Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Neo-Pagan America Part 2.

<--- America's most favorite and "Bestie" of gods.

"...And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to YHWH with all your hearts, then rid yourself of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourself to YHWH and serve him only..." 1 Sam. 7:3

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth & rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. --- No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matt. 6:19-24

"Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Acts 2:40

And with that, I have a question in the form of a video for you from one of my favorite heretics...

That's a really good question, and far deeper than many would suppose.

<--- Do we? Oh yes, yes we do trust in God. America trusts it's God completely. (Although, for the past many years our god has been making us a bit nervous.)

Actually, a better question might be "Which god do we trust?" Or even "Which godS?" Because in many respects, while America thinks of itself as believing in only one god, in practice, we have numerous gods that we bow down to.

Back in the days of ancient Israel, the people were tempted to follow numerous gods other than the one who had rescued them from Egypt. While there were many to choose from, there were three major ones that stood out. And the best part is, all three of them are still with us today!!! Let's take a look at them, shall we?

BTW: You can look up pictures of these ancient gods with a simple Google search. But to save you time & frustration, I was able to find updated versions of these gods in contemporary fashion. This will help to explain the following...

BA'AL: The "Hipster god." (Formally know as the Emo & Scene Kid god.) Back in the 70s, he was the god of Disco and gold medallion necklaces the size of dinner plates.

The trendiest of gods, Ba'al was perhaps the most popular of gods in and around ancient Palestine. If you wanted to be cool like the other kids, he was the one you would bow down to. Oddly enough, the worship of Ba'al generally required ritual cutting & blood letting to arouse him from his slumber. This was not unlike the modern tendency of Emos to cut themselves to show that no one understands them but their little sister's pants. OR, the wearing of jeans so skinny by Hipsters that blood flow is restricted to that awesome "Pube"-stache that is blooming upon the upper lip. To quote the prophet Frank Zappa on this matter; "Beauty knows no pain." (To be honest, I'll take the skinny jeans over the nasty, sagging, "I dumped in my pants" ones that I still see too often.)

Suffice it to say, if you wanted to "Prosper" in the coolness and popularity department, Ba'al was the god for you, and unto him wouldst thou make thy sacrifices.

ASHERA: The "Sex goddess." (Formerly known as Mae West, Madonna and Brittany.) Ashera has male versions too, as seen in Ron Jeremy, Frat Boys and Wavey Davey.

Need a good old fashioned "Fertility Cult" to make sure your crops do well, and you find sexual hedonism a great lifestyle? Ashera is the one for you! She happens to be married to Ba'al. But not to fret, they apparently have quite the "Open Marriage." Just head on down to the local temple, and the seeds you sow there will surely result in much success in life.

Can't find a proper temple? Never fear. Just find the nearest "High Place." It will most likely have a handy and LARGE Ashera Poll protruding skyward from it.

I won't bother to explain the religious & cultural significance of an Ashera Poll because to be blunt, it's rather NC-17 rated...worse, actually. (Who said the Bible was dull & boring?) Suffice it to say that you can still find smaller & more portable versions of them today in certain store that cater to Adults-Only.

Back in the day, the priests and temple prostitutes of both Ba'al and Ashera could be spotted by the various tattoos and B.C.-style mohawk haircuts they had. Hence, YHWH's prohibition in Leviticus 19 against acting like or resembling those dirty, little tramps. (Lev. 19:27-29 in particular.) It was the ancient equivalent of God/Your Parent saying; "Listen kid, no child of mine is going out dressed like that!!!"

And finally...

Molech/Chemosh: The "Free-Market/Business god" (Also known as Wall Street, Modern Economics, Ayn Rand and "Black Friday.") Oddly enough, Socialism falls equally comfortably into this slot too, as you will see...

Is your butt too big to fit into skinny jeans, your not all that into the latest trends, prefer to keep your clothes on, but still want to be a success...especially in business? Molech is the god for you!

Molech was a bit more of an Urban god. He could care less about trends, because he knows that he is the one that develops and markets those very trends to unsuspecting twits. "The business of Molech IS business," as one of his prophets, Calvin Coolidge, said. Nothing is more important than your work, NOTHING! Which is why, back in the day, worshippers of Molech would sacrifice their children to him.

In today's world, we do not have a formal alter where we can place our offspring to be burned in the fire of Molech. However, we do have shopping malls where we can send them to get them out of our hair so we can concentrate on more important things. In the last few years, we have even invented a new way to sacrifice our families. It's called the "Black Friday Midnight Special." Who needs quality time around the Thanksgiving table with relatives when you can stand in the cold for hours outside of Best Buy so as to acquire the latest gadget at a discount for moth & rust to destroy, and for thieves to break in and steal?

Oddly enough, I read a great article in the Star/Tribune yesterday from someone who is not a Believer. It's about the dangers of the whole mindset of Black Friday and conspicuous consumption AND it's affect on the workers who have to suffer through all of it. Take a gander when you get a chance.

If getting your job done, be it for a private enterprise, the military or the government seems to come first for you, then you ARE worshipping Molech. Don't give me lip service about how important your family is. PROOVE IT! I could tell story after story of various students from the affluent school I taught at whose parents sacrificed them on a regular basis for their careers. (Handing a kid a wad of cash is NOT how you show them love, and certainly is no substitute to actually "Being there" for them.)

In my last post, I took to task those who unwittingly worship America...this supposedly "Christian" country. (A great & richly blessed country, but NOT the "Kingdom of Heaven"...despite what Pat Robertson & Jerry Falwell think.) I referred to it as Neo-Paganism. I.e. Where Jesus gets tied & glued to secular man-made institutions, and the Gospel then loses it's power to transform...unless it's through the candidate you vote for.

Well, if mistaking the U.S. for God's favorite, unblemished city on a hill is Neo-Paganism, today's offering is merely good old fashioned, straight-up paganism. And it's been with us since humanity first began to go astray. We might not realize that we are worshipping false gods, but in practice we are.

Let's be honest, your religion is what ever is most important to you. Your god or gods are the idols you chase after, wether it's your career, your popularity, your sexuality, your acquisition of material things, what ever. Those are indeed your gods. And this nation is chock full of all sorts of pagan gods.

I am guilty of worshipping a couple of different gods. My favorite god is myself. (That goes back to Gen. 3) But I often have a few others. Far, far too often, I will put Jesus on a shelf, or over on the sofa, and just run off to worship another god. All Believers struggle with this if we are honest with ourselves.

I actually have a friend (Hard to believe, I know.) who even has his own version of the Trinity. He is his own "Father." "The Son" in his penis. The "Holy Spirit" is his sexual identity. I've observed him long enough to notice that his personal trinity is much more central and important to him than the actual one. Jesus is fine, as long as he doesn't get in the way.

We all do this from time to time. We do, and I'm as guilty as the next. So, perhaps a distinguishing question would be "Do we recognize this?" Do we realize when we are chasing after false gods? Those outside of Christ are in trouble because they have no gods but the ones they create. Believers are in trouble because we are often so unfaithful to Jesus by following lesser gods from time to time.

I highly doubt that YHWH is as dim as we often treat him. He understands the temptations that are out there. That's why he offers forgiveness so freely. But you can't actually ask for that forgiveness if you don't truly recognize the problem.

This nation and culture is as thoroughly pagan as every other Kingdom of Man that has been and will be. Every one of us is confronted on a daily basis with the opportunity to worship other gods, and we quite often do. Don't pretend that because you vote a certain way, only shop at "Christian" stores and have a Jesus-fish on your bumper that this is not the case.

Perhaps it's time to follow Peter's warning from his own time and repent and "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."

This next portion should be a treat for people. I'll bet most readers would never think that I would actually include a post that began with Rob Bell and ends with both Mark Driscoll & John Piper.

The fact of the matter is that while Piper & Driscoll often drive me crazy with their emphasis on Calvin's doctrines above all else...along with other issues I have with them, that should never mean that I do not see eye-to-eye with them in other areas. In this instance, I COMPLETELY agree with them. (Hey, they ARE my christian brothers first and foremost!) Besides, I think it's ridiculous to throw the baby out with the bath water.

So first up is Mark "Drizzy" Driscoll with an outsider's observation on modern American culture. Frankly, I think it's not only insightful, but also absolutely brilliant.

And to finish up, good ol' J.P.

"Th-th-the, th-th-the, th-that's US, folks!"



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Neo-Pagan America Part 1.

"I am YHWH your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." Dt. 5:6 & 7

"Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." John 18:36

If you have the desire to empty the contents of your stomach due to too much turkey on this Thanksgiving weekend, just take a closer look at that picture. It certainly makes me want to vomit every time I look at it. If simply looking at the picture isn't enough, click on this link to the painter's website and listen to his explanation of this garbage.

BTW: This is the first of a two-parter. If you would like to read the second part, which has considerably less venom and A LOT more humor...

I can be flippant and say that I had no idea that Jesus was instrumental in writing our Constitution. This would mean that Jesus thought black people were only 3/5th of a human being, Senators should be elected by State legislatures and that women did not have the right to least until Jesus changed his mind many years later. Apparently, at one point Jesus must have joined a very strict Fundamentalist church, because he outlawed liquor for a decade. Later, Jesus recalled the time he turned 180 gallons of water into wine, missed those parties and changed his mind again by ushering in the 21st Amendment.

BTW: What is really and truly awesome about that painting if you do go to the website, is that you can scroll over the entire blasphemous thing and it will give you explanations as to what everything means. If fact, check out the stars in the upper-right corner. "There are 50 of them for each State. Some shine brighter than others." (Must be the Red States that shine the brightest, I'm guessing.)

I found this portrait of neo-pagan, idolatrous garbage last Sunday after waking up to this news story. This was not a good story to listen to the first thing on a Sunday morning. It made me absolutely LIVID with anger. In fact, here is the quote that made me just want to explode. "Ladies and gentlemen, we want to have a movement that transforms this culture to a biblical and constitutional worldview with elected leaders who adhere to the foundations and lead like they know what the foundation of this country is all about," said Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats."

I don't know what Vander Plaats was smoking when he said this, but that is one of the most paganized, idolatrous statements I have ever heard! How DARE you, how dare ANYONE put ANY document on the same level as Scripture???

For the record: I love this country. I love the Constitution. I think our nation is the most unique country in the world. We were an "Idea" well before we became a nation. We were the first modern country to experiment with representative democracy. We have been, and still are a haven for those oppressed. We are a country richly blessed, and still worth fighting for.

That having been said, we are NOT the kingdom of God. There is no such thing as a "Christian" nation. There are only "Kingdoms of Man," and each and everyone of them will face judgement before God. The founders of this nation never, ever intended for us to be a specifically "Christian" country. Even if they had, it would still not be possible. Such an idea cannot be defended biblically or theologically. When someone makes the claim that this or that nation is "Christian," they are embracing a form of paganism that goes all the way back to Constantine legalizing the church, and then immediately co-opting it for his secular purposes.

For a very, very thorough look at how much of Christianity has been infiltrated with pagan ideas, and specifically what Constantine did when he made the church legal in the Roman Empire, check out this book. You don't have to like all of it, but it does tell an interesting story.

I was having coffee with friend yesterday. I told him that many think I am an "Arminian" theologically, simply because I am not a "Calvinist." In the same way, I suppose that I am a Liberal by default, simply due to the fact that I do not subscribe to what passes for being Conservative this month. (Hard to tell. Those definitions seem to change every so often.) Whatever. I told him one thing that I respect about the Democrats, and more specifically Liberals, is that whatever else may be said about them, they don't run around pretending that Jesus is on their side in everything they do.

I absolutely HATE it when people try to tie Jesus to a country, a flag, a political party, or whatever else you might choose. Do NOT do that. It is idolatry. When God is tied, glued, or nailed to some man-made construct, you are committing what I have come to view as Neo-Paganism. You are lowering the Holy One to fit into a man-made box that can then be used to smite thine enemies.

<--- Do we really want the "Lamb who takes away the sins of the world" to look like this?

When you tie Jesus to a nation, no matter how wonderful that nation may be, you are also tying Jesus to every mistake that nation makes. If we were & are a "Christian" nation, then that means that slavery, discrimination, racism, the annihilation of the Indigenous people, and even our speed limit can be tied to Jesus.

Tying Jesus to a nation, ties Jesus to every policy that nation has...especially in matters of foreign policy. If you think I am joking, just take a quick look at how the Islamic world feels about Christianity and our "Christian" nation. Don't Believers in those countries have enough trouble as it is? Why do we make it harder for them by gluing Jesus to our foreign policy?

Now I have a little something that is sure to have plenty to offend pretty much everyone. Back in 1980/81 the prophet, Frank Zappa, wrote a song titled "Dumb all over." Mind you, this was just at the beginnings of the rise of the Religious Right. The Cold War was still front and center. Only Iran had a crazy, Islamic regime...and it was still pretty topsy turvy at that point. Listen to this song, especially about halfway through. This song was written 30 years ago, but it sounds like the exact situation we are finding ourselves in today.

(Awesome bass line, with a great guitar riff at the my own humble opinion.)

I admit the video is a little creepy. But I do think it illustrates the point.

"Our god says, "It's all ok"
Our god says "This is the way"
It says in the book, "Burn and destroy"
And repent and redeem and revenge and deploy
and rumble thee forth to the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
'Cause they don't go for what's in the book and that makes 'em bad
So verily we must choppeth them up and stompeth them down
Or rent a nice French bomb to poof them out of existence
while leaving their real estate just where we need it
to use again for temples in which to praise our god,
'cause he can really take care of business"

And THAT is exactly what you get when you attach Jesus to a Kingdom of Man. The next thing you know, you are killing in Jesus name. It may indeed be necessary to fight and die for your country from time to time. However, if your god needs you to fight for him in any way shape or form, then I really have to question what god you are serving. The God of the bible that I desire to serve doesn't need my help for ANYTHING.

If you want to reinterpret the God of Scripture to fit your political or national box, then you are nothing but a Neo-Pagan with a bit of Jesus spray painted on yourself. In fact, I would go as far as agree with Frank's final lyrics about you and the god you serve; "Well let's get serious, god knows what he's doin'. He wrote this book here and the book says, "He made us all to be just like him."
So, if we're dumb, then god is dumb...and maybe even a little ugly on the side."
And that is definitely NOT my God.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you

"Praise the Lord, O my soul.

Oh YHWH my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers with their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messenger, flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on it's foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of the thunder they took flight;
they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth...

