December 18, 2014

Saturday Ramblings 12.1.12

December? Did I hear the calendar turn to December? What year? You’re kidding me. It’s already December of this year? My oh my. Where has this year gone? If you are new to these pages, each week here at the iMonastery we grab the broom and clean up the leftovers, gleanings we were unable to get to during the week. And just because it’s December, don’t settle in for a long winter’s nap just yet. We have a lot of stories to discuss today. So buckle up … it’s time to ramble.

Where to begin? Honestly, I cannot make stuff like this up. Stuff like what? Well, there apparently is a vampire on the loose in a village in Serbia. Townspeople are encouraged to stock up on garlic. Really. That’s the kind of week it’s been.

And I’m not the only one who has noticed. I have received many stories from our fellow iMonks this week, like this from Randy Thompson about the sea in Australia turning “blood red,” turning tourists away. Could a plague of frogs be next? (And keep your Frenchmen jokes to yourselves, iMonks…)

Or brianthedad who came across this unique way one Ohio church is attempting to attract men to its services. God and guns, alive and well in my home state. What Would Jesus Shoot indeed …

And we haven’t even gotten to the weird stuff yet. I guess there is a TV show called Two And A Half Men. I’ve never watched it, and will die a happy man if I can keep that streak going. This week, one of the stars—the “half a man”—said the show is “filth” and encouraged others not to watch it. Seems young Angus Jones is now a Christian, and doesn’t feel it’s right to be a part of a show that is filled with sexual innuendo. In an interview with Christianity Today, he refers to himself as a “paid hypocrite.” CNN asks how many of us perform jobs that go against our beliefs. Good question.

Has it really been ten years since Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life was released? If you say so. But I don’t believe for a moment that one quarter of all American adults have read the thing. As I recall, I made it through about one chapter. You? Meanwhile, Warren is claiming that we are losing religious freedom under President Obama. Honestly, I am not seeing that, but I’m not really looking, either. Do you see any loss of religious liberty in the last four years?

My friend Scott Taylor (who bought me breakfast Thursday morning—thanks, Scott) alerted me to this video. I’m very ashamed to say this is a scene shot at midnight on Black Friday at the Woodland Hills Mall right where here in Tulsa. The store being mobbed? Victoria’s Secret. I don’t think we’re losing religious freedom as much as we are losing the battle to control our impulses. Or maybe just to act like human beings. Watch this if you can.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnu6yZKo7u8′]

Ready for a coffee break? Maybe a cuppa from Dunkin’ Donuts? Just don’t call it the best coffee in America or the gov’ment gonna get ya…(Besides, we all know the best coffee in America is served at the Boston Stoker in Dayton, Ohio.)

Millions of people participated this last week in voluntary taxation by playing the Powerball lottery. While tickets were selling at the rate of 100,000 per minute, CNN asked if it would be permissible to pray to win. So, did you play? And if so, did you pray to win?

You have got to read this. Really. A history of Catholics and smoking. I read things like this and think, “Why didn’t I write this?” I love the Jesuit answer to “Is it licit to smoke a cigar while praying?” You’ll have to read the article to find the answer. It’s brilliant.

And this is just sick. Again, thanks—I think—to Randy for pointing out that just when you think things can’t get any worse, the next issue of Charisma comes out. Salon then responded, making it even worse. Of course, we could be living in Germany, where—as our own Damaris Zehner alerted us to—sex with animals has been legal since 1969. Now animal rights groups are pushing to ban “actions alien to the species.” I know God said he would never again destroy the earth with a flood, but I haven’t seen a rainbow in a while. I wonder if he is reconsidering.

I guess with all this demon sex going on, it’s not surprising that the call for exorcists has increased dramatically.

In perhaps this week’s strangest news, Pat Robertson opened his mouth and made news again. And—this is the strange part—I agree with him. Do you?

Eagle-eyed rambler Adam Palmer spotted this piece at Slate. I think it is perhaps time we discuss whether donations to churches should be tax-deductible. You need to read this just for this one line: “Does God care about the splendor of the churches built in his honor and is he prepared to offer us tangible rewards in exchange for subsidizing them?”

I know this story is not as thrilling as demon sex or vampires running amuck, but I find something very interesting in reading about this group of Colombian Christians who converted to Judaism. Just a one-time thing, or the beginning of a new fad/trend?

Your Rambler is mourning the passing of two greats this week. First of all, the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living near Louisville, Kentucky is closing its doors for good. Money, or the lack thereof, is the cause. And Zig Ziglar, the most positive man in America, passed away this week. Zig was 86.

If it is the Christmas season, then it must be time for those who believe we must “take back” the holiday from those who would ruin it. Here is an ad being run by a group who wants you to remember that Christmas is about Baby Jesus who, apparently, is not yet potty trained.

Birthday greetings were shared this last week with William F. Buckley, Jr.; Paul Tagliabue; Donald Duck Dunn; Pete Best; Joe DiMaggio; Percy Sledge; Amy Grant; Charles Schultz; Tina Turner; John McVie; Jimi Hendrix; Joshua Harris; Berry Gordy, Jr.; Randy Newman; and Vin Scully.

Yes, I know Jimi Hendrix lived a very, very hard and rough life. I know he died of a drug overdose, choking to death on his own vomit. But if you don’t believe his gift was given him by God … The greatest person to ever pick up a guitar. Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuB76z1GTKs’]

 

Comments

  1. I still can’t believe what Pat Robertson said…AND that I am on the same page as him.

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph all the angels and saints….. I joked at Wartburg that I was going to get baptized tomorrow… :-P What has this world come to…?

    • Pat Robertson makes sensible theological remark we can all get behind – surely the End Times are at hand! ;-)

      • Randy Thompson says:

        This may explain why the sea turned to “blood” in Australia.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,
        It’s the End of the World as We Know It,
        It’s the End of the World as We Know It,
        And ah feel fine…”
        — R.E.M.

    • I agree with him, too. Unfortunately, this comment above all his previous ones may be the one which finally leads to his downfall.

    • Seriously. This whole “Pat Robertson saying something reasonable” thing has totally shattered my worldview…

  2. BTW….Jeff are we going to discuss Rachel Held Evans new book? And the reaction? I noticed that every Tom, Dick and Harry and The Gospel Coalition is going after her in a more aggressive manner that they have Rob Bell. I mean…even Tim Keller has his wife doing his dirty work in writing against her.

    Are we going to review and discuss?

    • I mean…yikes…it;s almost like Rachel Held Evans is the anti-Christ.

    • The Gospel Coalition is neither.

    • But if it is reviewed here, please read the book first! I read it and Keller and Kassian’s views are deliberately misleading –

      Keller: picks on RHE’s interpretation of the Bible, when Rachel herself said she was just going to live it out as literally as she could (as if one picked up the Bible and tried it literally at face value), pointing out the various groups who do take sections literally and live in a certain way because of them. So, Rachel didn’t interpret, she just followed. And showed everyone how everyone and their denomination picks and chooses what women should follow and what they should discard.
      The comment thread on her post acted like Rachel was all post-modern and calling faith ironic, she wasn’t, and she is hardly emergent-aloof in this book.

      Kassian: Acts like the whole book was avoiding her and what she stood for, despite RHE quoting CBMW comments from Piper and Gurdem. She misrepresents how Rachel lives out her year – Rachel takes what she was noticing in Christianity and comments on that, she doesn’t make her book a critique of Kassian’s POV.

      Anyway, all that to say that there is a huge disconnect between what the book says and what the big-time reviewers say it is. So, I really think people need to read it before they criticize it because the criticisms sound like they think those reviewers had good points – they didn’t, they completely missed the mark.

  3. I did pray to win…and I did…again.

    This is getting a bit embarrassing. Every time I pray to win the lotto…I do.

    Fortunately pay.gov exists where I can go to put it all towards our skyrocketing National Debt. First I bought that new Garden Weasel that I’ve had my eye on.

  4. Apparently Angus T. Jones signed an $8 million contract on Wednesday for Two and a Half Men next season. His mother is supposedly saying she fears he has gotten attracted by a cult. If you watch part one (and part two, but I couldn’t bring myself to) of his interview on youtube with some pastor for The Forerunner Chronicles, you might feel the same. Something is amis – very sad.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      As a former Seventh-day Adventist, I’m a little worried too about how Jones is getting sucked into this so fast. It seems like there are some very charismatic people who have a lot invested in getting a young celebrity to promote their faith tradition. Otherwise, why did they have to videotape Jones’ confession? Why let it go viral? If this was a true conversion and not a marketing strategy, why didn’t the church take steps to ensure Jones’ privacy?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Sounds like Celebrity Convert Syndrome. Celebrity walks the aisle and gets puffed up and hyped as Official Christian Spokesman. See! We Got a CELEBRITY!

        (Wouldn’t have made a bit of difference if it was, say, Mars Hill or Calvary Chapel or Westboro Baptist or Grinning Ed Young’s mega instead of SDA. The dynamic is the same — flaunt your CELEBRITY convert/member.)

        Until it all ends in Celebrity Convert Burnout.

  5. “…one Ohio church is attempting to attract men to its services. God and guns, alive and well in my home state.”

    I know of at least two local churches which advertise shooting as one of the highlights for their men’s retreats – including assault rifles.

    • Brianthedad says:

      I see no problem with ministries that reach sporting people. I am a shooter and hunt and do all the manly things that go along with being raised in south Alabama. I just think pistol-toting pastors in the pulpit is a little too much. How do you take him seriously when he preaches on turning the other cheek? I get the impression from that article, or the one it responded to, that preacher man has his hog leg on his hip in the pulpit. Really? And to quote the get a sword verse? Talk about proof texting! We catch our share of grief, and often rightfully so, so I was glad to see the byline wasn’t from a southern red state. Happy December, all!

      • I know plenty of Christian men who are gun enthusiasts, and I don’t have a problem with that. I would love to be able to afford a gun.

        The problem is two-fold:

        1. It adds more confusion to what it means to be a Christian man. Rather than a men’s retreat being a time for a unique opportunity to worship, with the focus on God, perhaps in the beauty of His creation, it is a time for men to get together to gripe about politics and release testosterone (and other things) through unnecessarily competitive games, shooting guns, and talking foul. I lay blame with John Eldridge and Mark Driscoll for turning men into walking hormones rather than creatures in the image of God. (Maybe their god looks like Rambo).

        2. It is yet one more aspect of a-la-carte spirituality. Come to church and join the club of your choosing, be it basket weaving or deer hunting. We’ll play whatever music or serve whatever coffee you like. Oh, yeah, we’ll throw in a prayer or devotion to make it feel religious. To borrow from the old Burger King ditty, “All we ask is that you let us serve god your way”.

