The Case for Biblical Interpretation

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Jun 032016
 

biblechainsI spend too much time on Facebook following a conservative United Methodist page. I often post articles which I know will elicit strong responses, and I have to laugh at some of the mental gymnastics some of these people (many clergy) go through to justify their “Bible-believing” positions. A recent exchange serves as a good example of why we can’t always apply a literal interpretation of the Bible to today’s world, and why discernment is critical when you try to use the Bible to support a position.

A typical argument had arisen related to LGBT marriage equality, and the usual claims were being made about sexuality and orientation, and the Bible’s “specificity” about how wrong being gay is. There was some discussion about Paul going off on a slight tangent, and one of the saner members of the page posed the following: Continue reading »

Trump and Religion

 Election, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Religion, Society  Comments Off on Trump and Religion
Aug 292015
 
media/2016/08/doucebagbutton.jpg
This entry is part 15 of 24 in the series Daily Douche-Bag
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

I can’t think of much that makes me angrier than politicians, on either side of the aisle, who try to use religion to advance their political careers. To a one, most (especially Republicans) claim to be “Christian,” but then behave nothing like a Christian. They do all they can to kill the social safety net, ignoring that whole Sermon on the Mount thing about “blessed are the poor,” and the many parts about caring the widow and orphan (according to the Bible, the real sin of Sodom). They agitate for war at every turn, ignoring that whole, “blessed are the peacemakers,” and loving your neighbor stuff.

Marco Rubio may be champion of it. His religion has changed frequently over time, depending on which denomination best suits his political aims the time. And now, Donald Trump has basically been caught in a lie about his personal convictions.

We start with him making a big thing in an interview about how religious he is, about how much he loves the Bible, about how he really likes both Testaments equally, and how he reads it all the time. I’d say, then the wheels come off, but they were never even actually on. Listen to the brief excerpt of the interview below: Continue reading »

The Literal Inerrant Bible

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Jul 222015
 

As the teacher of an Adult Sunday School for a few years now, I’ve had to do a lot of study, and while I’m not biblical scholar, there is one things I am absolutely certain about…the Bible is not literal nor is it inerrant. There, I said it. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the Bible as Holy Canon, but it could not be applied to our lives today were it to be taken literally. A video by Mike Huckabee (hereinafter referred to as “the Hukster”) makes that point.

Let’s start with the video (don’t worry, it’s short):

Now let’s look at the verse he’s using here. He quotes from 2 Chronicles 7:14, but I think you have to include verse 13 as well. Here are the verses from the New International Version (NIV): Continue reading »

Christian Values – Burn Another's Holy Book

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Jul 302010
 

Just incredible is about all I can say. Gainesville’s Dove World Church, made famous last year for its “No Homo Mayor” campaign, is planning to burn Korans on September 11th.

According to this “Christian Pastor,” it’s OK to burn a Koran because it’s not the Christian holy book, but can you imagine the tantrum and outrage that would follow if a Muslim group planned the same thing for the Bible.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPwJUwQwPiY]

It makes me understand how Anne Rice (after a lifetime as an observant Catholic) can put the following on her Facebook page:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

I can understand her place. It grows increasingly difficult to see people like this pastor wrap themselves in the flag and some sort of militaristic religious ramblings (and there are far too many people who claim Jesus’ message of neighborly love only just so far), and keep up any belief in or desire to associate with them. I would have phrased it differently. I don’t think I could ever quit being Christian, but my reservations about “religion” are growing almost daily.

Christian Values – Burn Another’s Holy Book

 Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Christian Values – Burn Another’s Holy Book
Jul 302010
 

Just incredible is about all I can say. Gainesville’s Dove World Church, made famous last year for its “No Homo Mayor” campaign, is planning to burn Korans on September 11th.

According to this “Christian Pastor,” it’s OK to burn a Koran because it’s not the Christian holy book, but can you imagine the tantrum and outrage that would follow if a Muslim group planned the same thing for the Bible.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPwJUwQwPiY]

It makes me understand how Anne Rice (after a lifetime as an observant Catholic) can put the following on her Facebook page:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

I can understand her place. It grows increasingly difficult to see people like this pastor wrap themselves in the flag and some sort of militaristic religious ramblings (and there are far too many people who claim Jesus’ message of neighborly love only just so far), and keep up any belief in or desire to associate with them. I would have phrased it differently. I don’t think I could ever quit being Christian, but my reservations about “religion” are growing almost daily.

