feet tall, depicts Cole’s torso facing the area where the crime occurred. Cole’s gaze will be fixed on the vicinity of Texas Tech’s law school, where future prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges will be reminded that humans are fallible and that fact must remain at the top of their minds as they pursue their law careers, Klein said.

NEWS YOU CAN’T USE AND AREN’T PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN ANYWAY

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

The Episcopal Organization’s Wet Toilet Paper Brigade House of Squishops is meeting this week.  Where?  Taiwan.

Here, specifically.  Seems like a nice enough hotel.  The rooms run roughly one-fitty to two-fitty a night.  Let’s hope that the squishops come up with a strong statement about what “we” need to do to combat climate change.  Otherwise, flying the Episcopal squishops halfway around the world just for a little face time seems kind of hypocritical.

But that’s just me.

HOW TO WRITE FOR THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 60 Comments

A continuing series

Thank you for your interest in writing for the National Catholic Reporter.  Although we welcome your submissions at any time, we hope that these occasional posts help you to become exactly the sort of writer NCR is looking for.  The following piece by Robert McClory illustrates two key abilities every great NCR writer needs to learn how to perform well.  The first of these is how to:

Play dumber than a bag of hammers - Commenting on a recent column by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago in which George said this:

Now, George says, “society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered ‘sinful.’ Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The ‘ruling class,’ those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”

McClory responds:

I don’t understand what George is saying. If many states pass, for example, approval of gay marriage, aren’t Catholics free to oppose it in keeping with official church teaching, just as they are free to oppose the sale of contraceptives in drug stores? If the government requires insurance policies to cover the purchase of contraceptives, are not Catholics free to object, as George has done for months? But I don’t see how any of this amounts to a “ruling class” imposing “its own form of morality on everyone.”

The simple fact of that matter is that, unless he is too stupid to be allowed outside without supervision, McClory knows perfectly well what George means.  But McClory has to pretend that he doesn’t; otherwise, he must explain why being governmentally coerced into committing a sin is fine as long as you’re free to feel bad about it as well as why being governmentally coerced into sin isn’t “imposing morality.”

The second ability any good NCR writer needs to know particularly well is how to:

Duck the questionCardinal George continues.

“It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith,” [George] says, “will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”

One assumes that McClory knows that George’s last sentence has already happened several times since several private businesses have been driven into bankruptcy by the legal assaults of homosexuals.  One also assumes that McClory remembers the Chick-Fil-A controversy of a while back in which the homosexual community as well as several prominent politicians publicly execrated Chick-Fil-A and wished for its destruction simply because its CEO opposed the concept of homosexual “marriage.”

Assuming that McClory knows all this, how does he respond?  Like any great National Catholic Reporter writer would.

I hope some of George’s clearer-thinking colleagues would gather around their partner and urge him to consider a more positive, optimistic future for Catholicism. Is not the Holy Spirit still among us?

AND NOW…IDIOTS

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Patricia Miller is still spitting nails about Hobby Lobby:

[Missouri] Republican State legislator Paul Wieland filed suit requesting that he and his wife be allowed to opt out of the requirement under his coverage in the state health plan because it “violates their religious beliefs as Catholics and parents of three daughters,” says Fake NCR. Wieland’s lawyer argues that if a closely held corporation like Hobby Lobby is allowed to opt out of the mandate, so too should individuals with objections to contraception. “If the corporations don’t have to do this for their employees, certainly Mom and Dad don’t have to do it for their daughters,” said Timothy Belz of the Thomas More Society.

Content edited slightly.

Finally, an unvarnished pro-patriarchy argument in all its glory.

Is that so?

The Becket Fund (the other conservative public interest law firm named after a martyred Thomas who was dispatched by a King Henry after an epic church-state battle) picked its plaintiffs with canny eye for obscuring the true nature of the suits: a hard-working entrepreneurial Christian couple who merely objected to the provision of “abortifacient” emergency contraceptives in the case of the Green family in the Hobby Lobby suit and the the humble, habited, self-sacrificing nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor

Remember Miller’s description of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Because as far as Patty is concerned, freedom of religion had and has nothing to do with any of these lawsuits.

in their eponymously named case. No so with More and Wieland: He man. He pay bills. He say.

Patricia Miller, attempting humor and falling on her ass, if you need her.  But that’s just an assumption on my part since Patty implies here that if any woman comes to a conclusion that differs from her’s in any degree, that woman only holds that opinion because the PatriarchyTM forced her to.

These groups simply don’t want any woman who works for them to get contraception through any kind of scheme linked to their insurance—even if they have nothing to do with it—because it undercuts their moral authority as men to regulate the reproductive behavior of women under their purview.

Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  The Little SISTERS of the Poor, who Patty just got done describing as “humble, habited, self-sacrificing nuns” have apparently become the Little Brothers of the Poor or the Little Sisters Who Had Sex Change Operations of the Poor. 

It’s either that or Patty thinks that a group of nuns has somehow been turned into a tool of the Patriarchy.TM  I knew you Catholics were good but I never knew that you were that good.  It’s right about here where Patty goes completely off the rails.

Maybe it’s most helpful here to take the long view when trying to understand the stubborn insistence of the Catholic Church that any woman in its sphere—Catholic or not—falls under its authority. According to social anthropologist Jack Goody in his book The Development of Marriage and Family, the church’s insistence on policing the sexual morality of everyone in the society around it goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. From its founding as a sect within Judaism until well into the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church imposed it rules regarding sex and marriage on society in order to weaken pagan practices and to capture inheritances (that would have otherwise gone to family members) in order to strengthen the church. “By insinuating itself into the very fabric of domestic life, of heirship and marriage, the Church gained great control over the grass roots of society itself,” he argues.

Uh…what??  From its founding as a sect within Judaism…the Catholic Church imposed its rules regarding sex and marriage on society?”  The problem I have there, Patty, is that, “from its founding as a sect within Judaism,” the “Catholic Church” (the Christian Church, actually) was in no position to impose anything at all on society until the 300′s AD when Constantine was converted.

Ish.

AULD LANG SYNE

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

In a few days, the Scots are going to vote on a referendum on whether or not they wish to secede from Great Britain.  James Delingpole doesn’t think that secession is going to happen but hopes that he’s wrong.  Here are a few of his reasons why:

3. Scotland’s economy is the bastard love child of a Ponzi scheme and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. Till now, the Scots have been cushioned from this by dint of the fact that their socialistic economy – and the vast welfare zone otherwise known as Glasgow – has been propped up by English taxpayers. It’s about time we stopped treating the Scots like children and told them the truth: Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

4. Scots First Minister Alex Salmond has vowed that by 2020, 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity will be “renewable.” It will be good to see him test this plan to destruction, especially on those many days when the wind isn’t blowing. And also on those many other days when the wind is blowing so hard that wind farm operators are paid government subsidies to turn off their bat-chomping, golden-eagle-slicing eco crucifixes. Presumably, if Scotland is independent, those subsidies will no longer provided by the English taxpayer.

5. It’s over, anyway. Better a clean break now than any more of this humiliation and grovelling. In the last few days, we’ve seen the Westminster class – led by an unusually abject Cameron – doing the equivalent of a desperate husband promising his wife the earth, if only she’ll call off the divorce. “I’ll do all the dishes AND I’ll hang up all the laundry AND I’ll pay for an extra couple of days cleaning AND you can have a new kitchen AND you have my full blessing if ever you want to sleep with George Clooney and/or/any other film stars of your choice AND I’ll never leave the toilet seat up AND I’ll give up golf….” Speak for yourself, Dave. The rest of us have had quite enough of the whiney bitch and her endless unreasonable demands.

6. We’ll be like Texas and California. England (Texas) will have the satisfaction of watching the economy of Scotland (California) tanking under the weight of its massive welfare burden and its green energy commitments. Whenever some Labour or Lib Dem loon in the new English parliament proposes a socialistic measure, he will be howled down by the cry of: “And be more like Scotland? Over my dead body…”

9. Alex Salmond is a serial liar. Some of the lies he has told on the election trail – such as his boasts about the vast oil and gas reserves which will keep the Scots economy afloat or his claim that the NHS (devolved to Scotland since 1999) could be privatised if Scotland votes “No” – deserve to explode in his face. But this will only happen if Scotland votes “yes.”

UPDATE: P. J. O’Rourke on Scottish independence.  Language warning.

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