Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Priests Accused Of Abuse Can Go Undetected (NPR)

And still...women are not allowed to be priests in the Church.

Step right up! Step right up! Marvel as Catholic males singlehandedly ensure the extinction of their religion! A faith in which a dastardly number figuratively and literally rape the Godly innocent out of sexual repression as directed by other males. Oh, and will also be defended by those same males.

Something's broken here.

How Priests Accused Of Abuse Can Go Undetected
by Barbara Bradley Hagerty - NPR - Original Source
March 29, 2011

Listen to the story here:

A couple of years ago, the Philadelphia archdiocese heard about three priests who had allegedly raped two boys. It gave the priests' files to law enforcement, and a grand jury began to investigate. Then, the grand jury stumbled on a bombshell. A church employee testified that there were many other priests the panel should know about. "The grand jury found that a policy of zero tolerance was not actually in effect," says District Attorney Seth Williams, "and that there were many priests that had allegations made against them that were still in active ministry." There were 37 priests, according to a scathing report by the grand jury, which was released last month. Shaken by accusations that it was trying to keep abusers in ministry without telling parishes, the archdiocese moved quickly: It hired Gina Maisto Smith, a former prosecutor with a specialty in child sex abuse cases, to investigate further. The church soon put 21 clergy on administrative leave. Smith is unable to speak to the specific cases, but she says she has seen no evidence that church officials intentionally protected sexual predators. "I can say with clarity that I saw the archdiocese doing what it could do within the systems that it had and making the best decisions they could under the circumstances," she says. This raises the question: With all the safeguards the Roman Catholic Church put into place after the sex abuse scandal in 2002, how could this happen? If the archdiocese was following all the right procedures, how did these priests fall through the cracks? It turns out that there's a lot of play in the rules, says Terry McKiernan, president of Bishop, a watchdog group. He says when an allegation comes in the church, the bishop doesn't have to pursue it very far. "A bishop may decide at a very early stage that an allegation is without merit," he says. "And if he does that, we never even get to the stage of a priest being removed." Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who suspended the priests named in the grand jury's report, said he was "truly sorry" for harm done to victims and members of the community for "this great evil and crime." Matt Rourke/AP Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who suspended the priests named in the grand jury's report, said he was "truly sorry" for harm done to victims and members of the community for "this great evil and crime." McKiernan says he believes that's what happened in Philadelphia. He notes that the archdiocese forwarded only seven of the 21 cases to its review board, a panel of lay people who are supposed to hear every allegation of sexual abuse and act to protect the victims. Often, he says, the review board "doesn't know all the facts" because it is the bishop or his senior officials who decide which cases to present to the board. Moreover, McKiernan and others say review boards sometimes "hold their punches" because they are handpicked by the bishop. In fact, the grand jury report excoriated the Philadelphia review board because it rejected every allegation it did hear as "unsubstantiated." Philadelphia may not be alone, says William Gavin, a former FBI agent who was hired by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to audit each of the 195 Catholic dioceses each year and make sure they're preventing and reporting sex abuse cases. "It was an audit in quotes," he says. "I think it was more of a program review than anything else." Gavin says he could ask whether a diocese is conducting background checks on priests and employees — but he was not allowed to look at records that would indicate whether there were any allegations against a priest. "We didn't have the benefit of drilling down into personnel files to see what might be there," Gavin says. "They were off limits." Gavin and his auditors had to depend on a bishop's word about whether anyone had been accused of abuse. In addition, the questionnaire they use wouldn't have spotted the Philadelphia 21 anyway. It only asks about allegations within the past year, not older cases.Some believe the only way to get real answers is to have an outsider look at the priests' files. "The only reason we know about this situation in Philadelphia is because a grand jury report has been issued, and a grand jury process has been looking at this archdiocese for years," McKiernan says. "I think if we had that kind of aggressive law enforcement in other dioceses, the same problems would be revealed." McKiernan says they already have. In Cleveland, for example, the diocese said that 28 priests had been accused of abuse, but when a prosecutor looked at the files, the estimate went to 145. When the New Hampshire attorney general looked at the files of the diocese of Manchester, 27 new names emerged. And McKiernan has obtained an internal 2009 document from the Boston archdiocese that says there were 40 credibly accused priests whose names are still unknown to the public. Even critics say that most dioceses are trying to do their best at protecting victims and still giving due process to priests who may have been wrongly accused. And that can be a difficult line to walk. "Many people think the archdiocese doesn't get it," says Donna Farrell, a spokesperson for the archdiocese of Philadelphia. "We do. And the task, the job ahead of us, is to recognize where we've fallen short — and to let our actions speak to our resolve." The faithful will surely be watching — and so will prosecutors.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful

I'm 3/4 through Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" and am at the point where I want to buy copies for some people I know who are on the fence about the whole "eternal hell thing". The sheer amount of questions raised is brilliant. It is more of a book of conceptual "what if's" and "if this, then that" scenarios that allows the reader to actually think through the *logic* of the Jesus story and bible teachings. And it is written in plain language so that one need not hold a theology degree to comprehend it.

Though he claims that he's not a Universalist, everything I'm reading so far points to that all consuming love of God that is characteristic of Christian Universalism. And may I add that it is a breath of fresh air that he actually cites the original Greek and Hebrew words in the Old and New Testament that are so pivotal in pointing to God's message that hell is not necessarily eternal at all (i.e. aion, Hades, Tartarus, Sheol, etc.)

Speaking of the love of God, I need to share the following video which moved me to tears. I am utterly and completely humbled.

And on a personal note, I recently realized that I have been unfriended on Facebook by someone who I was good friends with in high school. I'm not entirely sure why but I can only speculate that it was over our differences in faith. She is a fundamentalist Christian and I am a Christian Universalist (Heretic). There was no dialogue over the reason so I can't say for sure, but if it is the reason, I'm...very disappointed.

I find that traditional Christians are much more difficult to have intelligent debate with about God saving everyone in the end. More often than not they are very insistent on their belief elitism, which means that they are not interested in listening or examining WHY they believe what they believe without feeling properly insulted at being questioned to begin with. I'm closer to having fellowship with unbelievers, at this point. My husband and best friends WHO ARE ALL WONDERFUL ATHEISTS understand and respectfully discuss with me the Love of God and my views on Universalism better than anyone else. Our discussions are intelligent and help raise further questions that assist my own personal examination of faith. They are the wetstone on which I sharpen my spirituality. MY ATHEISTS are also noticeably more kindhearted and moral than many of the self-proclaimed Christians I know. Bell touches upon a bit of this in his book, too.

There are some great truisms in Bell's book and when I have it in front of me (perhaps next time) I will do some quotin'.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Bell Curve: Pastor loses job after questioning hell's existence

I'm calling this the "Bell curve". Once you learn about the Good News, you can't logically go back to the old way of thinking. This pastor, I guarantee you, will never go back to his old ways of thinking.

I think some "Christians" hope that they are among the elite that will make it to heaven, watching the billions of other poor misled saps burn in hell forever. Because it is nice to feel special...and chosen...and right. I think this wish is selfish, anti-Christian, immature at best, criminal at worst. I think if the crucifixion was carried out in order to save the ENTIRE world, then it was a huge failure - according to the Christian traditionalist belief. Also, if I believe in Christ (thus securing my salvation), then shouldn't I credit myself for my own salvation? Does Jesus ride by and slip the belief pill in the drinks of the chosen?

For God so LOVED the world... right?

I, for one, will take my chances in over-estimating the Love of God. Every single being is as loved by God as the next on this rock. Those who think otherwise are retributionists who distort the Gospel that Jesus taught.

Once my eyes were open to the all-encompassing love of God, I began to see others more as brethren and less as "those poor misled saps", thus my empathy and agape increased - God's love being the Great Equalizer. Not the Dividing Line.

Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" should be arriving at my house today or tomorrow. My spirit is stoked to read it and mull over the questions. The questions...those are more important than the answers.
Pastor loses job after questioning hell's existence

New book is spurring debate over the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for damned souls

Source: AP 3/24/11 - Original Link

DURHAM, N.C. — When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.

"I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don't think that means an eternity of torment," Holtz said. "But I can understand why people in my church aren't ready to leave that behind. It's something I'm still grappling with myself."

The debate over Bell's new book "Love Wins" has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.

Bell, the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., lays out the premise of his book while the video cuts away to an artist's hand mixing oil paints and pastels and applying them to a blank canvas.

He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: "Reality check: He's in hell."

"Gandhi's in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?" Bell asks in the video.

In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.

"This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear," he writes in the book.

For many traditional Christians, though, Bell's new book sounds a lot like the old theological position of universalism — a heresy for many churches, teaching that everyone, regardless of religious belief, will ultimately be saved by God. And that, they argue, dangerously misleads people about the reality of the Christian faith.

"I just felt like on every page he's trying to say 'It's OK,'" said Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler at a forum last week on Bell's book held at the Louisville institution. "And there's a sense in which we desperately want to say that. But the question becomes, on what basis can we say that?"

Bell argues that hell has assumed an outsize importance in Christian teaching, considering the word itself only appears in the New Testament about 12 times, by his count.

"For a 1st-century Jewish rabbi, where you go when you die wasn't the most pressing question," Bell told The Associated Press. "The question was how can you enter into the shalom and peace of God right now, this day."

Bell denies he's a universalist, and his exact beliefs on what happens to people after death are hard to pin down, but he argues that such speculation distracts people from an urgent point. In his telling, hell is something freely chosen that already exists on earth, in everything from war to abusive relationships.

The near-relish with which some Christians stress the torments of hell, Bell argues, keep many believers needlessly afraid of a loving God, and repel potential Christians who might otherwise be curious about the faith's teachings.

"The heart of the Christian story is that God is love," he said. "But when you hear the word 'Christian,' you don't necessarily think 'Oh, sure, those are the people who don't stop talking about God's love.' Some other things would come to mind."

Ancient debate

About the only thing everyone agrees on is that this is not a new debate in Christianity. It stretches to antiquity, when Christianity was a persecuted sect in the Roman Empire, and the third century theologian Origen developed a theory that contemporary critics charged would mean that everyone, even the devil himself, would ultimately be saved. Church leaders eventually condemned ideas they attributed to Origen, but he has had a lasting influence across the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions.

Those traditions often disagree, even internally, on what awaits souls after death. The Catholic Church, which has a formal process for identifying souls in heaven through canonization, pointedly refrains from saying that anyone is without a doubt in hell. Protestants reject the concept of purgatory, in which sins can be atoned for after death, but disagree on other questions. The lack of consensus is enabled partly by ambiguities in the Bible.

Evangelical opposition to Bell is exemplified in a succinct tweet from prominent evangelical pastor John Piper: "Farewell, Rob Bell."

Page Brooks, a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, thinks Bell errs in a conception of a loving God that leaves out the divine attributes of justice and holiness.

"It's love, but it's a just love," Brooks said. "God is love, but you have to understand you're a sinner and the only way to get around that is through Christ's sacrifice on the cross."

Making his new belief public is both liberating and a little frightening for Holtz, even though his doubts about traditional doctrines on damnation began long before he heard about Rob Bell's book.

A married Navy veteran with five children, Holtz spent years trying to reconcile his belief that Jesus Christ's death on the cross redeemed the entire world with the idea that millions of people — including millions who had never even heard of Jesus — were suffering forever in hell.

"We do these somersaults to justify the monster god we believe in," he said. "But confronting my own sinfulness, that's when things started to topple for me. Am I really going to be saved just because I believe something, when all these good people in the world aren't?"

Gray Southern, United Methodist district superintendent for the part of North Carolina that includes Henderson, declined to discuss Holtz's departure in detail, but said there was more to it than the online post about Rob Bell's book.

"That's between the church and him," Southern said.Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw. Holtz and his family plan to move back to Tennessee, where he'll start a job and maybe plant a church.

"So long as we believe there's a dividing point in eternity, we're going to think in terms of us and them," he said. "But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you're saved. Live like it."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Follow Up On Rob Bell, Heretic Pastor

Bell claims that he is not a "Universalist" so I am intrigued to see what the controversy is. (Also, who cares if he wears black - since when are colors evil?) I admit I ordered the book and will write some thoughts on it as I read it.

Another interesting TIME interview with a Bishop - Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop

It is a blessed thing that we live in an age where we don't get burned at the stake for such progressive thoughts : )

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Versions of Hell" (Or, My Audio Documentary)

I recently took an Audio Documentary class as part of my graduate work. I was able to choose the topic for my final audio piece and so I chose to interview people of differing beliefs to see whether the traditional ideas of hell still resonated with them. Narrating the piece, I talk to an atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Catholic, and a Christian Universalist with the underlying attempt at sound production. Here it is...all 10 minutes of it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Love Wins

Here is a trailer that Pastor Rob Bell created about what got him thinking about Universalism. It is worth watching even if one has zero intentions of buying his book.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Real Time Evolution of the Bible

Snip here. Lose that. Add this. The last time I checked, the further away from the ORIGINAL translation a message deviates, the more abberrated and "man-made" it becomes.

More poetic? Before you know it Jesus will be delivering lines in Haiku format. This is dangerous stuff. And over what appears to be superfluous issues.

It is stated in this article: "Fifty scholars and translators, linguistics experts, theologians and five bishops spent 17 years on the project." Yes, and no doubt they were hired by the church and discreetly told to make sure all is kept in line with the standard dogma. I would bet a year's salary on it.

It is also stated: "We needed a new translation because English is a living language," Hello! The bible was not written in English. English may evolve (or devolve if you talk to any English teachers), but the message in the bible SHOULD NOT. Before you know it they will have versions of the bible written in leetspeak, OMG LOL.

If anything, the bible should be ADDED to. I'm talking the lost gnostic gospels left out at the direction of a council of men. Put back in the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas...and the Gospel of Mary, among others. Ah, I dream. I dream. The Catholic world would be flipped upside down if it read into any sort of anti-centralized church talk (Gospel of Thomas) and feminism (Gospel of Mary) from these original texts.

Instead they'll hem and haw over the word "booty".

God help us all.

Bishops boot 'booty' from revised Bible

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY - 3/2/11
Original Source Link

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has ordered up a new translation of the Bible, one it says is more accurate, more accessible and more poetic.

Now "booty," a word that sets off snickers in Sunday school, will be replaced by the "spoils" of war when the newest edition of the New American Bible, the English-language Catholic Bible, comes out on Ash Wednesday, March 9.

"We needed a new translation because English is a living language," says retired auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee Richard Sklba, part of the review and editing team.

Fifty scholars and translators, linguistics experts, theologians and five bishops spent 17 years on the project. They were immersed in original manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaelogy findings unearthed since research behind the current text, published in 1970.

While Catholics may read from any of two dozen English translations, the New American Bible is the one owned by U.S. owned by U.S. bishops for prayer and study.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fellow Heretics In the News

Good for Rob. As a pastor, it must be a risky move to declare that God is so much more loving than the human attributes S/he has been assigned for centuries. It turns peoples' worlds upside down: imagine, that - a God whose Love outweighs (or at the VERY least, balances) their Vengeance! (And here, many will exclaim 'rubbish'!)

I recently interviewed a Catholic man who holds a PhD in theological ethics. He reminded me that 'heretic' simply means "other thinking" and the word is so much less scary than the Exorcist-like connotations it seems to portray. These days saying "heretic" is not coupled with an audible gasp. I think most people are...heretics in one way or another. I've even made myself a t-shirt that says "HERETIC" on the front and on the back is "The power of Christ compels me." (I also cite the exact passage from Proverbs).

There are two things missing from this blog post that I wished they would have touched upon:

1) Logic: Christians believe that Jesus died to save the world. If you have to save yourself by believing then the crucifixion exercise was a failure.

2) Theological Origins: I wish they would have stated that the early church (pre-5th century) WAS largely universalist: the church was MORE peaceful; a suffering servant with a focus on the LOVE of God. Enter the Latin translations of scripture, mix in the Council of Nicae and then the church transformed into a violent soldier of inquisition. The difference of a knife turning from a tool into a weapon.

I applaud this man. I think once your eyes are open to The Good News (like mine thankfully were). You see each person as a precious gift regardless of their beliefs. You don't pity and compete with whose beliefs are right or wrong. You don't feel the haughtiness that comes with traditional Christian self-righteousness. All are equal and all are loved.

And how that logic translates into "God mockery" is a mystery to me.


Christian author's book sparks charges of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Rob Bell, a pastor and author who has achieved rock star status in the Christian world, is preaching a false gospel, his critics say. And some of those critics are Christian rock stars in their own right. The pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bell has authored a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a firestorm of controversy over the weekend, weeks before it arrives in bookstores. On Saturday, in a blog post on the popular Christian website The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor blasted Bell's new book, out March 29, for teaching "false doctrine": I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay his cards on the table about universalism. It seems that this is not just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism. Universalism, in its broadest terms, preaches that everyone goes to heaven and that there is no hell. Critics say it represents a break from traditional Christianity, which they say holds that heaven and hell are very real places. In most Christian circles, universalism is a dirty word. Taylor's post was quickly tweeted by several prominent pastors, including John Piper and Mark Driscoll, connected to the Gospel Coalition, a coalition of theologically conservative evangelical churches, and a full-blown theological controversy was on. By Monday, Taylor's response post had racked up a quarter million hits. Other bloggers, meanwhile, are calling Bell an outright heretic. Bell is not the first prominent Christian pastor to be recently accused of wading into theologically troubled waters. Bishop Carlton Pearson, once a mentee of famed Pentecostal televangelist Oral Roberts, has been run out of two churches and branded a heretic for preaching what he says is a gospel of inclusion with broad universalist themes. Last year, Brian McLaren – a popular Christian author and a former pastor - was accused of breaking with Christian orthodoxy and delving headlong into universalism in his book A New Kind of Christianity. But it's rare that theological arguments become top ten trending topics on Twitter, as Rob Bell did on Saturday. “To be honest, it was a pretty rough weekend,” Taylor said in a phone interview. The 34-year-old heads the editorial content for Crossway, a Christian publishing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Taylor he says his blog expresses his personal opinion not the opinion of the coalition. "We’re talking about the big things here, things that have been historically defined as orthodox, " he said. "I have a high degree of confidence in what God is saying and what we can understand." Though many things that separate Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians, “this isn’t one of them," Taylor said. "We’ve historically agreed on many things, the person of Christ, heaven and hell. This isn’t a peripheral academic debate. What Rob Bell is talking about gets to the heart of Christianity.” Taylor has not read Bell's forthcoming book in its entirety. His blog post was in response to the description released by Bell publisher HarperOne and a promotional video that features Bell. "Rob Bell hasn’t sinned against me personally,” Taylor said, which is why he did not go to Bell before making his comments public. Instead, Taylor said, Bell's book represents a clear example of false teaching. In the promotional video Bell refers to the nonviolent Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, and asks, "Gandhi's in hell? He is?" "And someone knows this for sure?" Bell continues. "Will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that's the case how do you become one of the few? " The video follows a trend in Bell's career as a pastor: he has long asked tough theological questions and challenged traditional answers. The short promotional video raises lots of questions without offering definitive answers. "What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God likes," Bell says in it. " The good news is that love wins." Those lines raised eyebrows for Taylor and others. "It is not preaching the gospel as found in the New Testament," Taylor said. "The New Testament is pretty clear if someone preaches a false gospel… that we are to reject that and have nothing to do with them." For all his hipster leanings - including black rimmed glasses - Bell has a traditional pedigree. He went to Wheaton College, the Harvard of Christian schools, and later graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity. But the Mars Hill Bible Church, which Bell founded, is not attached to any denomination. Were it attached to one - the Presbyterian or Catholic church, say - his book and video could raise eyebrows in the hierarchy and might lead to a church trial that could result in Bell's expulsion. "A larger denomination would take his credentials and excommunicate him like they did to me,” Bishop Pearson told CNN. By Sunday evening, Pearson was getting sent articles about the Bell flap. He said it reminded him of his days as a charismatic leader of a big church in the largest Pentecostal denomination. His questioning of hell from the pulpit led to his ouster. "What happened to me is happening to Rob Bell," Pearson said. "If you denounce hell, it's like you are denouncing God. You’re going to be called a heretic." “I thought my people loved me and would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with me, but they didn’t,” Pearson said. Bell's church did not respond to requests for an interview. His Twitter feed has been silent since he posted about writing a piece for CNN's Belief Blog a few weeks ago. His publicist at HarperOne said he would not be doing publicity until his book hits shelves.

Posted by: Eric Marrapodi - CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor