Update to the posing with Jesus story

October 8, 2014

I wrote about this back in August so it was nice to see an update to the story about the 14 year old boy who posed with a Jesus statue and made it look like he was getting a blow job. He’s banned from social media for a while and has 350 hours of community service to complete.

Among the other punishments, he must obey a curfew of 10 p.m., no alcohol or other controlled substances monitored by random drug testing and stay in school.

District Attorney Bill Higgins presented the decree to the court.

After accepting the agreement and while settling the number of community service hours, Judge Ling focused on the religious rights of Love in the Name of Christ, noting that the juvenile’s actions infringed upon their rights to practice their faith.

I bold the bit that makes no sense. He didn’t storm their church and shoot everyone who tried to pray to Jesus or tie them up and take all their bibles away. He posed outside on the lawn for a stupid picture. How does posing for a picture get in the way of their right to worship? Explain that to me.

Upon successful completion of these terms and conditions, his case will be dismissed and the juvenile will have no criminal record.

Personally, I think it should have been tossed out of court from the get-go with a “don’t be that stupid again” warning as he went out the door.

“I know that there are many groups that say this case is about religious rights, and quite frankly, they are right,” said Higgins in a written statement. “But it is the religious rights of the Christian organization that owns the statue and has placed it for display on their private property that have been implicated. They have every right to practice their faith unmolested. In American [sic], we all enjoy the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to practice our religious beliefs without interference, but that right ends where those same rights of another begin.”

Get him for trespassing on private property, maybe, but his behaviour did not infringe on anyone’s rights to worship. He was just doing a stupid thing and took pictures of himself doing it. He did not molest parishioners, he posed with a statue.

Maybe they should have considered the possibility of it being mistreated before sticking it out there. Maybe it could have been on a higher, less easy to access pedestal, or a design that wouldn’t give people these kinds of kinky notions. People are weird.

Off topic a bit, I’m amused by churches that use their billboards to advertise their faiths but choose the weirdest sexual innuendos by which to do it.


What’s wrong with Christian films

September 17, 2014

I confess that I had God’s Not Dead here this weekend but I didn’t watch it. I’ll borrow it again at some point, I promise. I’ve been on a Community kick lately and opted to watch that instead. I was in the mood to laugh at the genuinely funny, not, from all the reviews I’ve read, watch a film liable to make me want to tear my hair out and scream in frustration. A philosopher wrote a very long rebuttal to the film, too and it’s totally worth the time it takes to read it.

On the topic of other Christian movies, though, how’s this for a headline?

Christian Movie Producer Wishes Christian Films Got Dirty

The suggestion isn’t a foray into porn, but a request for more proper films that really dig into an issue to get to its roots rather than tickle the pretty leaves and think that’s good enough to understand the tree as a whole.

Christian film producer Laura Waters Hinson has a problem with Christian films: they dont [sic] cover the really tough issues accurately.

Hinson said something that bothers her in the industry of Christian film is that they don’t get dirty and cover the issues as deeply as secular cinema. She said what makes a great film is an “accurate portrayal of darkness, and how it can be overcome by light never really comes.”

“I think that’s where, just to be frank, Christian movies fall so short,” Hinson said. “There’s not an actual authentic representation of real people really, truly struggling. And film makers being bold enough to show the depth of the brokeness. Being too afraid…needing to whitewash everything. So really the payoff of the light never really comes.”

Bottom line, the problem has to do with the brute force attempts to proselytize over telling a moving story believably and well. They resort to stereotypes and pussyfooting and giving roles to Kirk Cameron who’s so religiously devoted to his wife that she had to be the kissing stand in during his make-out scenes in Fireproof or else it’d be a sin to god.

Some of the best secular movies ever made are great because of their light/dark dichotomy. Throw Star Wars in there, throw Harry Potter. Throw any film in where the main character is struggling to do the right thing when it’s clear that gaining all the power and glory seems to hinge on the temptation to join the other side. That’s God versus the Devil everywhere, even if you never see a guy dressed in red with a horns and a tail. The good versus evil storyline is found everywhere, not just in the bible. Take Homer’s Odyssey for example.

odyssey

Click it if you need a bigger view. I couldn’t copy/paste from ancientgreece.com so I cheated with the “PrtSc” key.

The line just prior to that I’ve “quoted” notes that the ancient Greeks were notoriously optimistic in their stories and they lacked a lot of realism on account of that. So, much in common with Christian films, then, where everything ends with happy happy god god god, I’m guessing.

Back to the Christian Post:

“I think the Christian content that I typically think of, the films, the books or whatever, have to have a clear representation of the gospel message,” Hinson recounted. “Rather than being content to weave througout the themes of the book gospel themes. In films today…it has to have that presentation of Jesus rather than to being content to just fall short, to leave questions unasnwered, to allow the audience to make their own conlusions, to trust the audience. I think a lot of Christian Content doesn’t trust the audience. Which drives me crazy.”

Because the answer, if honestly presented, might lead a wavering believer to drop whatever facades may be left and seek out an atheist group. Read some de-conversion stories sometime.

I think some Christian groups pay lip service to the notion of “It’s okay to doubt and question” because they’re determined to lead the doubter back to Christ at all costs — if they can use enough prayer and badgering and guilt-tripping. But this is the risk – losing the person to critical thinking and the realization that their faith and their religion could actually be untrue. It’s a scary idea to have in your head, and scarier to realize you agree with it. Nothing I ever went through, myself, I was atheist before I knew there was a word for it and forays into Christianity were fads that lasted a few weeks and were soon meaningless to me.

Back to the Post:

Hinson spoke at the 2014 AEI Evangelical Leadership Converence in the “Song and Cinema: Why Engagement Upstream Matters” panel along with singer/songwriter Charlie Peacock and moderator Mark Rodgers.

Hinson said that she believed culture was a huge part in the most important thing cinema is a part of: Storytelling. “I think for me as a film maker I think story telling is at the heart of culture,” Hinson explained. “I think that the stories we tell create the culture that we live in.”

But the bible is true and every piece of it really happened, even the contradictory pieces that god put in there just to test your faith because god wrote the whole thing himself and the bible says so…

And other stories believers might tell themselves…

Yeah, humanity builds stories and decides on behaviour based on the stories it chooses to uphold as valuable and true to a perfect form of humanity, or near enough.

Love conquers all.
Good triumphs over evil.
The circle of life.
Triumph over adversity.
Build it and they will come.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And more, if you care to comment and add some.

Unsurprisingly, people have already done the literary legwork to document the appropriately pro-Christian themes in many secular movies. I’ve just run across the Movie Theme Index which will help any Christian conscious movie lover pick the best films to watch for miracles (Green Mile and Pulp Fiction get mentions) or repentance (Dead Man Walking, City Slickers) or surrendering to the divine (Patch Adams, Forrest Gump).

I understand the desire to create Christian-specific theatrics, but if broad appeal is the goal, films like God’s Not Dead will always miss by a mile and only make money when churches buy up all the tickets and force their flocks to sit down and watch them. Secular film buffs don’t really want a bunch of heavy handed god business getting in the way of a love affair or fight to the death. Unless it’s Thor doing the fighting…


Linda Ronstadt on belief

August 25, 2014

I’ve never listened to much Linda Ronstadt, but it sounds like she’s a lady on the ball. She was interviewed recently about her career and choices made to leave her hometown of Tuscon, Arizona in the process. She gave a lot of reasons but this one’s relevant to my blog. She talks about the effect of the school on her kids at the time. It was homophobic in some ways and some of the children they were meeting were too keen on parroting the religion of their parents.

“And then one day, my son went to have a playdate with a little boy, about 8 years old, and he said, ‘What church do you go to?’ And we said, ‘Well, we don’t go to a church,’ and he said, ‘Well, you’re gonna go to hell, then.’ So I had to stop the car. I wasn’t mean to the little boy, but I had to explain to him that my son was a fine person and that I didn’t think there was anything wrong with him and that we didn’t even believe in hell. And certainly he wasn’t going there, even if we did, and that I didn’t like that kind of talk. …

It’s unlikely that most people can quit schools and move out of town to avoid these kinds of conversations. Failing that, parents need to help their kids understand that there will always be differences of opinion when it comes to beliefs. Maybe the most important thing to know how to do is question it all and look for the facts and evidence. Don’t believe everything you’re told. Be willing to put the effort into finding out how true it is.


Think you know the bible? There’s a Bible Bee

August 18, 2014

The first one was in 2009 (I know because I wrote about it) and I see it’s still running. Ken Ham is promoting it on his blog.

August marks the start of regionals with the finalists to be head-to-head at the finals in Orlando, Florida at the end of October.

This year’s theme for the AiG ministry is “Standing our Ground, Rescuing our Kids,” based on Galatians 1:4. It’s one of the reasons we support something called the National Bible Bee in the USA.

Now, the Bible Bee is a family discipleship program—with a competition at the end of the year—for students ages 7–18. Through the summer, families will be memorizing Scripture and studying God’s Word, preparing to be tested on their general Bible knowledge. The format has changed this year. You can read about the changes at BibleBee.org.

Will do, Ken.

First, though, Galations 1:4 — “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (via)

I wonder what particular evil is on the minds of organizers this year. “Standing our Ground” really puts me in mind of the shooting deaths of several Americans over the years, whether they possibly “deserved” a bullet or not. I doubt a nine year old did. Maybe the intent with the theme is something like, “Use your bible as your gun and your knowledge of verses your bullets to pierce the souls of the heretics and light them with the fire of the Lord our Jesus amen…”

At the Bible Bee website, I learn that the first round starts on August 23rd and serious money is up for grabs by the end of this event, available in cash and scholarships. (Award breakdown here.)

The site offers a multitude of study tools, all which entrants (or their parents) must pay for, in order to make memorizing the bible a lot easier and supposedly more fun. It’s still the bible, though, and at the end of this nobody’s really more educated or enlightened by memorizing entire chunks of it.

The Shelby Kennedy Foundation (also referred to as “SKF”) is the parent organization of the annual National Bible Bee. SKF sponsors the Bible Bee to help families strengthen their personal relationships with the Lord and dynamically impact the world as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. The vision for the Bible Bee is to encourage parents as they disciple their children through in-depth study of the Word of God, Scripture memorization, and prayer.

That’s from the scholarship website just mentioned. I’ll quote another article from 2012’s contest.

This year, organizers cut back on the amount of information students were required to study in preparation for local competitions. With the help of special guidebooks, parents can now effectively lead their children in their Bible Bee studies in about 20 minutes per day.

Those who qualify for nationals, however, are eventually faced with much greater intellectual challenges, including the memorization of several hundred verses of Scripture.

“The top 300, when they come here, it’s a whole different ball game. They’re the Olympians, they’re the ones that have really studied and worked hard,” said Widdoes.

It’s not intellect, it’s memorization. Two different things, isn’t it?

I Google to find a definition of intellect for proof of this. The Free Dictionary offers these:

a. The ability to learn and reason; the capacity for knowledge and understanding.
b. The ability to think abstractly or profoundly

I’ll bet a cookie that none of that is happening at a bible bee. They aren’t being asked to write essays on the cultural impact of these verses and what they mean for society as a whole or debate the value of this interpretation of a verse other another. They don’t have to show they’re learning anything while they recite a shit ton of verses. They just have to memorize them.

I highly doubt this contest results in winners being smarter, more intelligent people. This just turns kids into bible parrots. How does that really help them in life and career prospects? The Atlantic pointed out something similar during the 2010 contest.

The obvious question in all this: Just what is the implicit value of memorizing the Bible word for word? Just because a kid can spell “appoggiatura” doesn’t guarantee he or she can string together a coherent sentence; likewise, does the memorization of vast swaths of scripture actually “plant a godly heritage in the next generation”?

Not surprisingly, the Bee’s proponents have answers to these questions. LaFleur, Widdoes, and Lawrence each talk about the power of “hiding the word in your heart,” an allusion to Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Replace “heart” with “head” and you have a pretty clear idea of the theory behind the Bee.

The article also points to a part in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer where Tom cheats his way to the top of a similar contest. I never read that book. My Banned Book club read Huck Finn recently, though. Tom might need a reading now just so I can say I’ve done it.

For LaFleur, the ability to instantly summon verses makes it that much easier to live according to the Bible’s dictates. “It’s so ingrained in my heart that I can just say it. I know it without looking it up,” she says. “It becomes so much more a part of every moment of your life. As you lie down and go to sleep, whenever it’s quiet, verses will come to mind.”

Well, okay. If that’s the ultimate goal for the bulk of the participants so be it. If it somehow gives them peace at the end of a long and trying day to call up verses that sooth and stimulate them, who am I to condemn it? I think the amount of time devoted to memorizing them could be spent in so many better ways but whatever. Their lives, not mine. Their time, not mine.

Thoughts? I always ask. Don’t keep them to yourself if you’ve got ‘em…


Animal rights over religious rights in Denmark? That’s interesting.

August 15, 2014

To say the least…

European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds. For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.

Yet defending his government’s decision to remove this exemption, the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”.

Commenting on the change, Israel’s deputy minister of religious services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan told the Jewish Daily Forward: “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions.”

NPR notes that Sweden and Norway have had a ban in place for years.

Dutch lawmakers took up the issue in 2012, and even Britain’s top veterinarian is now making headlines by suggesting his country would do well to follow the Danish example.

As Europe grows more secular, says Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Congregation in Copenpagen, “religious tradition” is no longer a valid argument for much of anything, he says.

Benyones Essabar with the group Danish Halal agrees.

“Religion itself in Europe doesn’t play the big role … it does in other countries. So every time we speak about something that [has] to do with religion,” he says, “it will always be looked at as something from medieval times, and something that doesn’t have any scientific place in our modern days.”

There are a lot of rules set down to make food properly Kosher or halal. Some of it sounds completely silly in terms of blessings and prayers to certain gods in order to make it “official” but other parts probably did have a basis in food safety and health at a time when people did not have refrigerators or any knowledge of bacteria and parasites. Salt has been used as a preservative for centuries and the kernels of Kosher salt are ideal for soaking up liquid like blood; blood is a no-go for both traditions. Why milk and meat can’t go together for halal food is up for grabs in terms of sciency reasons, but it would have made sense at the time to avoid the meat of carnivores. It still makes sense.

I can’t speak to the sense people have about these bans coming across as anti-Semitic or Islamophobic, though. I can see why that would be a fear since both are minority groups in Europe with a history of racism, fear and propaganda denouncing the faith and its followers. But, what if it really does just come down to compassion for the plight of animals? So long as people insist on eating them, shouldn’t all attempts be made to make their end as painless as possible? Can Kosher and Halal butchers and the rest involved guarantee that?


I don’t intend to get the “Shut up, Devil!” app

August 12, 2014

All right for some, maybe, but to a non-believer like myself it sounds pretty damned silly. Also, I don’t have a smartphone.

The Shut Up, Devil! app is an innovative resource that puts the power of the Word of God in your pocket. And because it’s on your smartphone, which is almost always with you, you’re ready to resist the devil whenever and wherever he attacks. Additionally the app features reminders that will help you keep the enemy at bay and silenced in your life.

The app conception stemmed from Charisma House’s upcoming book, Silence Satan by Kyle Winkler, which releases in September. Winkler is founder of Kyle Winkler Ministries, a media and teaching ministry broadcasting on the Christian Television Network.

I guess it still throws me to find people in the world who think of the devil as an actual adversary in their lives who is intent on manipulating them and luring them down dark paths away from the light of their lord. I’ve just done too much reading that lends credence to other far more likely scenarios: namely that the devil is an invention added to the bible as time went on. Became anthropomorphized as Jewish thought and culture changed to match and keep up with the beliefs of other societies they found themselves in. Ideas change, minds change, hearts change, and then ideas change again..

Religious Tolerance has a nice rundown of the history of Satan.

There are no passages within the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures where Satan is portrayed as an evil devil – the arch enemy of God and of humanity. At most, he is described as a henchman who carries out God’s evil instructions. There is no dualism here between two powerful supernatural entities: an all-good God and an all-evil Satan. God is portrayed as performing, directly and indirectly, both kind and evil deeds.

It’s only in the later books, after the Zoroastrian religion gained a footing, that the dualistic idea of God vs Satan started showing up. There was an evil god in the Zoroastrian tradition (Ahriman) and it’s suspected that early Jewish writers likely adapted the beliefs in that deity to fit their own needs for their religion.

During the last three centuries before Christ’s birth, the portrayal of Satan underwent a major change. The Zoroastrian / Persian dualism concept appeared in Jewish writing: God was now looked upon as wholly good; Satan as profoundly evil. History was seen as a battle between them. No longer was Satan simply God’s prosecuting attorney, helper, or lackey. Satan, and his demons, were now humanity’s greatest enemies.

The followers of Jesus grew up thinking of the world as divided by this good and evil and the idea that malevolent spirits had their fingers on the hearts and minds of the faithful all the time. The way they viewed the world coloured the way they wrote down the stories that later became the Gospels. Paul and the rest coming later thought and felt the same way and continued the trend.

These days, though? Why hang onto the idea? What purpose does it really serve? Why not just accept that humans have the capacity for tremendous good and perplexing badness and may illustrate both on the same day?

To end, a song I still like by a band I don’t listen to anymore, but it seemed like a good song to throw in here.


Your dead child is gay? We won’t do his funeral.

August 8, 2014

A Baptist church in Tampa, Florida cancelled funeral arrangements for 42 year old Julion Evans after the obituary listed a surviving husband. His mother, Julie Atwood, was floored by the news; the funeral was to be the next day.

Atwood said she was told it would be “blasphemous” to hold the services at the church because her son, Julion Evans, 42, was gay.

“It was devastating,” she said. “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”

Evans’ husband, Kendall Capers, says the pair were partners for 17 years and married last year in Maryland. Evans died at home after a 4-year battle with a rare illness called Amyloidosis, which destroys organs in the body.

He says the obituary named him as “husband,” and that their marriage was no secret.

It was going to be a very large funeral at New Hope but Paster T.W. Jenkins had no idea the deceased was gay when he agreed to it. Other churchgoers spilled the beans when they complained about the obituary. Only then did he cancel. The family was able to arrange a last minute service elsewhere but were unable to inform everyone of the change so many turned up at New Hope anyway.

Jenkins said his church preaches against gay marriage.

“Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” Jenkins said. “I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.”

And yet by refusing to provide the family with the agreed-upon funeral, it’s still proof of condemnation to me, and everyone else who’s picked up the story and run with it.

Slate picked up the story and notes

As a pastor, of course, Jenkins has a constitutional right to deny religious services to anybody he wants. But legal impunity does not exempt Jenkins from moral judgment—and his action is surely one of breathtaking immorality. Here was a man in a deeply committed relationship, who suffered bravely through a horrible disease—and yet his church denied him peace, even in death. Jenkins can “stand up for [his] principles” all he wants. But the rest of us have every right to be absolutely disgusted.

Exactly.

The church’s website claims they’re “Christ-centered and biblically-based” and offer this gospel verse:

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

—- Numbers 6:24-26

But rather than be gracious and peace-giving themselves, they turned the family away.


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