Mawwiage is what bwings us togever

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapter 5) has some interesting ideas about marriage. I’m also currently reading the Kama Sutra, the guide to love and marriage from India. It claims that people should get married at 16. I’m trying to imagine how that would go over in this country. I don’t think our 16-year-olds are mature enough. We coddle everyone and keep them from having to take any real responsibility as long as possible.

When I went to India, they thought it strange and sad that I was not married at 30. They still have many arranged marriages there, and most people are happy with the situation. Families are closely-knit, villages know one another, and everyone has a pretty good idea what a person’s character is like, and what other person in the village would make an ideal mate.

Of course, they get busy making babies right away. Child-bearing is an honor and a privilege to them. If a 16 or 17-year old gets pregnant in America, it’s considered shameful and low-classed. The baby is frequently given away to be raised by people who do not share the same personality as the parents and therefore do not know how to raise it properly. If the baby is even kept, that is. A pregnancy is often looked at as a cramp on a person’s style-there is money to be made, goals to be pursued, the self to be actualized.

The people of India believe in monogamy and faithfulness as well. Great steps are taken to insure such things; most Indian women will not talk to a man who is not a relative or their husband, and in rural areas, most women rarely venture outside the home. They cook, clean, raise the children and so forth, things that Western women often consider burdensome and oppressive.

Jesus’ teachings on the subject seem more in line with India than America. In Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 27, he preaches against adultery-pointing out that adultery begins in the heart, and with the eye. The connection between male lust and visual stimulation is without question, but Jesus takes it one step further. He says that when a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery with her in his heart. With her. As in, a mutual act. If lust=sex, then both parties are responsible. Otherwise, it would be rape, not adultery.

Now, this just seems unfair. A woman can’t help it if someone lusts after her.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 31 that cheating is the only grounds for divorce. What about domestic abuse? What if you don’t love the person anymore?

I would volunteer that relationships also qualify as “marriage” in this sense. People didn’t “date” in the ancient world. Most people were married. There is very little explanation in Scripture as to what marriage is. “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Mark 10:7) That’s it. If you don’t live at home anymore and are having sex with someone, you’re married, in the eyes of God. That gives you a whole new perspective, doesn’t it? Some people have been “married” hundreds of times.

To Christians, all sexual fulfillment outside of marriage is considered sin. The Pope recently stirred outrage when he said that even fulfilling lust with your spouse was a sin. I suppose he meant that a married couple having sex with one another should do so only out of love and not desire. Good luck trying to accomplish that bit of moral acrobatics. (Mmm, honey, that was a great meal. I’m going to show my appreciation by doing the Beijing Bicycle with you. But you better not enjoy it.”)

 

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Everything You Know About the End of the World is Wrong, Part 3 (Final)

I was going to make this a 7-part series, but apparently, nobody cares. That’s a shame, because it’s all about to get very timely. Either the US or Israel are probably going to bomb Iran late this year or early next, and the majority of Protestants think that it’s God’s will and possibly even the beginning of Armageddon, and they are glad about that. It should give us all pause that wars are still being justified using a book of unproven stories whose main character mostly preached peace and love.

Now, of course, there are all kinds of rationalizations for this action-terrorism, economics, Iran’s saber-rattling, etc., but the war on Islam would not have the same teeth if it were not for the group of people that the late Hunter S. Thompson called, “The bombs-and-Jesus crowd.”

This group, mostly comprised of evangelicals, takes every piece of news that comes down the pike as evidence of Jesus’ immanent return, and where they can’t bend current events to line up to Biblical prophecy, they will just plain make it up. Every president since Reagan has been called the Anti-Christ, every natural or man-made disaster is one of the Tribulation judgments, and every piece of technology that comes out is a tool of Satan that will be used to persecute Christians. (My favorite is the theory that says that “W” in “computer language” means “6,” so that WWW (as in, World Wide Web) means 666, or the Devil’s number. Simply by using the Internet, you are damning your soul forever. Of course, I read about this on a website.)

I don’t know what to make of all of this, these people who are so eager to wade through the rivers of blood that will flow from the corpses piled up in the Valley of Megiddo,  who think that when Jesus said he was “coming back with clouds,” he probably meant mushroom clouds. They don’t want the lost to be saved so much as slaughtered so they can dance for Jesus on their graves.

I’m not going to get into a discussion on Middle East politics, except to point out that Christians are backing Israel to the tune of billions per year, all based on a misreading of the 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel.

