Saturday, May 22, 2010

259: The Writing on the Wall

Daniel 4-6
"Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way." - Daniel 5:5-6

Chapter 4 starts with Nebuchadnezzar having another dream. Again his normal servants can't interpret the dream. This time he knows who to call, Daniel! However, this time Nebuchadnezzar has no qualms about telling Daniel the entire dream and allowing him to interpret from there. What happened to making your servants tell you your dream first? The bible again ignores a key scientific precept, repeat your experiments!

The dream ends up being about a giant tree that feeds all the animals of the earth. A messenger comes from God and tells the king to cut down the tree. Daniel interprets this dream as meaning that Nebuchadnezzar is the tree, and God is going to "cut him down". He says that this means Nebuchadnezzar will be cast out of Babylon and made to eat grass like a cow.

In a mere 12 months (God takes awhile to get around to fulfilling his prophecies) Nebuchadnezzar is, in fact, cast out of the land and made to eat grass. No reason is ever given why the people of Babylon cast out their king, or why he feels that he needs to eat grass when he's out there (especially since the web consensus is that grass is inedible).

At the end of "that time" (the bible doesn't mention how long), Nebuchadnezzar goes back to Babylon and is immediately restored as king. The king praises God and says that everything he does is right, and all his ways are just. I think he's just kissing ass so he doesn't have to go eat grass again. This story doesn't really make any sense. Why would the people of Babylon cast out their king, only to have him immediately restored when he returns?

The next chapter gets a little trippy ("little" is relative to four headed angels with eyeballs covering their body). The king's son (Belshazzar) holds a banquet where he uses the plundered goblets of Jerusalem to hold his wine. As Belshazzar and his prostitutes drink wine out of these godly goblets, they praise their idols of silver and gold. God obviously can't let this go unpunished, he sends a disembodied hand to go write on the wall of the king's palace. This hand has made appearances elsewhere:

Disembodied hand of God posing as "Thing" from the Addams family [upper right]

Fun fact: this is the origin of the phrase "writing on the wall".

This writing on the wall is illegible to everyone but, you guessed it, Daniel! When he does (eventually) read it, the writing on the wall says "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin" in Aramaic. Daniel's interpretation is this:
This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
That very night, Nebuchadnezzar's son is killed. The bible doesn't say who he was killed by, so I will assume the most reasonable explanation; Daniel killed him to make him to fulfill his own prophecy.

The last chapter for the day has yet another story about Daniel. The story is about another king of Babylon (Darius). I guess this means we've fast forwarded past the death of Nebuchadnezzar(?). Darius, who likes Daniel, is talked into making a law by his advisers who hate Daniel. This law says that, for thirty days, nobody is allowed to pray to any God but the king of Babylon.

As the kings advisors planned, the faithful Daniel breaks this law. The king, who was apparently ignorant of the implications of this law, tries to save Daniel from being put to death by being eaten by lions. He fails, not even the king of Babylon is allowed to rescind a law set fourth by the king of Babylon (great system).

Daniel is thrown in with the lions and the door is locked. Nobody bothers to look and see what happens, so we will be forever ignorant of what actually happened in the lion cage that night (if this actually did happen). The next morning the door is opened and Daniel comes out, saying an angel sent by God saved him. The king then commands the people who "falsely accused" Daniel to be thrown in with the lions. Before they reach the door they are devoured by the lions (who let the lions out?). What does the bible mean "falsely accused"? Daniel really did break the law.

I said this yesterday and I'll say it again. All of Daniel's miracles seem like cheap magic tricks. He goes into the lion den, where nobody can see him, and he comes out alive. What happened? I'm not just going to assume something miraculous happened (or take Daniel's word for it) if I'm not allowed to see in the cage.