        For centuries, men gathered in monasteries to pray and worship, and to my knowledge they didn’t have to offer target ranges and zip lines to draw them in. (Well, they did have wineries.)

        • Brianthedad says:

          All very true. Well said. We had a complaint from one of our men at our monthly men’s breakfast, asking “how come every time we get together, we have to pray and have a devotional? Why can’t we sit around and talk?” we’ll, because the previous time of fellowship had devolved into a right wing political gripe sessions, and pastoral leadership decided it was time to rein it in. So, you don’t have to have firearms and competitive games to get the testosterone up. Biscuits and gravy and humans will suffice.

        • Good points, dumb ox. Its like dating – what you do to catch them is what it takes to keep them. If the gospel isn’t enough to “catch” men, then it won’t be enough to keep them. I’d hate to see what kind of theology is going on in these churches.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Before anyone freaks out about the term “assault rifles”, I want everyone to remember something:

      Assault Rifles are the Muscle Cars of firearms. Once you understand that, you understand their appeal.

  6. When I clicked on the Victoria’s Secret clip, an ad for Coach bags popped up. Now *that’s* diabolical…. (BTW, there’s a comic book called “Victoria’s Secret Service.”)

    The “demon rape” article came with a file photo. So they have file photos to illustrate demon rape…?

    Several Assamese tribes (NE India) have also converted to Judaism, based on the belief that they are one of the lost tribes. (Some rabbis have been helping.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The “demon rape” article came with a file photo. So they have file photos to illustrate demon rape…?

      “Spectral Evidence” and all that.

      Or maybe they just knocked off a still from The Exorcist.

  7. PS. That’s Colombia with an “o”

  8. Marcus Johnson says:

    I’m happy to see that Angus T. Jones is growing a conscience about where his career is headed. However, I’m slightly concerned that a) despite his TV-star status, he is still a 20-year-old kid, and b) there were obviously some folks pulling his strings to get him to say some of the stuff he said. No decent pastor would ever tell a person, “Hey, let’s ruin your career by blasting your colleagues; you’re 20, so you’ll be able to handle that kind of pressure, right?”

    As for Rick Warren, I’m not sure what’s crawled up his keester. I’m still going to church, still studying Scripture, still engaging in discussions with people about my faith (i.e., thanks for a great year, iMonk!). Granted, mainstream Christianity hasn’t been able to force the US into becoming a Christian nation but, seeing as how that is not how the gospel was ever intended to be spread, I’m not too worried about that. Give it a rest, Warren.

    And for the vampire-stalked in Serbia, Chef Fabio has a lot of excellent recipes that incorporate garlic. Here’s the site:

    http://screen.yahoo.com/women/chow-ciao/

    Mangia!

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “As for Rick Warren, I’m not sure what’s crawled up his keester.”

      Without actually looking into it, I assume that he is jumping on the anti-contraception bandwagon. Evangelical Protestants have recently discovered that they now agree with the Catholic church on this point. At least when it comes to institutional medical benefits for employees. I’m pretty sure that contraception is still OK for people with enough money to pay for it out of pocket.

      Why the change? Why are institutions which have been providing this benefit for decades suddenly discovering that it is a great evil? A cynic would suspect that it is because health benefits are now associated with a certain Kenyan Muslim Radical Communist, and therefore now a Bad Thing.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        Why the change indeed. I’ve been wondering about this myself.

      • I’m not saying I agree with the objections, per se, but I think that the Christians protesting the employer mandate from Obamacare are worried not only that they will be subsidizing not just contraceptives but also abortifacients. Whether or not this is true seems to be up in the air.

        It does seem a bit odd from an employer perspective. Once an employer pays and employee, that employee can do whatever he or she wants with that money anyway. The way I see it, paying a healthcare premium for an employee is just another part of their salary.

        What I’d like to see is health insurance become untied from employment. The US is an oddity that it works this way. I don’t know that government run insurance is the best answer either. But I do know that the system we have now is far from ideal.

      • Brianthedad says:

        Could it be the Quiverfull effect? There’s a lot more publicity on that, what with the duggars on tlc. But the obamacare angle is certainly in play.

    • Don’t worry Angus signed a multi-million dollar contract to be on the show for another season or two and his pastor has now okayed being on the show as Angus “doing God’s work” … wow…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Multi-millon dollar contract” translates to “multi-hundred-thousand dollar Tithes”?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Thank the Lord; his will be done.

      In related news, the title of this past week’s episode was, “I Scream When I Pee,” and the title line was spoken by…yup…Mr. Jones.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Uhh…
        From Seventies-vintage High School Sex Ed, the first thing I think of when I hear “I Scream When I Pee” is “Dose of the Clap”.

  9. The article about smoking was interesting. I particularly liked: “A Jesuit was asked whether it was licit to smoke a cigar while praying, and his answer was an unequivocal “no.” However, the subtle Jesuit quickly added that, while it was not licit to smoke a cigar while praying, it was perfectly licit to pray while smoking a cigar.”

  10. Matt Purdum says:

    Right, losing our religious freedom. Here in Year One of Check Norris’ 1000 Years of Darkness. Nice fantasy. When my fellow Christians tune back into reality, maybe others will listen to us. Right now, I’m seeing a church on every corner and a preacher on every TV, and if we ever do really lose our religious freedom, there won’t be any articles about it on HuffPo.