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works -
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord."
Psalm 104: 1-9, 31-34

I drive a 2004 Saturn VUE. I LOVE that car. I have a former student who refers to it as "The Barbie Jeep." I think that's a bit unfair. It's a very masculine car, in a lovely shade of "Ticket Me" RED. That car has gotten me to Virginia, North Dakota, Tennessee and back. It can hold 5 people and still have room for fishing poles. It has a 6 CD changer in it, and I can play it loud. My Saturn, other than the normal wear & tear, has never had a serious mechanical problem. I love that car.

Oddly enough, every time I get in that car I thank God for it. Of all the other material possessions I own, I am most thankful for my car. I have no idea why that should be the case. But even on my bad days, when the world looks very ugly to me, I always thank God for that car.

Pastor Scott told me once that showing God gratitude is the way to the heart of God. Being thankful and acknowledging God's graciousness is a good way to find yourself growing closer and closer to God. To be honest, I'm not very good at this.

When you have grown up with relative material abundance, it's easy to not be thankful. It's not a willful ingratitude, I do not believe. It's just a matter of taking things for granted I suppose. Maybe that is why people who live on the edge of existence most of the time, are often the most grateful to God.

I have many, many, many things to be grateful for. I'm adopted, yet I have an amazing family. ("Hand picked," they told me.) After the myriad of stupid things I have done, I am still healthy. I live in a incredible country that is incredibly blessed with abundance...and filled with incredibly ungrateful people. I live in a State that is God's favorite from May through October...generally speaking. (I think God spends his Winters & Springs out skiing in Colorado.) I have many things to be thankful for.

It's been dawning on me for a while now that I have other things that I ought to be thankful for. But these are not the normal things that people would be particularly thankful to have.

I struggle with depression from time to time. I was born with a chemical imbalance in my noggin. It's always there, just bubbling below the surface. I am thankful that God saw fit to give me that gift. It goes a long way to defining who I am and how I see this world. (Which I'm told is quite different from most people.) It forces me to wrestle with God quite often. I am thankful for that.

I have done many things that I should never have done...i.e. Really STUPID sins. God was not happy to see me involved in them, but he let me wallow in them for a season. My health still may pay a price for things I have done in the past. This has helped me to see how desperately I need a massive salvation from a massive savior. I am thankful for that.

I am frustrated in my career path at present. I am not doing what I would wish to do. Yet, God has put me in a place that does help me get by...which is a lot better than many in this current recession. More importantly, God has been teaching me many, many things about his kingdom in my current situation. He has also made me love/Agape a few folks that I would not have been able to without this. I am thankful for that.

God drives me crazy! I drive myself even more crazy. There are things in my life and head that I struggle with all the time. I want to live a life that is pleasing to God, yet I can't seem to go more than a minute or two before some sinful thought creeps in my mind. There are things in my life that I struggle with every day to turn over to Jesus. My "Old Man" sinful nature and will fight with all their strength to keep me from turning these things over to Jesus. I want him to take away all of my sinful notions and schemes, yet they remain. It makes me struggle with God every morning when I wake up. I am thankful for that.

If all of the hard things in my life force me to wrestle, to struggle, with YHWH so that someday down the road I look more and more like him, then it is a very good thing indeed. I guess that is what is meant by "The Process of Sanctification." If I wake up and have to force myself to sit down and pray a little and meditate on the bible for a few minutes, then it means I am alive. If my sinful nature resists, then it means I must be going down the right path. If I am forced to confront my willfulness, then it means that God's Spirit is in me because even though my flesh is weak, my spirit is indeed willing. So I AM thankful for that.

I am thankful for all of the good things I have that are beyond count. But I am also very, very thankful for all of the hard stuff too. Thank you.

Most of all, despite me being beyond a handful, and quite often a very stupid, selfish ingrate of a man, you love me anyway. I am VERY thankful for that.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.



P.S. Every Thanksgiving Minnesota Public Radio plays a program called "Giving Thanks." The program varies from year to year, but they always end it with talk that the British actor Charles Laughton gave ages ago at some theater. He tells the story of when he first saw the Cathedral of Chartres. I love this story. So today when it came on, sure enough I got in my Barbie Jeep...which I love, and went for a ride to listen to it.

If you are inclined, you can find the entire program here. --->

Otherwise, you can simply listen to the story below. It's a bit long, but well worth it. Laughton is one of those guys you would listen to reciting the phone book.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


<--- Translation = "God is with us." This is the belt buckle that the German army wore while invading, raping and burning Europe under the leadership of the Nazis.

"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"

"Neither," he replied, but as commander of the army of YHWH I have now come." Joshua 5: 13 & 14

Last Sunday Pastor Scott was preaching in Joshua, and part of the sermon included this portion. I was struck by how the Angel responded to Joshua's question. This was going to be the first major battle for Israel after they had crossed the Jordan river to take possession of the land. I figure that Josh was a bit on the nervous side about all of this, so his question to this stranger with a weapon in his hand seems perfectly logical to me.

I'll come back to it in a moment, but first to say how the story ends. Most likely anyone who went to Sunday School knows that The Israelites marched around the city of Jericho for 7 days. On that last day, they marched around the city 7 times, blew their trumpets, the people shouted, and Jericho's walls collapsed. BOO-YA! The Israelites really didn't have to do much at all...and I think that may have been the point. God was demonstrating his power to the people that he chose for himself.

Now back to the Angel...

Joshua asks him whose side he is on. The Angel says "Neither."

I think that this response says a great deal about the God of the bible. Why would the Angel be on anyone's side but Gods? Ultimately, maybe it means that God isn't on anyone's side but his own. And before that sounds like a complaint or judgement, let me say for the record that as uncomfortable that might make me, I think that YHWH has every right to be like that. He IS God after all. If you are prefect and holy, why would you be on anyone's side but your own?

Maybe a better question to ask is, "Are we on God's side?"

So YHWH makes Israel march around a city for a few days playing trumpets. Then YHWH makes the walls of the city collapse. I think he may have been trying to make the point that he didn't need them, but they REALLY needed him. If you are the perfect and holy supreme being of the universe, it stands to reason that you might want to point that out every so often to a bunch of sinful people who have a tendency to think they are all that and a bag of chips...which includes you & I, by the way.

There is a common complaint that bugs me. In one form or another I will here people say something along the following lines when telling me why they reject the God of the bible; "I don't want to worship a god like that." Or, "I would never worship a god that does things like that."

Seriously, that is such a stupid argument if you think about it.

It's the equivalent of living in Minnesota and saying "I refuse to believe in a January that's cold." It just IS, OK so get over it. If there really is a Supreme Being, then it isn't up to me or you to decide what that Being is like. We don't get to set or dictate terms to that Supreme Being. We are just finite, mortal humans. Does a two year old get to order her parent around? If the God portrayed in the bible is who he claims to be, then he has every right to do whatever he sees fit. I can dislike it all I want, but it doesn't change reality.

I admit that I have my frustrations with God all the time. There are things that happen that I don't like. But if I am honest with myself, these frustrations come from a lack of understanding, and that, in turn, points to my own limitations as a mere human.

As for the bible, I have a hard time with much of the killing that went on. It kind of creeps me out that God would tell the Israelites to wipe out almost every living thing in Palestine. To be fair though, God warned them that if they didn't, those other people in the promised land would be a poison to Israel and lure her into idolatry. (Surprise, surprise, guess what happened?)

Also, way back in Genesis 15, God informed Abram that his great-great grandkids would be enslaved for 400 years before making it to Palestine to do this bloody mission. YHWH ends his talk with Abram with an explanation as to why it had to be so; "For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached it's full measure." (Gen. 15:16)

To me, that is fascinating. For starters it displays God's foreknowledge. Second, it displays God's patience and mercy. In essence, one can look at that statement and see that YHWH was giving the people in Canaan 400 years to repent and avoid punishment. But it also shows that YHWH knew that they wouldn't. Because of that, in the end, he orders Israel to wipe them out.
I'm still uncomfortable with that, but I have to concede that maybe God knows a few things I don't.

To put it in perspective: I don't know about you, but when that guy started turning into my lane WHILE I was still there yesterday, and almost causing an accident, I wasn't going to give him 400 years to repent. (Another reason I do not "Conceal & Carry.")

Humanities biggest problem with God stems from the original sin. We want to be God. We do! We STILL want to be God. We don't like the things God does because we wouldn't do them. We would be different and do a better job. But then again, we probably wouldn't volunteer to become sin itself and be crucified either.

The next big sin that humans seem to fall into after wanting to be God, is when we assume that God is always on our side. (Like a nice, quiet guest in the passenger seat that lets you blare what ever music you want, as loud as you want, and never utters a word.) It's this attitude that drives me the most crazy because I see it all the time.

<--- "In God we trust." Really? Since when??? When has America, or ANY other kingdom of man ever truly put it's trust in God? Do we think by stamping that on our money we are somehow more righteous than other countries? We may as well put that on our belt buckles for a good luck charm the next time we go to war. (Teddy Roosevelt wanted to take that off our money because he thought it was blasphemous. I agree with Teddy.)

I don't even like seeing "God Bless America" on bumper stickers. Who are we, who is anyone, to insist that God should bless us? I would much prefer a bumper sticker that said "MAY God PLEASE bless us," OR "America, praise YHWH." It just strikes me as such arrogance and presumption.

Why in the world should the sovereign "Holy One" ever have to be on anyone or any countries' side? If he chooses to for what ever reason, that's his business. But if you ask me if God is on our side versus China for being the strongest country on earth, my answer would be "Neither!"

Unfortunately, there is also plenty of arrogance in the American church, too.

<--- You may have to click on this cartoon to read the small print. The point it's making is that so many "Christians" out there seem to believe that they are the ones who have Jesus all figured out. They are the ones who have the "Correct" theology and "True" biblical interpretation. Jesus is, indeed, lucky to have them. And thankfully, due to their proper understanding of the bible, God is surely on their side in all matters of being. After all, YHWH owes them because they do it right.

I have been told that, at best, I am a second-class christian because I do not speak in tongues, I'm not a Calvinist, I'm not a Catholic, I'm not Lutheran, I'm not whatever. I'm not an Arminian either, but for some reason they don't throw as many rocks as Reformed-types do.

I've grown up Baptist, and still am. I did notice a bit of smugness on my part when I was younger. "Those silly Lutherans & Presbyterians with their Confirmation classes. If they came to MY church, they wouldn't have to do that." Thankfully I've grown out of that.

I am a mortal, finite, sinful man. Who am I to assume that God is on my side at any given moment? Who am I to challenge God? I don't really think he cares all that much if like or don't like what he does and may do. I think that maybe what he hopes is that I will simply trust him that he knows what he is doing. It makes me itchy when I realize that. No one really enjoys not being in control of their situation and circumstances. But in the end, that's reality.

God doesn't have to be on my side. I'm the one who has to be on his side. That's where he wants me to be, and that is where I will be safe. Why should I expect anything else?

So one more time; if you ask me if God is on my side, your side, this countries' side or that countries' side, I'll just say "Neither." So let's call the whole thing off.



Thursday, November 17, 2011



Yes, yes, yes, I am inviting any & all readers of this post & blog to a "Carnival!" And I am very serious. So allow me to explain.

A few days ago, I jumped into a written discussion with a friend of mine. He essentially had asked why so many "Christians" get all worked up when many of us demand and work for "Social Justice" and start screaming about Socialism. It generated many, many comments. Since I have a big mouth that can't seem to stay shut, I offered my piece, then added some follow-up, and eventually my thoughts on how we make decisions based on notions & concepts we simply take for granted. And it went like this...

BTW: the concept of the "Individual" is a fairly "Western" concept that comes out of the Enlightenment. It certainly has very little in common with the Hebrew mindset that the Bible was written in, or that Jesus proclaimed his kingdom in. To often, we interpret scripture in light of our cultural background unconsciously. That results in us taking the bible out of context. (Not to worry, though. Every culture is guilty of that from time to time.)


Actually, it's kind of funny when you start digging beneath the surface of our beliefs. We make assumptions for our biblical beliefs based on many layers of unconscious cultural foundation. Christianity in America has layers of Puritan-style "Calvinist" Protestantism. (Hence the whole "Work Ethic" thing) But also has deeper influences from the Enlightenment movement (Which was completely secular, and even "Anti-Faith") which heavily influenced our founders. And THEN, you even have the whole "Grecco/Roman" system of Platonic thought (I.E. Hints of "Gnosticism" so prevalent in our emphasis on "Orthodoxy/Head Knowledge" over "Orthopraxy") that slowly co-opted the church after it became the "Official" religion of the Empire, and later European kingdoms. All in all, we seem to continue to drift away from the mindset of the writers of the bible, which we NEED to understand to keep the scriptures in proper cultural context...otherwise we are unfaithful in both "Orthodoxy" AND "Orthopraxy."

Quite a mouthful, I know.

Anyway, my friend got the idea that we should have a "Blog Carnival." Essentially, this means that a whole group of folks out there who like to blog will pick a topic, write their take on it, and then include links to ALL of the others in the group who were also writing on the subject. So, YOU ARE INVITED! The topic is going to be on "Subconscious Cultural Assumptions," which is a fancy-shmancy way of saying "We simply believe & agree with certain things without ever questioning why we believe them." (And often times, those beliefs are built on flimsy foundations.)

The crazy person who came up with this whole idea is Iggy who writes this blog ---> He also sent me this comment and explanation on our topic. I did some research on "Subconscious Cultural Assumption" and find it fascinating and wondering why more people don't take this into consideration when reading the Bible. If you have a blog and want to promote it, this is a great way to do so and also to meet new friends around the blogosphere. Don't let the topic scare you off. Your post can be on any aspect of the topic. Also, we are not wanting a complete dissertation, as I recommend keeping your posts around 400 to 1000 words (1000 would be a long post). I also recommend citing sources. However, there are no rules so have fun and enjoy writing.

Listen, I know that there are other bloggers out there who read my goofy rants, even if you never post a comment. I would like ya'll in on this. So if you want to participate, either leave a note in the comments section that includes a link to your blog, or send me an e-mail at Fret not if ye thinks ye be not sucheth a fine tiller of the quill. Let's just have some fun. It will be a week or more before we get going on this because we would like to assemble a decent sized group. (It's also a great way to get your blog noticed)

Come on folks, let's do this. :)

And since my trademark is to always include a fitting song for each post, here ya be...

And if you enjoy Merry-Go-Rounds and other Calliopes...

Finally, if that last one wasn't enough to convince you to join, I shall offer this meaty, head banging tune to try to sway you...

"Come Aboard!"



Monday, November 14, 2011

Talkin' bout my (Parent's) Generation...

I have seen plenty of frustration since the crash of the (Mostly "Western"...except for Canada.) world economy a few years back. Anytime things go in the toilet, people are upset...rightly so, but they often look to the nearest thing to take the blame for it all. The fact of the matter is, it is generally MUCH more complicated than that.

And the fact of the matter is ALSO that there are plenty of other things for us to be frustrated about. We have two wars going which were paid for on credit cards. We refuse to try ANY repairs to the tax code...because the wealthy should never, under any circumstances, pay a bit more. We have roughly 30 million fellow American citizens without health care. Our infrastructure is slowly, but surely, falling apart...

And I'll stop now.

Anyway, I read a very good Op-Ed piece this morning from the Washington Post by a fellow named Thomas L. Day. He was a guest writer, and it was posted on Veteran's Day. I'm just going to steal the whole thing, because I thought it was so well written...and let you decide for yourself. I'll post a link to the proper article here --->
I don't agree with everything, but his tone is EXACTLY how I feel about my previous generation. (Not my folks...they warned me about this coming...but I didn't listen)

Anyway, here is what he had to say...

Penn State, my final loss of faith

I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his "Second Mile Foundation."

And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my parents’ generation.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno arrives home Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, in State College, Pa. (Matt Rourke - AP)

I was never harmed by Sandusky, but I could have been. When I was 15, my mother, then looking for a little direction for her teenage son, introduced me to the Second Mile’s Friend Fitness program. It was a program resembling Big Brother, Big Sister with a weekly exercise regimen.

Instead of Sandusky’s care, I was sent to a group of adults, many of whom were in their 20s. They took me from a C-student to the University of Chicago, where I’m a master’s student now. They took the football team’s waterboy and made a 101st Airborne Division soldier.

I was one of the lucky ones. My experience with Second Mile was a good one. I should feel fortunate, blessed even, that I was never harmed. Yet instead this week has left me deeply shaken, wondering what will come of the foundation, the university, and the community that made me into a man.

One thing I know for certain: A leader must emerge from Happy Valley to tie our community together again, and it won’t come from our parents’ generation.

They have failed us, over and over and over again.

I speak not specifically of our parents -- I have two loving ones -- but of the public leaders our parents’ generation has produced. With the demise of my own community’s two most revered leaders, Sandusky and Joe Paterno, I have decided to continue to respect my elders, but to politely tell them, “Out of my way.”

They have had their time to lead. Time’s up. I’m tired of waiting for them to live up to obligations.

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.

We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. I remember telling my college roommates, in a spate of emotion, that I was thinking of enlisting in the military in the days after the attacks. I expected legions of us -- at the orders of our leader -- to do the same. But nobody asked us. Instead we were told to "Go Shopping."

The times following September 11th called for leadership, not reckless, gluttonous tax cuts. But our leaders then, as now, seemed more concerned with flattery. Then -House Majority Leader and now-convicted felon Tom Delay told us,"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." Not exactly Churchillian stuff.

Those of us who did enlist were ordered into Iraq on the promise of being "Being greeted as Liberators," in the words of our then-vice president. Several thousand of us are dead from that false promise.

We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage. In the Catholic Church, we were told to blame the media, not the abusive priests, not the bishops, not the Vatican, for making us feel that our church has failed us in its sex abuse scandal and cover-up.

Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess. They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street.

Now we are asking for jobs and are being told we aren’t good enough, to the tune of 3.3 million unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34.

This failure of a generation is as true in the halls of Congress as it is at Penn State.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration this week of our leaderless culture came with the riots in State College that followed Paterno’s dismissal. The display resembled Lord of the Flies. Without revered figures from the older generation to lead them, thousands of students at one of the country’s best state universities acted like children home alone.

This week the world found the very worst of human nature in my idyllic Central Pennsylvania home. I found that a man my community had anointed a teacher and nurturer of children, instead reportedly had them hiding in his basement. The anger and humiliation were more than I could bear. I can’t wait for my parents’ generation’s "Joshua" any longer. They’ve lost my faith.

I just thought that this was an interesting statement to make. That's all. I get plenty frustrated too...more than you know.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just something I've noticed...

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."
Eph. 4:1-6

Before I begin, I have to set some stuff up first, so...

#1. I have a theory that Believers often base their theology as much, if not more so, on their personalities and/or "The way their brain is wired," as much as they do the "Truth" that they see in scripture. When you get past the basics of Christianity, you can get into some odd stuff with lots of nuance. That's when I am fairly convinced that my theory kicks in.

#2. What I originally was going to post is actually very brief. However, to give a decent context to it, I have to offer a semi-lengthy back story. So here goes...

The "EmergING Church" or "EmergENT Church" is a term that can cause many to go into fits & seizures at the very mention. At my old church, I first heard that phrase mentioned in hushed tones as though one were speaking of Suaron in Lord of the Rings. I didn't know a thing about it, and I really didn't pay much attention.

So a few years later, I was at my local "Christian" bookstore and the manager there told me about this guy named Rob Bell. I ended up taking a chance and buying his video "The Gods Aren't Angry." It blew me away. I had never, ever heard the Gospel presented in such a creative and beautiful way before. Naturally, I became a fan...and according to some out there, I also became a HERETIC!

