Welcome to the weekend, fellow imonkers. It is now about two months that I have had the privilege of writing the ramblings, and I think Pope Francis made the cut every week. But since Martha had two wonderful posts on Francis of Monday and Tuesday of this week, I will refrain from all pope-talk. If you haven’t read Martha’s posts, please do. She is an incredible writer.
Since March Madness is not mad enough, Warren Buffet has announced he will give a billion (yes, with a “b”) dollars to anyone who completes a perfect bracket for the tourney. So our first discussion question of the post is this: what would you do with the billion if you defied the odds? And don’t say “give it to charity” you little do-gooder, unless you specify which charities and why you picked them.
Quick, what’s wrong with this ad for a sniper rifle, at right? If you said, “It desecrates and trivializes one of the greatest treasures of western culture in order to make a quick buck”, then congratulations: you have more sense than the entire marketing department at ArmaLite. The ad is creating quite a stir in Italy, with the Culture Minister calling it “offensive” (which seems like rather of an understatement). And exactly which magazines host full-page adds for $3,300 sniper rifles, anyway?
In related news, ArmaLite has cancelled it’s “Mona Lisa with a sniper bullet through her forehead” print campaign.
Bernice King this week turned over the personal Bible and the Noble Peace Price which belonged to her father, Martin Luther King, Jr. Her brothers desire to sell these, a move Bernice called, “spiritually violent, unconscionable, historically negligent, and outright morally reprehensible.” I would normally find that type of language over-the-top. Not this time.
Best long read of the week goes to the New Yorker, for the first interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer. Peter Lanza comes across as mourning and remorseful, while warning that anyone could have missed the signs of his son’s inner struggles. He also talks about whether his son’s Asperger’s diagnosis actually helped or whether it simply masked much deeper problems. In the end he concludes with this heart-wrenching verdict: “I wish he had never been born”.
Did you know that 2016 will host something not seen in 1,200 years? What is it? An ecumenical council of the Orthodox churches.
Ashutosh Maharaj led the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (Divine Light Awakening Mission) which claims more than 30 million followers. He was recently declared dead by Indian authorities in Punjab. His followers aren’t buying the death verdict. And so confident are they that he is merely in a state of deep meditation, they froze his corpse. “He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back,” his spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC.
Christianity is estimated to be growing 10 times faster in Asia than in Europe, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Many attribute this growth to the wide-spread adoption of the mega-church model, combined with Pentecostal prosperity teaching. Megachurches began in the United States, but many of the largest are in Asia (South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church claims 1 million members). “Whatever method that can most effectively convey the message to our generation, we will do it,” said one pastor.
Meanwhile, the pastor of a Swedish Pentecostal mega-church stunned his congregation with the announcement (during Sunday morning worship) that he and his wife were converting to Catholicism.
This week marked the third year evangelical leaders have gathered in Bethlehem for a “Christ at the Check-point” conference. The theme this year draws from the Lord’s Prayer to ask how Jesus Christ would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not a fan: “The attempt to use religious motifs in order to mobilize political propaganda and agitate the feelings of the faithful through the manipulation of religion and politics is an unacceptable and shameful act. Using religion for the purpose of incitement in the service of political interests stains the person who does it with a stain of indelible infamy.” Gary M. Burge, a speaker (and Wheaton professor) answered, “The statement by the MFA concerning the checkpoint conference is tragic on so many levels: it is ill-informed — “political propaganda” is an absurd comment — and the statement itself is an incitement. This is simply the only gathering of Palestinian Christians in the world who are trying to have their voices heard by their brothers and sisters in Christ….I think that the Israeli government is worried about this gathering because every year evangelicals are growing in their understanding of this conflict and questioning the standard Israeli narrative of things.”
Having a bad day? Wish you were 26 and drove a Mercedes convertible? Would some warm schadenfreude make you feel better?
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan wants President Obama to open up Area 51. This will apparently help avert the coming of the Mother Wheel, a “heavily armed spaceship the size of a city that will rain destruction upon white America, but save those who embrace the Nation of Islam.”
