August 16, 2018

Saturday Ramblings, February 28, 2015

Hello, imonks, and welcome to the weekend. Ready to ramble?

I hope you dressed up today!

I hope you dressed up today!

First, let’s get the heavy news out of the way.  Thursday is what the internet (or at least social media) was made for. dressFirst, we had #the dress. It seems, by some quirk of biology that I don’t understand (I grew up Baptist) two people can look at the picture at right and violently disagree about its color.  Is it blue and black? Or white and gold?  You can read the scientific details here.  What do you think, imonks? Do you have a dog in this very important fight?

Also on Thursday, a pair of Llamas, one white and one blackescaped from their owners and ran wild through the streets of Sun City, Arizona, on Thursday. Police and pedestrians chased them for a few hours before both were apprehended by use of a lasso. The white llama was released on his own recognizance. The black llama had bail set at 1 million dollars.

Another pair of Llamas, this time in Washington State, also escaped on Thursday.  They were caught more quickly, but not before creating a stir as to why so many llama couples were on the lam. B-33TAbUIAE-Ri8

Yes, this is silly, but hey, this is the Saturday Ramblings.  You want profundity you read that Chaplain Mike guy.  Anyway, you’re here so you might as well watch this video of the llama drama set to the William Tell Overture:

Winter is soon to be over.  Right?  I mean, it can’t go on forever, can it?  This isn’t Narnia, I’m told.  So before we wave a tearful goodbye at the cold, lets post a few pictures of the beauty it leaves behind:

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Iceberb on Mendenhall Lake

Iceberb on Mendenhall Lake, Alaska

Cedar Waxwing, Indiana

Cedar Waxwing, Indiana

Bison in Wyoming

Bison in Wyoming

Lighthouse, St. Joseph, Michigan

Lighthouse, St. Joseph, Michigan

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Denmark is promoting religious solidarity between Jews and Muslims.  That’s because both groups are incensed about the new law there that bans kosher and halal meat preparation. Israel’s deputy minister of religious services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan said, “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions”, while Danish Halal described it as “a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark”.  Noting that a surplus giraffe was publicly slaughtered at the Copenhagen Zoo, David Krikler tweeted: “In Denmark butchering a healthy giraffe in front of kids is cool but a kosher/halal chicken is illegal.”  What was more amazing/amusing to me was the defense offered by the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen that “animal rights come before religion”. Ummm….how is that not a religious sentiment?

Our good friend Eagle has started a blog, and it should be interesting. You can find it here.

Oh, this should be fun. The Donald says he is seriously looking at running for president.  But Trump assures us this isn’t an ego trip, or done to promote “the brand”. No, this is will be a sacrificial decision undertaken only because “the country is in serious trouble”. And Trump already got the whole “pandering to the religious base” thing down: “I believe in God. I am Christian. I think the Bible is certainly, it is the book. It is the thing. I’m a Protestant, I’m a Presbyterian. And you know, I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion.” Wow, such articulation!  Such insight! The Bible is “the thing”.  Sooo deep! He’s like Saint Paul for the 21st century, isn’t he? Picture3

The Academy Awards were held on Sunday night, for those of you who care how a group of aging, elitist, white guys voted for pictures that neither they nor the populace bothered to watch.

Sigh.  Really deep sigh.  Did you know that 54 percent of Republicans believe that “deep down” President Obama is a Muslim?  And only 9 percent take his claim to be Christian at face value?

Jesus defeats ISIS?  Starting in 2016? That’s the prediction a group of religious, end-time enthusiasts are increasingly making. Oh, and did I mention that these are Muslim end-time enthusiasts?

And now for something completely different…

What do you find when you do a CT scan on an 12th century Buddha statue?  You find that it houses the mummy of an ancient Chinese Buddhist monk whose organs have been replaced by ancient Chinese scrolls.  Well, of course.


Actually, I’m just REAlly good at meditation

Odd headline of the week: Nutella Jar Sparks Massive Fire, Destroying Family Home. Yes, it seems the Murphy Family of West London had gone out to celebrate the couple’s anniversary, when solar rays were magnified through an empty Nutella jar sitting in a bedroom window. More than 20 firefighters fought the blaze, which destroyed the roof and seriously damaged the first floor.

The strange humming sound you heard this week was John Wesley spinning in his grave like a jet turbine. Wesley University posted a new campus housing option: “Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.” If you’re counting, that’s 15 categories of sexual identification (not even counting the antiquated categories of male and female) which I believe sets a record of some kind, though no doubt a short-lived record. First Things took the high road on this:

If very few of the sexual acts of today’s identity politics are procreative, that has certainly not inhibited their proponents’ impressive ability to give birth to endless categories of sexual preference. This is the result of more than a mere lack of conceptual contraception. It also indicates the loss of any sense that sex in itself might carry some kind of larger moral significance. Indeed, the plethora of sexual identities now available witness to the fact that there is no longer any basis for rejecting any kind of sexual act, considered in itself, as intrinsically wrong. The multiplication of such categories is part of rendering sex amoral: When everything is legitimate, then nothing has particular moral significance.

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

Wesleyan College is not to be criticized but congratulated, at least in terms of the transparency and consistency of its vision. It is simply an honest and consistent example of the moralizing amorality of this present age. It denies intrinsic moral significance to sex and enforces this through a proliferation of sexual categories designed to outlaw any claims to the contrary.

Leonard Nimoy died yesterday.  Of course, he will always be known as Mr. Spock to the unlettered masses, but to us cognoscenti he will be remembered for one thing especially: The Ballad of Biblo Baggins.  Please, please, for the love of all that is numinous, set the speed to 2x and watch this clip. It may be the best 70 seconds of your life.

By the way, do you know the origins of Spock’s famous vulcan hand gesture (“live long and prosper”)?

For what would soon become known as the Vulcan salute, I borrowed a hand symbol from Orthodox Judaism. During the High Holiday services, the Kohanim (who are the priests) bless those in attendance. As they do, they extend the palms of both hands over the congregation, with thumbs outstretched and the middle and ring fingers parted so that each hand forms two vees. This gesture symbolizes the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter in the word Shaddai, `Lord.’ … So it was that, when I searched my imagination for an appropriate gesture to represent the peace-loving Vulcans, the Kohanim’s symbol of blessing came to mind.

Best long read of the week (actually, it’s not that long) was from Christianity Today.  The question it poses is this: Do Digital Decisions Disciple? (Apparently their headline writer used to be an evangelical preacher). The article first describes the trend:

  • The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has shifted its focus to online evangelism and the change seems to be paying off. In 2014, the BGEA shared the gospel with almost 9.5 million people around the world. Of those, only about 180,000 were in a live audience at a crusade, while 7.5 million were reached through BGEA websites.

  • Of the 1.6 million people who told the BGEA they prayed “to accept Jesus Christ as [their] Savior” in 2014, less than 15,000 did so in person, while more than 1.5 million did so with the click of a mouse. At the end of the BGEA’s four-step gospel presentation or video, visitors are given two buttons to click: “Yes, I’ve prayed the prayer” or “No, but I have a question.”

  • More than 20,000 people view a gospel presentation every day, essentially “a crusade a day online,” said John Cass, the BGEA’s Internet evangelism director.

  • And the BGEA isn’t even the biggest kid on the block. Global Outreach Media (GMO) reports more than 30 million online decisions for Jesus in 2014 out of 400 million viewed presentations across its 250 sites.

How many of these are real decisions? “Even if only 2 percent of the more than 135 million indicated decisions [since 2004] were long-term, with real spiritual transformation, I still haven’t seen anything that rivals that in terms of effectiveness,” said Michelle Diedrich, GMO’s chief marketing officer. But the critics point out:

  • “It can set up the false expectation that you have salvation” by clicking the right button. “Belief is a regular and frequent turning toward Jesus, not a single event that guarantees your salvation.”

  • It’s also too quick. The average time spent on a visit to a GMO website is about seven minutes, with visitors hitting just six pages. “Is seven minutes enough time to enter into the momentous decision to follow Jesus in a wholehearted way?”

  • The lack of a physical presence can make online evangelism look like online education. “There are real advantages in terms of delivery, but it’s primarily a transmission of information.”

I doubt many of us here would disagree with those objections, but I want to pose a question: Do online evangelistic campaigns like this do more harm than good?  Or should we simply celebrate that the good news about Jesus is getting out, and praying some of the seed falls on good soil? What do you think?

Finally, imagine what would have happened if M. C. Escher had photoshop?  Something like this, I imagine: optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-1 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-6 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-3 optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-8


  1. I think those are bogus poll numbers.

    I don’t think Obama is a Muslim. And he may not be a Christian. But he says he is (maybe for political reasons)…so we ought give him the benefit of any doubt.

    I have heard it said that the chief sign of faith is a sincere desire to worship. I don’t think the man attends any church on a regular basis. But I may be wrong about that.

    By the way…it doesn’t matter to me if he is…or if he isn’t..or whatever religious beliefs that he may hold. That’s not why the people voted him the job…and should not be.

    • So if you don’t go to church regularly, you are not a Christian?

      • I don’t know if he even goes irregularly.

        The chief sign of a living faith is the sincere desire to worship.

        We don’t judge. But we might have our suspicions.

        • Maybe he goes to his room and shuts the door and prays to the Father in secret.

          I heard somewhere that that counts.

          • …as a good excuse to sleep in on Sunday, maybe. Most of the people who hide behind that line aren’t. Anyone who sincerely does so, IMO, eventually finds their way back into a more wholesome corporate spirituality.

          • Miguel, a lot of us have been very badly burned by abusive churches and genuinely find it difficult to attend services. It can be PTSD-intense for some folks.

            And then there are the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Most have trouble being able to physically get to church. Does that make them less Christian, in your view?

          • Of course not, Numo. But they’re not hiding behind that line. It’s usually more like “I’d love to be able to go to church, but I can’t,” or “I’ve been burned so badly I just need to be away for it, indefinitely.” There’s a world of difference between that and “The assembled believing community has absolutely nothing to offer me that I can’t get at home by myself ’cause my own personal time with God is just as legit as time with the spiritual family I was called into, and therefore I don’t need both.”

        • You didn’t explicitly answer my question.

          Do you have to go to church regularly to be a Christian?

          Leave President Obama out of it for a minute.

          Does ANYONE who professes to be a Christian HAVE to go to church to prove their faith?