*News*
John Crotts knows how to live a proper Christian life.
Before we try to uncover the Bible's answer to the true nature of Christian living, let's sift through some alternate solutions. Notice how these views often use Bible verses to establish themselves. The most dangerous opinions are the ones with a little Bible mixed in, leaving out the balance of the Bible's teachings on a matter.
Commence everyone else being wrong and John Crotts being right:
1) Carefree Living. Some people, professing to be Christians, think that it really does not matter how you live since Jesus has forgiven you. While it is true that we are declared right with God by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone.
I agree, this is one of the biggest conundrums with Christianity. If you are automatically forgiven for whatever you do (as long as you believe in Jesus of course), then why be good? John doesn't give any good explanation for this. A question I ask a lot is if a serial killer murders hundreds of people, but eventually accepts Christ before he dies, will he go to heaven? The answer is nearly unanimously "yes". Why is this right? Why is this moral?
2) Crisis Experience. Other Christians search for a huge experience, which they hope will catapult them into personal holiness. This view comes in several colors and flavors.
Right, a crisis experience would never turn you to God. Unless you've read Daniel 4 and heard about Nebuchadnezzar's traumatic experience that brought him to God. I think the writer's point is that you shouldn't be waiting for a crisis experience to bring you do God, but I don't know of anyone that's doing that.
3) Let Go and Let God. Has anyone ever told you that your problem is that you are trying too hard in the Christian life? They say if you really knew your position in Christ, you could just rest in him, and let him live his life through you. They quote verses like Galatians 2:20, and sound very convincing.
I thought this was a basic precept of Christianity, you are supposed to let Jesus work through you. John (who obviously knows everything) thinks otherwise.
4) Self-Fulfillment. "Your real problem is that you do not love yourself enough," according to proponents of another view of successful Christian living. To solve their problems with God and others, they give greater attention to...themselves.
I've only heard this logic used with drug addicts. Only in religion would it be a bad thing to love yourself.
5) Spiritual Warfare. There is no doubt that spiritual warfare is going on all around us. Some Christians think, however, that successful Christian living revolves around casting out the specific demons that cause your specific sins. As the great theologian Flip Wilson said, "The devil made me do it."
The only spiritual warfare I see is people blowing things up, or otherwise killing people, over religion. However, we can find common ground in that nobody should be casting demons out of their body. Unfortunately, in his reasoning we can find no common ground:
From the story of Job, especially the first two chapters, we know that Satan can do nothing to believers that God does not specifically allow for God's greater purposes. We must redirect our attention away from the devil and onto the Lord and his Word.
Wait, what? If Satan always wants to do bad things, and God only allows him to do bad things when it's in his plan, then God is the real evil one. God is essentially orchestrating all the evil that happens on earth (by selectively allowing Satan to do what he wants). John ends with the "correct" way to live by the bible:
6) Dependent Discipline. This is the biblical view of successful Christian living. As Christians our bondage to sin has been broken (Romans 6:4-7), but the presence of sin has not been removed. The Bible calls our remaining sin "the flesh," and it wars against our spirit constantly (Galatians 5:17).
But the very first thing he said was we shouldn't act as if our bondage to sin has been broken. He also says that we shouldn't "let go and let God", which is really just a rewording of what he's now telling us to do. I think the point of this article was just to say that John knows what he's talking about and nobody else does, even though he agrees with everything they say.

Friday, May 21, 2010

258: The David Blaine of the Bible

Daniel 1-3
"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, 'Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?' They replied, 'Certainly, O king.' He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed...' " - Daniel 3:24-25

After Nebuchadnezzar invades and takes Israel he orders his servants to select the best Israelites from noble families to serve him. They are to be taught the language and the literature of the Babylonians for three years before they are to enter the king's service. They are also to eat the food of the royal court.

Daniel finds exception with the royal food. He asks the chief official permission to eat something else (the royal food presumably has pork or some other "detestable" food). The chief says that he cannot treat Daniel differently because he's afraid Nebuchadnezzar is going to behead him. Daniel asks that all of the new trainees be fed only vegetables for 10 days. If, after these 10 days, they are more healthy than the other men who eat the royal food, Daniel says they should be allowed to only eat vegetables. According to the bible, after these ten days they look healthier and better nourished.

Of course, the bible doesn't mention what the royal food is, or what the vegetables are that the Israelis eat. Not to mention that 4 people (the number fed vegetables) are not enough to determine whether a diet is beneficial, and 10 days is not enough time to determine whether eating only vegetables has good long term medical effects. If this proves anything, it's that the bible is bad at doing science. This passage also makes me wonder why there aren't more Christians that are vegans. What happened to living your life by the bible?

Some time after this three year training session, after Daniel is an established servant of Nebuchadnezzar, the king has a dream that he wants interpreted. The trick is that the king refuses to tell his diviners what his dream was. If they cannot interpret his dream, the king says that he will have them chopped to pieces and he will turn their houses into piles of rubble (I don't suppose they'll care too much about their houses after they've been chopped to pieces).

The king's servants say that this is impossible and resign themselves to be chopped up. The king, in his anger, orders all of his wise men to be executed (this includes Daniel). When the executioner comes to Daniel's house, Daniel talks him into letting him go to the king and ask for some time to interpret his dream. The king agrees to grant Daniel some time to interpret his dream (the bible doesn't say how long). Daniel prays and God tells him what the king's dream and what it means.

Of course, in this time the king could have run around and told someone the content of his dream. I find this "miracle" about as impressive as John Edward or David Blaine (who also reads minds rather convincingly). The king's dream turns out to be some abstract vision of a giant statue being struck by a rock which then turns into a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Daniel interprets this dream as meaning the world will be ruled by four kingdoms after Babylon, ending with a kingdom that will never be destroyed. For this insightful (?) interpretation Daniel is made ruler over an entire province of Babylon and is placed in charge of all the wise men (who are no longer to be executed).

Todays section ends with a story about three of Daniel's fellow Israelites. Nebuchadnezzar makes a huge image of Gold and tells everyone to worship it. Daniel's three friends are the only people in all of Babylon that refuse to worship this idol (I guess Daniel himself was just fine with worshiping it). Because of this insubordination they are to be thrown into the furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar, apparently afraid the Israelites aren't flammable, tells his servants to burn the furnace seven times hotter (I'm not sure it's possible to make a furnace burn seven times hotter). The furnace is so hot that the guards that walk Daniel's peers to the furnace are burned alive. The three men are said to fall into the fire, but in the very next sentence the king is amazed that there are four people walking away, unharmed, from the furnace. The new fourth man appears to be "a son of the gods". Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed by this that he makes it a crime to say anything against the God of Israel.

This just reminds me of any cheap magicians trick. I have no explanation for this "miracle", but I also have no explanation for how people are seemingly chopped in half with chain saws. I find this vague anecdote unimpressive.

*News*
Faux News says we're in a moral decline, what else is new?

Their evidence for this moral decline is that, according to a recent study, America "no longer enjoys cultural consensus on God, religion and what constitutes right and wrong." If our old moral standards were based on Old Testament precepts, then no longer having a consensus is probably (read definitely) an improvement.
Not everyone who claims to believe in God (87%) believes that the Bible is the authoritative word of God (only 52% hold to such a belief) and even fewer (36%) believe people should live by principles as set forth in the Bible.
Wow, 36%? I didn't realize I was preaching to the choir. That being said, 36% is still far more than it should be (0% based on my reading so far).
Since the founding of America, the Bible has been the key standard of measurement for moral absolutes in this nation. As of late, a trend has emerged whereby individuals create a self-made standard of morality and the result is unequivocal…we are slipping.
Slipping into what? Social equality? It seems that the people who make a "self-made standard of morality" aren't any less moral than the people who base their morals on the bible. It's the people that want to outlaw things that hurt no one that should be examining their morals.
As America claims to believe in God, while ignoring His precepts, it finds itself in moral decline. The need of the hour is to return to God and embrace the teachings of the Bible. It is not too late to recognize that a change of course is not only possible, it is imperative.
It's interesting that nowhere in this article does the writer mention the exact symptoms of America's "moral decline". I guess we're supposed to figure it out on our own. I'd rather not go back to killing people for working on the sabbath or go back to owning slaves. Thanks anyway.

(via Faux News)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

257: From Bad to Worse & Ezekiel: In Review

Ezekiel 46-48
"These are the tribes, listed by name: At the northern frontier, Dan will have one portion; it will follow the Hethlon road to Lebo Hamath; Hazar Enan and the northern border of Damascus next to Hamath will be part of its border from the east side to the west side." - Ezekiel 48:1

And I thought yesterday was bad. Today is all about the rules and regulations of the temple and the division of land.

