Saturday, August 21, 2010

350: 2 Timothy

2 Timothy 1-4
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As the name of the book indicates, this is the second letter from Paul to Timothy.

Paul spends the first chapter, as usual, thanking God for the obedience of Timothy. He also recaps the story of Jesus, saying that Jesus has "defeated death". Does this mean to say that people actually died before Jesus returned? This definitely wouldn't be inconsistent with Old Testament teachings.

In chapter 2 Paul tells Timothy to be strong and obey Jesus over men. He tells Timothy to be like a "soldier" for Jesus. He also tells Timothy to pass the message of Jesus on to reliable people who will also be able to teach the gospel.

Paul finishes chapter 2 by again giving Timothy rules that he seems to have just made up. This time the rules are about fighting. He says people should not have disputes about words or have silly quarrels. He also says that we should avoid "godless chatter" because that chatter will spread like gangrene throughout the church. He gives the example of one church where the leaders preached that Jesus had already returned, and it "destroyed the faith" of many.

Chapter 3 is about what the last days will be like. Paul says that people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, disobedient to their parents, treacherous, conceited, and lovers of pleasure. Wow, that really does describe how things are today. Of course, it also describes how things are all the time. That's like saying, "in the end times, people will eat food and breathe oxygen". It may be true, but it's not at all insightful.

Chapter 3 ends with a much quoted phrase, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." I wonder what the (sometimes contradictory) genealogies of the bible are useful for. I would also argue that from Paul's perspective all the dietary laws of the Old Testament are completely useless. Finally, and most importantly, what is Paul's definition of Scripture? He obviously had no idea what was going to make the final cut in the biblical canon (arguably not completely established until the Council of Trent over 1000 years after Paul's death).

In chapter 4 Paul first reiterates that Timothy should go and spread the gospel. He then seems to refer to his trial, saying that nobody came to his defense. He ends by saying that the Lord will protect him from every evil attack and bring him safely to the kingdom of heaven. Paul seems rather resigned to his execution. Wouldn't it be better if God/Jesus actually prevented his death, rather than just ensuring a safe trip to heaven? Not to mention that "God will deliver you safely to your death" is a bit of an oxymoron.

This is the second time this week I'm going to pick on a private school. Earlier this week I criticized a church school for firing it's teachers because they weren't the right kind of Christians, now this:
A child has been denied entrance into an [Anglican] school in Bedford because her parents are married lesbians.
First, what does this have to do with teaching a child? Assuming there's no issue with paying tuition, I see no reason this school should care about the parents at all. Second, isn't this the perfect opportunity to teach this child the horrible sinful ways of his/her parents? Without guidance from the church, this child is obviously destined to become a homosexual (all children of homosexuals become homosexual, just like all children of heterosexuals become heterosexual).

It gets worse, the school is advertised as "non-discriminatory":
Though the school's handbook and website say that the school is non-discriminatory as to race, color, religion and national or ethnic origin, it doesn't stipulate that they won't discriminate based on the sexual orientation of a child's parents.

"We are a church affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America, and it is their policy that we don't provide services to individuals or families that do not behave properly. We're going off our canons that say 'The Anglican Church in North America affirms our Lord's teaching that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong of one man and one woman," said Kenneth Monk, head of the school.
So I, as an out atheist, could send my child to this school with no problem. But if you have the "wrong" sexual orientation your child is denied? Then they try to go the "it's because they disagree with our values" route? How is a rabid atheist better than a homosexual (in the eyes of the Anglican Church)? I would argue that an atheist is far worse, because they - by definition -actively disagree with the basic tenants of the church.

I never thought I'd say this, but what would Jesus do? Show me one instance where Jesus ever discriminated against someone in his healing/feeding/etc. Show me where he said "no, I can't heal this person, they're a sinner". I don't think you can find me one example of such discrimination, much less an instance of Jesus having discriminated based on the sins of someone's parents. Anglicans are still Christians, right?