          • Just off-hand, nope. If checking the box “I Went to Church This Sunday” doesn’t make anyone a Christian, then I’d say the converse is also true. Going to church isn’t a requirement to be a Christian. Going to church doesn’t “prove” anything, so likewise NOT going to church doesn’t “prove” anything.

            That said, I do believe being a part of a body of Christ is GOOD, not for “proof,” but just for encouragement, growth, etc. (as long as it’s a HEALTHY body of Christ). So overall, I’d say going to church most Sundays to WORSHIP is good, but never should be looked at as “proof.”

      • @Chris,

        With regards to people not going to church, in case you didn’t know there is a rising population of The Dones (Christians, including conservative Christians who are fed up with the problems of the organized church and are leaving in droves and not returning). This group is different than The Nones, those who weren’t believers in the first place.

        I wouldn’t be so quick to claim that non-church goers aren’t Christians. I know plenty of Christians, including conservatives and older Christians, who have gotten burned in churches, subjected to spiritual abuse and other harms, and they aren’t going back to church. They still believe in Jesus.

        • What about the people who find church boring and (somewhat) irrelevant to their lives?

          • Not sure where you’re going with that line of thinking, but if you find church boring and irrelevant, you’ve got a few choices:

            -Skip all churches, assuming they’re all like that.
            -Try a different church to see if you can find one that isn’t boring and irrelevant.
            -Stay where you’re at and worship there despite “not feeling the mojo.”

            I did the third one during my 5-7 year spiritual desert. What was very curious about that was attending a church where I didn’t feel God’s presence (boring and irrelevant) DURING A TIME WHEN I DIDN”T FEEL GOD’S PRESENCE in general. There’s nothing odder than going to church, HOPING to finally re-connect with God, and NOT getting that at all. Very interesting journey, one which I look back upon and marvel at and thank God for.

    • Mr. Obama EXPLICITLY claimed to be a Christian while running for office in an attempt to gather the Christian vote.

      You can say it doesn’t matter, he obviously thought it did.

      • He also explicitly claimed if we liked our insurance we could keep it.

      • He also explicitly promised that his administration would be transparent.

      • Donald Trump explicitly claims to be a Christian too. I wonder how many Republicans will believe him.

        Like they believed Mitt Romney was a Christian.

        “He’s just like one of us! You can hardly tell the difference!”

        Well, that’s pretty much the problem….

        • Trump’s not a Christian. He’s a Presbyterian (apparently)! There IS a difference, you know. 😛
          Seriously, though, if he’s a Mainliner who calls Scripture “the thing,” we might have a strongly conservative politician with very progressive theology on our hands. What an eclectic spectacle. If he don’t talk in “born again” nomenclature, the way Bible Belt fundies expect but mainliners aren’t versed in, it will be interesting to see what his actual market appeal is here. It could work surprisingly well, or go nowhere at all. Stay tuned for that circus!

        • Just taking a wild guess here, but I doubt The Donald goes to church every week either.

          I also don’t get how Pres Obama can be excoriated both for things his Pastor J Wright said while being excoriated for not being Christian. If he’s not Christian, what does it matter what a Christian pastor says since he wouldn’t believe it anyway?

    • I do think you can make the case that Mr. Obama sees Islam and Christianity as equivalent;

      Wouldn’t you say that places him squarely in the “post Evangelical wilderness?”

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “I think those are bogus poll numbers.”

      I think those poll numbers are legit, in the sense that someone using standard polling methods surveyed a statistically significant number of Republicans about this, and accurately reported the responses. But this requires interpretation.

      Recall that not too long ago it was fashionable in Republican circles to claim to believe that Obama was born in Kenya. This notion began with the open nutcases, and snowballed until it came to be regarded as very nearly a required public belief among Republicans, and polling numbers reflected this. Then Obama released his birth certificate. Or, more accurately, he released it again. There was not in reality any new information. Yet polls of Republicans showed that the number who believed he was born in Kenya dropped in half essentially overnight, and the issue has since largely faded away so that once again it is pretty much restricted to the open nutcases. How is it that one day large numbers of people claimed to believe one thing, and the next day another, despite the absence of any new information? Is it because Obama had previously released his birth certificate an insufficiently great number of times, but now the occurrences of his birth certificate being released had reached the requisite number? Of course not. The explanation is that they had been lying. This is in itself unremarkable. People lie to pollsters all the time. What is interesting is what they lie about. Ask self-identified Christians how often they attend church or pray, and they will almost reflexively lie about it. Not all, of course, but many. This isn’t just an Evangelical thing. All versions do this. We regard church attendance and prayer as Good Things which we should engage in more frequently than we do. Combine this with wanting to look good to ourselves and to the pollster, and you have automatic inflation. So the “Obama born in Kenya” responses were given to pollsters because this was the expected response within their self-identified group. But the cognitive dissonance was disturbing, so when Obama released his birth certificate yet again this was taken as permission to tell the truth.

      So what is interesting about the “is Obama a Christian” poll is what it tells us Republicans regard as the party line. Should the party line change, so will the polling numbers. Not that his is likely to happen, in any serious way. Questioning the Christianity of any Democratic candidate for president has been standard practice for decades. I rarely see anyone manage to question Jimmy Carter’s Christianity, though I have seen it occasionally, but any since then are fair game.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Judging from that Birther billboard I saw on Route 15 near Gettysburg three years ago, World Net Daily is among the CHRISTIAN “open nutcases”.