A Discussions of Pauls Letter to the Romans as Concerns Homosexuality

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Jun 252010
 

This is being written as a comment to post at The Cloak Room in response to a commenter there.

So, what is going on and who is being spoken to and about in Romans 1?  The book was written as a letter by Paul somewhere between 54 to 58 AD while he was living in Corinth. It was carried by Priscilla  to the church in Rome; Paul would not even visit Rome himself for another five years. The letter was written about twenty five years after the death of Jesus.  Amongst the one million people in Rome were: Jews, Jews who had converted to Christianity and Gentiles who had converted to Christianity.  Jerusalem was about 1,500 miles away, a fair distance for a church plant.

It is believed that both Jews and converted Jews were meeting in the same synagogues and competing for voice and space in the time following the death of Christ. They were arguing and fighting (just as they did back in Jerusalem.)  Discussions  and tensions over  observances of the Law, what to eat, what not to eat and controversy over inclusion of Gentiles escalated to great distur-bances amongst the Jews and Jewish Christians. The on-going fighting resulted in the issuance of the Claudian Edict of 49 AD. Jews, converted Jewish Christians and Gentiles “that lived as Jewish Christians ” were expelled from Rome. This left behind the Gentile converts that were meeting in house churches. The remnant was the weakest of the believers. These were the ones who remained in Rome. These were the ones spoken to and of in Romans 1:18-32.

So imagine, both your family and the ancestors before you had participated in idolatry and god worship and you have now converted to this  religion of one God with all new ways of approaching Him.  Your spiritual leaders had been evicted from the city and  you had been trying to live out this one-God faith in the midst of many-gods Rome. It would be easy to slip back into the old ways?

Traditional worship and cultural behaviors in Rome clashed with the expectations  of the believers in the newly introduced Christianity. Romans deified more than 20 types of gods, goddesses and spirits. They worshiped natural things-animals and trees, gods and godesses, State leaders and they were tolerant of other cultural influences from Greek and Egyptian spiritual practices. Idolatry, indecency and other acts socially unacceptable to a Jew were common within the Roman society.

Verse 26 we quote as condemnation on lesbians. But is it? The people being spoken to and about had known God; they were without excuse, they had experienced conversion. Now, they were worshiping nature, natural things and the gods of the State again. They were involved (again) in idol worship and some of it had sexual expressions. They also participated in culturally acceptable practices to  a Roman, but, not to a Jewish Christian. It was what they had known before. They lacked the modeling and support of the converted Jews and the stronger Gentile Christians who had  been evicted.

Because of  this, God gave them over to their own desires. What is the “this“? What were they doing that forced a Holy God to let go of them?  They had turned from God, having known Him, and returned to their idolatrous worship. Because they had known God and turned their back on Him and returned to pagan worship, God let them  go.

And what kinds of actions were they doing once they turned back to their old ways?  The Word says women had exchanged the natural use of their body for an unnatural use. Please look at the verse for yourself. Does it say women were having sex with women?  It could mean that, but it simply says  women were doing something unnatural with their bodies. Remember this was Paul writing and it is his view as a Jewish convert as to what is unnatural or beyond the ordinary. It could have been sex with other women, sex during menstruation,  oral sex or sex with an uncircumcised man. Any or all of those. All of these behaviors were “unnatural” to a Jewish Christian.

Maybe you still dont’ get that the crux of the sentencing that follows  is turning from God after professing  Him. If we reduce the verses to what the traditional view is, let’s look at the words and see if just the actions of men having sex with men, or women having sex with women is enough to garner God’s eternal damnation. Some Bibles will translate “shameful lusts” as “vile affections” and that does sound bad. You can only get a better concept of this by looking at original language and not translations. “Vile” comes from the Greek word  “atimai” which means infamy, indignity, dishonor, reproach and shame and we further see that it is subjective. That seems interesting, why is that subjective?     Continue reading »

Scaring People to Christianity

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Apr 072010
 

Easter Sunday afternoon me and Lay went to his parent’s farm down in Ruskin to hide Easter eggs and eat. At one point, I was running to a nearby Walgreens to pickup a couple of items. I was stopped at the traffic waiting to turn in and noticed a young man on the corner holding a large sign and his Bible.

He had a nice PVC frame and the sign must have been about five feet wide by four feet high. On it was a gruesome picture of a person in tattered and burned clothing standing in a pool of blood dripping from all over him. Sitting in the foreground of the picture on a raised seat was an image of Jesus, a stern look on his face with an outstretched finger pointed accusingly at the other figure.

There were, as you can imagine, some words about hell and damnation, but I can’t remember them specifically. Having grown up in the funeral business (and having been a funeral director in the past), I spent my fair share of time in churches of every description, and I’ve certainly heard hell-fire and brimstone sermons. I even remember some “revivals” in my day with some pretty strong and damning language.

For some reason I was really struck on this day by this man’s sign. I realized I felt sorry for him. Sorry that his experience was one where one becomes a Christian (is saved) out of fear…where Jesus is the Grand Inquisitor. Unfortunately, that is the experience of so many people, especially those on the extreme Christian right. If you listen to their theology and their sermons, and get them to admit their real reasons for professing Christianity, it’s not because they want to live a better life. It’s not because they believe it’s a way to help them be better more caring people. It’s because they have been scared into believing that not believing sends one to a hellish afterlife, sentenced by an angry God.

The Prophet MicahThey have this apocalyptic theology based primarily in the book of Revelation, but it is also in that book we find in Chapter 3 Verse 20 these words, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (New Living Translation) My personal favorite verse is Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” And this from a book in which the prophet warms of the wrath of God on the Jewish people.

Where was God’s anger directed in Micah? The prophet sums it up for us in chapter 3, verse 11: “Its heads [its rulers] give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; {Mic 3:11a RSV}..” Throughout the Bible, God’s anger was directed at leaders who fail to care for their people, and see to their well-being. And his condemnation for the rest of us is directed at those of us who turn a blind eye to “the least of us.”

Read the two verses above. The angry God of the Old Testament invites us to walk with him, and the Jesus of the New Testament gently knocks, and asks to share a meal as a friend. This is not the God of the ultra-conservative right-wing Christians. They live in fear of God and possible condemnation, and soothe themselves not by caring and sharing, but by trying to make everyone else appear even less worthy than they.

What a sad state of affairs for those people, and what a sad state they create in our world with that view. Me, I prefer the idea of a Jesus who is a friend. Someone who cares about others, and calls us, as he did, to take care of one another. It is the piousness that usually brought about the wrath of God.

Book of Eli, The – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Religion  Comments Off on Book of Eli, The – A Movie Review
Jan 222010
 

The Book of Eli Movie PosterIn the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America. Empty cities, broken highways, seared earth–all around him, the marks of catastrophic destruction. There is no civilization here, no law. The roads belong to gangs that would murder a man for his shoes, an ounce of water… or for nothing at all.

But they’re no match for this traveler.  A warrior not by choice but necessity, Eli seeks only peace but, if challenged, will cut his attackers down before they realize their fatal mistake. It’s not his life he guards so fiercely but his hope for the future; a hope he has carried and protected for 30 years and is determined to realize. Driven by this commitment and guided by his belief in something greater than himself, Eli does what he must to survive–and continue.

But neither will find it easy to deter him. Nothing–and no one–can stand in his way. Eli must keep moving to fulfill his destiny and bring help to a ravaged humanity.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction; Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.; Release Date: January 15th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for some brutal violence and language.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals,

Directed By: Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes

This was Lay’s choice for this past weekend, but I wanted to see the movie also.

The movie takes place sometime in the future 30 years after “the big flash” seems to have destroyed most of the world. It’s shot in a Sepia tone, and primarily follows Denzel Washington’s character, Eli, as he makes his way towards the west coast to deliver a book that will somehow help renew humanity.

Ultimately, Eli comes across a rough western town run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman of “True Romance”) who is desperately searching for the Bible. He wants the book for the power that comes with it that he plans to exploit for his own selfish gain. He has been sending amoral ruffians out to scour the earth for a Bible. Ironically, the very book–the Bible–that Eli has been led to preserve for posterity was burned. He tells us in one scene that many people blamed the Bible for the destruction of society. Nothing remains of a once affluent society that had too much for its own good and obliterated it because it could not come to terms with religion. The survivors of the war destroyed Bibles because they felt that religion triggered the catastrophe. When Carnegie discovers Eli has the Bible, he resolves to take it away from him.

The cinematography is very good, and sets the motif well for the movie. A stark and forbidding landscape is portrayed well, and frankly, it made me feel dry. The acting was good with Denzel playing a typical character for him as the quiet but explosive hero. Oldman carries the movie coming across as sinister yet portraying an appropriately strange sense of humor. Kunis’ character is mainly meaningless and provides only an excuse for Eli to explain his mission. Her acting is overdone.

Frankly, the film severely over-inflates the influence of the Bible, especially in light of how it’s treated at the end of the movie.

Overall, this movie is probably worth watching, but wait until it is out on video.

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Trolling for an Assassination

 Politics, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on Trolling for an Assassination
Nov 182009
 

From time to time I have a discussion of politics with someone at work. He’s very much a conservative Republican.  Yesterday our discussion went to how far off the cliff the most extreme elements of the right-wing have gone. He kept insisting there were extremists on the left as well.

I made the point to him that I agreed there were some on the left so as extreme as to be somewhat embarrassing, but the difference was that I’d bet him dinner he couldn’t find reliable reporting on or Youtube videos of left-wing people going to the steps of the Justice Department for the express purpose of trying to incite someone to beat the crap out of a gay person. I challenged him to find a story of a left leaning person who had killed a doctor, or a Youtube of Democratic Congressperson taking to the floor of the U.S. House and calling the death of the college student a “hoax” with the mother of the student in the gallery. He cut short to conversation.

And now come forth the Psalmists. Apparently they are now printing the phrase, “Psalm 109,” on mouse pads, bumper stickers, and even teddy bears. The Biblical verse Psalm 109: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children become fatherless; and his wife become a widow.” Frank Schaeffer, a one-time evangelical leader, tells Rachael Maddow that this latest Bible-quoting campaign is nothing short of “trawling for assassins.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RanLiv87Xa8]

The hate is just beyond belief and frightening, but even more frightening is the lack of outcry from the leading ministers and clerics against such activities.

The Conservative Bible – Because Jesus Was Just Too Liberal

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Oct 092009
 

Turns out the Bible is just too progressive in its views for some.  So the Conservative Bible Project has been formed to use Wiki technology to create a whole new, and more conservative, translation of the Bible.

The group cites a few reasons why the Bible is too progressive: “Lack of precision in the original language … lack of precision in modern language” and “translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.” Because you know those darned liberal monks back in the days of King James just didn’t really understand the ancient biblical languages. Who knew.kjb8

According to an article on Salon.com:

Some of Conservapedia’s denizens, apparently including Schlafly, have been working on a new version of the Gospel of Mark. That has involved, at times, trying to come up with more modern terms for the Pharisees, a group of Jews who are often seen in the New Testament as Jesus’ antagonists. There’s been a bit of debate about what to call them — one contributor used “intellectuals,” for instance, while another said, “In an effort to capture the flavor for conservatives, I suggest changing Pharisees to ‘the Self-Proclaimed Elite’ or maybe just ‘the Elite.’ Given modern culture, I think this is more accessible and has a less benign/neutral connotation than ‘intellectuals.'”

Another contributor had a better term: “Liberals.” That’s led to verses like this one, for now Conservapedia’s version of Mark 3:6:

The Liberals then fled from the scene to plot with Herod’s people against Jesus, and plan how they might destroy him.

Sorry folks, but Jesus was basically a socialist, and was very liberal and progressive, but of course, whoever said Conservatives cared about the truth. You entitled to your own opinion, but not your own set of facts.

Hotels Now Offering Sex Kits Instead of Bibles?

 Religion, Right Wingnuts  Comments Off on Hotels Now Offering Sex Kits Instead of Bibles?
Nov 182007
 

This must be from the “are you shitting me” category. Krazy Kristian Kook, Don Wildmon, of the American Family Association is now warning that hotels are taking out the Gideon Bibles in favor so “intimacy kits.” In one of their many “Action Alerts,” Wildmon raises the alarm based on the following?

For instance, at New York City’s trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy a gourmet mini-bar, an iPod, a flat-screen TV and even the company of a complimentary pet goldfish.

OK, I guess the mini-bar can be used to get a little drunk, thus lowering inhibitions. I’m sure the iPod is loaded with that evil rock music that just makes people strip nekkid and have depraved sex, and of course the vile “all sex all the time” TV programming on Comedy Central is quite the marital aid, but for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out the complimentary pet goldfish.

I never really expected to write a post that included Goldfish, sex and iPods as tags. Leave it to good old Don to come through.