For the record: Never, ever tell me that I should stay away from any particular thing, idea, book, whatever, because it is "Controversial." That's like waving a red flag in front of a bull for me.

Anyway, so I get all excited about Rob and his stuff. I get more videos, a few of his books, and I even start downloading podcasts from Mars Hill where he preaches. I had no idea that Rob was supposed to be controversial at that time. I've yet to ever fully agree with any theologian or pastor anyway, and since that's never bothered me I didn't toss out Rob just because I didn't see eye-to-eye with some of his thoughts. I just thought he was really onto something in the way he presented the Gospel to people who are really, really jaded.

I end up talking to Pastor Scott at Living Waters about my new discovery and he breaks the news to me about all the controversy around Rob Bell AND this relatively new movement with the title "Emergent" in it. Thankfully, Living Waters is a church founded on grace, so we tend to withhold judgment on certain things to watch and see if the Holy Spirit is present in whatever it may be. As a result we have all types of folks in attendance, from Semi-Fundie to mildly charismatic. Still, there are some who frown a bit on the whole emergent thing. (Largely due to a bad experience in some form...which I can certainly understand.)

I figured that I should do some exploring of this movement so that if asked I could give an informed opinion. (Honestly, most folks who speak on any given subject really haven't bothered to do their homework. I come off pretty dim a good deal of the time anyway, so I figured I wouldn't add more fuel to that fire.) It's been about 3 years since I began to look into all of it, and I have come to some conclusions.

And Here They Be:

#1. The whole "Emerging/Emergent" movement is so big & broad that it is simply silly to pigeon hole it with a blank statement. You might as well try the same thing with terms like "Protestant," "Free-Enterprise" or even "Freedom of Speech." You come off sounding very ignorant indeed. (Which might just qualify you as Rick Perry's debate coach.)

Anyway, here is an example of what I mean by coming off sounding foolish.

Please understand, I have profound respect for John Piper. He is my christian brother. (I used to attend HIS church.) But I also have profound differences of opinion with him. I find him to be a very brilliant thinker. That is why I find this statement so frustrating. He just blankets the entire thing with a trite response.

However, this leads me to the next thing I've noticed.

#2. There are, in fact, some very legitimate criticisms of aspects of the "Emergent" movement. However, what I have come to realize quite obviously is that the biggest problem many have with this movement is that the majority of people associated with it are NOT CALVINISTS!!! Seriously, that is the biggest issue with the most ardent critics like Piper, MacArthur and wise, yet sad & lonely weed known as Ken Silva...and I don't even think that they realize it. (Do a little digging in a person's brain the next time this is brought up for discussion. You'll see I'm right on this.)

Most critics are not starting from a position of objective "Truth." They are starting from a theological position constructed roughly 500 years ago, and assuming that "It" is the truth, and all biblical orthodoxy flows from there. (So I guess you just toss out the first 1500 years of the church as a result.)

All of that lead me to notice one final thing that I found rather fascinating, and I've been thinking about it for a long time now...

I just wish I had some way to put up a flow chart on this thing. In the mean time,
Just try to draw a picture of this in your head.

Obviously Jesus is the heart & soul of Christianity. So picture him in the center of a circle. Now, to the right of Jesus put Calvinists, to the left put Arminians. (This isn't going to be a perfect example, but I think you'll get the idea.)

Calvinists--->Orthodoxy/"Right Thinking"--->Conservative Politically--->
Fundies--->Separatist/"Fortress Church" mentality.

Syncretist/"Watered Down" Church<---Emergent<---Politically Liberal<---
Orthopraxy/"Right Actions"<---Arminians.

(If someone knows how to put that on a chart that can be put on the blog and e-mail it to me, I'd really appreciate it.)

Obviously, that's a pretty blunt breakdown of what I've noticed. Also, there will always be exceptions. I had a Prof back at Bethel who was a hard-core Calvinist who was also an avowed Socialist. Still, after watching all of this for a couple of years now, I have to say that this really is what I see.

If you are a Calvinist, you will tend to lean to the right on most issues, and kind of slide down that slope from time to time. Arminians tend to go in the opposite direction. What is most fascinating to me is that most of us...myself included, do all of it unconsciously. It rarely occurs to most people how our "Truth" is built upon a many layered foundation that we simply take for granted.

It should also be fully noted that going too far in any direction can result in being a long, long way from Jesus. (And that ain't good.)

Where ever we may be in our walk with Christ, we do need to bear each other in love. We need to be humble. Jesus ultimately is "The Truth," not our finite little theologies. None of us is wise enough to think we have the God of the universe nailed down. And there is not one person out there that will ever have the Bible so fully figured out that he/she can think they have every answer. (Unless you are John MacArthur.) In the mean time, just keep the love. Because there is only one Lord for all of us.

Anyone interested in more info on the "Emerging/Emergent" church can check out this link. I found it to be a fairly good overview.


Never treat your theological distinctions as your weapon of choice to beat up your fellow Believers. Which brings up an obvious song to end this post with.

Hey, it's just a thought.