August 29, 2014

Saturday Ramblings, March 8, 2014

UPDATE: Bill Gothard resigns from IBLP and affiliated organizations.

* * *

Happy weekend, imonkers. Here in the Midwest, we are finally above freezing (at least during the day). And, of course, Lent began this week.  Did you give anything up?  One analysis of the top things people gave up for lent is based on tweets, and looks like this:

Rank What Number of Tweets
1. chocolate 5,395
2. twitter 4,915
3. school 3,630
4. alcohol 3,046
5. swearing 2,740
6. social networking 2,690
7. soda 2,148
8. sweets 1,993
9. fast food 1,721
10. junk food 1,281

 

Mark Galli has given up self-discipline for Lent.  And, no, he is not being facetious.  Will Willimon gives a thoughtful (as usual) take on why we can be joyful during Lent. And the Wall Street Journal reports on Ash Selfies.

Who would hate the Dalai Lama?  These guys, who have been following him around with pickets signs, and called him “The Worst Dictator in the World.”

Does the Catholic Church have a drinking problem?  Some Catholics think so: “From parishes to parochial schools to university classrooms, the Church is failing in its responsibility to talk about the pernicious impact of alcohol (and even drugs) on so many people in our society, along with the detrimental impact it has on achieving the common good. One is more likely to see devout Catholics being flip about drinking—or even romanticizing and glorifying it—than confronting the nihilism, escapism, and despair that are a big part of our nation’s drinking culture and the wreckage that it leaves in its wake.”

guns and godFrom the Truth is Stranger than Fiction Department comes this quote about church outreach: “One of the things we’ve been doing recently is morphing these wild-game dinners into Second Amendment rallies. You know, we get in there and we burp and scratch and we talk about, you know, the right to bear arms and all that stuff….One of the things that we’ve learned in doing these is that when you do an affinity event, you have to have a hook that draws the unchurched. In the event of a Second Amendment rally the number of unchurched men that show up will be in direct proportion to the number of guns you give away.” That’s right, churches are giving away guns as a form of evangelism.  Not just one or two churches; it is part of the Kentucky Baptist Church’s outreach strategy. So many questions arise here:

  • What caliber of church would do this?
  • Is the Second Amendment in the Bible?  Did I miss that?
  • Are the burping and scratching mandatory?  If so, how much of each?

Well, this is interesting. 82% of white evangelicals believe that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, but only 40%  of American Jews who believe the same.  Also, 46% of the first group believe American Foreign Policy is not supportive enough of Israel, while only 31% of the second group concur.

The 2014 Oscars were last Sunday night?  Did you watch?  I confess as I get older I have less and less interest in glitterati worship services.  So, no, I didn’t watch.  But I did hear of this quote, from the acceptance speech of Matthew McConaughey:  “There’s three things that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward and another is someone to chase. First off, I want to thank God, ’cause that’s who I look up to. He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know is not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Lawton who said ‘when you got God, you got a friend and that friend is you.’”  I am really, really not sure what to make of that last sentence.

drive-in-church_wide-2f1d5c69f8831214454135f834df09d6420b97d1-s40-c85

NPR had a story about a drive-in church in Florida: “Other parishioners say the drive-in approach is perfect for those who have trouble walking or for antsy children who enjoy the open space. Others say they revel in the ocean air and Florida sunshine. And some say they like that the church welcomes the whole family, including pet dogs: When ushers hand out Communion, even the dogs get treats. At the service’s close, things get even livelier when people use their car horns to “clap.” 

In Nigeria, an Islamic group called Boko Haram struck  again, leaving 32 people dead.  In the last week, they have killed over 150 people, mostly Christians, as they attempt to set up an Islamic state.  Our Coptic brothers and sisters are also in trouble: seven Christian men have been shot execution-style on a beach outside Benghazi, security officials in Libya announced Monday. And Brunei has recently passed a law indicating 19 Islamic words that non-Muslims are not allowed to utter.

John McCain joked this week that because of his close friendship with Joseph Lieberman, “I was bris close to converting to Judaism.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is objecting to the “cartoonish” idea that good Mormons will receive their own planet.

Does Pope Francis support civil unions for gay couples?  Some are interpreting his latest interview that way. In other Francis news, some are describing his overall goal as “converting the church“.

Donald Trump and Pope Francis have something in common, at least according to the Donald: “The new Pope is a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!”  Yep, Donald, just like you.

But at least Trump didn’t call the Pope dead, like he did this week to “the late, great Jimmy Carter” (who is still very much alive).

Your tithes at work? Mark Driscoll’s church paid a marketing company at least $210,000  to ensure that Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, made the New York Times best-seller list.

A few years ago, Philadelphia schools passed a grooming policy in 2010 that mandated beards on police and security officers be no longer than one-quarter of an inch.  They recently demanded that a Muslim security guard shave his beard in conformity with that.  The U. S. Justice department is now suing the school district for discrimination. Also this week, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed guidelines for employers as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013.  Examples of discrimination cited in the report include:

  • An Albuquerque hotel that would not allow a Muslim woman to work in housekeeping unless she removed her head-scarf.
  •  A Newark auto dealership that refused to hire a Sikh unless he shaved his beard
  • A fast-food outlet in North Carolina that sought to force a Pentecostal woman to wear uniform pants even when her faith teaches women should only wear skirts.
  • An Orthodox Jewish woman being asked to wear a short skirt
  • Rastafarians being asked not to wear their hair in dreadlocks.

First Things published an interesting article on how Mike Huckabee could win the 2016 Republican primaries.  Would this be a good thing?  I heart Huckabee (even if not all his views), but can’t help but feel he would re-ignite a culture war that he just cannot win (the high ground being held by the opposition).  What are your thoughts?

How many times have we heard that, “Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians”? Not true at all, at least if you define “Christians” as those who actually go to church.  One sociologist found that that 60 percent of those who claim Christianity but do not attend church have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. Another prominent sociologist adds,  “‘active conservative Protestants’ who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.” His other findings:  Active Catholics are 31 percent less likely to divorce than secularists, while nominal Catholics are only five percent less likely.  The biggest difference active faith makes (in this area) concerns Jews.  Active Jews were 97 percent less likely to divorce than secular Americans, while nominal Jews were 53 percent more likely to do so.  What got me started looking at this was a link in a very fine article, What God Teaches Us About Broken Marriage Vows.

Gee, thanks, Science Guy!  A proposed Noah’s ark theme park led by Ken Ham will be built after all.  Ham has announced that the publicity surrounding his debate with Ken Nye has helped raise enough money to sell the bonds needed.

Memebase has a cool show (thankfully, in just one page) of 30 awesome finds on google earth. I think the Badlands Guardian is my favorite.

The Mayor of London views “religious radicalization” as a form of child abuse, and want to remove children from homes where this occurs.  He is speaking of Muslim families here, and his goal is reining in terrorism.  It’s a good thing the war on terror never produces any undesirable consequences, isn’t it?

Apparently there is some discussion over whether the Son of God movie that debuted last weekend featured a Jesus who was “too hot”.  This is carrying over into discussions over whether Russell Crowe (as Noah) and Christian Bale (as Moses) also have a little too much buffness, tan, and dental perfection for their roles in upcoming movies.  I admit I had not thought of this before.  But some people not only have, but have created a slide-show (if you’re interested) of the most attractive actors to play Jesus.  Hmmm. None of them look very Jewish.  And who knew the list would include Will Ferrell.  I haven’t seen most of these movies, so I’m not sure who would be my favorite.  The only one more laughable than Ferrell was (unlike Ferrell’s) not played for laughs (but got them anyway): William Dafoe as a red-headed Jesus with a British accent in The Last Temptation of Christ.  Or maybe Dafoe just seems too creepy to me to play anything but a whacked-out villain. Anyway, what are your favorite and least favorite actors to play Christ?

And apparently I’m not the only one creeped out by Dafoe.  untitled

Speaking of creepy, did you know they are finding severed goat’s heads in Brooklyn?

Finally, by tradition, I am supposed to end the Ramblings with a music video.  But I stink at choosing videos.  Apparently my taste in music is like my taste in beer: non-existent (though for different reasons — I don’t drink).  So unless The Good Chaplain Mike™ wants to take over this role, you have to put up with whatever is on my mind that week. And this week my mind is still on Steve Taylor.  After all, who else would make a Claymation video about a ravenous cow terrorizing a city, all in the name of spoofing our materialistic mindset?  The last few lines are actually quite thought-provoking (but forgive the poor recording quality).

 

Comments

  1. WWJS – What Would Jesus Shoot?
    “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear burp and scratch 37 times, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 burps and scratches?”
    Actually given the culture of the area is using guns for outreach that different from, say, a car show?

    Those who want human interaction can then gather in the fellowship hall, which used to be the theater’s concession stand.

    Thank God this is now optional in church. I can fellowship all by my bad self.

    Prayers for our persecuted brethren across the globe.

    Perhaps the Pope will hint at running for US President the next time he has a book or tv show coming out.

    I think it would be better for Mike Huckabee to not run. He seems decent and I wouldn’t wish political office on him.

    Those stats – at least on the Christian side – have been known for a while. (The trend, not the specific numbers – they may have changed from different studies.) The problem is the “Christian” definition – people often praise the lower divorce rates of Christians w/out adding the asterisk (*Only for regular church attenders. Offer not valid in following states: CA, NV, DE, etc)

    • dumb ox says:

      The gun story reveals the irony of the cultural war: while the church has been “redeeming” and defending against the culture it has been entrenched in the very same culture. We take secular cultural assumptions regarding manhood (men are violent, coarse, brutal, conquering – which I think can be traced back to very Darwinian “caveman” ideas) and lay on top of it a “biblical” perspective; the result is still a secular view of manhood, merely draped in the trappings of religion.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    That’s right, churches are giving away guns as a form of evangelism. Not just one or two churches; it is part of the Kentucky Baptist Church’s outreach strategy. So many questions arise here:

    What caliber of church would do this?

    First Church of Zardoz, of course.

    “FOR ZARDOZ YOUR GOD GAVE YOU THE GIFT OF THE GUN!
    THE GUN IS GOOD!”

    And any preacher preaching a Second Amendment Sunday sermon should be forced to preach his sermon in red speedos, black hooker boots, and a Zardoz mask.

  3. Robert F says:

    Despite the fact that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, historically Buddhism has adapted itself to local religious practices and beliefs, incorporating much of the various indigenous superstition of the places to which it has emigrated. Nowhere has this been more true than in Tibetan Buddhism, which is rife with all kinds of superstition, including a pantheon too enormous to define, and the factionalism that is typical where god’s vie with each other in the multitudinous cults of their devotees. Theoretically, Buddhism provides an overarching metaphysical system, a meta-narrative, in which the varieties of devotion and practice and superstition are integrated into the Buddhist dharma; in reality and practice, Tibetans Buddhists are sometimes as religiously contentious and divided as different kinds of monotheists about what constitutes right belief and practice. So it’s unsurprising that some Tibetan Buddhists criticize the Dali Lama as a “dictator”; they are carrying on a long Tibetan tradition of religious infighting. Did you honestly think that Tibet was ever Shangri-La before the Chinese invaded?

    • Setting aside the s-word, Christianity too has “adapted itself to local religious practices and beliefs, incorporating much of the various indigenous superstition of the places to which it has emigrated,” including a communion of saints and angels “too enormous to define,” a “tradition of religious infighting,” etc. Perhaps Satanists ought to picket the pope for banning the cult of one particular angel, namely Satan, and for perpetuating a situation in which Satanists are forced to conceal their beliefs in order to get jobs.

      • Robert F says:

        And when those Satanists were done picketing the Pope, they would then need to picket the Bible, since the “cult” of that “particular angel,” Satan, (along with his angelic horde of followers) is definitely prohibited there.

        Anyway, protests and picketing are as American as apple pie. I don’t deny any of the specifics you enumerate, and in fact included a clause in my comment regarding the infighting among monotheists (including Christian infighting); none of this in any way in itself precludes the possible truth of either Christianity or Buddhism, so I’m not exactly sure what you’re point is.

        On a different note: having more thoroughly re-read the linked article about the Dali Lama protestors, I see that decades long scholarly apologist for all things Tibetan Buddhist, both the good and the bad, Robert Thurman, quoted as laying the blame for the current protests at the feet of the Chinese occupiers of Tibet.

        Well, I don’t know about the veracity of that claim, but perhaps some might be interested to know that Robert Thurman is the father of film actress Uma Thurman. He is considered one of the foremost scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, having produced a good number of highly respected translations of Tibetan Buddhist sacred texts. He has been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for many decades now. I met him once at a conference of the Lindisfarne Association back in the early 1980′s, by which time he had been among Tibetans so much that he spoke English, his first language, with a noticeable Tibetan lilt.

        • Robert F – if the fighting is indeed over the worship of Dorje Shugden (as stated in the article), theres no wonder both sides are angry. I accidentally ran across material from both sides of this conflict last year, and was very surprised by its vehemence. Of course, when someone denounces the deity you worship as a “demon king,” that’s bound to happen.

          It looks like the real offense is to the claim that the current Dalai Lama represents the welfare and interests of all Tibetans. As for Thurman, he’s clearly partisan and I distrust him.

          • Robert F says:

            Neither do I trust Thurman’s statement. I think he has served as a scholarly public relations man for the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, and as an apologist for the excesses that can be found in Tibetan history. Although I oppose the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the charges the Chinese make against the historic corruption of the religious government of Tibet are not completely unfounded. Thurman is an apologist for that often corrupt history.

          • Yes. He can be very insensitive, too. There’s a video on Amazon with him that I thought might be a good scholarly guided tour of some monuments and pilgrimage sites in the Himalayas. It turned out to be a fanboy or fangirl mix of him pontificating to a small group of rapt listeners – and the content was breathtakingly shallow, dumbed-down and on top of it all, very derisive toward monotheists. (No matter their religion.)

            So I now think he’s a pompous blowhard who knows much less than he’s reputed to know, as well as someone who seems to bask in the glow of his adoring followers. I have about zero respect for him.

            Agreed on Tibetan history (what little I know of it) as well as the Chinese occupation, though it isn’t the only place they’ve invaded – the Xinjiang Autonomous Region is another. (Something a Chinese American friend of mine has been working on for a couple of decades – the media seem to pointedly ignore it except for when something “sensational” happens. I wish the cadre of Tibetan Buddhist converts here would speak out on behalf of other occupied regions and ethnic minorities in China, but… crickets.)

          • Here’s a good overview of the Shugden thing, by Georges Dreyfus, an academic and former Gelugpa monk:

            http://www.dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden/ganden-tripa/the-shugden-affair-i

          • Robert F says:

            I have to believe that the historical Buddha, if he was anything like the Pali Canon makes him out to be, would have shaken his head deprecatingly at the thought of his spiritual progeny contending over the merit of the various gods, whom he said only fools contest over, since that way leads not to enlightenment.

          • To be honest, I can’t see what all the tantric sects really have to do with Buddhism per se. I don’t mean that as a blanket statement, but can’t think of a better way of putting it…

          • Wexel, that is not exactly what I’d call impartial, considering that it’s posted on the Dalai Lama’s official site.

          • Nobody’s impartial–at least not if they know anything. I have read responses from Shugden people, which argue that [a], Dreyfus is parroting the Tibetan exile government line, and [b], there is lots of evidence that the Shugden cult as we know it well predates Pabongka. However, Dreyfus published his piece in a referreed journal, and it has been well received among specialists. He focuses on understanding what this deity and controversy are all about rather than making polemic points.

            He is primarily interested in philosophy, though, not black magic. Years ago, when one of his teachers asked him what he thought of protector spirits (apparently with an eye to inviting him to worship Shugden), he stammered out something about how he thought that maybe they existed symbolically! And so the invitation never came. In retrospect, perhaps this was a very good thing.

  4. Robert F says:

    I don’t see coffee on that list, but that’s the Lenten fast I’m already having a devil of a time keeping. It’s always illuminating to observe how weak my will is, at least when it comes to undertaking any discipline or sacrifice. It helps me to know and be cognizant of why I can’t save myself, and why, if I had to procure my own salvation by voluntarily choosing to hang on a cross, I’d be toast.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      I friend of mine gave up coffee for Lent one year. The next year, as Lent approached, his co-workers presented him with a petition asking him not to do that again.

      • LOL, I don’t like coffee anyway, so giving up coffee, as well as heroin, would be no biggie. Chocolate bunnies, however……

    • I’ve done it. When I was a Baptist. Thank God I had access to fresh, imported, loose-leaf Japanese sencha. You think Red Bull gives you wings? I haven’t given up anything for Lent since becoming Lutheran. You’ll have to pry the third sacrament from my cold, dead fingers.

      • Robert F says:

        But I’ll bet you Baptists didn’t know that every Sunday is a feast day.

        • I did discover this about halfway through. At that point, I figured I might as well keep at it and make the adjustment next year. There wasn’t a next time.

  5. Robert F says:

    What, you expected something that makes sense from Magic Mike’s boss? Maybe, like Shirley MacLaine, he holds to the New Age idea that he is God, and so, he’s thankful to himself for being his own divine friend?

  6. Robert F says:

    If the Pope is supporting same sex civil unions, I’m on board with him. So are many Anglicans, like theologian John Mill and other Radical Orthodox theologians, who theologically define marriage as a sacramental relationship that can only exist between a man and a woman, but support same sex civil unions, along with the blessing of monogamous same sex relationships by the church.

  7. Robert F says:

    It’s always refreshing when a man with such wonderful hair can be so humble.

  8. For my co-religionists who are so exercised about the Demon Drink, the Devil’s Buttermilk, the Cup of Damnation and the Church being insufficiently “Down with that sort of thing!”, may I suggest this link?

    If they really are so upset, then let them start up a local branch of the Pioneers in their parish. But so long as we use wine for the Eucharist, I think they’re backing the wrong horse.

    • At age 59 I have a few axioms relative to Church. Two are;

      “If they promote tea-totalism I don’t attend.”

      “If anything other than wine or port is used in the Lord’s Supper I don’t attend.”

      I consider those things barometers of legalism and stupidity.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        +1

      • We could make a long list of those barometers, couldn’t we? But yes, deny me my booze, and you’re a heretic that can burn in hell. Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, right?

        • Robert F says:

          ” Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy…”

          Sounds like a Martin Luther aphorism.

    • cermak_rd says:

      Not sure if it’s a local Chicago thing but I’ve heard it called the Creature. As in, he’s had a bit too much of the Creature tonight.

      Of course, whiskey is also called that Old Mountain Dew (better tasting IMO, than the stuff with the trade name).

      Actually, I read the original article and was enchanted. This person has taken the very same arguments made by the Prohibitionists lo these many years ago. Oh to exist in such a history proof bubble.

      Although, I actually don’t have a problem with the Jesuit high school that tests its students for drink and drugs. Drink is illegal to minors and unwise for them to consume in quantity until their brains are better developed (and since it’s a Jesuit high school, I’m guessing not a lot of Jewish students who might be having wine as part of family affairs such as Purim or Seder).

      • Mule Chewing Birars says:

        My daughter attended a Jesuit high school briefly. Her best friend was a Jewish girl.

    • Mule Chewing Birars says:

      The Russians, according to the Primary Chronicle, chose Christianity over Islam precisely because it allowed alcohol consumption.

      I can see why.

      • Daniel Jepsen says:

        I spent a couple weeks in Russia in 2012. I was teaching at a bible college run by a Presbyterian church. This church was small, but had several outreaches, one of them being an AA group. The director of that group begged the church leadership to not use real wine during communion, saying that just a taste of it put some of the men off the wagon. I’m not sure how they resolved that.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          I know a guy who is alcoholic and takes communion regularly. He takes the common cup, holds it to his face and inhales. The cup never touches his lips. Of course some EtOH molecules are entering his system through his lungs this way, but this doesn’t really matter. The idea that even a smidgeon of alcohol in the system will send you off the wagon is patently absurd to anyone who knows even a little biochemistry. This really is a psychological matter, and by inhaling but not tasting, he establishes the psychological barrier.

          • Robert F says:

            In Anglican and Catholic sacramental understanding, receiving Holy Communion in only one of the elements, either bread or wine, confers the full benefit of the Sacrament, so there is no need for an alcoholic to drink the wine for full participation in Holy Communion.

          • Richard H.,

            Exactly.

        • May I suggest mixing the wine with water–if need be, to almost homeopathic levels?

  9. We’ve had drive-in churches in Florida since at least the 50s or 60s, so it’s not a news story. They seem to mostly attract short-term tourists who can’t make long-term ties.

    • Have people forgotten that Robert Schuller started out with a drive-in church in California? How long ago was THAT?

  10. JoanieD says:

    Although overall I did not like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I did think that Jim Caviezel made a fairly decent Jesus.

  11. Damaris says:

    I liked the Badlands Guardian, too, Daniel, but how well can he guard with his earbuds in? The picture is clear . . .

    It’s sad to me that whether it’s in the US (job discrimination) or Brunei (stoning), people don’t enjoy difference. Of course I would prefer not to be bombed or torched, but the huge majority of religious and cultural differences are stimulating and enjoyable. Being ignored by Hasidic male shopkeepers in Manhattan less so, chatting with Rastafarians in Mayreau or Muslims in West Africa more. Do we really want a homogenized world? LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven says not.

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      I agree with you completely, but have no idea what that last sentence means.

      • She’s referring to novelist Ursula K. Le Guin’s book The Lathe of Heaven…

      • Damaris says:

        Daniel,

        In the book I referred to, an advanced race wants to solve earth’s problems and make people happy. They noticed that a white man with a black girlfriend was unhappy because of the way she was treated. So they turned everyone in the world grey. It didn’t work, because one of the things the man loved about his girlfriend was her color — her uniqueness had been wiped out.

    • Been thinking about re-reading some Ursula LeGuin lately…

  12. JoanieD says:

    That was an interesting group of images taken via Google Earth. I looked up what the big lion in England was all about and I read, “Here is a huge 150 metres long chalk lion on the slopes of Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire, England. The artwork designed by Mr R B Brook-Greaves was carved into the chalky hillside to act as a way marker for the Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, commonly known as Whipsnade Zoo (officially – ZSL Whipsnade Zoo). The lion was manually dug out with picks and shovels and was completed in Easter 1933.
    With aging and neglect the lion gradually started losing its shape and colour. However in 2005 it was restored by clearing of the debris and loose stones from the area. As a part of celebration of its restoration it was illuminated with 800 metres of white decorative light strings and and its nose was surrounded by red lights. I understand that the illumination in the evening is now a daily feature.”

  13. the Galli article on giving up self-discipline totally misses the point.

  14. That Other Jean says:

    I gave up online shopping for Lent.

    Also, I didn’t have a problem with Willem Dafoe as Jesus in “The Last Temptation of Christ.” At least he wasn’t blond. the movie explored an interesting premise; it wasn’t a very good movie (although Harvey Keitel as Judas was rather wonderful). It would have died a mostly unheralded death if a bunch of conservative theological purists–including William F. Buckley, Jr.– hadn’t gotten their knickers in a twist about it

    • That Other Jean says:

      I could use an edit button. there’s supposed to be a “just” after the first “it”–as in “it just wasn’t a very good movie.”

  15. I gave up nothing.

    I just don’t want to.

    In fact, I don’t even want to die to myself as Jesus tells me I must do.

    So, I have to rely on His killing me (in my Baptism) and pray that is enough.

  16. Robert F says:

    Steve,

    You are aware that we who fast for Lent don’t do so believing that our salvation depends on it. We undertake fasting for the same reason that we pray and worship, as a discipline that we hope will bring us into a closer relational intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ. And just as we often “just don’t want to” pray or worship on Sunday morning, but pray and worship nonetheless, so some of us choose to undertake this additional discipline, only in the hope of deepening our intimacy with the Lord.

    • Amongst evangelicals there is just too little preparation for the Easter celebration, and THAT is a shame!. At least with fasting it focuses the mind on a goal ahead and gives purpose and (hopefully) expectation to the celebration. My hat is off to those who adhere to the practice.

    • Thanks, Robert, your post is a blessing to me today.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Steve’s just doing another of his Justification-by-Faith-Alone Jesus Jukes, that’s all.

      And he must have been asleep at the switch this Saturday Ramblings; usually he’s one of the first commenters on a thread.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Lent is a reminder to do what we should be doing the rest of the year as well, and a good excuse for doing it.

      I also like to think of Lent as a time for spiritual experimentation, for trying new disciplines for a season. Sometimes these disciplines become permanent ones, other times not.

    • Robert,

      I do know that Christians don’t believe that their salvation depends upon it (giving stuff up).

      But I also know that it is a pious exercise that revolves around ‘the self’…and what ‘we do’.

      Jesus is on our lips and in our hearts. How much closer can you get to Him than that?

      • Robert F says:

        Steve,

        Do you consider the disciplines of prayer and worship to also be pious exercises that only revolve around “the self” and what “we do,” and so completely unnecessary and/or unhelpful to living the Christian life?

        Also, you seem to think your refusal to undertake any Lenten discipline is somehow more virtuous or obedient than doing so, in which case you have to ask yourself if your refusal to do anything revolves around your “self” and what you “choose” to “do” or “not do.”

        • Worship is commanded, and shouldn’t revolve around ‘what we do’.

          Prayer and Bible study are good ways to keep the faith fires burning, but when they become the focus then they can turn into that same sort of self-focused piety.

          We should just understand that we really don’t want to give up anything. None of us…really. Jesus recommended that we “sell all we have and give it to the poor”. Who amongst us will do that?

          See what I mean?

          So,we prefer to glory in the Cross…and not pious exercises that are merely a weak tip o’ the hat to the God who gave His all…for us.

          • Robert F says:

            So your discipline is doing whatever you want to do in all seasons and places, since anything else would be “pious exercises” (a phrase which, btw, is quite judgmental). I don’t know why you make an exception to your avoidance of “pious exercises” with the pious bromides you yourself regularly offer, like so many theological sound bites, here at iMonk, but I suppose consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds like mine.

          • Damaris says:

            Yes, worship is commanded in the Bible, but interestingly, fasting is assumed, as if it were too obvious and necessary discipline even to mention. “When you fast,” Jesus says, not “if you fast;” “This kind can only be thrown out by prayer and fasting,” and so on. I don’t believe that fasting of any sort makes me holy, but I have to wonder if the refusal ever to fast is not disobedient to the Lord.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Steve, who are we to judge another man’s servant? A sacrificial gift is a beautiful thing.

        • I judge no one.

          I’m saying that our gifts to Him are weak and contrived and half- hearted at best. Filthy rags…is the way the Bible puts it.

          It’s just ‘religion’…and God hates religion…whereby what ‘we do’ is thought to bring us closer to Him….or make us better in His eyes.

          • Robert F says:

            So God hates fasting, because it’s just empty “religion”? And Jesus enjoined something God hates, fasting, on the Apostles? Explain that one, Steve.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            I receive with great joy the handmade gifts my grandchildren send me at Christmas and birthdays. Their beauty lies not in the accomplished craftsmanship of popsicle sticks, glue, and ill-formed letters, but in the hearts and hands of love that fashioned them. If I, being evil, can see love in these feeble attempts…

            Steve, your cynicism is blinding and wearisome.

    • Robert,

      For the Orthodox, Lent is multifaceted, but some of the primary ideas are to crucify the passions which in turn lead to a greater synergy (cooperation with God). For us, salvation is not monergistic, it is synergistic — man must cooperate with God for his salvation. Salvation is also an ongoing process. When the Gk word pistis is used for faith, it is better translated with the awkward word “faithing”. It is something that is relational and participatory. Just as marriage must be participated in after the wedding day so must salvation.

      • Robert F says:

        mr s,

        Yes, I know there are significant differences among the faith traditions regarding the purpose of disciplines. But do you Orthodox believe you are earning salvation through exercising Lenten, or any other, disciplines?

        • no.

          • but i should add that the point of the disciplines is to attain theosis. Salvation, in Orthodoxy, is seen as the healing of an illness rather than a juridical not guilty verdict. Using the illness analogy, if a patient were to see a Doctor and not follow his prescribed treatment, the patient would not get better; same with salvation, we can choose to participate in the treatment plan or we can reject it. It is not an earning, but a cooperative effort to be made divine (lower case D). I am newer to the faith, so this is my first full on Orthodox lent, and it’s been quite interesting a week in.

          • if truly synergistic, then it is participatory in a way that “earning” coul never be, though i do sometimes wonder why the fasting is so severe.

        • are you from a liturgical tradition?

  17. The gun thing and the ark thing and the Driscoll thing just leave me shaking my head. But I’m used to that when encountering the crazier side of the evangelical circus.

    What really got me thinking was the divorce stats. I can’t help thesneaking suspicion that peer pressure/group conformity plays a significant role there. And the focus on the numbers seems to leave unanswered the question of whether the actual marriages of religious institutional adherents are better than those of the nominals or non-adherents, or people of faith outside the religious structures. Can’t help but believe that, like our humanness in general, it’s all a bit more complicated than people think.

    • About the divorce thing, yeah, how many are still ‘married’ but live in a freakish hell of abuse. And how many people who divorce no longer go to church because they’re treated as second class christians. A little more complicated is right.

  18. Two thoughts.

    Why does anyone think that Jesus would be a proponent of the 2nd Amendment? It confuses me so much! My 20 something children have pretty much left our Protestant church body because of its insistence that Christian = Republican = Conservative.

    Pretty actors playing Jesus. Of course! In our success driven culture, we all know that no one would have followed a plain looking man with bad teeth. And there is also that evangelical mindset that refuses to acknowledge how much of the American Evangelical Circus is about somebody with a good marketing strategy making lots of money off of people who will flock to anything with a Christian brand (music, books, movies, and creation museums).

    • I remember, years ago, seeing a silent film version of the life of Christ. The actor portraying Jesus was dark, with a bushy beard and longish black and frizzy hair. Probably closer to the truth than any of the modern portrayals.

  19. Mule Chewing Birars says:

    Willem Dafoe’s creepiest role is still ahead of him, if anyone ever decides to cast him in the role that he was born to play, Fyodor Karamazov.

    Just for fun, I’ll finish the casting

    Grushenka – Dafoe’s real-life wife, Giada Colagrande
    Dimitri – Colin Firth
    Katenka – Nicole Kidman
    Ivan – Michael Shannon
    Fr. Zosima – Michael Gambon
    Alyosha – Jack Gleeson (King Joffrey from Game of Thrones

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      I just spent a couple fine hours re-reading this book last night. This may be the only thing I agree with Freud about: It is the greatest novel ever written.

      Dafoe would be superb as Fyodar, but would need to gain some weight, I think.

      Grushenka is only 22 in the novel, and I think Katya is about the same. So, no I don’t think Kidman could pull it off (don’t know who Giada is). Perhaps Kiera Knightly for Katya.

      Not sure about Firth as Dimitri.

      I don’t know the last three actors you mention, but I could see Christopher Lee as Zosima.

      • “A couple hours re-reading this book last night.” So that’s [pulls out own copy, counts pages, divides by 120] … right at 6 pages per minute?

        Are you my mom?

        • Robert F says:

          What Trevis said. Show off….

          But Freud was wrong: Even though “The Brothers K” is great, it can’t hold a candle to “Moby Dick.”

          • Daniel Jepsen says:

            Dem’s fightin words!

          • i’ll take Shakespeare over bot Dostoevsky and Melville any day. :)

          • Robert F says:

            Now that I think about it, my preference for “Moby Dick” over “The Brothers K” reflects my tendency toward monergism, since “Moby Dick” is the greatest monergistic novel ever written, albeit from the devil’s side, ending in a Jobian apocalypse from which only Ishmael is redeemed by a baptism of death, represented by Queeqeg’s coffin. The “Brothers K,” on the other hand, is a synergistic dive into the depths of human depravity, where salvation is ultimately proclaimed to have been found, though Dostoevsky never really convinces me of it.

          • To my mind, both Melville and Dostoevsky are about equally dark, albeit in different ways. There’s something about the work of both men that tends toward despair. If we only had Shakespeare’s tragedies, it might be true of him as well, but there is so much more…

          • Robert F says:

            numo,

            No amount of masterly comedy and sublime sonnets can outweigh the tragic darkness of “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death,” ( if I remember correctly).

          • Oh, I agree, but consider the context…

        • Didn’t mean to imply I reread the whole thing. It is rather thick.

      • Fr. Zosima – Michael Gambon

        That’s a winner.

  20. Jeremiah says:

    Big ups to you for the Steve Taylor video! I just required Squint last week after far too long of not having it and have been driving my family nuts replaying that song — THE CASH COW CHEWS CUD BIGGER THAN YOU!

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      I am gratified that a few people have oddball tastes that mirror my own. My wife, alas, is not among the tribe.

  21. Here’s 9 things that we’d all benefit from by ‘giving up’:

    1) COMPLAINING – there is much to be thankful for.

    2) WORRY – there are things to be concerned about, but nothing to worry about.

    3) DISCOURAGEMENT – God is for you, not against you.

    4) BITTERNESS – it’s like poisoning yourself. How smart is that?

    5) HATRED – forgive and watch your future come alive!

    6) GOSSIPING – speak well of your neighbor, you might just see him/her return the favor.

    7) BLAMING – be part of the solution, not the problem.

    8) STAYING AWAY FROM CHURCH – provide your family with a firm foundation of faith, learn about the message of God’s love from the Bible and share problems, make friends, and be renewed in hope and thank God for another week of life. And it’s free!

    …and the final thing to ‘Give Up’ during Lent?

    9) GIVING UP – hang in there!! Even with all it’s problems, life is a good and gracious gift!

    by my pastor…Pastor Mark Anderson, Corona del Mar, CA

    • Robert F says:

      FYI, Lenten disciplines don’t involve giving up something “bad,” since anytime is a good time for giving up those. Rather, in Lent we: 1) give up legitimate pleasures, which in my experience has been a way of learning my own limitations and thereby coming to deeper appreciation and gratitude for the free gift of salvation God offered in Jesus Christ at Easter 2) add positive disciplines such as prayer and spiritual reading as a way of growing closer in our relational intimacy with our Lord, who, like any lover, wants and rightly demands our attention and time.

      Your above list is just a pious perfectionist’s pipe-dream without disciplines that help us toward those goals.

      • I thought you’d react that way, Robert.

        If giving up those “pleasures” is such a good thing, then why don’t you give them up permanently?

        __

        And…by the way…wasn’t it Jesus himself who said that “you need to be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect”?

        So much for pious perfectionism being a pipe-dream.

        Enjoy your little religious ascendancy project, Robert.

    • I am surprised at the anti-Lent attitudes that some have expressed (Steve here, as well as the CT article and some others on facebook) as it has gained a resurgence in Protestant circles. For those who are critical – have you ever followed the church calendar? If not, how can you critique something you don’t even understand?

      • Robert F says:

        One of the things I don’t understand is why someone as hostile to Lenten disciplines as Steve Martin is would belong to a liturgical church, in his case Lutheran, that observes Lent, and what it could possibly mean to observe Lent liturgically if the ancient disciplines are held in contempt.

      • I think some of us are actually pretty sympathetic, though in my case, am sure it has much to do with my background (Lutheran). The thing is, I think there’s not much understanding of what Lent means in and of itself, so therefore, even less regarding devotional practices.

        I haven’t fasted during Lent in years, and after many decades in the evangelical/charismatic wilderness, am more inclined to want to add something (time of quiet reflection, for example) rather than feel weighed down by a fast, which was a *big* deal in the last evangelical church I was in (which would be a blog post unto itself!)

        • numo — fasting was a big deal in a positive or negative way? For Orthodox, the Lenten fast is not something one prescribes for themselves. The Spiritual Father/Father Confessor helps us along the way. Sometimes they will ask to fast, others to add things, or a combination of both — it depends on the person, their journey, their passions, etc. I told mine that i wanted to do XYZ and he said, OK, let’s do that, and if you struggle/can’t do it/etc, we’ll readjust. He often uses the analogy of a bow and arrow — if you pull the bow too tight, you’ll break the string (causing spiritual damage) and if you don’t pull it tight enough, the arrow won’t fly (living an undisciplined spiritual life/allowing the passions to overtake). The aim is to get the right amount of tension to stretch us without breaking us.

          • Fasting was supposed to be positive there, but it was part of “strategic level spiritual warfare” and their admittedly peculiar stance on intercessory prayer. It is all quite twisted.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Fasting was supposed to be positive there, but it was part of “strategic level spiritual warfare” and their admittedly peculiar stance on intercessory prayer.

            AKA it was part of Working Magick.

  22. Vega Magnus says:

    Remember two Super Bowls ago when Dafoe was cast as the devil in that Mercedes commercial? That was a genius casting choice. If Marvel ever reintroduces Mephisto into the current movie universe, Dafoe is my first choice to play him.

  23. “Ash Selfies” and Ash Wednesday’s appointed Gospel lesson should be mutually exclusive.
    Good grief, we’ve turned Lent into a big fat episode of the right hand shouting to the left hand what it’s doing.
    And BTW, I’m just as guilty as everyone else in this. Lord have mercy.

  24. Re: Israel, “. . . but only 40% of American Jews who believe the same.” Don’t know the percentages, but many Jews are atheists or agnostics.

    Re: Mark Driscoll, How much money would it take to market these faithful quotes from Charles Surgeon to make sure they make Driscoll’s reading list? http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/