These chapters describe a large multinational army that sweeps out of the north to invade Israel and gets defeated by God. The prophecy lists the nations involved, including the ethnic peoples and tribes they descended from, and because some of the descendants those peoples happened to be located in Russia during the time of Communism, Christians believed for half a century that Russia was going to invade Israel, despite any logical reason for doing do. It made sense for a while. Russia was invading everybody. Just to make sure everyone bought the “Commies vs. God” routine, Biblical “scholars” deliberately mistranslated some of the tribal names to match names of cities all over Russia.

Of course, this all became moot with the fall of Communism, but never underestimate the ability and willingness of “Christians” to once again doctor the facts to raise some money. Pastor John Hagee, who has taken up the mantle of Hal Lindsey and then some, has assured us that it is militant Islam who will be invading Israel (this despite Israel’s 300 nuclear weapons and state-of-the-art American missiles, radar, jets and tanks.)

“On February 7, 2006, Hagee and 400 leaders from the Christian and Jewish communities formed a new national organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI).This organization addresses members of the United States Congress, professing a Biblical justification for the defense of Israel.“-Wikipedia.

I think Israel can defend themselves pretty well. They don’t need to fear a land invasion utilizing horsemen from Ethiopia, Iran and the ethnic peoples around the Caspian Sea, as outlined in Ezekiel.

 

I Know Kung Fu

It’s my opinion that “The Matrix” is the greatest religious film ever made, because it conveys the central truths that are found in every major religion in the world;  that there is another dimension of life that we are separated from but desperately seek, that there is power to meet our inmost needs, that such power is obtained by belief, that there is a war going on between those who would have us experience this new life and those that would have us remain as we are, and that there is One who is like us but is also more, and he has come to show us the way. Religions provide:

1. Hope for the present.
2. The promise of life after death
3. The belief in something bigger than ourselves
4. The idea that there is meaning and order to existence.

I would propose that believing that these things are possible is somehow necessary; there would have never been a purpose to invent them otherwise. The question is: are they true? And the answer is: no one knows. No one can conclusively prove or disprove the existence of God, or anything about him. And, that, I believe, is completely intentional. Whether religion is a cunningly constructed device designed by humans to control the masses or if it represents a divine plan, it absolutely requires a number of elements that must be accepted on faith.

The reasons for this are not clear to me. Perhaps it is some kind of test from the Almighty. Perhaps He requires some type of sacrifice of intellect, to accept things as true which are not provable. If we saw God just hanging out in the sky every day, looking down on us, it would cause us to believe, and probably obey, but it wouldn’t carry the same weight as if we believed and obeyed when He might not be real.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that faith is required of us:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, and this through faith. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Logical reasoning is a “work.” 

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Christianity isn’t something that you prove to atheists with logic and empirical evidence, despite the many books being published on the subject (Evidence That Demands a Verdict, The Case for Christ.) The reason is twofold: God commands us to be saved by faith, not human effort, and if we depend on history, archeology, paleontology, or even just good old reasoning, what happens to our faith when we run into someone with a better argument? It crumbles. If you read books other than those found at your local Bible book store, you will run into arguments that are more logical than Christianity. You’ll be forced to deny what reason tells you.

In The Matrix, Neo visits the Oracle, where he encounters children who are trying to bend spoons with their minds. One of them says to him, “Don’t try to use your mind to bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead, tell yourself: ‘There is no spoon.’”

Christians need to stop trying to “bend the spoon” of logic and accept that there isn’t a spoon. 

Why Do Christians Play the Atheist’s Game?

It occurred to me the other day that there are probably two reasons that people are atheists. The first is that most atheists (and even agnostics ) are intellectuals and as such, adhere to principles of logic and proof. “Prove God to us,” they say, “and we will believe.” They can rest in the knowledge that such a thing is impossible, so they believe that this removes them from having to accept any religious teaching whatsoever. They find comfort in that which is knowable through the five senses and/or logically deducible from given data. The other, deeper motivation is that they have an emotional attachment to their world view; the idea of God as presented by religions offends and upsets them. His followers are hypocritical, prayers to Him go unanswered, and His laws seem burdensome and contrary to human nature.

