Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hippocratic Oaths vs. Team Hypocrisy

A friend pointed me to this article. It demonstrates the dangers and alienating nature of being absolutist as the Catholic Church does here. It appears (as per usual) that the CC cares more about "getting here" and less about "being here". The stringent unbending dogma (mind you, not found verbatim in the bible whatsoever) that these "holy" men uphold with regards to abortion - nay, ACTUALLY SAVING A WOMAN'S LIFE THROUGH ABORTION - leads me to believe that they are trying to sabotage the future of the Church as well as solidify their archaic misogynistic rule over women. (Perhaps they hoped the baby would be born male, instantly superior to its lowly female mother and deserving of the trade-off of her life for his?)

When "Bishop" Olmstead becomes an M.D. and can genuinely and legitimately speak about the dignity and treatment of a patient, then maybe I'll listen to what he has to say. Until then I think not. And kudos to that hospital for continuing to operate as a Catholic institution regardless of being officially ousted by The Boys Club. That is a mature and noble establishment who can simply sniff and continue on their way, providing services to those in need. Like Jesus did.

And one more thing: Merry Christmas, everyone. Remember that Church is NOT the reason for the season - Jesus Christ is. And they are so very different ideas.

Hospital loses Catholic status over ‘abortion’

By AMANDA LEE MYERS Dec 22, 2010 02:33AM

PHOENIX — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix stripped a major hospital of its affiliation with the church Tuesday because of a surgery that ended a woman’s pregnancy to save her life. Bishop Thomas Olmsted called the 2009 procedure an abortion and said St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center — recognized internationally for its neurology and neurosurgery practices — violated ethical and religious directives of the national Conference of Catholic Bishops. “In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” Olmsted said at a news conference announcing the decision. “The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.”

Linda Hunt, president of St. Joseph’s, said doctors performed a necessary procedure on a patient who was getting worse by the minute and was in imminent danger of death. “If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case,” Hunt said. “Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”

St. Joseph’s does not receive direct funding from the church, but in addition to losing its Catholic endorsement, the 697-bed hospital will no longer be able to celebrate Mass and must remove the Blessed Sacrament from its chapel. Hunt said the hospital will comply with Olmsted’s decision but it will continue to operate under Catholic guidelines. “We will continue in the Catholic heritage through words and deeds,” she said. “We have removed the Blessed Sacrament from our tabernacle, we will have no Masses, but priests will see patients. We are still a hospital.” The woman who had the procedure is in her 20s and had a history of abnormally high blood pressure when she learned of her pregnancy. After she was admitted to the hospital with worsening symptoms, doctors determined her risk of death was nearly 100 percent. AP

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Glimmer of Reason?

I have to wonder what hidden agenda is behind the sudden change of mind, though.
Is it election season?

In major shift, Vatican says condoms lesser of 2 evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS

Associated Press | 8:14 AM CST, November 24, 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a seismic shift on one of the most profound — and profoundly contentious — Roman Catholic teachings, the Vatican said Tuesday that condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy. The position was an acknowledgment that the church's long-held anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn't justify putting lives at risk. "This is a game-changer," declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor. The new stance was staked out as the Vatican explained Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condoms and HIV in a book that came out Tuesday based on his interview with a German journalist. The Vatican still holds that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged. Still, the reassessment on condom use to help prevent disease carries profound significance, particularly in Africa where AIDS is rampant. "By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms," said Martin, a liberal-leaning author of several books about spirituality and Catholic teaching. The development came on a day when U.N. AIDS officials announced that the number of new HIV cases has fallen significantly — thanks to condom use — and a U.S. medical journal published a study showing that a daily pill could help prevent spread of the virus among gay men. "This is a great day in the fight against AIDS ... a major milestone," said Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. Theologians have debated for years whether it could be morally acceptable for HIV-infected people to use condoms to avoid infecting their partners. The Vatican years ago was reportedly preparing a document on the subject, but it never came out. The groundbreaking shift, coming as it does from the deeply conservative pontiff, would appear likely to restrain any public criticism from Catholic conservatives, who insisted Tuesday that the pope was merely reaffirming the church's moral teaching. Conservatives have feared that a comment like this would give support to Catholics who want to challenge the church's ban on artificial contraception in an environment where they feel they are under siege from a secular, anti-Catholic culture. George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer, said the Vatican was by no means endorsing condom use as a method of contraception or a means of AIDS prevention. "This is admittedly a difficult distinction to grasp," he told The Associated Press in an e-mail. What the pontiff is saying is "that someone determined to do something wrong may be showing a glimmer of moral common sense by not doing that wrong thing in the worst possible way — which is not an endorsement of anything." Benedict's comments come at a time when bishops in the United States are intensely focused on upholding the strictest views of Catholic orthodoxy, emphasizing traditional marriage, natural family planning based on a woman's menstrual cycle and making abortion the most important issue. In the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," Benedict was quoted as saying that condom use by people such as male prostitutes indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection. His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren't being used as a form of contraception. However, questions arose immediately about the pope's intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to apply only to men. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, the important thing was that the person took into consideration the life of another. "I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this: ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship." "This is if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual. ... The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said. Those comments concluded the press conference, and Lombardi took no further questions about how broadly this interpretation could be applied. The clarification is significant. UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people in Africa are infected with HIV, and that 54 percent — or 12.1 million — are women. Heterosexual transmission of HIV and multiple, heterosexual partners are believed to be the major cause of the high infection rates. Benedict drew harsh criticism when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then. In Africa on Tuesday, AIDS activists, clerics and ordinary Africans applauded the pope's revised comments. "I say, hurrah for Pope Benedict," exclaimed Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of South Africa's Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. She said the pope's statement may prompt many people to "adopt a simple lifestyle strategy to protect themselves." In Sierra Leone, the director of the National AIDS Secretariat predicted condom use would now increase, lowering the number of new infections. "Once the pope has made a pronouncement, his priests will be in the forefront in advocating for their perceived use of condoms," said the official, Dr. Brima Kargbo. Lombardi said Benedict knew full well that his comments would provoke intense debate. Conservative Catholics have been trying to minimize what he said since excerpts were published this weekend in the Vatican newspaper. The Rev. Tim Finnegan, a conservative British blogger, said he thought the pope's comments were unwise. "I'm sorry. I love the Holy Father very much; he is a deeply holy man and has done a great deal for the church," Finnegan said on his blog. "On this particular issue, I disagree with him." Lombardi praised Benedict for his "courage" in confronting the problem. "He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today," Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for greater humanized, responsible sexuality. Luigi Accatoli, a veteran Vatican journalist who was on the Vatican panel that launched the book, put it this way: "He spoke with caution and courage of a pragmatic way through which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the pandemic of AIDS without approving, but also without excluding — in particular cases — the use of a condom," Accatoli said. The launch of the book, which includes wide-ranging comments on subjects from the sex abuse crisis to Benedict's belief that popes should resign if physically unable to carry out their mission, drew a packed audience. Making a rare appearance, Benedict's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, sat in the front row — an indication of the event's significance. In the book, the pope reaffirms Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception, as well as the inviolability of marriage between man and woman. But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope was saying that condom use is a lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner, even when pregnancy is possible. "We're not just talking about an encounter between two men, which has little to do with procreation. We're now introducing relationships that could lead to childbirth," Martin said. Individual bishops and theologians have applied the lesser evil theory to the condom-HIV issue, but it had previously been rejected at the highest levels of the Vatican, Martin said. Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil. "Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility." He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security. "This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear." Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant. "The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feminism Defined

