Hello, iMonk friends. This is Chaplain Mike and I have asked my good friend Daniel Jepsen to lead us in our weekly clean-up of the monastery. Dan used to be the youth pastor in the church where I served, so I am fully persuaded in his ability to both make and clean up messes. Now he’s senior pastor there. Thus, I know he’s in shape because over at the church he’s been setting up tables, clearing jams from the copier, shoveling snow off the sidewalk, and doing dishes after coffee hour, i.e. the things I used to do. Just the training we require for this shindig we call Saturday Ramblings.
Over to you, Dan…
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Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao got a lot of flak about his business card last week. Undeterred, Chen wants to buy the New York Times or maybe the Wall Street Journal, because “I am very good at working with Jews.” This should go well…
The Oscar nominations are out. One of the best picture nominees, Philomena, is being called “another hateful and boring attack on the Catholic Church.” Your thoughts on best picture?
A Planned Parenthood board member has stepped up her promotion of a secular society and her attacks on Christianity; at the same time she declares abortion to be “a sacred gift.” As Inigo Montoya might put it, “You keep using that word…”
A Tennessee pastor will not face criminal charges for snake handling after a grand jury’s decision. One church member described the ruling as a great vindication of religious liberty, saying, “To me it violated my right as an American to have my freedom of religion. It shouldn’t matter to people if the Lord moves on me and I feel like I need to take up a six-foot rattlesnake. I should have that God-given right.” After all, surely when Jesus said, “take up your cross” he was thinking of a six-foot rattler.
The Church of England is experimenting with “an alternative liturgy” for people who want to get baptized but do not believe in the devil, sin, or the need to repent. Instead of being asked: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” parents and godparents are asked, “Do you reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises.” Empty promises? Really? Is evil nothing more than false advertising?
The Roman Catholic Church is not downplaying the devil; they are seeing a rise in exorcisms. The totally non-biased Telegraph reporter notes that exorcisms are, “fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.”
Meanwhile, in France, twenty-seven Roma (Gypsies) who were charged with selling child brides and teaching children to steal. Their lawyers claimed that France couldn’t apply its laws because the gypsies didn’t recognize them: “in some cases they [the Roma] were simply following age-old Roma traditions and generally operate outside the norms of society in ‘the style of the Middle Ages.”… “It is very difficult to interpret their behavior based on our own twentieth-century standards,”…“This community crosses time and space with its traditions…” Why the rather bizarre defense? First Things speculates, “The prosecution was trying, we suspect, to find an objective basis by which to convict the Roma, that is, a way of disproving the defense’s claim on grounds the defense couldn’t contest. Because in a secular and pluralistic society the alternative is saying “This is right and that’s wrong, whatever your culture tells you,” and no one wants to say that out loud.”
Well this is interesting: apparently your view of whether Genesis 1 is “literal” or symbolic depends a great deal on your personality. The YEC viewpoint is more popular with “those who prefer to take in information via their senses versus via intuition. In contrast, religious believers who see the Bible’s creation story as symbolic tend to be more intuitive.” Please insert your own snark here.
The Atlantic reported on a Pew survey of how Muslims in various countries thought women should dress. A (very slight) majority in two countries thought women should have the freedom to choose their own attire. How comforting.
A New York based satanic church has raised the money to create a seven foot statue of Satan, and hopes to plant it right next to the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Capital building. The design features two small children looking up adoringly at Baphomet (representing Satan) , and is large enough that other children can sit on Baphomet’s lap. Because really, what five year old would be terrified by a seven-foot goat demon?
A British study reports that religious people take less sick days, are less prone to anxiety and depression, and find more meaning in life than non-religious people. Religious people apparently also have a thicker brain cortex, which I assume is why we occasionally get called “fat-heads”.
Hiroo Onada died Friday. He was the Japanese WW2 soldier who refused to believe Japan had lost, and kept on fighting for another 29 years. Only a visit by his former commander in 1974 convinced him. In Japan, he received a hero’s welcome for his tenacity.
Pastor John Ortberg and Professor Bradley Wright have been working on a new app to help users “track spirituality in real time”. SoulPulse users are asked two questions each day about their feeling about God and their emotional state, and what is happening in their life. Later, they receive color-coded interactive charts that can show, for example, that one person may be more aware of God after a couple drinks and reading Heidegger by the fireplace, while another might feel closest to God at the end of a good nap. Wright said one participant wrote in that “his spiritual low was watching his child’s soccer team get creamed by the opposition.” And really, why wouldn’t it be?
Some horrible medical cases recently have made “brain dead” more than a cheap insult lately. The Grey Lady has a good summary of what the term means in a legal and medical sense.
Too sad to make a joke about: North Korea is again named the number one persecutor of Christians. The same report notes, “Officials said a total of 2,123 Christians were martyred in 2013 compared to 1,201 the previous year. Syria had the most martyrs with 1,213 followed by Nigeria 612, Pakistan 88, Egypt 83, Kenya 20, Angola 16, Niger 15, Iraq 11, CAR 9 and Colombia 8. The death total in North Korea is not available due to the extreme difficulty to obtain public information from the secluded country. Overall, persecution of Christians worldwide continues to increase. It is estimated that 100 million Christians are actively being persecuted. The level of persecution may vary from one country to another, but those persecuted suffer from interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ. Millions more face discrimination and alienation. It also notes that “Christians are the most persecuted minority in the world.” Don’t expect the Grey Lady to put this on the front page.
Birthdays today include Peter Roget, of thesaurus fame (did you know he also invented the slide rule and a pocket chessboard?), Daniel Webster (another wordsmith), A.A. Milne, and two of my favorite actors, Danny Kaye and Cary Grant.