    • Perhaps a bit off topic Re: Obama – but how does that whole thing and some related comments here about the evidence of faith relate to yesterday’s post – “They’ll know we are Christians by our language?” Political considerations aside, this seems to be an example of an inability to NOT have criteria as to who’s in and who’s out. There may be ways to widen the circle, but not eliminate it all together. Even the “centered set” model will lead to “and the proof that you don’t have Jesus at the center is evidenced by X,Y,Z”

      I lament that Christianity, as I see it practiced when one looks deeper and past the rhetoric, is still fundamentally about in/out. That may be just my experience – and I’m happy for those of you who don’t have that experience. But perhaps that’s just inherently what it is – we can try to say that it’s not all we want. I’m skeptical that that the theological language exists to see it otherwise – at least at a corporate level in any form of western Protestantism – though the language of all things made thru and for Christ might be a start.

      • I see the in/out thing frequently. Monopoly Christianity the main point of which is a Get Out of Jail (Hell) Free card. Thus, the grand success of people turning their lives over to the Lord online. Clicked that off my to-do list, now I can go on with my normal life as before, knowing I’m in the “Good” club, thank you very much dear online church. Took 5 minutes to get eternity?
        Oh, I long for the notion of practicing one’s religion, not the one and done mentality we have now.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Oh, I long for the notion of practicing one’s religion, not the one and done mentality we have now.

          As the old Fundagelical putdown line put it,
          (sneer) Religion vs (smug) Relationship?

    • Randy Thompson says:

      What no one seems to get about President Obama’s beliefs is that he is a Liberal Protestant, shaped by a congregation affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), that reflects what the UCC stands for. I think he truly does reflect that theological orientation.

      Liberal Protestantism too often has degenerated into a “if it feels good do it” spirituality. Philip Turner wrote what I think is an insightful and on target summary of what Liberal Protestantism has become in a First Things article in 2005, “An Unworkable Theology.”

      Here’s a link to it, if anyone is interested:

      An old joke: “UCC stands for ‘Unitarians Considering Christ’.”

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The UCC is a combination of several distinct traditions. In New England the UCC is the descendant of the old congregationalist church, i.e. the Puritans, as filtered through Emerson and Thoreau and that crowd. This is what most people think of when they think of the UCC. In Pennsylvania Dutch country the UCC is the descendant of the old German Reformed churches, and still carries a German character. Obama’s church in Chicago is more in the American Black Protestant tradition like you will find in AME churches. I have no idea how it ended up in the UCC. While the UCC is not what I would consider a theologically strong or consistent church, it is difficult to make any sensible generalization beyond that about it.

        • Randy Thompson says:

          RIchard, I would disagree, and I’m speaking as a former UCC minister.

          The old Evangelical and Reformed Church was a wonderful church, from what I understand, with a solid, Biblically based theology. The New England Congregationalists, however, were a different story. Many, many years ago, Yale’s H. Richard Neibuhr described the theology of New England’s Congregationalists as “liberal protestant veering off Unitarian.” I think that was, and still is, a fair appraisal, and it was the Congregationalists that set the theological tone of the UCC. Quite a number of the former E and R churches are now ex-UCC churches, with some of them, at least, in the Evangelical Association of Reformed and Congregational Christian Churches.

          I think you really can make accurate generalizations about the UCC’s theology. And, I think the old joke about it being “Unitarians Considering Christ” is fair. Having said that, I know full well that there are (still) some wonderful, godly people in the UCC, a number of whom I would have some strong theological disagreements with.

          I am quite happy to be ex-UCC.

          • Nonetheless, what Richard said about UCC churches in much of central and southeastern PA is true.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Nonetheless, what Richard said about UCC churches in much of central and southeastern PA is true.”

            Thank you. One tendency people have, often including former insiders looking at the organization they left, is to imagine that those traits they disagree with are universal within the organization. I see this in Lutheran circles. As a general trend, the ELCA has always been more “liberal” (whatever that means) and LCMS more “conservative” (whatever that means). Yet I have belonged to congregations in both, including an ELCA congregation far more conservative than my old LCMS congregation. Yet in typical discussions, the ELCA is the hippie free love church and LCMS the rigid puritanical church.

          • “Yet in typical discussions, the ELCA is the hippie free love church and LCMS the rigid puritanical church.”

            I know, I know… I get so tired of people slamming all of the ELCA as being heretical, heterodox, whatever. Equally, I used to attend an LCMS church in Betheseda, MD, that was a small, friendly place and where there was (for example) no fuss about my receiving communion there.

            OTOH, someone at Concordia Seminary once cautioned me (over the phone, I was asking about churches to visit) to beware lest the church I walk into turned out to be ELCA (or “Elka,” as he pronounced it).

            The ELCA churches in my area are light years off from the “liberal” stereotype as far as basic understanding of the Gospel and more. (I don’t know how they stand on inclusion of LGBT people, but I suspect they’re cool with it – while not making a big deal about it, as with many of the more conservative Episcopal churches.)

    • I have heard it said that the chief sign of faith is a sincere desire to worship.

      Disagree very strongly. That sounds like some statement someone would make in order to get someone else to do something for them.

  2. Oh look, the Donald is considering running for president. Feels like 2012. er, 2008. er, 2004. I pulled a muscle rolling my eyes.

  3. Daniel, you certainly have a knack for Saturday Ramblings. Another wonderful mix of the absurd, the strange, the funny and the serious.

  4. Blue and black.

    I love winter. It has a purity about it.

    So cruelty to animals is ok if religious folks do it?

    Crassness and vulgarity is a “brand”?

    So this is my choice? Identity politics or Bronze Age puritanism?

    I’ll tell you who’s rolling over in his grave. J R R Tolkien!

    • So cruelty to animals is ok if religious folks do it?

      I’m not sure about halal, but kosher rules are that the animal does NOT suffer needlessly, unless you are a vegan or an animal rights person, in which case ALL animal death at the hands of humans is wrong.

      Ever been to a slaughterhouse? Kosher regulations are a mercy compared to how those places operate.

      • I used to think that, but then I read up a bit and modern slaughter is more humane than kosher and halal slaughter. Neither is of course, benign. Kosher was much less painful to the critters in the old days, but there are more modern methods.

        I think that if a rule is generally applicable to all groups and it causes suffering to one group then unless one can look at debate transcripts and find verbiage indicating an animus against a group, it may just be that its a law that hurts one group of people harder. Sort of like how anti-cannibis laws affects religions that use it in rituals harder. Maybe it does affect religious freedom. I’m just not convinced that religious freedom is the highest good. Right now in my city, we don’t allow animal sacrifice. This undoubtedly affects those religions that would practice it such as Santeria. I have less sympathy for them than I do the goat or chicken they would sacrifice.

        • I used to think that, but then I read up a bit and modern slaughter is more humane than kosher and halal slaughter.

          So, do they now sound proof the corrals where the animals are funneled? Is there soothing music in the background, like Enya or Kenny G? Are they using aroma therapy to sooth the animals before the bolt in the head?

          No matter which way you look at it, slaughter is still slaughter and the animals still end up dead. The best anyone can do is to make the experience as painless as possible, as free from anxiety as possible, and as merciful as is practical.

          If Danes expect Jews and Muslims to refrain from their, supposed, painless procedures then the Danes themselves should forgo slaughter altogether and either import all of their meat products (which they probably already do to some extent) or to become vegans.

          • Slaughter is still slaughter, but the Kosher slaughter houses don’t provide those kinder gentler things either (aromatherapy and sound might not be all that useful for critters whose brains are substantially different from humans). If one form of slaughter is more humane than another (and science should be able to answer that simple question) then it is within the rights of the citizenry to outlaw less humane forms of slaughter.

            And no Jew has to eat kosher meat, he can simply become a vegetarian as there is no religious proscription against that and all vegetables, provided they’ve’ been washed, are kosher.

          • cermak_rd, Good points.

  5. At first I misread and when I saw John Wesley, I filled in the Hardin. John Wesley Hardin was a notorious outlaw and I stressed my brain trying to recall if he had ever been known to comment on sexuality… Hmm, John Wesley, well, that’s very different.

    I shall miss Leonard Nimoy. I have a CD of him and Shatner singing. Nimoy’s version of “Abraham and Martin and John” is … well… inspired? I’ve watched every episode of TOS a bunch of times and the movies as well. Spock, McCoy and Scotty were always my faves and now they’re all gone.

    • Here is Nimoy explaining the origin of the Vulcan salute. It is quite humorous:

      I shall miss him as well.

    • Interesting Star Trek fact. Gene Rodenberry used the bridge crew of the Enterprise to visualize the ancient Greek understanding of the human being (well, the male at least). The human was seen as logic and passion at war with each other, with the will in the driver’s seat. Spock represented logic, Bones represented passion, and Kirk represented will. For my part, Spock was always my favorite character, but Kirk was a close second.

      • Daniel Jepsen says:

        That is very interesting. I have heard Peter Kreeft (philosophy prof at Boston College) use Kirk, Spock and Bones to illustrate the same concept (along with the Brothers Karamazov) but did not know Rodenberry planned it that way.

        • I actually got to meet Roddenberry at his home when I was called out on a service call. I didn’t even know he lived in my neighborhood. I was just too amazed to say anything to him, though, because I was in HIS home and not in public.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Growing up in Southern California, it was pretty normal to know people connected in some way with the business, and not vanishingly unlikely to find yourself sitting at a lunch counter next to somebody famous. I internalized at an early age the complementary principles of “Let the guy eat his lunch” and “Don’t act like a tourist.” That being said, if one feels compelled to make the approach, the best way to go is “I enjoy your work.” This is much like “I am sorry for your loss” at a funeral: the conventional expression adequately says what you want to say, and is better than anything you are likely to improvise.

        • Interestingly, Shattner played a stunningly young Alyosha to Yul Brynner’s Dmitri in a 1958(?) film adaptation of “The Brothers Karamazov”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Jim/Spock/Bones also echoes the Transactional Analysis trichotomy of personality facets: Parent, Adult, Child.
        * Kirk is the Parent, the authority figure.
        * Spock is the Adult, the rational logical mind.
        * Bones is the Child, the spontaneous emotional self.
        (Though actually Kirk & Bones show traits of both Parent and Child; I place Kirk as Parent because as Captain he is the major authority figure.)

        In any case, Jim/Spock/Bones form a single composite character, and the byplay between the three stands in for the internal back-and-forth between the above three facets of personality.

      • Interesting, I was just describing the plot of the episode “City on the Edge of Forever” to some friends, and comparing it to a Greek tragedy.

        Not the only episode where Kirk fell in love, of course (well, it was with Edith Keillor after all, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Joan Collins) but the only episode where Kirk swore: “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

  6. Those llamas are on the lam for a reason. Frankly, I don’t trust ’em fer as I could throw ’em. Mark my words: no good’ll come of their intentions. Once a llama, always a llama. They were made for the country. Put ’em in the city and there ya go. All hell breaks lose. They’re all like, “We respect the rules of the road.” Well there’s your video evidence to the contrary!

  7. Ok, so now we ghettoize people based on their gender identity or sexual preferences? I can’t tell if we are moving forward or backward here.

    I am not against the Billy Graham crusade, but I just can’t justify decisional in-group soteriology with anything I read in the New Testament. Of course, like just about every theology on the planet if I already think it is true, I can pick out “proof texts”, but I’m talking about more critical whole-text analysis. This ends up being kind of a big deal, because if that is either not part of or generally irrelevant to Christianity, then the Billy Graham crusade becomes irrelevant at best, and a hindrance at worst. I’m also a little tired of the Jesus that wants to save you, but makes no ethical demands on your life.

    • An interesting point — ghettoization based on such identities. I suspect, however, that’s it’s all just a passing fad.

      Many cities such as SF, most obviously, were once regarded as major hubs of gay culture. This is still true today, but to a seemingly lesser degree. Precisely because of broader cultural acceptance, gays no longer generally feel as much of a need to create such communities as they once did. However many new acronyms people use to define themselves, they too eventually won’t feel the need to huddle together in a “safe space” once they feel that no one is out to get them.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        It is worth recalling that back in the Middle Ages, a ghetto was a right that Jews lobbied hard for, for much the same reasons as what you describe.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Note that the two Gender Identities(TM) of Male and Female are missing from the list.

      Crap like this turns me off even more to even the idea of sex.

    • “A Safe Place.”

      ….to get your freak on, maybe. Can you imagine the kind of reputation that particular dorm might develop? People living there could wind up being extremely unfairly stigmatized. Heaven forbid straight people learn to live in a dorm with gay people. Perhaps this hasn’t worked out so well? I went to Fundagelical U, and we didn’t have much trouble with it (through many of them chose to remain partially closeted for good reason, I suppose).

      Really, though, the whole thing is just a publicity stunt to show support for the cause. If they’re really concerned about helping gay students, they’ve got to have a more thought through strategy than that.

      And why the freaking flip does BD/SM need it’s own dormitory? What are the walls and ceilings more reinforced to support chains, tie downs, and swings? I’m not entirely convinced that people into that don’t enjoy being surrounded by people who aren’t. Wait hold the phone: BDSM is an orientation now? We have to be sensitive to people who think 50 shades of grey is romantic? Well call me a bigot, but I shall continue to ridicule, if for nothing other than bad taste.

  8. Regarding online evangelistic campaigns: I can’t line up the logical arguments against, but I don’t like the idea. Following Jesus involves being incorporated into a community called the Church, and I believe that incorporation is a process simultaneously bodily and spiritual. The gateway to that incorporation is baptism, and baptism is not something performed by oneself in the lonely illumination given off by a computer monitor, but with the body of Christ gathered in the light of the Holy Spirit.

    • The online “evangelistic campaign” is a logical extension of the North American Evangelical “logos”; It’s ALL about A PERSONAL DECISION and that is essentially the only thing that counts (literally).

      • Get ’em in the door and let Jesus sort out the mess!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Not even that. Today’s “logos” is standing there like a statue, totally oblivio in a pocket universe with a total population of one, staring at your smartphone screen and only interfacing with other pocket universes in meatspace by 24/7/365 txtng.

    • And yet, to play devil’s argument, wasn’t there a person in the Acts that was baptizing without being part of the Apostle’s community and they decided to let him be as he wasn’t against them and was preaching? Might solo Christians fit under that rubric? Wicca gains a lot of members by being able to be practiced solo, which means no need to go out and find a group, which can be hard if you’re in a community without a solid pagan community. Plus the Gospels don’t mention the Church. Acts does as far as creating the original communities and Paul does, but I would guess one could make the argument that well, of course they were trying to build up the community, they had an agenda, so their words should be weighed accordingly. Plus if your gonna ignore Paul on gender roles and head coverings, why can’t he be ignored on ecclesiology?

      I actually think Christianity has a better way of surviving if it can be incorporated into the practice of SBNR people..

      • The Eithopian eunuch was basically baptized by a hologram. Philip queued up some bible teaching, led him to make a decision, and vanished, leaving him alone and apart from community.

        We don’t have a problem with that either.

    • It’s just the logical consequence of rejecting the sacraments and thereby reducing faith to a Gnostic set of disembodied concepts to be subscribed to. In your RSS feed or something.

  9. You said “70 seconds” Mr Jepsen. …I feel violated… 😉

  10. I”m conflicted. On the one hand, I believe in freedom of religion; on the other, I believe that humane societies should do all they reasonably can to reduce the amount of suffering inflicted on animals by human beings.

    My understanding is that cattle are killed in modern assembly line slaughterhouses by first stunning them, and then yanking them upside down, rear legs first, and cutting their necks, allowing the blood to drain down and out of the carcass. Kosher and halal laws require the animal to be fully conscious at the moment of slaughter, which means that the cattle are yanked upside down, rear legs first, without being stunned first, significantly increasing their suffering and pain in the seconds before slaughter.

    Given this, I believe that Denmark is not going beyond the interests of humane society in legislating against kosher and halal methods of slaughter, and not unduly reducing religious freedom. I do not in any way consider this antisemitism, since it is a law meant to restrict anyone from slaughtering animals in the prohibited way, not just prohibiting Jewish people from doing so.

    • The purpose of the law may not be to be anti-semitic, but the application sort of is. If a country outlawed baptism on some made up reason, it might prohibit anyone from baptizing, but obviously Christians would be the main ones affected by the law.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        And baptism hurts babies how? False equivalence. They did not speak of banning Bar mitzvah, for instance?

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          “And baptism hurts babies how?”

          Well, they sure seem to scream a lot. Especially if the water is a bit chilly.

        • By giving them a false sense of security of course(just kidding, just kidding). The point was creating a law that negatively impacts only a particular group of people who historically have been free to practice their religion until this new law was put in place, and then saying it is not discriminatory because it restricts all people. Again, maybe their intention wasn’t to discriminate or restrict freedom, but that is what actually happens.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In Tsarist Russia, it was illegal to be circumcised. Not as a discriminatory measure against Jews, of course. The fact it allowed the Okhrana to round up Jews at any time was purely coincidental.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:
    • Ever been to a slaughterhouse Robert? You think the animals can’t smell the blood? You think they can’t hear the cacophony of the whole process? Once visiting such a place ( I LIVED near one!) you will forever think twice about that steak on your plate. To this day I cannot eat meat that reminds me of the animal itself. Boneless chicken and ground meat ONLY for me! I STILL recognize what it represents, but at least I am not gnawing on a bone. A very small sacrifice for the sake of the animal that gave it to me.

      In view of THAT, how is kosher and halal regs any worse?

      • Here is a wikilink describing kosher slaughter. Barring PETA objections, or just vegan righteousness, this is much better that assembly line slaughter that the rest of the world practices.

      • Never been to a slaughterhouse, oscar, and I don’t know what the differences in industry practices are between one nation and another, so I initially spoke from a certain amount of ignorance. I still believe it’s legitimate for a nation to reduce the amount of suffering inflicted on animals by human beings through legislation, even if this legislation results in greater burdens on some religious communities, as long as the purpose was not to burden these communities alone. In this case, the fact that both Muslims and Jews are inconvenienced by this new Danish law highlights that this is not antisemitism.

        • But it might be anti-religious. And I’m actually ok with that in theory. I don’t think freedom of religion should stand in the way of common sense, and if common sense causes the devout to choose vegetarianism, then that is their choice.

  11. Clicking for Christ will probably do no more harm, nor affect any more lives than ChickTracts, Jesus is Coming road signs, or any other anonymous evangelism attempts. I fear they are more beneficial to the presenter ‘s peace of mind than the receiver’s state of soul.

    Unfortunately, there will be people at the final judgement now saying “I subscribed to the livefeed”, only to be shut down when asked “But do you remember your username and password?”


  12. Dan Crawford says:

    “Did you know that 54 percent of Republicans believe that “deep down” President Obama is a Muslim? And only 9 percent take his claim to be Christian at face value?”

    Deep down in my heart and based on my own observations of their behavior, I believe that 97% of “Christian” Republicans actually worship Mammon.

    • flatrocker says:

      And 97% of “Christian” Democrats actually worship their own gilded reflections.

      Shew, now that we’ve got the gross stereotypical oversimplified characterizations out of the way….

      ….We demand more llama stories!!

    • I believe 97% Americans do not know how to calculate a percentage, and the other 10% do.

    • Narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to life. Wide is the road to destruction.

      What percentage of ANY congregation is truly on the narrow way?

      • How do you know that YOU are on the narrow path, Oscar? I am not being snarky here. I really am curious. I see lots of commenters here who seem so confident about their own salvation while questioning the rest of the world’s…On what is this confidence based? As I was asking Steve Martin above, he seems to base his security on the fact that he goes to church regularly. I hear so many varying answers about this topic. I thought if you believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross, you ARE on the narrow way. Am I wrong? Am I missing all the qualifiers and small print?

        • “I thought if you believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross, you ARE on the narrow way. Am I wrong? Am I missing the qualifiers and small print?”

          Yep – it gets confusing. Are you sure that you’re sure that you have the right beliefs about… “dying for your sins” works? It sure seems like there are a lot of qualifiers and small print and conditions to not end up on the wide path to DESTRUCTION.

          • Whereas I would reply that conflating “believing Jesus died for your sins” with being on the narrow way is a monstrous fallacy.

          • It absolutely is a monstrous fallacy.

          • Robert F says:

            Let’s stipulate that it is a fallacy. Here are the questions: What do you believe constitutes being on the straight and narrow? And how do you intend to avoid being on the path that leads to Destruction?

          • Great question. I personally think that the “narrow road” statement has particular 1st century implications and isn’t abstract theology about individual destruction – but I’m no scholar. Maybe that’s the real question here – is the narrow road that few find biblical “proof” that the vast vast majority are “out”? Is it a timeless statement about obeying rules and being good?

            With me at least, it’s sometimes easier to answer the question with what I don’t believe to rule things out. I don’t think that mental assent to ANY doctrine (different than “trust”) = the straight and narrow. Nor do I think that ritually taking any sacrament nor being a regular church attendee = the narrow road. These things may be for our benefit, but they are an expression and not the reality itself. I trust (or try to trust?) that God as revealed in Christ is good outside of any response that I make – that Gods disposition towards humanity – even the worst of sinners – doesn’t change if we say the magic words. Does the fact that I believe that put me on the “narrow path”? Maybe. I don’t know. But I think that believing that, even a tiny bit, allows me to love more fully and freely (though still poorly).

            Honestly, these days I think less and less about making sure that I’m not excluding myself – there are seemingly an infinite number of ways that I could do that depending on who I ask. If can only lead to despair. Without knowing a ton about Barth, I suppose that I tend towards a more Barthian view (and others) that you mentioned below, and a more generous and hopeful eschatology.

            What do you think?

          • I have no such belief nor intention.

          • Thats probably a much better answer Dr Fundy.

          • Robert F says:

            I think that I agree with you, in every particular you mention, and with Dr. F; I especially agree with you that notional assent does not = the narrow way, nor does being a regular church attendee or ritually receiving any sacrament.

            Regarding election, I’m banking on Barth: Jesus Christ is the the electing God, and the elected one, and in his humanity salvation has been opened up to all human beings; which means that potential universalism is a real possibility. The only problem I have with his doctrine of election is that it’s a little too congenial and neat, and may impose too much unanimity and order on scriptural texts that are not actually speaking with one voice; he himself said, almost as if embarrassed, that it surprised him that no theologian had ever done the exegesis that he did before him. Great minds sometimes impose meaning and order where there are none, and this may be the case here, too. It may be an illusion, but it’s the kind of illusion I can, at least sometimes, live with.

        • Jesus paid too high a price for there to be any “small print”. I think the thief who asked Jesus to remember him would agree right about now.

      • oscar, regarding narrow is the way: If Karl Barth was right, Jesus was the narrow way, and the only one on the narrow way; hence, he was also the few on the straight and narrow. According to Barth’s exegesis, since these passages refer no one but Christ himself, we cannot make any determination based on them concerning the percentages of human beings who ultimately are redeemed or not. We can, however, know that God’s will in Christ is that all should be redeemed.

  13. I really need some help with this. What color do you see?

  14. A Saturday syllogism, brought to you by Ancient Egyptian Polytheists Against ISIS:

    When a Muslim decides to call himself a Christian, he is no longer regarded as a Muslim by the followers of Allah.

    Obama calls himself a Christian.

    Therefore Obama cannot be a Muslim.

  15. I said to myself “I’m going to look at Saturday Ramblings and hold my breath hoping that dang white and gold dress isn’t on there…”

    • You can stop holding your breath.
      Only the blue and black one showed up.

    • Are you kidding? I heard it on NPR this morning! Apparently, the scientific consensus is “orange.” At least, according to Adobe Photoshop or something.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Ironically, the word is out (link missing): black and blue, according to the original poster, a young lady from Colonsay in Scotland.

        • The original dress has black, but the digital analysis of the photo says that it displays as orange. Which is odd, because nobody sees it as that color.

  16. Randy Thompson says:

    Having just seen an excellent (!!!) exhibit of M.C. Escher’s works at the Currier Museum of Art here in New Hampshire a couple months ago, I would like to note here that Escher didn’t need photoshopping. He needed no technological helps at all. This exhibit was one of the most mentally and perceptually demanding art exhibits I’ve ever been to. Brilliant stuff!

  17. Randy Thompson says:

    “The country is in serious trouble” according to Donald Trump.

    I agree with him.

    Any country that would think him a possible, serious candidate for the presidency is in serious trouble.

    We should encourage him to stick to what he does reasonably well, real estate and game shows.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “Any country that would think him a possible, serious candidate for the presidency is in serious trouble.”

      Fortunately, this is not such a country. Next topic: why our media treats him any differently that it did Pat Paulson back in the day.

  18. Meanwhile, in the back of our minds we are all thinking, “WHAT’S ON THE SCROLLS????”

  19. After having just watched the documentary “You’ve Been Trumped” this afternoon (and of course, seeing other bits of his personality in the media) I can say is that I would tear my garments and cover myself in ashes should Trump ever make it to the White House. If he considers himself a Christian inwardly, then I’d urge him to strive to show it more outwardly as well.

  20. “Do online evangelistic campaigns like this do more harm than good? Or should we simply celebrate that the good news about Jesus is getting out, and praying some of the seed falls on good soil? What do you think?”

    I think… Is this the good news about Jesus Christ, or the plan of salvation to get ME to heaven that’s getting out through the internet? If it’s more of the latter… I don’t think it’s really helping anybody beyond promote “me” theology.