I may be repeating myself, but it bears repeating. Many folks think that a feminist views women as being superior or better than men. That is just not the case.

Feminism refers to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights. Feminism is controversial for challenging traditions in many fields and especially for supporting shifting the political balance toward women.[citation needed] Some feminists argue that men cause and benefit from sexism. Others argue that gender, like sex, are social constructions that harm all people; feminism thus seeks to liberate men as well as women. Feminists, persons practicing feminism, can be persons of either sex. (Source: Wikipedia)

Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people [has] the right to impose definitions of reality on others. ~Liz Stanley and Sue Wise

Jesus communed with and taught women but traditional men-run Christian churches have long since perpetrated criminality that they tie to feminism -- an evil stance in their eyes...of course they would. Admission of equality would threaten their powerful jobs for which they earn a pretty penny. However, given their incorrect and stereotypical views I would say these men have a right to be scared. They could be mentally castrated by throngs of intelligent women.

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem." ~Reverend Jerry Falwell

"[Feminism is] a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." ~Pat Robertson

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Steps Back

I happened to see these two articles the same day and immediately thought "two steps back". There is no-to-negative progress being made in Catholicism (at least in the U.S.) in terms of social, spiritual and theological enlightenment. Both of these news articles highlight how the Catholic conservatives are clinging, white-knuckled, to the version of their religion that has not yet matured, forcing out anyone who votes for change and mercy. Heck, the C.C. hasn't even hit puberty yet. They are even going so far as to revive a dangerous literalistic Dark Ages tradition.

The harder they struggle, the tighter that roap gets.

Step 1.

New York cleric picked to head U.S. bishops after conservatives hammer top candidate
AP - November 16, 2010, 11:00 AM    

BALTIMORE -- In an upset, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan elected president today of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, defeating a vice president who had been widely expected to win the job. It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost. It follows protests by some conservative Catholics against the vice president, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas. Dolan received 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Kicanas on the third round of balloting. Kicanas was vice president for a three-year term which ends this week. Dolan's surprise victory comes at a time when church leaders are divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy. A growing number of bishops have taken a more aggressive approach, publicly denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, warning Catholic voters they should never vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights under any circumstances and reining in prominent dissenters in their dioceses. Kicanas has not denied Communion to any Catholic politicians and rejected calls to punish the president of the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights. Kicanas instead urged bishops and Catholic university presidents to start a discussion about their differences. Partly because of Kicanas' approach, he was pilloried in the days leading up to the vote by right-wing Catholic bloggers, who urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting. Dolan also does not outright deny the sacrament to dissenting Catholic lawmakers, but he is seen as an outspoken defender of church orthodoxy in a style favored by many theological conservatives.
Step 2.

Catholic Bishops: More Exorcists Needed
Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer - Friday, November 12, 2010

NEW YORK -- Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms. The two-day training, which ends Saturday in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. "Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult," DiNardo said in a phone interview before the conference, which is open to clergy only. "The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite." More than 50 bishops and 60 priests signed up to attend, according to Catholic News Service, which first reported the event. The conference was scheduled for just ahead of the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which starts Monday in Baltimore. Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that "all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition." The practice is much more accepted by Catholics in parts of Europe and elsewhere overseas. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the longtime private secretary of Pope John Paul II, revealed a few years after the pontiff's death that John Paul had performed an exorcism on a woman who was brought into the Vatican writhing and screaming in what Dziwisz said was a case of possession by the devil. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference, said only a tiny number of U.S. priests have enough training and knowledge to perform an exorcism. Dioceses nationwide have been relying solely on these clergy, who have been overwhelmed with requests to evaluate claims. The Rev. James LeBar, who was the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York under the late Cardinal John O'Connor, had faced a similar level of demand, traveling the country in response to the many requests for his expertise. The rite is performed only rarely. Neal Lozano, a Catholic writer and author of the book "Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance" about combatting evil spirits, said he knows an exorcist in the church who receives about 400 inquiries a year, but determines that out of that number, two or three of the cases require an exorcism. No one knows why more people seem to be seeking the rite. Paprocki said one reason could be the growing interest among Americans in exploring general spirituality, as opposed to participating in organized religion, which has led more people to dabble in the occult. "They don't know exactly what they're getting into and when they have questions, they're turning to the church, to priests," said Paprocki, chairman of the bishops' committee on canonical affairs and church governance. "They wonder if some untoward activity is taking place in their life and want some help discerning that." Many Catholic immigrants in the U.S. come from countries where exorcism is more common, although Paprocki said that was not a motivation for organizing the conference. Exorcism has deep roots in Christianity. The New Testament contains several examples of Jesus casting out evil spirits from people, and the church notes these acts in the Catholic Catechism. Whether or not individual Catholics realize it, each of them undergoes what the church calls a minor exorcism at baptism that includes prayers renouncing Satan and seeking freedom from original sin. A major exorcism can only be performed by a priest with the permission of his bishop after a thorough evaluation, including consulting with physicians or psychiatrists to rule out any psychological or physical illness behind the person's behavior. Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn't know and abnormal displays of strength. The full exorcism is held in private and includes sprinkling holy water, reciting Psalms, reading aloud from the Gospel, laying on of hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. Some adaptations are allowed for different circumstances. The exorcist can invoke the Holy Spirit then blow in the face of the possessed person, trace the sign of the cross on the person's forehead and command the devil to leave. The training comes at a time when many American bishops and priests are trying to correct what they view as a lack of emphasis on the Catholic teaching about sin and evil after the Second Vatican Council, the series of meetings in the 1960s that enacted modernizing reforms in the church. Many in the American hierarchy, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, believe that the supernatural aspect of the church was lost in the changes, reducing it to just another institution in the world. A renewed focus on exorcism highlights the divine element of the church and underscores the belief that evil is real. DiNardo said some Catholics who ask for an exorcism are really seeking, "prayerful support. They're asking for formation in the faith." Still, he said sometimes the rite is warranted. "For the longest time, we in the United States may not have been as much attuned to some of the spiritual aspects of evil because we have become so much attached to what would be either physical or psychological explanation for certain phenomena," DiNardo said. "We may have forgotten that there is a spiritual dimension to people."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Running Out of Rocks

Merciful? Nah. Counselor? Nah. Shepherd? Nah. Bringer of Good News? Hell Nah.

False prophet (Bishop?) Andre Leonard is just another clown at the circus.

The conservative Vatican men are running out of self-justifying rocks to throw. And the rocks are getting very ...specific. So specific, in fact, that those women who've had abortions will allegedly be greeted in the afterlife by their babies crying "momma". Really? And AIDS as God's punishment? What? Well how about cancer, then?

Please allow me to address Andre, here:

Where, in all your hellfire rhetoric, sir, is the love that Jesus taught? Where is the understanding of The Father, the gifts of The Spirit, the Mercy of the Lamb? Hope? Faith? Forgiveness? So where do you find the balls to rush to the defense of retired pedophile priests? Perhaps when you and your pedo-priests walk into the afterlife those children will be waiting for you, demanding their innocence back? What is that saying, "before attempting to remove the sliver from your brother's eye, first remove the log in your own?" In your fork-tongued vitriol, your clouded and bitter judgement of the populous which pays your bills, you greatly underestimate the love and forgiveness of God, sir. Have we forgotten what the purpose of the church is? Have you forgotten who it is who needs your counsel and understanding the most? It isn't the faithful, it is those in turmoil and spritiual conflict. They do not seek your counsel to be told that they're being punished by God or that the fetus they aborted after a rape will chide them on the other side. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A BEACON OF TRUST AND HOPE. But so far you've accomplished the task of being a hovering cuppola of doom. And lower your voice and strengthen your argument. Please cite in your holy book where it says that these things will happen? You absolutely cannot. It also says in the holy book NOT to say something is so if it is not. That would be lying. So you sir, are a liar. A liar in expensive stoles surrounded by gold chalices which should be sold to help the needy as Jesus taught. And you should be the counselor of the poor in spirit as well. So I say with much respect to you -- what the fuck?

All I hear are the hypocritical ramblings of another Pontiff-appointed AntiChrist.

Conservative Belgian archbishop in eye of storm

AP - BRUSSELS, Belgium – He calls AIDS a form of "justice" for homosexuals and wants retired pedophile priests to go unpunished. He says women who have an abortion will be greeted in the afterlife by their unborn child crying "Momma!"

Archbishop Andre Leonard, 70, was plucked from a sleepy Belgian citadel-town by Pope Benedict XVI in January to energize the country's Roman Catholic faithful and reverse 30 years of liberalism. The appointment was in line with Benedict's policy of putting tradition-minded and conservative bishops in important dioceses.

But since taking office, Leonard's hardline views have added turmoil to a church already mired in an abuse scandal. And, privately, some Vatican officials are expressing concern about an ever-worsening public relations disaster.

The controversy turned into a very public revolt last week when his spokesman resigned, saying he could no longer morally defend Leonard.

"I was his GPS for three months. But it is the driver who has his hands on the wheel. Too often, I had to recalculate the route," said Juergen Mettepenningen. He called Leonard a "loose cannon who thinks everybody else is wrong."

Leonard's views — and the way he delivers them so stridently — are riling the Catholic base, but they dovetail with church teachings that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and that women who abort babies are sinners.

Also, the Vatican admits it has no tolerance for pedophiles, but rarely subjects elderly pedophile priests to full canonical trials, instead telling them to live out their years in prayer and penance.

Bert Claerhout, editor of Church and Life, a Catholic weekly, says he has been receiving "fierce" letters of complaint from readers — and doesn't believe Leonard's views have suddenly come to the attention of the Vatican.

"The pope knew very well what he did when he appointed Leonard. He wanted someone to bring a conservative view to the church here," Claerhout said in an interview.

Two of Belgium's 10 bishops have publicly challenged Leonard. Unusually, Belgian Premier Yves Leterme, a Catholic, also condemned him. Last week, a man ran up to the archbishop during a service at Brussels' main cathedral and shoved a cherry pie in his face.

Leonard last week published a five-page response to his critics, but refused to back off from his view that AIDS is punishment for a promiscuous lifestyle. Writing on his archdiocese's Web site, he drew parallels with people who continue to smoke despite seeing clear health warnings on cigarette packs.

Leonard took charge of the Belgian church just as a long-simmering sexual abuse scandal began to surface.

In April, the then-Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, retired and admitted that for years he had abused a nephew. In June, police raided Leonard's offices looking for clues. There is no suggestion Leonard is involved in a coverup, but his subsequent defense of retired pedophile priests couldn't have come at a more sensitive time.

"If they are no longer priests, have no more (church) responsibilities, I doubt that taking some kind of vengeance ... is a humane solution," he said on Belgian public television in October.

"Do they really want a priest, aged 85, to be put in stocks and publicly humiliated? I think most victims don't want that."

Vatican insiders call Leonard a "very intellectual" theologian. He escaped the attention of most Belgian Catholics when, in the 1990s, he was the bishop of Namur — a city of 100,000 in the country's thinly populated south.

He holds a philosophy degree from the Leuven Catholic University and did theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a Jesuit school. He was also a member of the International Theological Commission, which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — headed as prefect of the Vatican's orthodoxy office.

He took over from Cardinal Godfried Danneels who opposed key Vatican edicts such as a ban on condoms in AIDS prevention. During his tenure, Belgium legalized euthanasia and same-sex marriages — two red-flag issues in Rome — and Danneels didn't actively try to slow down the pace of change.

Vatican officials acknowledge concern about the Belgian situation, but have refrained from comment saying they don't want to inflame an already tense situation.

Gabriel Ringlet, a former deputy dean of the Universite Catholique de Louvain, wants Leonard to resign — a highly unlikely prospect and one that would be unprecedented in Belgium.

Rita Bettens, a churchgoing Catholic, also said Leonard was causing considerable damage. "And this is not a good time for any of that," she said, referring to continuing fallout from the abuse scandal.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I thought this was an interesting and unsurprising article. This source is a Catholic website, and I found the candor of the author refreshing.


Article: "Further Adrift"

Excerpt: In February 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, based on interviews with a representative sample of thirty-five thousand adult Americans, reported that one out of every three adult Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church. If these ex-Catholics were to form a single church, they would constitute the second largest church in the nation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fictional Christians

I've been so crazy with school. I can't believe my last post was in August. I also can't believe this headline.

Psst! Hey, Vatican, didn't you get the memo? The Simpsons aren't REAL. They're just fictional cartoons. Don't spend too much time analyzing their beliefs because there are REAL starving children dying in other countries that could really use your help.

Homer Simpson is Catholic, Vatican Paper Declares

Mon Oct 18, 10:18 pm ETLOS ANGELES (Reuters) – "The Simpsons" just got a blessing from the Vatican. The official Vatican newspaper has declared that beer-swilling, doughnut-loving Homer Simpson and son Bart are Catholics -- and what's more, it says that parents should not be afraid to let their children watch "the adventures of the little guys in yellow." "Few people know it, and he does everything to hide it. But it's true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic", the Osservatore Romano newspaper said in an article on Sunday headlined "Homer and Bart are Catholics." The newspaper cited a study by a Jesuit priest of a 2005 episode of the show called "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star". That study concludes that "The Simpsons" is "among the few TV programs for kids in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes." The Simpsons pray before meals, and "in its own way, believes in the beyond," the newspaper quoted the Jesuit study as saying. It's the second time the animated U.S. TV series, which is broadcast in 90 countries, has been praised by the Vatican. But executive producer Al Jean told Entertainment Weekly on Monday he was in "shock and awe" at the latest assertion, adding that the Simpsons attend the "Presbylutheran" First Church of Springfield. "We've pretty clearly shown that Homer is not Catholic," Jean said. "I really don't think he could go without eating meat on Fridays -- for even an hour." In December 2009, the Osservatore Romano described the show as "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical and sometimes even theological, nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class." "The Simpsons", which introduced the catch-phrase "D'oh", is the longest-running prime-time TV series in the United States and is now in its 22nd season.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Filling the Jock Strap of Jesus

Imagine God's inner dialogue:  "How can I get people to listen to me and take me seriously in the Holy Land in early C.E.? I mean, unfortunately females are mostly an unheard lot at this point...I will send a part of myself in the form of a man to get peoples' attention. He will be my son and spread my word. If the role was reversed or men and women saw the equality of a future time, I'd have sent my daughter instead. And SHE would have picked 12 of her apostles (all women), no less - as people would LISTEN TO THEM!"

While smart on God's part, people misconstrue the hell out of Jesus being a man. And have to this very day.

God created man and woman in (his) image. God then, is both male and female. As an all-knowing powerful being, God is both Mother and Father.

In 2010, the article below provides a solid example of a weaksauce argument. Having a penis is irrelevant to "standing in the place of Jesus" (or maybe Wang should have said, "filling the jockstrap of Jesus".)

And Wang cites that this male domination held true in the first century as it does through the ages... then tell me, Wang, why do men not take several concubines, sacrifice goats and have incestuous relations with their daughters? Heck, it happened in the first century so why doesn't it hold true now? Real easy to pick and choose your bigotry when it benefits ye who sports a dick, isn't it?

The Bible (and hence Christianity) will only remain relevant if it can connect with the modern times in a POSITIVE and loving and peaceful way. The boys club of Rome widens that chasm year by year which is why their market share in the religious index continues to dwindle.

Women are every bit as blessed of soul and mind as men. Women can move the hearts of masses in the spirit of Christ just as much as men. And if I want to dredge up some low ball blows (no pun intended) women are physiologically less programmed for pedophilia and more emotionally in-tune to the sufferings of the world.

As Jesus was persecuted, so are women from around the world on a grand scale. In my eyes that makes women equally or even more qualified than men to be at the pulpit.

Think about it.

BONUS ROUND: Other Tidbits of Oppression

The Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Eve conveniently did not make it into the Canonical Bible.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church mandated that women wear a veil or head covering. Men did not have to.

Catholic marriage ceremonies (depending on the priest) still insist upon, "Wives, obey your husbands." (mis-used from the New Testament letter from Paul)

Jesus hung out with with women of all persuasions, i.e. Mary Magdalene. But she gets few props.

The church has a pre-occupation with a woman's reproduction. Men? Stick it where you want. The woman is seemingly charged with all sins linked to adultery, abortion and birth control. Men seem to be off the hook with regard to responsibility.

Catholic Church defends male-only priesthood

Barring women from being Catholic priests is not the result of sexism 2,000 years ago, it's because women cannot fulfill a basic function of the priesthood, "standing in the place of Jesus," a leading British Catholic thinker argued Monday. "This teaching is not at all a judgment on women's abilities or rights. It says something about the specific role of the priest in Catholic understanding - which is to represent Jesus, to stand in his place," argued Father Stephen Wang in a statement sent out by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. It's rare for the Catholic Church to defend its fundamental positions in this way. Wang was responding to the announcement that campaigners for female priests will plaster posters on London buses next month during the pope's visit to London. The ads read "Pope Benedict - Ordain Women Now!" and will be on 15 double-decker buses running in some of London's main tourist areas, including Parliament and Oxford Street, said Pat Brown, a spokeswoman for Catholic Women's Ordination (CWO). The group spent "in excess of 10,000 pounds" ($15,500) on the ads and is hoping donations will help make up at least part of that cost, Brown told CNN Friday. Wang rejected both the tone and the content of the ads, saying that while an atheist ad campaign last year was "hesitant and ended with gentle exhortations," this one ends "with a shout." And it's based on a fundamental misunderstanding, said Wang, the dean of studies at London's main seminary for Catholic priests, Allen Hall. Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 that the church has no authority to ordain women, a position confirmed a year later by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. At the time, Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the arbiter of Catholic Church dogma. Wang called the late pope's position "surprising," saying John Paul had meant he did not have the power to change "something that has been such a fundamental part of Christian identity from the beginning." The bottom line is that Jesus chose 12 men - and no women - to be his apostles, Wang argues. The choice was "deliberate and significant, not just for that first period of history, but for every age," Wang says. Men and women are equal in Christianity, he continues, but "this does not mean that our sexual identity as men and women is interchangeable. Gender is not just an accident." He compared the role of a priest to that of an actor playing King Arthur or British soccer star Wayne Rooney in a movie. "No one would be surprised if I said I wanted a male actor to play the lead," he said, admitting the analogy was "weak." But, he said, "it shouldn't surprise us if we expect a man to stand 'in the person of Christ' as a priest, to represent Jesus in his humanity - a humanity that is not sexually neutral." The Catholic women's group says that in addition to its bus campaign, it plans to hold a vigil September 15, the day before the pope's visit, outside Westminster Cathedral. The group also plans to demonstrate at Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury - the head of the Church of England - during his meeting with the pope. And members plan to hold a banner along the route of the popemobile, the secure vehicle which carries the pope, in London. Pope Benedict plans to visit England and Scotland September 16-19. It will be the first state visit to the United Kingdom by a pope, according to the British Foreign Office. John Paul's trip in 1982 was officially a pastoral visit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Worthy Read

On Sunday, 8-15-10, a man named Samuel Blake Ellis (the grandfather of a popular blogger I follow) passed away due to complications from Parkisons and Alzheimers at the age of 88. He wrote the following thoughts on God about 10 years ago. He was a retired Methodist minister.

This is definitely worth reading whether you agree entirely with him or not.

Please do not take offense at what I am going to say. In no way do I mean to belittle your beliefs. And please don't don't worry about my "salvation," whatever that may mean to you. My beliefs really serve me well.

I am grateful that over the years I have never been looked down on for asking questions.

"When I was a child I thought like a child...". Children are apt to interpret things literally. No where is this more true than in the realm of religion. All of my playmates were from Roman Catholic families, and we were all aware that there was a difference between Catholics and Protestants.

As a child I felt I knew all about God, but as the years have gone by I find that I agree less and less with the things I've been told about God. Even as a very young person I got away from that kind of thinking, for it didn't fit with some other ideas of God that meant more to me. For example, I was taught, and I still believe, that God is Love, and that God is inextricably related to the welfare of all people. Believing that, I cannot believe that God purposely allows disasters of fire, flood, and earthquake, to say nothing of individual personal pain in the form of physical impairment, bereavement, divorce, assault, automobile accident, etc.

Another idea that I have discarded is that God is all-powerful. If God is a god of love and also all-powerful, God certainly would not cause the difficulties I've just mentioned. If God were all-powerful he would not allow them to happen. So, they must happen in spite of any power that God may have. So, for me, God cannot be both all-powerful and loving.

Take the illustration of a disaster such as an airplane crash that results in some persons dying and others surviving. When I read of parents of a survivor thanking their god for saving their beloved family member I feel like asking them, "What kind of god is this who is willing to save some people, but is unable (or unwilling) to save others?

One thing I am very sure about is that God is neither male nor female, even though I've been using the masculine pronoun for want of one that is adequate. Particularly in the last ten or fifteen years or so of my ministry I became sensitized to the alienation and hurt we males have inflicted upon women and girls by the language we use. And clergy males are no less to blame than lay men.

Once, at the beginning of a meeting of clergy, we were asked to introduce ourselves by name, and then tell what were the best or the worst things that had been part of our lives in our recent past. With a gesture that included all the people in the group, a man spoke of the love and concern he had felt recently from "all my brothers in the ministry" during his recent illness. A young female minister two seats away from him who had sent him a note of encouragement, introduced herself in turn and noted that the worst thing that had happened to her was learning just now that she was a brother of the male minister. It was said gently, and with a touch of humor, but it made very clear how thoughtless we men sometimes are.

At this point I can't resist telling you the story about a rocket that had been sent into space. It fell to earth one Sunday morning just outside a church where a service was in progress. The landing made such a noise that the congregation and minister rushed out to find the rocket stuck firmly in the ground, and there, wonder of wonders, was an angel sitting on the nose cone. When the hubbub had died down, the minister, as spokesperson, posed a question directly to the angel.

Minister: Blessed Angel, we welcome you to Earth. We are honored by your presence. We pray that you would be so kind as to answer a question that you, as a citizen of Heaven, are eminently qualified to clarify.

Angel: I am happy to be with you, and I shall try to answer your question.

Minister: We would like to know, What is God like?

Angel: (after several moments in deep thought) Well, first of all, she's black...!

And that reminds me of what a parishioner said to me when he learned that I was about to retire. Said he in a derogatory manner, "I suppose the bishop will appoint a woman to be our pastor." And, trying to answer in a light manner, I responded, "Yes, and she will probably be black." What made it interesting was that the bishop did indeed appoint a woman, and she was indeed very black.

At my final service of worship before her arrival I did something to symbolize my desire that she be welcomed warmly. I hoped also that what I did would indicate clearly that I would no longer be pastor to this congregation. At the close of the service, using appropriate words, I took off my black clerical robe and placed it upon the altar as an indication that the person who was coming would take up the robe, and with it, the ministering of the congregation that had been my responsibility until then.


The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav (1979, Morrill Quill Paperbacks) is a physics book dealing with subatomic physics written for the lay person, which has opened an exciting new view of creation for me and has forced me to rethink my place as one human being in the universe as well as my old ideas about god.
Writings by Carl Sagan
One of the most important ideas that has changed my religious outlook is my discovery that pure chance appears to be what decides things in the sub-atomic physical world. Of course this runs counter to the idea that God purposely directs every single thing that happens.

For me, however, it provides a satisfactory answer to the old problem of evil. That subject has puzzled and bedeviled people for centuries, and perhaps even farther back in prehistory before there were any formal theologians. There has always been a feeling on the part of humans that if they were good, however that was defined, they would be rewarded, and that if they were bad they would be punished.

In our own lives we know that this is not the way it works. Oh, we can try to rationalize by saying that in some mysterious manner it must be for the best that the mother of three little children was killed in an automobile accident. God must have had a good reason for willing, or at least allowing, that sort of thing to happen.

I don't buy that. Rabbi Kushner, in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, does an excellent job of expressing how impossible it would be to respect that kind of god. Also, my own personal experience tells me quite convincingly that good people do not always receive a blessing, and bad people do not always get their just desserts.

I suppose that the ideas of heaven and hell came into being in order to explain that it would only be fair that each person get what he or she deserves If that doesn't happen while the person is alive it seems only right that it should happen in some other life beyond death. That would mean that the good people in this life would go to heaven and bad people would go to hell. That helps many people to feel better when humans don't get what they deserve-either eternal peace or eternal damnation-before they die.

I believe that fairness (justice) is not life's major operating principle. After all, what did I ever do to deserve being born into a loving family where I always had the necessities of life? What terrible thing did a child starving in Ethiopia do to deserve suffering and starvation? How is it that one child is born to an alcoholic mother who doesn't want it, and another child is born to parents who will love and nurture it to responsible adulthood?

Heaven and hell solve the problem for many people, but it doesn't for me. The best explanation I have is that such eventualities come about by chance. Which simply means that all babies are born without being consulted or having any choice in the matter.

The question, "Why me?", asked when cancer strikes, is not taken seriously by those who answer in a supercilious manner with the question, "Why not you?". I love that Old Testament character, Job, who was not patient at all (although crossword puzzles sometimes define him as the epitome of patience) with his friends who kept trying to convince him that he must have done something terribly sinful to have deserved the sorrow and pain that they thought God visited upon him. Job maintained before them and before his God that he was not guilty of anything that merited his suffering.

Many a human being has felt as Job did, and the argument that God, by inflicting pain and suffering, is merely meting out just punishment for unknown sin, is certainly not worthy of a good god. The god Job's friends believed in is not my god.

In the realm of nature, think of the fact that only one of millions of sperm cells succeeds in fertilizing an ovum, and all the rest fail. Why that particular one? Or, what about the fact that an average of only two out of some 700,000 eggs laid by a Pacific salmon ever reach maturity? Why those particular two and not some other two? Given the relevant facts, we can determine what the probabilities are for survival, but we can not say just which specific eggs will produce the survivors. We can predict that a certain number of lives will be lost in automobile accidents for every ten million miles driven, but we cannot be specific and tell by name who the victims will be.

Both fortuitous and hurtful happenings seem to be distributed by chance, and that would be very discouraging if it were not for some other important factors. In other words, if chance were the only operating power we might as well forget about justice, righteousness, and love. We could live any old way we wanted to, because nothing we could do would make a difference in the outcome. The fact is, however, that how we deal with good fortune and bad fortune does make a big difference.

I firmly believe that there is a manner of living which is exceedingly valuable, and I call that way of life Christianity. I hasten to say that I don't believe in everything that has been called Christianity. But, I do wholeheartedly believe in the kind of Christianity that is depicted in the gospels of the New Testament as they reveal the spirit of Jesus. And it is the spirit that is important to me. There are also Old Testament instances that give evidence of that spirit. I firmly believe that the spirit of goodness is not restricted to persons who call themselves Christians. Neither does it belong to any time period in history.

I know it's hard to talk about God as spirit, for spirit is something ethereal, out of reach of the five senses, and yet it's something that we human beings give life to. The idea of God as a superhuman being who is somewhat like us is very pervasive, but I don't believe that there is such a "being" beyond the lives of humans.

My God is goodness itself, a quality of spirit. The spirit I think of as my God, the essence of Goodness, lives where-and at those moments when-a human being gives life to the spirit of love. Love is only an idea until it is expressed in action by a human being; then it becomes a reality!

I don't believe in a literal heaven up in the sky or in a hell that is somewhere in the fiery bowels of the earth. I don't believe in a literal, physical, resurrection of Jesus or in a virgin birth. Some of the parishioners whom I served over the years would be distressed by those statements. I hope that they don't disturb you, but if they do, remember that you don't have to believe as I do. Every person has a right-and a duty-to hold fast his or her own beliefs. You have a right to yours whatever they may be. However, please remember that it's a sign of growth to be willing to give up even long-held beliefs in favor of new ones that you find to be more meaningful.

Religious beliefs are not simply to be mouthed; they should guide and direct personal day-to-day living. Saying we believe something, simply because we have been told by some authority that we ought to believe it, is not good enough. In our childhood we naturally take on beliefs that our parents hold. We hang on to them until our own experience gives us good reason to change them. But, to hold onto beliefs that were passed down to us when we were children if they no longer make sense is to be less than honest with ourselves.

I've heard a story, which may or may not be true, about a young wife who always cut a slice off a roast before she put it in the roasting pan. One day her husband asked why she did that. Her answer was that her mother always did it, and so it must be the right way to prepare a roast, but she agreed to ask her mother about it. When she did, her mother answered that she always cut a slice off the roast because she didn't have a roasting pan big enough for the whole thing.

There's nothing wrong with questioning custom, and there's nothing wrong with questioning our religious beliefs either. It's easy enough to question the beliefs of others, but I'm talking about our own beliefs. Those that can't stand up under our own questioning ought to be discarded, don't you think? I think that a reason some people don't have anything to do with organized religion is that they have questioned certain religious practices and beliefs and have found them wanting. The sad part is that these folks don't investigate anything else.

I'll never forget a visit I made to a man who, I was warned by well-meaning parishioners, was an atheist. In the course of our conversation he enumerated a number of things that he didn't believe. He was somewhat taken aback when I told him that I didn't believe those things either.

There's a lot of superstition in religion, but there is also much that can enrich the lives of human beings. As a result of learning about the attitude and teachings of Jesus through reading about them, and through seeing them work in the lives of others, and experiencing how they have worked in my own life when I have had the courage to practice them, I have come to embrace the following credo.

My understanding of the message of Jesus is that his God wants people to enjoy this life that they have been launched into without their consent. Jesus demonstrated how best to find that joy. Jesus likened his God to a father who loves his children. (He might have chosen a mother image, but in his day it was the father who was the person who was responsible for the family.) To have a father who loved his children in spite of their waywardness was a powerful picture illustrating the spirit he considered to be the greatest Good.

I don't see the God of Jesus as being especially interested in having people bow down before him, or having people do certain acts of kindness and mercy for his benefit. The emphasis of Jesus was not on duty to God, but rather on trying to help people discover how to live happy, valuable, satisfying, good (godly) lives-lives lived in a spirit of goodwill. Apparently Jesus felt that his God would be happy if people lived in such a way that they would be happy. That makes sense to me. After all, isn't it good when we and those we love are happy persons? Don't good parents want their children to be happy persons?.

I believe that I ought to respect all people and treat them with the kind of non-judgmental understanding that I would want to receive from them.

I believe that being good is its own reward. It is futile to "do good" for the purpose of getting a reward. Doing good, and dwelling on that goodness, is the kind of pride that breeds dissatisfaction and resentment when we don't get the recognition and praise from others that we think our moral superiority deserves. And, if I should get praise for being (or doing) good, I would probably begin to believe that I am superior to others. But, doing good and trying to be a good person simply because it is a satisfying way for me to live eliminates any need for the praise of others and allows me to move on to the next adventure with a light and happy heart.

I believe that the only person I can change is myself. If others make changes, good or bad, in their lives because they have known me, it is because they choose to do so. I have no power to coerce them into changing. Nor do I want such power, because that would make them my slaves and take away from them any joy they might find in directing their own lives.

Instead of trying to list all of the rest of the beliefs that have been meaningful to me and have helped me to have a wonderful, satisfying life, let me simply commend to you the teachings of Jesus.

For me, Jesus was not God, nor even a god (small g) but simply a man, a human being, who understood quite clearly the most satisfying way to live his human life. And, don't tell me that makes Jesus "just an ordinary human being." Just the opposite; it means that he was an extraordinary human being. His life was lived in a spirit that defines what goodness (Godliness, if you'd rather say it that way) really is.

I also want to say something about the Church. The Church is certainly imperfect. I find that there are many things in church dogma that I cannot abide. Superstition and belief in magic are still rampant. There are some people who are hard to get along with. There are, however, many church people who are the salt of the earth. And, the Church is the only institution I know which encourages and recommends to all that we search for and practice the highest qualities of human life that we can find. I owe a great deal to the Church. It has given me a wonderful opportunity to practice, in a safe setting, the kind of Christianity I have tried to live outside the Church where there's little safety.

So, to sum up, I don't know much about what or who your God is, but I have enjoyed life as a part of the Church, and have found a great deal of satisfaction in trying to live life in a spirit of goodwill. I like to think I'm getting a little better at it as time goes on.

Oh, but "What about the creation of the universe?", you ask. "Who did that?" I knew you'd be asking that, because I've asked it of myself many times. My answer at the present time is that I don't know, and it doesn't worry me one bit.

For all I know, there may not have been any beginning at all. Maybe the universe is eternal with no beginning and no ending. Our minds, as amazing and wonderful as they are, seem incapable of imagining anything that has no beginning and no ending, but that may say more about our limitations than about the reality of the universe.

So far, nobody has discovered any boundaries to the universe. New telescopes help scientists to discover galaxies and "black holes" at greater and greater distances from us. Of course, they may not even be in existence now, because of the length of time it has taken their light to reach us.

I know about the Big Bang theory, but for me that doesn't explain how the universe was created. There must have been something that BANGED! I have to admit that my mind can't fathom nothing, Anyway, what difference does it make in the way we live with other people and with our environment here on earth today?

Astronomy and astrophysics are fascinating subjects. I'd like to know more about them. And I think it's great that there are people who probe the mysteries of space and time. I respect them. But when I read about astrophysics and, at the other end of the spectrum, the world of subatomic particles, I find myself coming back to the idea that there might be no beginning or ending to what we call the universe.

But, you say, "The Bible says that 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' doesn't it?" Sure it does, and if you have to have a beginning, that may be the best way of saying it. It simply means that the person who first expressed that idea of God couldn't understand how creation could have come about. The humans he knew couldn't have created it, so he (perhaps she?) decided that a superhuman, supernatural power must have done it somehow for some unknown reason. Maybe the creator was lonely so he made people; maybe he liked color and therefore made sunsets and flowers; maybe he liked to travel so he stretched out the universe so that there would be more room. Maybe! But I see that kind of reasoning as strengthening my belief that we humans create our gods according to our own definitions of goodness.
That leads me to say a few things about the Bible. I encourage you to read the Bible as if you had never before heard of it. Read it, and pay attention to what is written there. Try to remember you're reading it as if you had never heard anything about this book. That's hard, because you have heard about it; you have heard some people say that it must be believed as the literal Word of God, and when you read that the sun stood still you ought to believe that the sun actually stopped at some point between its rising and its setting. And when you read of an axe floating in water you should believe it because it's in the Bible. But, try to read it as if you never heard that you ought to believe such things.

Notice that there are a couple of biblical stories about the beginnings of things, and that the stories don't agree. You'll find these stories in the first two chapters of the first book in the Bible. Many times in history we humans have simply attributed to a superhuman being those things that we couldn't explain.
You will find that in one place the Bible record says "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks", and in another place it says precisely the opposite. There will be a lot of other things that you'll read in the Bible that don't agree with each other or with scientific knowledge discovered since the writing of the Bible by humans of a bygone age. So, what are you going to do with this book of books? I suggest that you use the same methods of criticism that you'd use with any other book.

Human beings wrote what is in the Bible, and other human beings, men in council meetings, (we assume all of them were males) chose to include certain writings instead of numerous other writings that were also available. And human beings were just as fallible in making choices then as we are today.
It would be laughable, were it not so sad, that there are people who try to make Bible texts fit their pre-conceived idea that everything in the Bible is historically factual. Picture all the animal life on earth going two-by two into a big boat (the ark) to be saved from a world-wide flood that destroyed everything else. Of course no boat could be big enough to hold all that life for more than forty days and forty nights along with all the food necessary to keep them alive.

Probably most of the people who say we should believe the story as literal history don't even know that in the sixth and seventh chapters of Genesis Noah is told to take two of every kind of animal at one point while at another point there are to be seven pairs of "clean" animals and birds in the ark along with only one pair of each animal that was not considered "clean".