Two glaring problems with the atheist’s challenge (“prove God to me, and I will believe,”) are immediately evident: the first is that he or she believes that they can dictate the terms of an interaction with a Supreme Being. In effect, they are saying, “I will follow your precepts, God, if you do as I say and make yourself known to me.” Should God turn out to be real, this arrogance could not possibly hope to do anything but offend Him. The atheist’s demand of evidence is therefore predicated on the supposition that there is no God, which means, of course, that the atheist has decided ahead of time what the truth is, because otherwise he would not be so bold. The atheist is not following the principles of objective hypothesis and observation. The other problem is that the atheist has is that he is utilizing a faulty definition of belief. “Prove to me God exists and I will believe.” The very definition of belief excludes proof. If one could prove God, it would not be belief, it would be knowledge. The atheist should say, “Prove to me God exists, and I will know it.” It is the Christian (or Muslim, or Hindu, etc.) who exercises the correct definition of faith-an idea without proof. This is consistent with the scriptures of the various religions, which do not attempt to prove anything but ask for blind faith.

It’s amusing, then to watch Christians busily attempting to answer the atheist’s challenge, trying to prove God instead of simply promoting belief. Creation “science,” historical accounts of Christ, religious artifacts such as the Shroud of Turin-all of these types of things have been and are going to continue to be proven false or inconclusive. Somehow, this never shakes the faith of Christians-if tomorrow, the tomb of Christ was found with a skeleton in it, and all evidence proved 100% that it was He-no true Christian would abandon his faith. They would say it was a trick of the Devil, or a test of faith from God, anything to keep their belief system and its attendant emotional needs alive. They would require no proof. And yet, they seem intent on proving God to the atheist-even though God has said that it is faith that saves us. It seems that Christians will engage in any kind of contradictory behavior to achieve an end result, or perhaps they just need something to do.
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Everything You Know About the End of the World is Wrong, Part 2

In the news today is a story about how Finland is preparing to leave the European Economic Union, due to its imminent collapse. The leaders of Finland are free to make this type of announcement because they are not considered major players in the EU, but it is thought that their action will prompt the departure of Germany from the coalition. Germany is a major player, and it would spell the end of the “United States of Europe.”
I wonder what Hal Lindsey would have thought of this news.
Hal Lindsey, author of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” and several other books, was the pre-eminent Biblical scholar whose interpretations of Bible prophecy and current events had and still continue to have a tremendous influence on Protestant worldviews.
When the EU was created, it confirmed to Lindsey that the end was near. Here was the 10-nation coalition that would be the political and financial base for the Anti-Christ, the false Messiah who would be sent to deceive the Jews as punishment for their rejection of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
If you’re wondering why a Jewish Messiah from Israel-real or false-would want or need a political power base in Europe, when he is supposed to set up his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem, then you’re thinking a lot deeper than most Christians. The answer is: it was prophesied.

Or was it?
The “ten nations” idea comes from Revelations, where John saw a beast with ten horns. Each of these horns represented 10-nations and 10 kings. From out of them comes “a little horn,” and this king is the pseudo-Messiah. This 10-horned beast, according to Lindsey, is the EU, because the EU had 10 nations.
(By the way, the EU currently has 27 member-nations.)
For decades, no serious Biblical scholar has ever contested Lindsey’s interpretation. It is founded on almost nothing, but it carries with it the sense of impending doom, so it is eminently useful.
Well, it wouldn’t be prophecy if we didn’t bring some Old Testament soothsayers into the mix, and Lindsey supported his 10-nation scenario by utilizing the end-time visions in the book of Daniel. During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king had a disturbing dream of a giant statue, with a head made of gold, a torso of silver, loins of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. Daniel explained that the golden head was Nebuchadnezzar’s and each of the various sections of the statue were kings and their respective kingdoms that would follow him.
Biblical scholars have assured us that the silver torso refers to the Medio-Persian Empire, The bronze girdle was the Greek Empire, the iron referred to the Roman Empire, and the feet of clay and iron is the kingdom that will spawn the Anti-Christ.
Again, this interpretation has never been seriously challenged, because it seems to make so much sense. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire was followed by the Medio-Persians, then by the Greeks, and the Romans. The EU is built from the Roman Empire, and hey, there’s 10 toes on a human statue! Just like the 10 horns on the beast from Revelations! Case closed!
There are just a few problems with this interpretation.
Firstly, it’s easy to see that, as we progress downward on the statue each of the substances in the statue are worth less and less. Are we to believe that the Babylonian empire was superior to the Greek Empire, or the Roman Empire? While it is true Babylon gave us cuneiform writing, how does that stack up against democracy, philosophy, mythology, plumbing, roads, architecture and the Olympics?
There is another huge problem with assigning these particular empires to the parts of the statue, and it has to do with history. Biblical scholars have completely skipped over an empire.
Specifically, the Assyrians.
Founded in 911 BCE, Assyria lasted for 300 years-just as long as some of the other empires that made the list.
Whoops.
Another problem is the so-called “Medio-Persian” empire. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, between 616 BCE and 605 BCE, there was a unified Median state. It wasn’t Medio-Persian for another 50 years. It was just the Medes. Two separate empires. The Median kingdom was conquered in 550 BCE by Cyrus the Great who established the next Iranian dynasty—the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which lasted from 550 BCE–336 BCE.
Alexander the Great conquered the area in 332 BC for the Greeks. And then Roman Empire lasted from 146 BCE – 476 AD.
Then there was nothing happening with the statue for 1,500 years until the EU???
To sum up, there weren’t four major kingdoms between the time of Daniel and the present-day, there were seven.
Apologists for this interpretation have tried to defend it by saying that the kingdoms in question were only ones that ruled over Israel, because that’s all that mattered to God.
So what about the Muslims, whose domination of Israel led to the Crusades? Those empires were pretty big. What about the British Empire-you know, the one ruling over the Holy Land right before the modern state of Israel was created? Why aren’t the Brits on the statue?
And what about Assyria?
You see, the Medes didn’t rule Israel. But the Assyrians did.
The interpretation fails on every level.
Back to the drawing board.

Everything You Know about the End of the World is Wrong

I am old enough to remember that there was once a thing called Communism. And I mean it it the Cold War sense-secret police, checkpoints, gulags and the arms race, not the way Christians today use it-to describe a Democrat raising your taxes. For forty years, the world lived under the threat of militant looters. It was a very real and very serious situation, and for forty years, the churches told us that the presence of Communism meant that we were in the End of Days. Bible prophecy was being fulfilled, and it wouldn’t be long until we were plunged into nuclear Armageddon and Judgment Day. This was believed by virtually every Christian on the planet, and by many people outside of the church as well.

And then something wonderful happened: Communism failed. Almost overnight, it collapsed without a shot being fired. This was good news for the world, but terrible news for the gloom-and-doomers. They didn’t say a word about the fact that they had been dead wrong. There was a brief flap where they tried to suggest that Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait was going to get the old ball rolling, but that fizzled out.

The doomers found themselves in the same predicament as the military in the early 1990’s-how can we be relevant if the world is not about to end? How can we keep the money rolling in? And then, thanks to 9/11, they had their new enemy: Islamic fundamentalism. The Red Menace was now Al Qaeda. The hammer and sickle had been replaced by the crescent moon. Quickly, and without embarrassment, Christian writers and speakers began churning out sermons, DVD’s, books and articles about how Biblical prophecy was being fulfilled, and jihad-loving Muslims were going to bring about the end of the world.

It’s as if they decided:

“Okay, we were completely wrong about Communism, but we’re right about ‘Islamicists,’ even though we’re misusing the same passages of Scripture that we falsely interpreted before. This time, in addition to ignoring the actual meaning of what we’re quoting, we’re going to completely ignore the geopolitical realities that would make our interpretation absurd.”

“End Times” theology is based on a patchwork of ideas culled from the prophets Ezekiel, Daniel, and John the Revelator, as well as some of the Apostle Paul’s writings. They have been cobbled together to form a laundry list of events that every Protestant believes must happen:

1.) A “Rapture,” in which millions of Christians will vanish and be taken to Heaven.
2.) A revived Roman Empire, which will be the political power base for a world leader.
3.) The rise of a charismatic political figure, whom many will think of as the Messiah.
4.) An invasion of Israel by armies, an invasion which will be defeated by God.
5.) A worldwide system of economic control, centered around mandatory ID’s.
6.) A persecution of all those who do not accept the leader as the Messiah.
7.) A series of judgments on the Earth (called the Tribulation,) culminating in a battle between good and evil at Armageddon.

This doctrine is as sacred to Christianity as the Trinity. It is repeated by every theological teacher, minister and writer, and with the exception of substituting Moslems for the Communists in #4, has remained unchanged for a hundred years. The creation of the European Economic Union, the rise of Islamic nuclear powers and the invention of the RFID chip have only served to convince Christians that the end is upon us.
The reason that I even bring all of this up is because it is, for all intents and purposes, our national belief system, and it colors the perceptions of every Christian voter, forms the basis for our foreign policy in the Middle and Far East, and is gleefully exploited by warmongers to whitewash their imperialistic activities. You could not ask for a better endorsement for genocide and resource theft than one from God Himself.

Perhaps Christians should consider the following:

There is no “rapture” that will beam Christians up to Heaven and help them to escape the Tribulation. Firstly, the word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible. The concept comes from 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, verse 17:

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

The Greek word for “caught up” is harpazo, and it literally means “snatch.” (I can see why Christians invented the word “rapture.” If we went around saying we were “waiting for the Snatch,” we would be mocked endlessly.)

I do believe that we will meet Christ in the air, but I do not believe it will happen until the end of the Tribulation, when Christ returns. I think the Bible bears this out.

Another important word in that passage is “meet.” The Greek word is “apantesis.” It means to go out and meet and come back with.

Every time this is used in the Bible, it talks about a group of people who travel out a short distance to greet someone and then all of them immediately go back to the place where the group came from. They do not go out to greet someone and then travel with them somewhere else for seven years and then come back, which is what the church believes will happen. According to them, God gives us some kind of divine airlift, we party for seven years in Heaven while sinners are deceived by the Anti-Christ and then tortured by God, and then we all go down to Israel, team up with the Jews, destroy the armies of the world, and live happily for another 1000 years until the next war against Satan. (Sounds like a comic book, doesn’t it?)

Instead, it becomes clear that Christians will be on Earth for all or part of the Tribulation, and we need to act accordingly.

Here’s another important passage:

1 Corinthians 15: 50-52:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

The Greek word for “last” is eschatos. Last in time sequence, and last in a series.
Those who claim that the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation say it will occur at the last trumpet, which they say is before the Anti-Christ’s 7-year reign, but then, they completely forget that and go on to say that there will be seven more trumpets after that. (Seven of the 21 judgments in Revelations are accompanied by the angelic blowing of a trumpet.) Those seven trumpets are in a series. So the last one is when the Snatch happens. Problem is, the seven trumpet judgments happen in the middle of the Book of Revelation. Revelation is always treated as a completely sequential series of events, and here is the Rapture happening in the middle or perhaps the end of the Tribulation.

Another important word in that last passage is “mystery.” The Greek word is “mysterion,” meaning hidden or secret thing. Guess where else it is used? In Revelations 10:7, when the 7th trumpet is blown. The last trumpet.

“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets”.

Get it? The mystery of God is finished. And the rapture is called a mystery. So the rapture finishes at the time of the 7th trumpet. Not years before.

This post is getting a bit long, so I’ll continue these points at another time. I hope I haven’t lost or bored my audience. It’s easy to do. We Christians have our own language and concepts that we take for granted.
What you need to take away from this is: the “Rapture” is a doctrine that fits comfortably with the easy, cushy Christianity of which we should want no part.

Ah, the atheists are at it again.

I love atheists as people, or I try to love them. Time and again, atheism shows itself to be an emotional belief system, not a refuge of reason, and that makes it intellectually dishonest, something I despise.
Atheism has started to become evangelistic, and instead of promoting open-mindedness and rationality, atheists, or at least those from atheist.org, have begun paying for attack billboards.

“Sadistic God, Useless Savior,” they read. I could point out that atheists supposedly don’t believe in a god, so how could any deity be sadistic or useless-but that’s an easy lay-up. Presumably, the writers of the ad meant to say “There is no God, but if there was, the Christian version of it is sadistic and useless,” but that was too long and expensive of a message to convey on a billboard.

But of all the messages they could have gone with, this group settled on an emotional, spiteful attack, designed to promote feelings of ill will, which is precisely the sort of thing that atheism claims to be against. If atheism really wishes to deliver suffering people from a hateful God and His hateful followers, they ought to try something a little less caustic. “Christians: Aren’t you tired of suffering?” or “Jesus- what has he done for you lately?” would be far more effective.

If Christianity is truly what atheist.org claims it is, then it should self-evident. No billboards are needed.

The timing and placement of these ads is bizarre-Charlotte, North Carolina, during the Democratic convention. (What?) It’s not as if Democrats needed convincing that fundamentalist religion was not necessarily a good thing. Of course FOX news will run footage of these ads endlessly and stoke the fear in Middle America that the godless Commies are going to continue to ruin America. I could almost believe that this was some kind of secret, backhanded pitch for Romney-except that another billboard attacks his Mormonism with the phrase “God is a a space alien,” a reference to the little-known LDS doctrine that says that God lives on a planet called Kolob with his wives and spirit-children.

Atheist.org president David Silverman stated, “We want to show the people of our country the foolishness of mixing religion with politics.” While I certainly applaud that sentiment, I wonder just what Mr. Silverman proposes that we do in November, when our choices will be between a Protestant( and some would say secret Muslim,) and a man who believes that people can turn into gods if they are good enough? Where is the atheist candidate that we should rally behind?

Is God a sadist? Well, that’s for another blog entry. But atheist.org is not offering up the anti-sadist, just more sadism.