(via NBC)

Friday, August 20, 2010

349: 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 1-6
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." - 1 Timothy 2:11-12

Another day, another letter. This time it's the ultimate letter of approval. Paul is writing a letter to his understudy Timothy.

The first chapter starts with Paul again laying out who he thinks are false teachers. Namely those who devote themselves to "myths and endless genealogies". Incidentally, "myths and endless genealogies" is probably the easiest and quickest summary of the bible.

He then goes on to recount his story of conversion. Paul says that even though he is the worst sinner of all Jesus came to him and saved him. If only we could all get a personal visit from Jesus, I'm sure a lot more people would be saved from eternal hellfire.

In chapter 2 Paul provides some instructions for worship. His main point is to pray for everyone, but he goes on to say that women should dress modestly. "Modesty", though, doesn't have the definition you may be thinking. Paul says that, to dress modestly, women should not have braided hair, or wear gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. I guess you can wear a bikini to church, as long as it's cheap and your hair isn't braided.

The final rule for worship is that women are not allowed to teach, or have authority over men. I'm very curious how female pastors/preachers reconcile this one. Unless they just throw out the gospels of Paul, which seems like a good idea to me.

Chapter 3 is about the rules governing people fit to lead the church. The first rule is that an overseer must have only one wife. In contrast with everyone else, I presume. This is used by modern monogamous Christians as evidence that the goal should be to have just one wife, even though the bible never condemns polygamy. This overseer must also not be a lover of money (I'm looking at you Pat Robertson).

These overseers also must "manage" their families well. Because if they cannot manage their own families, Paul reasons, how can they possibly manage the church? It's interesting that nobody ever enforces these arbitrary laws. Does anyone ever check on their pastor and make sure he's managing his family well?

Chapter 4 is full of various instructions and warnings for Timothy. The only thing really new is Paul's command for Timothy to preach and read the gospel in public.

Chapter 5 has some strange commands about widows. Paul says that no widow should be put on a list of widows to give assistance to, unless she is over 60 and has a history of bringing up children, showing hospitality, and washing the feet of saints. This is to keep the widows off the list that should be marrying someone. This all seems like a long winded way of saying "get back in the kitchen".

Chapter 6 is a bunch of things we've already heard. It starts with Paul telling slaves to be obedient to their masters. He then ends by telling Timothy to be righteous and that people should give away their money. But remember, when Paul says "donate your money" he really means "give me your money".

The question is completely ridiculous, but apparently inescapable, "is Obama a Muslim?". None other than Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) went on CNN to say that Obama is not a Muslim (even if it was a bit wishy-washy):

I can hear Richard Dawkins groaning all the way from England. You cannot be born a Muslim, or born a Jew any more than you can be born a Christian. That's like saying I was born a Republican or a Democrat just because my parents were.

To CNN's credit, they have been doing a good job trying to get the word out. I turned on Anderson Cooper last night to headlines of "Not a Muslim". A fifth of Americans being either ignorant or fooled into thinking Obama is a Muslim is unacceptable. Next thing you know they'll be convincing people of virgin births and resurrections.

(via CNN)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

348: 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1-3
"This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." - 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8

This is the shortest letter yet (only about 2 pages in my bible). Paul again doesn't have anything terribly interesting to say, because he's still just praising the Thessalonians.

In the first chapter Paul says that those who trouble the Thessalonians will be paid back by God. In fact, Paul says Jesus himself will come down with his "powerful angels" and personally punish those who persecuted Christians. Needless to say, the return of Jesus was not as soon as Paul had imagined, and those who may have bothered the Thessalonians are long dead.

In chapter 2 Paul tells the Thessalonians not to be deceived by people that say Jesus has already returned. Paul says that Jesus will not return until the man of "lawlessness" is revealed. This man of lawlessness (presumably meaning the anti-Christ) will set himself up in "God's temple" and proclaim himself to be God.

Paul says that this lawlessness is already at work, but it won't be revealed until the "one who holds it back" reveals it. Wouldn't this imply that, like Jesus said, the anti-Christ was going to reveal himself within the Thessalonians generation? Really there's no reason to imagine they didn't think Jesus was going to return within their generation. Jesus said so, after all.