Last week ramblings mentioned that Mark Driscoll’s church paid $210,000 to a promotional company to get his book on the New York Times Bestseller list. The book made the list for a week (long enough for Driscoll to be marketed as a “New York Times Bestselling Author”). The contract is here, for those interested. This week the church put out a statement regarding the controversy: “In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again.” The statement also claims that Driscoll did not profit from the scheme, but one website analyzed the sales trend and concluded, “The $210,000 that the church spent had the immediate and direct effect of boosting Mark Driscoll’s earnings by $330,000, with an indirect effect of earning $180,000 more based on the buzz that led to the media interviews, for a total of just over a half million dollars.”
By the way, that same website has an interesting take on how and why celebrity pastors care so deeply about having best-selling books (and its not just ego): “We know from NewSpring that megachurches are very concerned about being perceived by the IRS as overpaying their pastors, who lead putatively nonprofit organizations, after all…If the church can help the pastor earn a large proportion of his income through selling books, both sides win–the church gets to construct a massive compensation package where the base salary isn’t appalling, and the preacher gets to spend the money freely because it comes from books rather than the collection plate.”
Did you watch the reboot of Cosmos? The visuals are gorgeous, of course, and I normally like the new host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. But it seemed targeted to a very young audience. And I was puzzled by the script. Why did the most prestigious science show in the country spend nearly one fourth of its debut on an intellectually dishonest shot at the Catholic Church? And one done in a cartoon format with all the classiness and subtlety of a Chick Track?
The show decided the first thinker to showcase would be 16th-century Italian mystic Giordano Bruno. Bruno was not a scientist, but is portrayed as a martyr in the “religion versus science wars” since he was executed by the inquisition. But he was a poor choice (he was condemned for his theology, not science) and the show manages to get almost everything about Bruno wrong. How wrong? Well, after watching the show and then reading this analysis of its factuality, it’s pretty hard to argue with the conclusion about Tyson: “He may in fact be very gifted at explaining science, but weaponizing poorly-understood, incorrectly told history isn’t something an honest intellectual does.”
For those who don’t want to read the above link, here is a pretty good excerpt: [Bruno] was a hermeticist and cabalist, and viewed heliocentrism not as some verifiable scientific truth, but as a sign of the return to the true, superior religion of ancient Egypt. He saw his work as a corrective to Copernicus, who failed to understand the religious significance of heliocentrism….His work had little to do with science…Bruno makes for good propaganda, and continues the Church versus Science lie so dear to the hearts of reactionary atheists. Never mind that it’s not true and that we have only one scientist really punished by the Church at least in part for his science, and that was 400 years ago.Why do we revisit these things? The Church that funded and advanced scientific progress for centuries becomes a cartoon villain every time the issue comes up. Mike Flynn has thoroughly, conclusively smashed this lie in a long, detailed, heavily annotated series. No respectable historian of science buys it any more. Yet here’s Tyson and his remake of “Comos” doing it all over again. If you want to depict Bruno as a martyr for pantheistic cabalistic hermetic occultism, be my guest. But he was not a martyr for science.
This is the best obituary I have ever read.
I knew multi-site churches were growing. I had no idea that almost one in ten protestants in the U. S. attends one.
Someone stole the weekend offering from Joel Osteen’s Church last week. The online giving was not affected, so the thieves only got $600,000.
From the sounds like a Hawthorne novel department comes the story of a well-regarded and long-tenured pastor who confessed in church to a long-past infidelity. And then died.
The Learning Channel, continuing it’s competition with the History Channel to be the most ironically named network, begins another show Sunday about a polygamous marriage. It chronicles the life of Brady Williams, his five wives and their 24 children. Brady said it was “liberating” to “come out of the closet”.
Speaking of polygamy, I missed that a federal judge in Utah struck down key parts of the state’s polygamy laws in December. The ruling decriminalizes polygamy, making only bigamy — holding marriage licenses with multiple partners — illegal. I have no idea how this would play out. But what do you think, imonkers? Should the redefinition of marriage include polygamy? Group marriages? Why or why not?
Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, of course, when we celebrate the patron Saint of green beer. In his honor, we conclude with the following video: