Illinois Baptists to flood victims with the Good News…

May 11, 2011

It’s bad enough that the Mississippi River is up to five times the width it usually is and flood water may take as long as a month to recede in some places but now I read that the faithful are using this disaster as a diving board to splash the gospel around.

Can’t say I’m that surprised, of course. From the Baptist Press:

“We won’t have an opportunity like this to minister to our friends and neighbors for another 500 years,” Joe Buchanan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Metropolis, said May 8. “We must be prepared spiritually and physically to minister to hurting people in Jesus’ name.”

Buchanan said the upcoming week’s deacons meeting would have one agenda item: “Find someone who needs help, and help them.”

They’re hoping to have shelters and showers available in Cairo soon.. because the ministers want to be clean and well rested before they preach to the tired, huddled, waterlogged masses.

“We hope to have shower facilities and bunk bed accommodations ready at First Cairo by the first of June for mission groups to use as their hub as they minister in our association,” Ferrell told the Illinois Baptist. “We have many, many people who will be cleaning up for a long time, and we need mission teams to come help us this summer.”

Ideally it’d be a hub for volunteers of all stripes who want to head down there and provide assistance to people who’ve lost all they own, and be space to house at least some in need of it. Of course, their primary ambition with centers like this is probably to try and make more Baptists. That people might feel like they got their present-day life needs met in the process, well, that’s simply a bonus.

It’s not all bad, mind you. They’ve been providing food and assisting with sandbagging and helping people pack their stuff. I don’t want it to sound like I think they’re only out to show off what good, proper Baptists will do in trying times, but I expect for some of them, that might be the only reason they were willing to get their feet wet. May as well make sure you’re doing good in the last days before Judgment Day…

Sarcastic much? Yeah, maybe a little.

“Don’t blame God for world’s heartaches”

May 7, 2011

Rev. Jeff Barnes of Newsong Fellowship Church has a piece in his local paper with the same title and it’s worth some comments from this peanut gallery.

The question that inevitably surfaces is, “Why doesn’t God keep all these bad things from happening?” Fair question. The answers is connected to human choice.

From the beginning, God gave humans the ability to make choices. However, He made it clear that our choices would have consequences. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, there have been negative consequences. Just read the first three chapters of Genesis. There you will discover that a “curse” fell upon this world and upon the human race.

Sigh. This is one of the sadder concepts we’ve lived under thanks to the existence of Genesis and those who continue to believe it’s a true history of how humans came to be.

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Let me compare this (Gen 2:16-17) with Gen 1:29:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

Every plant and every tree will be yours for food. Every one of them.

Here’s a question that comes to mind: if this was the first version of this creation story, when did it get superseded by the second? Gen 1 just has God making everything, then a couple people in his image. And then he simply tells them that they have command over everything on earth and they should go forth and multiply.

By Gen 2, God’s suddenly being very specific about where Adam can live and what he can and can’t do there. God even makes the new tree rule before he makes Eve. It’s that important to Him. If this was meant to be an object lesson for humanity, what had humanity done by this point that compelled storytellers to alter and elaborate on the story?

The serpent slithers its way into the story at the start of Gen 3 and asks Eve if she’s familiar with the “Eat what you want unless you want THAT one” rule. Eve quotes the rule:

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

We’ll ignore the fact that this presupposes Eve already has a familiarity with the concept of death (how?) and would be actively trying to avoid it. The serpent pooh-poohs that notion and says (3:5)

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Whether you want to argue rebellion on her part (as the Rev. claims), or deception on the serpent’s part, Eve’s “sin” was wanting to be wise (3:6).

Unrelated, but I wonder if it’s ever been argued that Eve cheated, that real knowledge should come from the effort put in to get it and if she and Adam had worked to learn instead of taking the fast track, this mess could have been avoided. Maybe knowledge isn’t what needs to be avoided; impatience (rather than temptation) is where the problem lies.

Back to the Rev., who perpetuates the myth that Eve’s desire to learn cursed the planet.

It is this general curse that causes the earth to produce tornados, hurricanes, drought, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. They are called “acts of God,” but they should be called “consequences of man.” The Bible reminds in Romans 8 that the whole earth is groaning, waiting to be delivered from the effects of the curse.

Right, because God created the world 6000 years ago and it was fault-free. Blame Eve for every earthquake and volcano ever since. Nice. Isn’t that some of the most ridiculous tripe ever to be published?

The truth, as anyone with sense and awareness of geology knows, the earth is way old and the whole reason we have mountains and volcanoes is because the tectonic plates that float on top of the magma have been rubbing up against each other for aeons. There were droughts, tsunamis and other natural disasters long before the first hominids roamed and no doubt the dinosaurs that preceded humanity found them to be problematic, too. Are we still debating what caused their end? Was it an asteroid or volcanoes or a combination of both?

In the same way, this curse has fallen upon humanity as well. Things like cancer, viruses, birth defects, unnatural sexual urges, mental disorders and the like can be traced back to the distorting effects of the curse.

I would love to see how.

I think this is long enough as is, so I’m going to stop here. I shall disassemble that bit of lunacy in a second post later today.

Rapture came early to the Bible belt in the shape of 110 tornadoes

April 28, 2011

An Australian journalist and her husband were in Birmingham, Alabama to cover a couple stories. Jennifer Cooke called the experience “surreal” and wound up huddled in her hotel bathtub as the tornado spun its way through town. “It was thrilling in a scary sort of way,” she said.

“To my surprise, they were tracking not one, not two, not three, but four major tornadoes coming from Mississippi to the west of Alabama and sweeping across in a north-easterly direction – and Birmingham is the north of Alabama.

“There was devastation all over the place. There were live web cams coming in from storm chasers. …

“The broadcasters were saying on television that they haven’t seen such extreme weather and such a lot of it in the last 30 years and they were saying, ‘this was really bad, this is life-threatening’.”

The end result was 83 deaths and more than 60 of those in Alabama alone. The tornado was reportedly a mile wide in diameter.

The article also notes 47 deaths from a series of storms a couple weeks ago, between Oklahoma and North Carolina.

I begin to see why the South can be so belligerently religious and prone to claiming the end is nigh. Twisters are a violent yearly threat to everybody there. If belief in God gives them solace while they huddle in culverts or storm cellars or whatever scant shelter they find in time.. I guess I can say I don’t blame them for wanting to pray for their survival.

Edit 4:45 pm — I tend to write two or three posts before work every morning that I can schedule to drop over the course of the day, hence the fact that stats reported in this article are horribly inaccurate now. Associated Press’s most recent report at the time of this update lists the death toll at 280, counting all the tornadoes that have hit the South this past week.

President Barack Obama said he would travel to Alabama on Friday to view storm damage and meet Gov. Robert Bentley and affected families. As many as a million homes and businesses there were without power, and Bentley said 2,000 National Guard troops had been activated to help. The governors of Mississippi and Georgia also issued emergency declarations for parts of their states.

Quotable Kwaku Ba

March 17, 2011

That’s not nonsense language in the post title, it’s someone’s name, the author of an article explaining why earthquakes happen and why the Bible is a bad source for a geology lesson.

He gives some examples from the book, like Job:

Job 9:6 (NKJV) He shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble;

Comment: So according to Job, the earth sits on pillars and God can shake the pillars out of its place. The problem is the earth does not sit on any pillars. Job is wrong. He is assuming that is the case and then goes further to make the claim that these pillars can be shaken (earthquake) by God. This is all false and has zero evidence to back it up. So the question is why does God sit there idle instead of correcting his holy words and letting us get the correct information?

I expect an apologist would argue that God did not sit idle; he gave each and everyone of us our brains and knew we’d later use our curious minds to research the physics and geology of earthquakes and come to correct conclusions, something Job couldn’t do given what was known of the world and its (sorry) design when his story was first told. And the words would never be corrected because 1) believers tend to believe the book is Word of God and can’t be altered and 2) the only books they want to cut up, edit and make “better” are the ones they disapprove of. Everybody loves the story of Job as is because he’s evidence that faith wins in trying times.

Atheists like me, however, marvel over the story and the idea God gets that it’ll be completely okay to kill Job’s entire family to test his loyalty and then reward him with replacements later. Women and children don’t matter as individuals in any way. One set is as good as another, like herds of cows or goldfish. “I don’t see a difference. Do you see a difference?” Thanks God. They’re new and improved!