The final chapter is again about casting certain people out of the church. This time it's those people who are "idle" and don't do any work that should be cast out. Paul even gives the rule, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat". Where was that one in Jesus's teachings?

I'll start today's news with this gem of English literature (from Facebook):

They're not just homosexual, they're " 'GAY' " homosexuals. The writer of this masterpiece is GOP candidate Jeremy Walters. Upon the realization that people can actually read what you put on Facebook, Jeremy apologized:
I am not against people having a gay lifestyle, and the statements made on Facebook have been taken the wrong way. The statement regarding gay homosexuality was not meant to be offensive and I deeply appologize. As far as the quote from Bible; I was replying to someone elses post. It should have been posted as a comment on their page, not my Facebook wall. I appologize for the mistake and if this statement offened anyone. Both postings have been removed and these comments do not pertain to my campaign or the Republican Party of Iowa. My passion is to listen and learn from the people so I can represent them at the statehouse. Everyone makes mistakes, please forgive me.
Yes, apparently this person running for public office actually thinks the term is "gay homosexual". This is, of course, not to be confused with the "straight homosexuals". I'm not quite sure how we're taking the assertion that gay people are given AIDS by God the "wrong way". What way should be be taking it?

I guess just because he meant to post this as a comment to another thread makes his statement less filled with bigotry and hate. If you don't want people to read the things you say, don't say them.

At least he's retracted his statement, and won't be publicly saying that AIDS is caused by God. Oh, wait:
VOLSKY: I understand that you regret posting it…But do you still believe that AIDS is the result of the sin of homosexuality?

WALTERS: Well, I don’t want to say that I don’t. I just, like I said, had an experience of [gay] friends dying [of AIDS]….But back to the posting, that post when I posted, I do feel sorry and denounce what I said.
He has anecdotal evidence! It must be true. I'm not sure how it could be any more obvious that he's just sorry people read it. He's not sorry for what he said, and he's not really denouncing what he said.

Aside from being completely irrational, these statements aren't even biblical. Sexual immorality is lumped together with all other forms of sin (at least by Jesus). There is no reason that God should be targeting homosexuality for his wrath while he allows unrepentant liars so run free. Not to mention that physical forms of violence seem to be reserved for after Jesus returns (as per todays reading).

People seem to wish for a God that is as petty and cruel as they are.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

347: 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 1-5
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13

This is really going to be a short one today. This is yet another letter where Paul is praising the people he's writing to.

Paul spends the first three chapters thanking God for the Thessalonians' faithful worship. Paul explains that he wanted to visit them for a second time to see how they were doing, but Satan stopped him. This is yet another example of Satan not really being that bad. Why, if Satan could stop him the second time, could he not have stopped him the first time? That would surely have been much worse, considering the Thessalonians would have been left unconverted.

In chapter 4 Paul repeats the same old nonsense about having to be sexually pure, even though he's said we don't have to follow Old Testament law to be saved. Paul seems to have taken a special interest in sexual immorality, whereas Jesus just lumped sexual immorality together with lying, murdering, stealing, etc. And, of course, Jesus says that all the OT laws still apply, where Paul does not.

He goes on to say in chapter 4 that we should not mourn those who "fall asleep", like the non-believers mourn. Eventually he contrasts this "falling asleep" with living, making it clear that he means people who have died. Is there some reason he used this bad metaphor? Anyway, Christians seem to fail at this one. I see Christians mourning their loved ones all the time.

Why, if you truly believe your loved one went to heaven, is a death even sad? First of all, they are in a "better place" and second you will be, presumably, seeing them in a couple of years. If anything, why not be happy for your dead loved one? Yet the average Christian I know mourns just as if they are never going to see their loved one again.

Paul goes on to say that when Jesus returns, the "dead in Christ" will be resurrected first. Wait, what? I thought everyone was going to heaven. In the end of days everyone is going to have to come out of heaven back into their earthly bodies? Or is Paul saying that only after Jesus has returned will we have eternal life?

Chapter 5 is about how the day of Jesus's return will be a surprise to everyone; it will come like a "thief in the night". Why, then, are people even speculating that this could be the end of days? The bible says that it will come when we least expect it. With this logic, all the people that think this is the end of days could actually be saving us.

Paul ends, as usual, with a call for the Thessalonians to pray, and love each other.

A Christian school is firing it's teachers:
An evangelical Christian school in Corona [California] is causing controversy after it fired at least 11 of its employees, including four teachers, because their belief systems were not in line with the new pastor's doctrine.
Were these teachers atheists? Were they even not Christians? No:
They were making a mockery of other people and religions. And this went for the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, the Catholics and they were very demeaning...
Yes, the pastor fired Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Catholics for not being "true Christians". Normally I would have no problem with a private school firing people that don't believe what they do, but in this case first, it's not true, and second it's simply not biblical. Therefore it seems like the one doing the firing is really the one that isn't a "true Christian".

The new Pastor, Chuck Booher, came with his (made up) "Level 4 living" doctrine. Anybody who's not a "level 4 Christian" cannot be a teacher at the school.
But soon he was requiring that all the staff conform to his own practice of Christianity [level 4 living], including baptism by immersion, a form of baptism in which the participant is submerged under water.
Wait, where in the bible does it say you have to have a full submersion baptism? In fact, the bible says that post-Jesus you don't even need to have a baptism, because Jesus will baptize you with the spirit.

The pastor also said that he's trying to make the staff "100 percent Christian". Needless to say this is a "no true Scotsman" fallacy. You only have to believe in Jesus to be 100 percent Christian. And you certainly don't have to have a full immersion baptism.

Even Paul says that all Christians are part of one "body". And that all Christians should love their Christian brothers. Where does "put your fellow Christian out of a job" fall in with this? Not to mention that this pastor is in no way humbling himself by saying that he knows the one true way to Jesus.

I suspect this "Level 4 living" is exactly what Paul was talking about when he mentioned "false gospels". Maybe the pastor is the one that should be getting fired.

(via ABC)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

346: Colossians

Colossians 1-4
"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints..." - Colossians 1:3-4

This one should be pretty short. Paul is again writing a letter to a group that already agrees with everything he's saying. Not only is this already boring, but it's completely devoid of new content.

In the first chapter, Paul again reiterates that - post-Jesus - God doesn't really care about your "bad behavior" because Jesus has forgiven us. While God may have moved a bit closer to all-loving, he's certainly drifted away from all-just.

At the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter 2, Paul reiterates how much he's suffered for the church.

Chapter 2 goes on to say that we should not rely on philosophies that depend on the "basic principles of this world". I guess what he could say here is "don't rely on philosophies that are based on evidence". Paul prefers the "Paul is right, everyone else is wrong" philosophy.

Paul again says that we can eat whatever we want and do whatever we want on the sabbath. This is again because we are not bound by Old Testament law. As Paul has done in his other letters, he immediately contradicts himself by telling us a bunch of Old Testament laws that we do need to follow. Namely, don't be sexually immoral, angry, slanderous, etc. Did Paul just make this stuff up? Why do we need to follow these laws but not the others. Especially since we have all already received salvation.

Chapter 3 ends with the same terrible rules for a "Christian household". Including keeping your wife, kids, and slaves in submission at all times.

Chapter 4 is the standard closing chapter for these letters. Paul tells the people to keep praying for him and to stay faithful, and sends his greetings to random people we've never heard of. He ends with "Remember my chains. Grace be with you." Unfortunately, in this letter, he forgot to actually talk about his chains. I guess they're supposed to remember something they've never heard about.

We haven't had a good (read: bad) Billy Graham letter in awhile. Let's see how he's shredding the bible today. As usual, his column starts with a question from a reader:
It seems like I’m always having financial problems, and they’d all be solved if I could just win the lottery. But I haven’t won hardly anything the last few years, although I’ve prayed for God to help me win. Why won’t God hear my prayers?
For a bible thumping Christian this is actually a completely legitimate question. As silly as the question may sound, Jesus unabashedly promises to give us anything we ask for:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:7-11
Maybe this was just an accidental slip of the tongue on the part of Jesus. Let's try again:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. - John 14:12-14
Jesus actually has two separate reasons for telling us that he will give us everything we ask for. One reason is God's goodness. If we, as evil humans, can give good gifts, why wouldn't God give us even greater gifts. Second is that if we randomly ask Jesus to do things, it will glorify God to actually have those things done (and this would be true if prayer ever worked).

This person is in financial trouble, and with full faith in Jesus he/she is asking for help. Jesus is simply breaking his promise. All that's asked for is not given; no amount of faith will make Jesus give you anything.

Let's see what Billy has to say:
Perhaps God isn’t answering your prayers because this isn’t the way he wants you to solve your financial problems. The Bible doesn’t encourage gambling, nor has God promised to bless us when we gamble.
Ok, so instead of gambling, this questioner needs to just ask for the money (in the same about as a lottery winning) to drop from the sky. God's plan for this person's financial security seems irrelevant based on the statements of Jesus.

As a thought experiment, let's imagine Jesus doesn't answer prayers for personal gain. [To clarify, the bible makes no mention of not answering these types of prayers.] What would happen if a bunch of Christians completely selflessly, and in full faith, prayed for cancer to be eradicated. Surely this type of prayer happens at least once a day (there are millions of Christians after all) yet cancer still exists. Why isn't Jesus keeping his promise?

In the end, prayer has been shown to have no measurable effects. The hypothesis that Jesus will help you win the lottery, or anything else for that matter: false.

Monday, August 16, 2010

345: Philippians

Philippians 1-4
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far..." - Philippians 1:21-23

Yet another letter by Paul. Only about 5 more to go.

Paul starts by saying that he thanks God every day for the Philippians. That must mean they've been good. It also probably means this letter is going to be incredibly boring.

Next Paul talks about being in chains for Jesus. First he was a slave for Jesus, then he said we were set free through Jesus, now he's back to being in chains. He goes on to contrast himself with people who are not in chains, but still preach the message of Jesus to advance their own goals. Paul actually defends these people, saying that even if they are preaching the message for the wrong reason, they're still preaching Jesus (and getting filthy rich if they're running a mega church).

Paul then says that he wishes he were dead so that he could be with Jesus. I've actually heard this from various Christians. I'm really not sure why there aren't hoards of Christians jumping off bridges. If you truly believe that you're going to a "better place", why not expedite the process? At least so far, the bible has offered no penalty for suicide. Paul says that he doesn't die so that he can preach the gospel to more people.

Chapter 2 begins with Paul telling us to embrace humility like Jesus did. I'm not sure what Paul would know about humility. He says that Jesus had enough humility to submit to death on a cross. So Jesus is back to being hung on a cross? What happened to hung from a tree?

Chapter 3 begins with Paul telling us not to put any confidence in our flesh. By "flesh" it seems like he means the laws of the Old Testament. He says that, though he was perfectly righteous before his conversion (so much for humility), he considers all that righteousness a loss for the sake of Christ. I guess this is back to the idea that someone can't be saved by how good they are in this life.

Chapter 3 ends with more instructions for the Philippians. Paul tells them to keep pushing ahead toward the goal, the goal being Jesus I suppose. He says that once we reach this goal (the goal of death?) we will get new glorious bodies in the after life.

In the last chapter Paul tells the Philippians - like he does with everyone - to just get along. He then says that he is content no matter what his circumstances, and everyone else should be just like him. If everyone was content when things are bad, then nothing good would be accomplished. If the roof of your house is leaking, you get a repairman because you're not content with being wet.

I almost like Paul better when he's mad. At least then he's entertaining.

What would scientific evidence of God mean? One writer for the Huffington Post thinks it would mean the end of not only atheism, but Christianity. He starts first by trying to describe evidence for God:
If the physical constants fail as convincing evidence of God, then what might succeed? In his book Universes, philosopher John Leslie conjures up a rather fanciful scenario for potential God-evidence (I'm taking a few liberties here in order to make Leslie's example a bit more fun). Imagine obviously intentionally engineered artifacts descending harmlessly from the sky (God doesn't want to hurt anyone!) each with an engraved label saying "made by God." Scientists are able to perform definitive tests on these artifacts and conclude beyond all doubt that they have been fashioned by an omniscient, all-powerful agent.
While that may be earth shattering, my next question would be which God? How difficult would it be for God to just follow everyone around in some sort of ghostly body? Maybe he could even exert a positive, practical influence on the world while he's here. That would certainly be strong (repeatable) evidence of God's existence.

The writer then tells us to suspend our disbelief and imagine that the Judeo-Christian God does exist. He then tells us what he thinks this would mean:
Well nothing major -- only the end of both atheism and Christianity. If scientific atheists are true to their convictions, then it seems that they have no choice but to become theists. Their worldview is based on evidence and the evidence says there's a god.

But it's also the end of Christianity. For those who find Christianity to be a stubbornly abhorrent strain of the religion virus, this ought to be a moment of much rejoicing. How so? A fundamental tenet of Christianity is free will. It is no stretch to say that Christianity without free will is simply not Christianity anymore. The Christian God grants humans free will and will not interfere with its exercise. Humans are free to believe or not believe, free to follow God's laws or free to sin and separate themselves from God. God condemns no one. People condemn themselves. This is all standard, mainline Christian theology and it all gets utterly demolished by convincing scientific evidence of God.
This is actually an argument I hear a lot. "God can't show himself, that would suspend our free will". How would this suspend free will? The writer tries to explain:
We really aren't free to believe or not believe in germs, gravity, evolution or other firmly established scientific facts. We can foolishly try to deny them, but their effects are with us and their laws hold regardless of our attitude. If I jump off a cliff, it matters not a whit whether I believe in gravity; I'm gonna fall. The laws of physics, Mendelian genetics, viral contagion, etc. -- my beliefs about these things are irrelevant. I follow their dictates. I suffer or enjoy their consequences.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. So in order to have free will there has to be a certain level of ambiguity? I know people that don't believe in evolution against all evidence. Scientific evidence doesn't mean anything to people that don't believe or understand it.

Gravity may always pull you down when you fall off a cliff. But I have the "free will" to believe that it's actually magic fairies pulling us inexorably toward the center of the earth. I don't, by definition, have to believe in Newtonian/Einsteinian gravitational theory. Like the evolution denier, I still have the free will to be belligerently stupid.
Luckily for everyone, scientific attempts to prove or disprove God are all doomed to failure. We live in exactly the world the thoughtful Christian would expect to find. For those who believe, hints of God are everywhere. But none are convincing. Faith remains a requirement and atheism remains an option. A God who values free will would set it up just that way.
Incidentally, a God that values forced ignorance would also set it up this way. "Free will" is not forcing yourself to believe something with no evidential backing (some Christians would disagree with saying there is no evidence, but this writer would not). In fact, if you use this writer's logic, God is suspending our free will in the absence of evidence and forcing us to believe in him, with the threat of hell.

If God really could be proven to exist, I would kindly ask him to suspend my free will anyway. What's a few years of suspended free will in comparison with an eternity of torture? The idea that God would even give us the opportunity to eternally damn ourselves seems pretty selfish and unloving to me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

344: Slaves, Obey Your Masters & Ephesians: In Review

Ephesians 4-6
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." - Ephesians 6:5-8

The entirety of chapter 4 and the first paragraph of chapter 5 is Paul reiterating how everyone in the church is part of the body of Christ. Paul explains how we should treat each other with love and respect. He also says that we should not be angry at each other and we should forgive each other on all matters.

He ends this all by again reiterating that we should be like Jesus and live a life of love and forgiveness. Wow, a nice message from Paul? Maybe he's really going to start following the basic message of Jesus. Oh, wait, keep reading:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Love everyone, and forgive all their transgressions. But get them the hell away from you if they're ever immoral, greedy, sexually impure, or in any other way "disobedient" to God. I don't know how you can possibly follow all the commands of Paul without your brain falling out of your head. How can everyone love each other and be part of one "body" if we're commanded to constantly reject anyone that sins (which is everyone, by the bible's definition)?

Paul then goes on a long rant about submission. First, as he's said before, wives should submit to their husbands. He says that as the church submits to Christ, wives should submit to their husbands in "everything".

Is this even what Christian marriage counselors are saying these days? I must ashamedly admit that I've seen the movie "Fireproof". This was about a couple that saved their marriage with the help of the bible. The entire movie was the husband (played by Kirk Cameron) attempting to win his wife back by doing a bunch of things for her. How is this biblical? Shouldn't Kirk Cameron have just told his wife to get back in the kitchen? That's Paul's version of marriage.

Next Paul says that children should submit to their parents. He quotes the Old Testament to back this up. Wait a minute, I thought if you were a follower of Jesus, Old Testament law didn't apply anymore. Why is he quoting this law that he now claims is defunct?

The final form of submission is the submission of a slave to his master. I know it's the quote of the day, but I'm quoting it again:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
First of all, are we slaves to Christ or not? It was only two days ago (Galatians 5) that Paul was claiming that we were all set free through Jesus. Now he's saying the exact opposite. Second, I'd love to see the mental gymnastics someone has to do to get out of this clear endorsement of slavery by Paul. Paul doesn't just mention that slavery exists, he tells the slaves how throughly they should obey. If this isn't endorsement I don't know what is.

How can any self respecting modern Christian not rip any mention of Paul out of their bible. Jesus I can live with, Paul I cannot. Paul who not only encourages but demands the servitude of women, endorses slavery, and endorses throwing sinners out of the church. How can almost all Christians accept that most of these teachings are bullshit, yet still desperately cling to Paul's abolition of homosexuality, and all the other ridiculous things he talks about? Any quote from the writings of Paul needs to come with a bright red disclaimer "written by the bigoted chauvinist douchebag Paul".

Paul ends the chapter by telling us to put on our metaphorical armor against the world run by the devil. This includes: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness, the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, and the helmet of salvation. You'll then be ready to go fight in the crusades, I suppose.

Ephesians: In Review
Paul has really run out of new ideas now. I guess I should stop complaining about this, because it looks like there are still several more letters to go (written by Paul), and I can't imagine they're going to me any more original.

I really don't have anything to say here that hasn't been said in the other letter reviews (largely because Paul really didn't say anything new).

Rifqa Bary, a convert from Islam to Christianity, has been in the news a lot in the past year. In July 2009, she ran away from her Muslim parents, accusing her father of threatening to kill her for her conversion.

She then became a ward of the state and a lengthy legal battle ensued, her parents trying to get her back, and her attorneys trying to keep her a ward of the state. Neither side could find evidence (besides Rifqa's testimony) that he father had ever actually threatened her, though I don't find it terribly unlikely. In any case, this has been great fodder for a number of Christian blogs.

She has since turned 18, thus ending the legal battle. But there is new news:
Christian convert Rifqa Bary is refusing chemotherapy for cancer because she believes that she was cured at a faith-healing event, according to a motion in Franklin County Juvenile Court.
Doctors had scheduled her for a year of chemotherapy. In the words of Christopher Hitchens, "religion poisons everything". First religion threatened to kill her for disobedience, now religion is sealing her fate by convincing her that she is cured.

To add icing on this shit-cake, some blogs are saying that because she is an "illegal immigrant", she should be immediately deported. Can't anyone help this woman? Convince her that treatment is necessary, stop trying to deport her, maybe even start treating her like a human being instead of using her to try to prop up your "Christian warrior" image.


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