  11. Voluntary tax? Retrogressive voluntary tax is more like it, suckering in many of the most economically vulnerable, appealing to the slimmest, most unrealistic hopes, fostering addictions, making profit and raising taxes through loss, positioning the various states as competitors and ad agencies for the finite number of dollars that they are hoping to attract, making what has traditionally been thought of as a vice into an idolatrous sign and embodiment of a kind of profane grace, producing nothing but transferring resources from many of the less affluent to the more affluent . No, I did not play, but I did pray that the whole state-sanctioned gambling endeavor would end, and that, in its lust for dollars, the state would not go down the slippery slope toward sanctioning another ancient and very profitable vice: prostitution.

    • Thomas jefferson defined a national lottery as: “as beautiful thing: a tax only on the willing.” Ugly.

  12. I just wanted to tell you, how much I appreciate reading your Saturday Ramblings. I have been reading iMonk for about 18 months now and make sure to read it every morning. I share some of your Saturday Ramblings with my congregation from time to time and they think I am making this stuff up. I tell them, no one really needs to lie to anyone, there is so much that is simply strange going on in the world that is hard for most people to believe you are really telling the truth. I tell them this reinforces our efforts to always, carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully consider all Jesus said and did in revealing the Kingdom of God to us and its nearest to us. The truth is not some crazy ideas, the truth is a person, Emmanuel, God with Us. Sorry about my rambling, but as I tell my folks, it is never about us, it is always about God and what God is doing in our midst and are we willing to join in as God’s partner.

  13. Warren says the administration is pushing Americans away from religion, but then says young people
    are becoming less interested in religion. What is it, then: push or pull?

    Evangelicals are vehemently opposed to abortion – seeking change through the legal system to protect the unborn. Meanwhile, around 30,000 Americans are killed by gunshot wounds every year. But most evangelicals oppose gun legislation to reign-in killing of the post-born. Seems the real trinity in the U.S is Jesus, Smith and Wesson.

    And the best coffee & donuts in America are Tim Hortons’. Dunkin Donuts can only try for U.S. honors.

  14. Regarding religious liberty: has anybody here ever heard of the HHS mandate forcing institutions that do work for the sake of the gospel to underwrite employee benefit (health insurance) policies that contradict these institutions essential religious convictions? Religious liberty is not just freedom of worship but extends to the right to shape society by the way we live our convictions in the public square, and when the state issues an edict (euphemistically called a mandate) that contravenes that right, it is limiting religious liberty. Even though my convictions are not exactly the same as my Roman Catholic brothers and sister regarding this issue, I consider the move by the Obama administration in this matter to be a curtailment of their religious liberty and a threat to all Christian confessions. And no, I’m not a so-called “fundagelical.”

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      A) Unless you were living under a rock in the past year, I seriously doubt you are going to run into someone who has not heard of the mandate.

      B) I think you made an interesting point when you stated, “Religious liberty is not just freedom of worship.” Let’s take that a step farther: “religious liberty”–which seems to be more about whether the government validates a particular faith tradition–is NOT freedom of worship, not anymore. Religious liberty is a political concept, and it presumes that we need the validation of the federal government to practice or share our faith. We don’t, we never have, and I should probably point out that the Church experienced its greatest growth under governments that were hostile to the gospel (and by hostile, I mean real persecution, not being asked to shell out a couple of bucks for birth control).

      C) I had to chuckle a little when I read “threat to all Christian confessions.” I’m still able to go to church, read a Bible, wear a cross, talk about my faith with other people, condemn them when their faith doesn’t match up with mine, etc. What is this “threat”?

      Underscoring this hyperbole is the assumption that if the federal government does not validate our faith tradition or, even worse, if they validate another person’s faith tradition above ours, then God’s will is somehow hindered. If that is true, then maybe we need to consider whether or not we actually serve an all-powerful God, or if we have faith in a god whose power is limited by human institutions

      D) Somewhere in an developing country, in which confessing faith in God is tantamount to a death sentence, some believer is reading about the health insurance mandate and its impact on faith-based institutions and going, “Really, that’s it?” That is, if their government will allow newspapers.

      • A) That was sarcasm. I’ll try to signal it more clearly next time.
        B & C) Because the church thrived during the time of the episodic oppression of the Roman Empire, does that mean that we are duty bound to be silent about what some of us perceive to be the unjust actions of our own government? There is a continuum that leads from relatively minor injustice to outright tyranny (consult the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer): under our Constitution, we have a right and duty to speak out when we see either one or the other.
        C & D) Of course things are worse in many countries, but they could easily get that way here if citizens ignore incipient oppression. While it is true that the church is not entitled to government validation, the whole subtext of the Constitution is the right to be free not only from religious compulsion but also, and especially, from the threat of government tyranny.

        • I can’t stress the last part of C &D) above enough: what the framers of our Constitution were trying to protect the people against, even in the clauses about not establishing religion, is an over-reaching GOVERNMENT that would have the power to coerce in matters of faith, because freedom of faith and the practices that flow from it are always in danger from idolatrous forms of government. In our re-elected President we have just such a one who wishes to continue and accelerate such over-reaching, in the name of fundamentally changing the U.S. , which is a stated goal of his.

        • I sometimes find myself reminding people that we are the government. We elect those who represent us on all levels (local,county,state and,federal). Some may not agree with those decisions, but there are recourses ,court challenges and the ballot box come immediately to mind. We do have a right and a responsibility to voice our opinions to those that we have elected.