Another example from the article:

Luke 21:10-11 Then Jesus said to his disciples:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Jesus says, “For behold I come quickly

Comment: Nations rising against nations has been going on for thousands of years even before the bible was ever written. What makes it different now? Now that we are becoming more educated and more peaceful a time will come this quotation will be meaningless. The same with earthquakes, the tectonic processes for the next earthquake are already underway, how come God never mentioned that, and are prayers from Christian working to stop those tectonic plate movements?

About as well as prayers work for anything else – as in, not at all.

Currently we are destroying the environment and causing climate change etc yet we are praying to a god for solutions. Are we that silly?

I think we as a species are, otherwise the notion of prayer wouldn’t exist in the first place. I think it’s like the only tool in the box when people feel powerless and right now we are. We sit and we wait as these poor guys risking their lives over those damaged reactors and we can’t see what the future holds and if we have to sit and wait anyway, we may as well occupy ourselves with something.

Of course, that’s assuming we’re capable of finding a moment in our own busy days to care about what’s happening to strangers so far away.

I guess that’s why people like to assume a god will.

What we have here, God, is a failure to communicate

March 15, 2011

I see Glenn Beck’s claiming God might be trying to send us a message using earthquakes instead of something a little less death-inducing like Twitter.

As survivors of Friday’s devastating Japan earthquake try to pick up the pieces of their lives, one Fox television host offered a reason for the disaster.

Speaking on his show today Glenn Beck went off on a bizarre tangent saying the massive 9.0 magnitude quake that has so far killed 1,900 people, might be a ‘message’ from God.

‘We can’t see the connections here,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying God is causing earthquakes – well I’m not not saying that either!

‘What God does is God’s business. But I’ll tell you this…there’s a message being sent.

‘And that is, “Hey you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.” I’m just saying.’

The article goes on to quote a few other known names and stupid things they’ve said or tweeted about the earthquake and resulting tsunami, but I’ll just stick to the Beck one. The others were just examples of people who don’t think before they speak. Maybe Beck falls into that category, but maybe not.

It’s evident he believes natural disasters are a sign that human beings are sinners to the Nth degree and that God’s angry enough about that to shake the shit out of our planet rather than just deal with each sinner personally. I don’t get that mentality. Why would I make a connection that an earthquake There is punishment for me being a sinner Here? Sorry they’re dead, but I don’t know those people. What difference will it make to me to have them not in the world anymore? It’d be a far better message if the ground had opened up under me, personally, and affected no one else. (Assuming I remained alive long enough to jump to that conclusion.) But that kind of thing rarely happens.

I wonder about the timing of this so-called message, too. Why are so many quakes happening at the beginning of the year, because nobody’s keeping up on their resolutions? New Zealand had a big one on February 22nd, and a 5.8 magnitude quake toppled buildings in a Chinese province on March 10th. Last March I wrote about a cluster of them, too:

It does not seem typical to see so many earthquake stories lumped together. Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude, Chile’s 8.8 devastation, Quebec’s little 3.9 rumbler, and now Taiwan has had a 6.4 magnitude quake. It would be easy to assume God’s giving us a kick around for some reason but that’s just stupid. It doesn’t stop people from wanting to tell people that’s the reason, though. I wonder if Pat Robinson learned anything from his inane remarks back in January.

Robertson was of the opinion that Haitians had put their trust in the Devil at some point and that’s why they got hit so hard by their quake. They weren’t praying to God enough.

Comments like these are why atheists tend to think religion keeps people stupid.

If “Jesus is Alive and Living in Australia”…

January 16, 2011

he had the whole ocean to walk on. Why did he have to flood the place?

Anyway, while I dislike the title of this article, I’ll still quote from it. At the time of writing, 50,000 Brisbane residents had signed up as volunteers to aid the stricken. And,

Christian leaders from various churches and states have also joined together to call for a National Day of Prayer for those affected by floods in all states. The death toll in Queensland now stands at 15, with 61 missing and many of these feared dead. The water has left 26,000 homes affected with 11,900 homes completely underwater.

The volunteers will do more to help than prayer will. That’s for damn sure.

Warwick Marsh from The Australian Christian Values Institute said, “The people of Queensland have suffered a horrific disaster and it is time for concerned Christians to give as never before. That’s what this National Day of Prayer is all about.”

A National Day of Prayer is about sitting on your ass when you could be doing something useful.

Pastor David Macdonald from Toowoomba who was helping the flood victims and counseling grief stricken families, told Warwick Marsh, that he had been working around the clock for the past 72 hours since the flash flood roared through the streets of Toowoomba sweeping away all in its path.

Warwick Marsh of The Australian Christian Values Institute is encouraging all Australians to participate in the National Day of Prayer. He says: “Consider fasting for either part or some of the day. “Make sure prayers for our flood ravaged friends are said in church services. This is a great time to take up a love offering; so pass the hat around.”

He added, “Find a list of church websites that are holding flood appeals. Please pass on the message.”

What’s the point of the fasting, I ask you? Is sitting with an empty belly for part of a day somehow supposed to symbolize the real suffering of those who’ve lost everything? The only worthwhile thing in this whole article is the suggestion to donate. I hope a lot of that is going on.

Pope dedicates “special thought” to Haiti. So what?

January 10, 2011

It’s been a year since an earthquake toppled much what was standing on the island of Haiti and have yet to dig out from under it all. Maybe they never will. But while they aren’t making much a dent in the rubble or reconstruction around there, their overall faith in God is stronger than ever.

Haitians have long been known for fervent, rather idiosyncratic faith. A majority are Roman Catholic, but various Protestant churches have made strong inroads, while the deepest rooted faith here may be in voodoo.

On the eve of Wednesday’s anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and made homeless about one in 10 of the population, Haitians say they are more devout than ever.

“The earthquake increased faith for many people. Many returned to their faith,” said Francoeur Roland, 32, a plumber attending the open-air Mass at the cathedral.

Asked what was he was praying for, Roland, wearing a white coral necklace, answered: “That this doesn’t happen again.”

Yes, that god did such a great job of stopping it the first time. I guess that means that god really wanted all of Haiti to lay in waste for some mysterious reason obviously unfathomable to the puny human mind. People can always find a reason to excuse their god when assessing the damages, can’t they? It’s never his fault; it’s always his ineffable purpose…

Eder Charles, a gatekeeper at the cathedral complex, said the entire choir, which had been in rehearsal, was crushed and that bodies still lie under the rubble. Haiti’s Catholic archbishop was among the other victims that day.

Charles said his prayer was for “something to change.” What? “Everything. We are praying for the country to change.”

I can’t keep my own country’s history straight, let alone be knowledgeable about the Republic of Haiti’s, but I found an article from last January detailing some of the economic history there and the end result. It makes for some grim reading and makes me wonder just what kind of change Charles thinks is actually possible.

Waiting at the city stadium for Franklin Graham, son of Reverend Billy Graham, Beatrice J. Delievre said religion helped her believe that the natural disaster visited upon her country, the mass deaths, and overwhelming poverty, were not cause for despair.

“If all Haitians were not killed on January 12, then there is hope. Those who died, this was their time. But for those alive, there is hope,” she said.

What Haitians have lost faith entirely in are the human powers of their political class.

At the moment when Haiti most needs leadership, the country finds itself in yet another round of political turmoil, with candidates from a first round of presidential elections squabbling over who should enter the second round.

Many here blame a lack of political vision for the inability to put Haiti back on its feet.

Not only has there been almost no rebuilding, or restoration of services, but barely any of the rubble has been cleared from earthquake sites — including the collapsed presidential palace.

“Those are men and mankind is weak,” Delievre, 29, said. “You can’t put your trust in mankind, only in God. God can do everything.”

Begging the question then.. if he can do everything, why hasn’t he cleaned up Haiti? Why hasn’t he turned the rubble into food? Why hasn’t he cleaned the water? Why hasn’t he put more effort into altering humanity so we care more about each other and work more towards worthwhile problem-solving since it’s clear he’s can’t be counted on to do any?

Problems as massive as Haiti’s can’t be solved in a day or a year by a god or anyone else, but I’d still much rather put my trust and faith in human beings than some invisible thing that does nothing. Humans are at least trying, even if they don’t really know where to begin.

Edit Jan 14/2010: NPR has some comparison images up of Haiti in the aftermath and now a year later. Not a lot of difference between them.

The Christchurch earthquake “miracle”

September 5, 2010

God gets a bit of credit for not killing anybody during that 7.1 quake but the Times article also mentions that it hit during the night while people were sleeping. God must love Kiwi’s more then, because the one in Haiti hit during the day, which is part of why there were so many deaths in that one.

The other part appears to have to do with wealth and the fact that New Zealand had the money to build better buildings in the first place that could withstand a good shaking up.

Eighty per cent of earthquake deaths are caused by collapsing buildings and so properly built ones save lives in even the fiercest shocks, while poorly constructed ones become killers. Eighty six per cent of the people of Haiti live in tightly packed slums, and – besides those killed – two million were made homeless when buildings collapsed.

It has long been so, even in richer countries. Most of the 100,000 people who perished in a 1988 earthquake in Armenia – then part of the Soviet Union – were in cheap concrete buildings. And even in Japan, most of the structures that collapsed in the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which killed 5,000, were substandard constructions rushed up after the Second World War.

So while it’s not quite “Three cheers for being rich!” it’s a near thing.

let’s be glad of the miracle in Christchurch – but recognise that world poverty is the greatest disaster of all.

Sad but true: there are always going to be poor people so there are always going to be natural disasters knocking the hell out of poor people. And when it’s not a natural disaster but a political or social disaster, they’re still going to be the ones hit the hardest.

I think we’d figure out how to stop the earth from shaking shit up before we’d figure out how to end poverty.

Quotable D. H. Lawrence

August 12, 2010

Let’s look at news from the past week or so.

Major flooding in Pakistan has decimated that country, killing hundreds and affecting a million more, and not just because they’ve lost their belongings.

Mudslides in China have left 127 dead and thousands more are missing.

British Columbia’s recent land slide left few dead but will cost the province and country millions in repairs with more risk of damage expected come the fall rains.

21 people died in Germany and 500 more were injured after a stampede over a music festival of all things. A bishop called it “God’s punishment for losing faith” — surprise surprise.

Moscow is under a heavy fog due to uncontrollable fires in Russia. I heard a clip on the news somewhere this past weekend about the health effects of breathing that shit in – something like smoking two packs of cigarettes in an hour. Burning peat bogs around the city seem to be the biggest problem. 42 are dead and 2000 people are without homes now.

How about that reality show where the guy died after being too long in a sauna? Clearly the end of realty television should be close now, yes? Whose fucked up idea of a program was that?

Locally, somebody was murdered in Saskatoon recently, and in Regina a couple and their young son were found dead in a townhouse – only because neighbours finally reported on the funky ass smell emanating from the building. It’s that city’s first ever triple homicide, not something to brag about.

Now the quote. It’s out of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a book I’ve never read but judging by the brief synopsis, I think I’d be interested in it.

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habits, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is no smooth road into the future:but we go round, or scramble over obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

Here’s the thing about tragedy: if it’s happening to a lot of people far, far away, it still never feels as bad as what we personally have to face. It won’t matter how many pictures, how many news articles, how many somber faces report death tolls on the news channels – if it’s not us going through it, it may never feel real enough to bother caring about. Which is a shame.

Here’s the thing about dealing with tragedy: D. H. Lawrence was right. Create new habits; find new hopes. To cope, we have to adapt. To adapt, we have to find a way to live beyond what happened and not be crippled by the memories of it. It is not an easy road, which is probably why so many people don’t even try. We’ll dwell on things. We’ll get caught in the cycle of what ifs and if onlys and the should’ves and all the rest of those mind traps. We’ll seek to lay blame at someone’s feet and will often wind up dropping it on our own if we can’t find a convenient scapegoat.

But no matter how many skies seem to have fallen, life still has to go on. Maybe it won’t be very fun for a while, but it won’t get better if we don’t at least try to make it better. What we take from this, what we learn from this experience, we can use in the future. We may even be impressed with how much stronger we become in the process.

I wish I had pictures of Saskatchewan flooding

June 23, 2010

But I’m not living where that was happening and not about to go on a road trip to an area where roads are now washed out.

Trans Canada Highway under water

The Globe and Mail has a nice (if you can call it that) aerial photo of the highway near Maple Creek.

Trans Canada damage

The Vancouver Sun has an aerial view of the damage itself. It’ll be a big job to fix, that’s for damn sure.

And hey, here’s a video of the damage in action:

I feel for the folks in the stricken areas and all those basements under water. They’re hoping for some government aid after this but who knows how that’ll go over.


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