Chapter 46 is a list of regulations about the temple. This includes: keeping the east gate closed except on the sabbath and during new moons, leaving in the door opposite from the one you entered (if you go in you have to take the full tour), and offering a year old lamb every day. I really hope there is none of this in the New Testament (only two and a half weeks away!).

Chapter 47 starts with Ezekiel discovering a river flowing from below the east side of the temple. The bronze measuring man takes out his measuring line and measures off the river 1000 cubits (1500 feet) at a time. By the time the man has gone 4000 cubits the water from the river is too deep to walk in. The bronze man then stops and says "Son of man, do you see this?". See what?The river? I think he sees it. Aren't messengers of God supposed to say something insightful?

The rest of chapter 47 and all of chapter 48 are about dividing land. I have nothing to say about this, it was about as exciting as reading a phone book.

Ezekiel: In Review
If I had to use a single word to describe Ezekiel it would be "insane". It has certainly been, in my opinion, the most outlandish book of the bible so far.

The book starts with four headed angels covered in eyeballs. Floating next to these angels are magical floating wheels filled with hot coals. Floating over the four headed angels and magical wheels is a half bronze half fire God. How can anyone walk away from this saying "yeah, that seems reasonable I think I'll live my life by this book". If anyone today had a vision that was half as crazy as that they would be swiftly sent to the funny farm.

Near the end of the book God resurrects a vast army of dead soldiers. Wasn't the resurrection supposed to be the thing that made Jesus special? Why don't we worship any one of those soldiers that were resurrected? Who's to say any one of them didn't die for our sins.

The last chapters are filled with Ezekiel following around a man made of bronze measuring a temple that my bible annotations say doesn't yet exist.

If anyone tells me that the bible is reasonable or in any way based in reality, I'm going to tell them to read the book of Ezekiel. If they can't see reason after that, they're just as insane/high as Ezekiel.

*News*
Is atheism or being secular a religion? Two authors think so:
Two academics who are also respected book authors said recently that secularism is just as much a religion as is Christianity and Islam.
Wow, two people? As we all know, it only takes two people's opinion to make an idea true and factual. Like any good fundie article, we have the standard "religious people are being oppressed" reference:
In Somerville’s article, “Religion has a role to play in the public square” she wrote, “It’s a mistake to accept that secularism is neutral. It too is a belief system used to bind people together. We need all voices to be heard in the democratic public square, and they have a right to be heard.”
What country does she live in? When has a religious "voice" been banned from the public square? The act of reading this article is evidence that you can spout whatever sort of religious rhetoric you want and not be silenced (as it should be).
Buruma, who also wrote the book Taming the Gods, said secularism, like laicite is ideological. “To extol reason as the highest form of human expression, that wants to ban religious symbols from public places and so on…it can become quite dogmatic, which secularism doesn’t have to be,” according to rd magazine.
But secularism does not say we should ban religious symbols from public places, just publically owned places (i.e. government owned). Not to mention that Christians/Muslims/etc. usually only want their particular brand of religion put in the public square. The government should have no role in promoting religion (which is much different than banning religion in the public square).
Somerville adds that separation of church and state is simply a doctrine meant to protect the state from being controlled or wrongfully interfered with by a religion or religions, and to protect religions, within their valid sphere of operation, from state interference or control.
Where is this principle being violated by the state? Religions are allowed to go far beyond their bounds, like putting nativity scenes outside city halls and (until recently) putting the Ten Commandments in courthouses. If I wore the Ten Commandments around my neck I'm sure people would assume that I was promoting Christianity. Why is it any different for the government?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

256: Flashback

Ezekiel 43-45
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court." - Ezekiel 45:18-19

The chapter begins with Ezekiel watching God enter the temple. God tells Ezekiel that this is where he will stay forever. He says that the Israelites will never again defile him while he's in this temple. I hate to state the obvious, but God didn't stay in the temple forever considering I'm fairly certain he doesn't currently live in the temple (I don't think the temple even exists).

God then tells Ezekiel to tell the Israelites the exact dimensions of the temple so that they will be ashamed of their sins. What about knowing the dimensions of God's temple will make the Israelites ashamed?

As a side note, my teen study bible seems to think (based on the annotations) that the temple isn't actually built yet. But every time the temple is mentioned it seems to be already built (presumably by God) on the mountaintop. The annotations say the temple will be built when Jesus returns. I've actually heard this before. Where do they get this idea? I haven't read anywhere in the bible where God (or anyone) says the temple will be built in the future.

Chapter 44 and 45 give me terrible flashbacks to Leviticus/Deuteronomy. God first lays out who is allowed in the temple. This is still the Levites, but it's only a certain subset of the Levites (descendants of Zadok) that were not as bad as the others (I guess?). God has a bunch of silly regulations for them, like having to change their clothes when they leave the temple and having to keep their hair trimmed (not too long, not too short). He again sets up the priests (the Levites) as judges over the people.

God then lays out a "sacred district" and determines what every cubit of the land is supposed to be used for. Then it really gets bad. God describes all the different types of offerings the Israelites are supposed to give him to purify the temple and to redeem their sins. At some point the bible just needs to write "read Leviticus, do what it says there". The repetition is getting absurd.

*News*
Jim Shinn was very offended by an article he saw titled "Moms for Marijuana".
Proverbs 31 talks about a woman of noble character and the various qualities of a good mother and wife. Nowhere does it talk about the importance of mothers enabling drug use among their children. The front page Mother’s Day paper (May 9) had an article about “Moms for marijuana” and the movement to decriminalize dope. Oh well. Stupid is as stupid does.
Of course, it also doesn't talk about the importance of Moms loving their children, or giving their kids a proper education. Your best argument is that the bible doesn't mention it?
Marijuana smoking leads to laziness, a laid-back attitude to many healthy values, and its use and its users, teach about the benefits of poly drug abuse (using different drugs).
Somehow I don't think this guy has ever met a marijuana user. I'd say the majority of the marijuana users I know are productive members of society. My anecdote doesn't beat his, but it's certainly a counter-example. As usual "healthy values" is a term that's up for interpretation. This last paragraph is pure fundie gold:
God made men and women different. Women are more opposed to the decriminalization of pot (63 percent) according to the article. God made women relational and often with more insight and wisdom as to what is best for kids.
I'm sure some single fathers would have something to say about that. I don't think you can determine how "rational" someone is based on sex. Not to mention that the legalization of pot could certainly be considered "rational" (less crime, more tax income, real government regulation of a "dangerous" substance).
Weed leads to withdrawal and is anti-relationships. Ever hear of someone who was shy and withdrawn, started smoking weed and now they are working full time and active in the community. People on pot are not a positive force in society and in Proverbs 31:26 it states, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Listen to women, and not just on Mother’s Day.
Whether or not weed actually does lead to withdrawal is a controversial topic. Even if it does, the symptoms are relatively minor and last 10 days at most. Since when is weed anti-relationships? He ends his article with "listen to women". Didn't he start the article with a complaint about "Moms for Marijuana". I guess we're only supposed to listen to the women that agree with him. It makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

255: The Great Bronze Measurer

Ezekiel 40-42
"He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand." - Ezekiel 40:3

This is going to be a short day. Ezekiel pretty much follows around a bronze guy and watches him measure things for the entirety of Ezekiel 40-42.

Chapter 40 starts out with God taking Ezekiel to a high mountain. It's interesting how Ezekiel words it, he says, "In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel". In visions? Does this mean God isn't even taking his body from where he's having these "visions"? I don't think it could be any more clear that this man would be diagnosed with some mental illness if he lived today.

Atop this mountain is a temple, and a man that appears to be made of bronze. This man guides Ezekiel around and shows him all the rooms of the temple. As he is showing Ezekiel around he measures all the things he's showing him. There seems to be no explanation of why the bronze man is measuring everything but for our (the reader's) benefit. I'm not sure what the significance of this new temple is.

Ezekiel spends the rest of the chapter and the next two chapters telling us all the things he and the bronze man measured. I'll spare you the boring details.

*News*
This one's good, a director of a faith based drug rehab program has been arrested for possession of drugs.

This is just one more in a long line of failures of "faith". Pastors sleeping with male prostitutes, pedophile priests, and now rehab director drug users don't seem to prevent people from touting "faith" as the best/only way to solve your problems. The people that are supposedly the most faithful don't seem to be any better or better off than us godless heathens.

In fact, I've even heard people say that if you don't have God you're going to be a bad person and get on drugs. Well obviously finding Jesus didn't help this woman out with her little drug problem.

The investigating officer doesn't see it the way I do:
Officer Albro added, “I am a supporter of long term, faith-based treatment, and Mission Teens has a proven program with a high success rate, but I feel that the problems at the Set Free Mission Bible Training Center need to be addressed in a timely manner.”
I'm skeptical of their success rate if they can't even seem to cure their director.

Monday, May 17, 2010

254: Zombies!

Ezekiel 37-39
"Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD. ' ' " - Ezekiel 37:4-6

The bible continually surprises me with it's level of insanity. I think today we've reached a new level. Yes, this is even worse than four headed angels with eyes all over them, this is zombies!

Chapter 37 starts with Ezekiel walking through a valley full of dry bones. God asks Ezekiel if these bones can live. Ezekiel says that only God knows. God apparently takes this as a challenge and tells Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones, and tell them to live. As Ezekiel watches, the bones grow tendons, muscles, and skin. There are now just a bunch of dead bodies laying in a valley instead of bones. God tells Ezekiel to prophecy that they will breathe. He does and the bodies come to life.

God does all of this as a metaphor for how he's going to bring Israel back to life. He's officially gone too far with his acting out of metaphors. He's now brought back an entire army of people to make a point to Ezekiel. This brings up a whole slew of questions. What's going to happen to these newly resurrected people? Do they have souls? Do they have the memories of when they were previously alive? Didn't God kill them for a reason the first time? Is he going to kill them again for the same reason? Do these random people get to go back to their families? Of course, these could be metaphorical people (even though the bible doesn't say that at all).

The rest of the chapter is another metaphor that must be acted out, and it's only a little less trippy. God tells Ezekiel to get a stick and write on it "Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him". Then God tells him to get another stick and write on it "Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him". Then Ezekiel is told to take the two sticks in his hand and fuse them together (I guess he has the power to do this himself, God offers no divine assistance). This is a metaphor for God fusing the two houses of Israel together. Of course, after God reunites the Israelites he thinks they will all worship him and get rid of their idols. God's optimism is getting tiring.

Chapter 38 and 39 are a big prophecy against Gog. God tells Gog that he is going to send them to invade Israel. But on the day they invade God says he is going to be furious and cause earthquakes throughout the land.

He then tells Ezekiel to prophecy against Gog and tell them that God will force the bow and arrow out of their hands and feed them to the animals of the land. This is another situation where it seems like God is mad at Gog for something he commanded them to do. If God sent them after Israel why is he mad when they get there?

*News*
Bill Henson can uniquely bring together evangelicals and homosexuals (or so he thinks) because he's "ex-gay".

Henson was apparently in a gay relationship for years until he found Jesus. He then decided that homosexuality was a sin and married a woman. I feel sorry for his wife.
"What I'm going for is ... without changing the church's policy, to create a safe place for gay people to experience a journey of discovering God in our midst," Henson said.
Unfortunately current church policy seems to be "shun the gay". After all, the bible does say that we should kill gay people. I don't understand how people reconcile God wanting to kill people just like them and an all loving God. Remember, it's not only the gays, but the adulterers, sabbath workers, etc. that God would have had killed in ancient Israel.