          That all being said, We, as a nation have decided over the years that some social issues fall within the purview of our elected government. We have decided that giving the elderly a basic income supplement and medical care is a good social action. We believe that giving those who are unemployed some financial support is a good idea, that way someone who loses their job doesn’t lose their house and go bankrupt.

          Having had medical issues, I believe that required medical insurance works to the social good. I still have a house and am still employed because my employer chose to offer medical insurance that was both subsidized and affordable. There are benefits that go beyond just allowing me good health. A sickly society can gradually degenerate into anarchy.

          I find the present argument against the contraceptive/abortion requirement to be somewhat disingenuous. First, I have yet to understand how a business runs “on Christian principles” . I have shopped at Hobby Lobby and at Target. Frankly (with the exception of the background music), I don’t see any major difference in the service or attitude of the staff. The fact that Hobby Lobby gives their employees Sundays off is a nice perk. Many hair salons give their employees Sundays off as well. Target gives 5% of their earnings to charity (you can even have them donate to your local schools), Hobby Lobby gives 10% but customers have no say in where they give.their money. So, are the employees better compensated? What makes them a “Christian Business” anyway?

          Second, health insurance is part of an employee’s compensation package. Does Hobby Lobby care where there employees spend their salaries? Certainly, they offer money that can be freely spent on things that the owners of Hobby Lobby would not approve, and yes, they are paying for it.

          Hobby Lobby (and many organizations like them) are secular businesses that happen to be run by Christians. Hobby Lobby cannot even considered to be a ministry. It doesn’t do the work of a ministry. I’m happy that Christians can run businesses in this country, but let’s not confuse running a business with a religious act.

          • Steve, I completely agree with what you are saying in the next to last paragraph about employer-provided health insurance and salaries both being spent on things the employer may not agree with. The difference to me is that it’s more likely that a Christian employer will know what the employee spends wages on (say, weekend partying), as opposed to the health insurance policy, which may or may not pay for an individual’s birth control, a typically more private issue. If we want to be consistent, wouldn’t we avoid employing those who will likely spend their wages on lifestyles or things we disagree with so as not to enable vice? That would, of course, include employees who (without the provision of the health care mandate) will spend wages or salary on birth control.

            Pacifists have to pay taxes that directly fund wars. The case of employers providing health care while not agreeing with all that entails seems very similar to that, yet perhaps more trivial.

          • Josh, I guess there would be few people that would be able to work at some “Christian” establishments. There would always be something that would be in contention. Which brings me to my point (I think that you got) that it really is none of the employers business what an employee does in off hours. As long as it is not illegal, it is really not the concern of the employer.

      • Matt Purdum says:

        I’m forced to pay for things that violate my religious convictions constantly: war, handouts to bankers, imprisoning marijuana users. I’ve never felt my religious liberty was threatened. It’s totally disingenuous, employers have to shell out a few more dollars so their “liberty” is “threatened.”

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        No, we are not obligated to be silent about injustice, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. As you stated, we are talking about “what some of us perceive to be the unjust actions of our own government,” which is significantly different, since we are discussing people’s perceptions.

        This is really just one of those instances in which the federal government made a judgment call regarding health care. The right of people to practice their religion the way they wanted to was weighed against the right of people to have access to what the government perceived as quality health care, and the Obama administration concluded that abortion and contraception were quality health care. There are plenty of court cases in which the federal government ruled against freedom of religion (i.e., Bob Jones University, the right of parents to refuse medical care for their children, etc.); I’m sure we can both agree that those were not instances of tyranny, just judgment calls on what was more important. We can discuss whether access to contraception and abortions is quality health care or not, but it is unnecessarily hyperbolic to refer to that judgment call as a threat, or tyranny. If we used those terms to refer to any authority figure who instituted a policy that we don’t like, then folks would think we are advocating for anarchy (which is actually the opposite end of the continuum from “tyranny,” not “minor injustices”).

        And this is something in which Bonhoeffer is not the best resource. Great theologian, but America is not becoming Nazi Germany, and Obama is not becoming Hitler. Any comparison between them is pretty ridiculous.

        • I did not say that relatively minor injustices and tyranny are opposite ends of the continuum. And I did not compare Obama with Hitler; you did that in the comments above. Although it is true that I do not trust a man who imperiously commandeers something like 30% (?) of the economy (healthcare), a maneuver not dissimilar to the economic procedure of National Socialism.
          And are you saying that the perception of injustice is always only a perception and not based in fact? That makes no sense. Everything you commented above is based on your perception, and everything I’ve commented is based on my perceptions. I think that you meant to say that what I and those who agree with me perceive is a false perception, and I have to disagree with you there.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          I am, indeed, saying that this particular perception of injustice is just a perception, and an invalid one at that. Let’s break down why I say that this threat to religious liberty is a false perception in better language.

          Consider it more like a game of tug-of-war, in which you have your religious convictions on one end, and someone else has the polar opposite. For every liberty and freedom that you believe you are entitled to, there is someone on the other end who believes they are entitled to the same level of freedom. If you believe that you have a right to a singular definition of marriage, then there is another person who believes that he is entitled to a definition of marriage that is inclusive of same-sex couples. If you believe that you are entitled to not pay taxes that might go to a war that you believe to be immoral and illegal, then there is someone else who believes that the same war is valid, necessary, and needs funding (see Josh T.’s comment). So there you two sit, on either side of the rope, and each person is trying to pull the rope their way, saying, “What about my rights?”