Please understand that I am not saying that the Bible is worthless; I am simply saying that we ought to use our intelligence and understanding of the various forms of literature we find in the Bible.
One of the reasons that I went into the ministry was because I felt that there had to be an approach to the Bible that was different from what my minster believed. He said in a sermon in my hearing that God had given us television so that we could watch the battle of Armageddon, which he interpreted as marking the end of the world. I mentioned earlier how this same minister warned teen-agers that they should never consider the idea of evolution; if they did they would not be welcome in his church.

The better business bureau tells us that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is; beware of it. I would say that if something you read in the Bible is too fantastic to be believed literally, it is probably not literal fact. You may read some of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament that seem to be too good to be true, or too fantastic to be literally so or impossible to live in this life. You may want to test them. I'm talking about such teachings as the Golden Rule and the teachings in what has been called "The Sermon on the Mount." Go ahead; check them out; put them into action; test them. It will be well worth your while.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Megachurches: Megacreepy

I've been inside a megachurch for a wedding. It was impressive in size and the seats were velvet and plush. The screen was huge, sound system top of the line and they spared no expense when it came to vast floor to ceiling drapery and plants. It was a ginormous auditorium and had a connecting grade AND high school attached. There was even a coffee shop in the lobby.

I was terrified as hell and could not wait to get out of there.

It was a theater...a circus...a stage. It had no humble scrappings of a poverty-rich Jesus. It was a tanning booth and chunky gold jewelry. It felt very charlatan. Very door-to-door salesman. It felt like the kind of sales seminars people suffer through to get the free vacation. I wonder if the free vacation they are peddling is heaven. I could not recognize God in that place even when the pastor was speaking. The modern art type of cross near the mic felt cheapened in the shadow of a widescreen sales pitch. What I heard and seen was not about humility and meekness. It was about putting on a show. Keep them entertained (it doesn't matter what you say, but HOW you say it) and they will keep coming back. The coins will fall into the slots if you keep them entertained.

In the original bible, church was defined as a gathering of people - often small. I can see where one would get more out of a smaller group. Like teacher to student ratios for classrooms. This place felt like an assembly line factory. The opiate of the great big mass who knew they were having a good time.

The decadence of the Catholic Church was on par with the excess of this megachurch business.

As a follow up, I think there are some good comments regarding the meshing of evangelicals and money in the United States from a 2005 Bloomberg article called "Of Megachurches and Megabucks".

Bloomberg Businessweek: The Popularity Issue
August 16, 2010
Church: Lakewood, Houston

Over the past two decades, megachurches in the U.S. have expanded their flocks from 200,000 to more than 8 million souls, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey by Trinity College in Hartford. The biggest by far is Lakewood Church in Houston, a non-denominational Christian congregation. The church seats 16,000 and boasts a weekly attendance of 43,500, according to evangelical magazine Outreach's annual list of the "100 Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches." Lakewood's kinetic pastor, Joel Osteen, reaches 7 million U.S. TV viewers each week. His gospel of prosperity—"Don't simply settle for what your parents had"—is broadcast in 100 countries.

Although their most explosive growth may be behind them, megachurches are still attracting congregants. Outreach says America's 100 fastest-growing megachurches added 97,879 members last year. grew fastest, adding more than 5,000. —Caroline Winter

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gradual Revelations

Amazing. Another article favoring rationale within faith, recognizing that fundamentalism is isolating and dangerous. In the original post, the comments following the article were vast in their criticisms.

One comment insinuated that one could not believe in science and have faith. Rubbish. Science is part of God. How do you separate out those items that are suppose to debunk God when He is their creator?

Anyway, I find articles like this encouraging. All I can say is that having been on my own journey of enlightenment, it does take years and it is a gradual revelation.


Source: Washington Post, August 9, 2010

Good News! Young evangelicals are shifting their allegiance.

Much has been said about the mass exodus of young adults from church, with some studies suggesting that seventy percent of Protestants age 18-30 drop out before they turn 23.

While the factors behind the trend are complex, I'm not surprised that young evangelicals like me are feeling less comfortable in the pews these days. Our pastors might not like it, but the world is changing, and we are changing with it. Unless the evangelical church in America can adapt and evolve, it might not survive in a postmodern world.

I know because I almost abandoned it myself.

A child of the culture wars, I knew what abortion was before I knew where babies came from. I grew up scribbling words like "debatable" and "unlikely" in the margins of biology textbooks, fearlessly defending a 6,000-year-old-earth against atheists I only knew in my imagination. When I was in middle school, my family moved to the buckle of the Bible Belt and became residents of Dayton, Tennessee, home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. There I attended a Christian college, listened to Christian music, and voted my Christian values. People called me "Bible girl."

This faith of mine didn't fall apart all at once, but instead eroded gradually, as I began studying science, interacting with people of other faiths, and experiencing a touch of "voter's remorse" when my pro-life president championed two wars overseas. My questions turned into skepticism, my skepticism into doubt, and I stopped going to church for a while.

My return to faith is something of a survival story that I chronicle in my memoir, "Evolving in Monkey Town" (Zondervan, 2010). The phone calls and emails I've received since its publication confirm what I've suspected all along: I'm not alone. Young evangelicals across the country are experiencing a collective crisis of faith.

Unfortunately, many leave Christianity altogether. But others, like me, simply undergo a change.

At the heart of this change is a shift in allegiance. For so long, evangelical Christianity demanded our allegiance to range of causes--from young earth creationism, to religious nationalism, to Republican politics. Somehow the radical teachings of a first century rabbi got all tangled up with modern political platforms and theological positions that were never essential to Christianity to begin with.

Young evangelicals are in the process of picking apart and deconstructing this tangled mess of ideas in order to get back to the most basic teachings of Jesus. So you shouldn't be surprised to bump into more and more and more oddities like me--a young evangelical Christian who votes for Democrats, has gay friends, and believes in evolution.

But don't be fooled into thinking this shift in allegiance means we're simply jumping from one political platform to another. At its best this change signals an allegiance first and foremost to the Kingdom of God, which knows no political party or geographic boundary, but instead grows outside of these confines through acts of love, humility, and peace. Instead of protesting outside abortion clinics, for example, we're championing adoption and supporting single moms. Instead of reducing our Christian service to a duty at the ballot box, we're looking for practical ways to address hunger, human trafficking, and homelessness.

The bad news for the Religious Right is that young evangelicals are tired of the culture wars. The good news for everyone else is that we're ready to make peace.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions." She blogs at
By Rachel Held Evans