There's a small problem with this "ex-gay" minister:
In 2006, Henson gave up a marketing career to go into ministry full-time. Henson says he is "not 100 percent free of same-sex attractions" and does not expect other gays who turn to faith to end up in a straight marriage.
Wait, not free of same sex attractions? Then he's still gay! Not that I think any "ex-gay" people are really free of same sex attractions, because I don't think it can be reversed. After all, being gay is not a disorder that needs to be reversed.
When Henson speaks before groups, he avoids polarizing political issues, such as gay marriage (Henson supports traditional marriage), seeing them as so divisive they destroy the common ground he seeks.
I don't believe sin exists, but if it did I think one of those sins would be trying to prevent people from having something you enjoy. In fact, Henson refers to his ex-partner as "beautiful". In the words of Christopher Hitchens, religion poisons everything. Why does he still think something is "beautiful" that is oh so sinful?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

253: Tell the Mountains Who's Boss

Ezekiel 34-36
"Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The enemy said of you, 'Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession.' ' " - Ezekiel 36:1-2

God starts off the day talking about sheep. Maybe. This is one of those metaphors that seems a lot like it's not a metaphor. He's very angry at the shepherds of Israel for not taking proper care of their sheep. The shepherds take the milk and wool from the sheep but do not take care of the injured or the ill. They also let their sheep wander all over the world (apparently sheep can swim across the Atlantic).

Because of the shepherds' mistreatment of their sheep, God says that he is going to take them away and take care of the sheep himself. So here's the big question: is God talking about sheep or is he talking about the people of Israel? I want to say this is a metaphor for the people of Israel because there are big parallels, but the bible gives no indication that this is a metaphor.

The middle chapter is a prophecy against a random nation (Edom). This prophecy goes about the same as all the other prophecies. The Edomites apparently approved of the destruction of the Israelites. For this huge offence, all the people of Edom are to be killed. God says that the whole world will rejoice as he makes Edom desolate.

The last chapter gets a little trippy. God has a message for Ezekiel to deliver. But this time he's supposed to deliver a message to inanimate objects (namely, the mountains). God sympathizes with the mountains because all the nations have ridiculed them. God then reassures the mountains that he will have many animals and trees grow on them. Again, surely this is a metaphor, but the bible gives no indication that God knows the mountains can't hear him when he talks.

The rest of the chapter is about how God is going to bring all the Israelites back to Israel and how they're all going to worship him loyally. Fat chance.

*News*
We have a classic fundie letter to the editor today (i.e. I'm right, you're wrong, cause I said so).
No, God does not favor only Christians in this current world. Unfortunately, for the millions of Hindus, Muslims, Oprah's new age Christians, etc., he will not favor them in the next world unless they turn their hearts to his son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:2-4). Israel is characteristic of many religious people because the zeal of the person for his/her faith is fruitless because it is not according to full, correct and vital knowledge.
God doesn't favor only Christians in this minuscule life (as compared to eternity) but he is going to punish you forever if you don't accept Jesus. It makes perfect sense! Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that those other religions think they are operating on full and correct knowledge. In fact, I bet they would say you aren't operating on full and correct knowledge.

He continues:
The Rev. Franklin Graham is only doing what the Bible commands him to do; to preach the Gospel to a lost and dying world (Matt.28:19-20). If your child is in a burning building and screaming to be saved, wouldn't you try to save that child? As a Christian, this is what Graham is trying to do; to rescue the perishing by preaching the Gospel. He does this out of love for God and his neighbor.
Ok, but what if your child was in a building that looked relatively fine screaming "there's no fire, stay out of this house". Even better, what if it wasn't a child, and it wasn't your house? If I may take this metaphor to the extreme: It seems like you're breaking down the door of a house that looks fine screaming, "There's a fire! Get out!". Maybe Christians just need to worry about their own houses. I like how other religions are a helpless child and the Christians are the rescuing parent in this metaphor. Was he going out of his way to be patronizing?

I may as well quote the rest of his article (it's pretty short):
As a columnist who is read by many people, Parker should be very careful of her words. After all, who can say how many souls were lost or will be lost because of the misguided words of a Winfrey, a Darwin, a Mohammed, etc. A Christian is always a work in process. But by reading God's incredible love letter, the Bible, we know that our life is but a vapor and there are wonderful things awaiting us when we meet Jesus Christ. On the behalf of Graham, in Christian love, we invite Parker to come along on the journey.
Doesn't Kathleen Parker know she's sending helpless souls to the fiery pits of hell? Since when is the bible a love letter? I sure haven't gotten to that part yet. It's currently a letter from God telling everyone about all the destruction and death he is going to cause. Maybe he'll mellow out in the New Testament (I'm a chronic optimist).

 

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