          This is what most professed Christ-followers in America forget: that there are other people who feel that they are just as entitled to their personal liberties as you or I are entitled to ours, and often times, those liberties are at odds. The role of the government here is to ensure that your religious liberties are not coming at the expense of someone else’s liberties. That means you cannot assume the right to unhinged, unlimited religious liberties; someone has to put some restraints on that liberty, so that someone else is not left wanting. By requiring faith-based institutions to provide insurance coverage to its employees that may allow for things like contraception or abortions, the federal government is not threatening your liberty, only restraining it, so that it doesn’t threaten someone else’s.

          And the comment about Bonhoeffer and Nazi Germany was not to imply that you were comparing America to Nazi Germany, or Obama to Hitler; instead, I was suggesting that in order for Bonhoeffer’s comments to really apply, the same context under which he said them should apply here. So America would have to be Nazi Germany, and Obama would have to be Hitler. This is not the case, so Bonhoeffer is not the most appropriate quote for this situation.

          • Because the practice of religion is protected by the Constitution, and indirectly also protected by the right to free speech acknowledged by the Constitution, the governing authorities are obliged to show compelling interest in any restriction of or imposition on the practice of religion. Since the primary function of government, before anything else, is to protect the physical integrity of our bodies and property ( which is an extension of our bodies) from those who would either harm us or steal from us, the compelling interest is usually the result of how a particular practice of religion would impinge on the government’s over-riding interest in keeping public order and protecting persons from violence and property from theft. This compelling interest can be more or less widely interpreted. For instance, the government has the right to protect the health and safety of a minor from the decision of his Christian Scientist parents to withhold medical care exactly because it must fulfill its function of protecting human life from actions that would otherwise lead to certain severe physical harm or death for the minor. A wider interpretation prohibits the use of peyote in Native American spiritual practices because, historically, through our society’s legislative practices, such substances have been deemed deleterious and injurious both to the individual and to the public interest, so it is against the law to use the substances and no exemption can be granted to any single group in such a case. What is lacking in the HHS mandate is the compelling interest government must show before it can force a religious organization to engage in a practice, especially in cases where such compulsion would require the religious organization to engage in a practice it deems inherently unethical. Since, indeed, the Constitution guarantees the right to practice religion, and does not guarantee the right to healthcare or contraception, there is no such compelling interest. When the fact that the moral status of the practice of abortion (or the use of abortifacients) is a hotly contested issue in our society, and in fact until relatively recent history was prohibited by our law, then the need to show compelling interest on the part of the government becomes even more pronounced. What exactly, Mr. Johnson, is the compelling government interest in forcing me to underwrite the very private personal sexual practices of my fellow citizens? Why should I be forced to be involved in the philosophy of the boudoir of those I disagree with in such a private matter?
            Regarding Bonhoeffer: all I said is that it is possible for what happened in Nazi Germany to happen here if injustices are allowed to develop without restraint. Germany didn’t start out as a totalitarian state, you know?
            And since I consider abortion the killing of human beings, I do not consider it a trifling matter when the government forces me to underwrite it, including the use of abortifacients.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I think it’s good that we agree that the entitlement to religious liberty is not absolute, and that when there is a compelling interest (as in the very germane examples you provided above), the federal government should be able to make that judgment call that restricts the extent of someone’s freedom so that it doesn’t impinge on someone else’s rights. I’m sure there are a few Christian Scientists, Native Americans, etc. who would cry “tyranny,” but that argument has been raised and settled in favor of not only the government’s authority, but also the safety and security of someone else’s rights.

            Look back through this feed and see what other people have strong personal convictions against things which they still have to pay taxes (i.e., the war in Iraq, the drug war, a Congress that is about as useless as a used Kleenex). Those folks are not the only ones; there are plenty of people who believe, just as passionately as you believe that abortion is murder, that the war in Iraq was illegal, that the drug war was unsuccessful, and that Congress does not represent the needs of their constituents. Still, these people pay taxes, and those tax dollars fund the Department of Defense, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and Congress. They don’t like it, and they protest and campaign against it, but there’s still that nasty “compelling interest” thing that the federal government claims is important. You’re right: access to affordable health care never appears in the Constitution (neither do SuperPACs but, apparently, the Supreme Court has declared that constitutional as well), but the preamble does refer to promoting the “general welfare,” and people have gotten a lot of mileage out of that one phrase.

            So, the question is whether or not health insurance policies that cover abortions and contraception is a compelling state interest. The verdict is still out on this one (I believe some of these cases are still in the court systems), but for the time being, the federal government considers access to abortions and contraception a sexual health concern and, consequently, just as much of a compelling state interest as ensuring children get proper health care. Yes, half of the country believes that abortion is murder, but the other half does not, so someone has to make that judgment call, and the pro-life movement didn’t win this time.

            Regardless of your conviction in the rightness of your convictions, you’re going to have to hang out in the same camp as the pacifists who hate war but pay taxes, the folks who disagree with the drug war but pay taxes, the people who think their Congress is ineffective but pay taxes, etc. I wouldn’t trivialize their convictions, either; they don’t believe these things are trifling matters. Still, if I was having this discussion with them instead of you, and they tossed in some Bonhoeffer, I would tell them the same thing I would tell you: that just because the federal government puts a restraint on your personal liberties for the sake of someone else’s convictions, it is not the sign of the slow progression to Nazi Germany, or even its possibility. Let’s cool it on the slippery slope fallacies.

          • Robert and Marcus — I’ve been following your conversation here and am very grateful for the cogent way you make your points. You’re both clear thinkers and writers. I’ve learned a lot and been able to focus my views more from reading what you both have written. Thanks for not giving up on the thread.

      • Regarding C)…

        No, we don’t serve an all-powerful God. His son, our savior, died on the cross. Certainly an all-powerful God wouldn’t have allowed that.

        Oh, wait…we DO serve an all-powerful God. He resurrected his son, our savior, from the dead!

        My point being, we cannot, simply cannot, view earthy defeats as defeats. If we focus on earthly victories and defeats for evidence of His Will, we will lose sight of the true Kingdom of God. And lately I just keep thinking that God must want America to go in a certain direction for a specific reason…like maybe to wake us Christians up to being more concerned about His Kingdom than the kingdom of america.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      Here’s the thing that really bothers me about the HHS mandate: The administration is playing chicken with the Catholic Church. This is the first time ever the USCCB has been this united on anything. And rather than work with them to make it something that could work with Catholic moral theology, they’re playing chicken. Sure, there’s a religious exemption, but it’s so narrow that most Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities wouldn’t fit the bill and will have to choose between compliance with a law that violates their consciences on religious ground (indeed, contraception is considered a mortal sin in Catholic moral theology), or shutting down. And the Obama administration doesn’t care. I’m thinking this could have been done in such a way that people would have the access without folks who oppose contraception on religious grounds directly footing the bill. But this is an ideological battle for the Obama administration, not a pragmatic one. That’s why they turned this from being a religious liberty issue into a women’s rights issue during the election.

      Similarly, as has been pointed out above, the administration and his crew keep trying to frame the issues of religious rights as “freedom of worship” rather than “freedom of religion.” The practice of religion, which is what the Constitution guarantees, is so much more than worship. I suspect the President’s ideology would like to see religion safely made a completely private matter that has little bearing on life outside the church. Again, that’s problematic to me. But they’re very savvy at this. Change the semantics. Deal with issues that are unpopular. It’s the boiling-a-frog principle.

      I don’t have a problem with contraception or paying for it. But as someone concerned with religious liberty, I’m appalled at the HHS mandate in the same way that I was appalled when France tried recently tried to push through an anti-mask law that was a thinly-veiled attempt at outlawing the Muslim’s burka practices.

      The Constitution does not guarantee cheap-or-free healthcare. But it does guarantee religious liberty. That should say something.

      • ” I’m thinking this could have been done in such a way that people would have the access without folks who oppose contraception on religious grounds directly footing the bill.” Didn’t insurers agree to not charge religious institutions for the contraception part of the insurance? I seem to remember that being the compromise.

        And when did ALL birth control become abortifacients? More and more I see any kind of birth control derided as something that can cause abortion. I heard a doctor explain the morning after pill which, according to the doctor, in most instances prevents the sperm from ever meeting the egg. Conception after intercourse is not instantaneous.

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

          The Roman Catholic Church has ALWAYS opposed all forms of artificial contraception. Always. It’s not just about pills that can be considered to cause abortion.

          As far as not charging religious institutions, the way the mandate defines religious institutions is so narrow that Catholic universities, colleges, hospitals, and most charities would not qualify as religious institutions. Parishes and churches would, but the rest would not because they don’t exclusively employ and serve Catholics. This is really slick stuff.

          Again, I’m not Roman Catholic, and I don’t have a problem with contraception. The HHS mandate doesn’t cause problems to me directly. But the way the administration is dealing with the RCC on this really concerns me. It’s subtle and it’s ideologically insidious.

  15. Not to nit-pick, but my fat little Catholic fingers went straight to the conversions in Columbia story…and the converts were NOT Catholic, they were evangelical Christians! The confusing line was probably “..in mostly Catholic Columbia”. I was curious because of the postings of a Catholic-turned-Jew to an article in the Catholic Review (pretty nasty and attacking). I know that all sorts of people of faith can and do pick another one sometime during their life, but Catholic (believing and Mass-attending Catholic, not cultural Catholic) to Jew is a big stretch, and I was curious to see the reasons for that particular pathway.

    • Brianthedad says:

      No data on this, other than personal observations, but there seems to be an undercurrent of fascination with Jewish culture in the evangelical world. I have old high school classmates who are way wrapped up in Israel politics and restoration as part of their church. So much so I had to drop them from the Facebook feed. Also, there seems to be a rise in interest in messianic Judaism here in my neck of the woods, keeping kosher, observing the feasts. Some evangelicals here are moving into that, some doing the DNA work necessary to get themselves declared a priest, etc. I think there is a desire for ritual and practice that Judaism offers that they aren’t getting in their current faith world. They just can’t bring themselves to high church practices. Too popish. HUG has some insight on this from time to time.

  16. Dana Ames says:

    For anyone who is grateful, as I am, for N.T. Wright’s work, the birthday list should include him as well. Today December 1st is his 64th birthday.

    Dana

  17. When I watched the Black Friday/Victoria’s Secret clip, I couldn’t help but think of a scene in the excellent documentary “God Grew Tired of Us”, which follows some young men who are refugees from the Sudan as they make the difficult move to the U.S. One of the young Sudanese men goes into a mall in December, and looks around with mouth agape, completely dumbfounded. “I guess I have much to learn about your culture” he says, “in my country, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus…”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Local drive-time radio was keeping a tally of Black Friday casualties. So far, the ones they noted were in San Antonio (somebody pulled a gun) and Sacramento (somebody either almost got knifed or got knifed when they cut in line). No trampling deaths or MACE-can fights this year, or at least they weren’t news enough.

      And then there’s this novelty song: Black Friday Night. First verse sings about “packing MACE” and the second about “breaking windows”, “prying up the metal bars”, and “stuffing loot in cars”.

      “It’s the Red Hour… FESTIVAL! FESTIVAL! Landru Wills It!”

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And this is just sick. Again, thanks—I think—to Randy for pointing out that just when you think things can’t get any worse, the next issue of Charisma comes out.

    Ah, yes. Incubi and Succubi — or at least that’s what they were called historically, and Charismatics/Fundagelicals have NO sense of history. Neither does pop culture — where do you think the roots of Alien Grey Abductors and Sparkly Vampires trace to?

    And according to a show on one of the documentary channels, the Mallis Malefacarium — the Witch-hunters’ handbook from the Burning Times — was written by some guy who was really KINKY regarding Sex with The Devil. As in obsessed with the subject, to the point he was thrown off of inquisitions on the order of his bishop. (“I want this perv OUT OF HERE!”)

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      crazy, uber-spiritual warfare, supra-demonic fear mongering…

      sheesh…

      there is a devil under every rock & every human emotional/psychological dysfunction is caused by a ‘spirit’ of some sort. then there is the resultant paranoia that becomes its own bondage thru fear about giving demons an inch & having to cross every superstitious “t” & dot every lower case “j” in order to prevent those all-powerful lurking minions of Satan from getting a clawfoot toehold…

      Lord…have mercy… :(

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Devil’s not just under every rock, Original Joe. Add the picture of an elegant cobra-woman at the top of my stairwell or the My Little Pony music videos I watch on YouTube. Total paranoia that Satan is going to slip his woopee cushion under their butt next time they sit down.

        1) If “every human dysfunction is caused by a ‘spirit’ of some sort”, how does that differ from animism? Or Carl Sagan’s book title The Demon-Haunted World?
        2) Wasn’t one of the Roman Empire’s beefs about these “Christians” was that they WEREN’T Superstitious enougn to be a real religion?
        3) In private correspondence last year, our own Martha of Ireland remarked about “giving demons an inch and having cross every superstitous ‘t’ and dot every lowercase ‘j’ to prevent the DEMONS from getting in”. About how does that differ from a Sorcerer/Karcist having to draw the Summoning Circle & Pentacle just right and say the exact inflections of his incantation and do the Magickal Working just so or the demon/spirit he summons will turn on him and tear him apart?

  19. Jeff, not sure I’d agree that JH is the “greatest person to pick up a guitar”. Are we judging whether he’s the “greatest person” or the “greatest guitar player”? Both are up for grabs.

    T

    • LOL.

      “Greatest person to pick up a guitar” – Did Jesus ever pick on up and strum a few chords?

      “Greatest guitar player” – Okay, let’s go! In no particular order:

      Jeff Beck
      Joe Satriani
      Jimi Hendrix
      Mark Knopfler
      Stevie Ray Vaughan
      Steve Vai
      Terry Kath
      Paul Johnson (he’s in my church’s worship band, and is AWESOME!)

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        no mention of:

        Chet Atkins
        Andres Segovia
        Pat Metheny?

        Phil Keaggy
        Joni Mitchell
        Neil Young
        Stephen Stills
        Al Di Meola
        Tommy Emmanuel?

        i suppose there are too many styles+categories to choose from. and shouldn’t there be more women mentioned?

      • Alex Lifeson

  20. Bill Buckley has been my mentor when it comes to vocabulary. He also wrote some very good novels.

    T

    • I read a couple of Buckley’s novels and enjoyed them. Lively and in good humor. The one I remember, See You Later Alligator, featured Fidel Castro and in a human, rather positive light (Well, since Buckley was unquestionably an arch-conservative, he could get away with that). He also wove a plug for National Review into each of his novels. I miss him.

      • Hmmm… upon googling, it looks like it was Che Guevara, not so much Castro as the protagonist’s foil. And maybe not as favorably presented as I remember, but it was a fun spy novel anyway.

        ¡Hasta la victoria! ¡Siempre!

        • Ted, If you can find it, you’d enjoy “Don Quixote, USA” by Richard Powell. It’s hard to locate, but it’s still out there.

          • Hmmm…. young man with fresh graduate degree in botany gets mixed up leading a Caribbean revolution. Looks like fun.

            I just read a few pages from Amazon’s kindle sample. And from the reviews, the plot reminds me of Sydney Poitier getting swindled by those nuns into building a chapel in Lilies of the Field.

            I went to abebooks.com, a used book site, and the only ones available were the Readers Digest condensed books, starting around $4.00 including shipping. But it’s available on Kindle too.

          • Don’t get condensed — there’s no point!

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Well, there apparently is a vampire on the loose in a village in Serbia. Townspeople are encouraged to stock up on garlic. Really.

    Note that this is apparently a local legend of the village. And this is Serbia. In the Balkans, where a lot of European vampire lore originated. Something about the original Balkans vampires — they weren’t suave and sexy, and they sure didn’t SPARKLE in the sunlight. The originals were more like Night of the Living Dead zombies, except after blood (or more directly life-force) instead of flesh and brains — rotten, stinking, and feral. Supernatural parasites who kept themselves semi-animated by leeching away the Life from the living.