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Saturday, April 30, 2011

On Roman political advertising--could it be helpful today?

            A few weeks ago, while researching a topic, I ran into a fact that I had not previously.  I was already aware that, under the Old Testament law, there were clearly two tithes upon b’nai yesrael, and possibly there was a third, voluntary, one-third of a tithe, or tithe every third year, or, in other words, 20% or 23 1/3%.  What I just recently learned was that, in Jesus’ day, the rabbis had decreed a limit that one was not to give more than 40% of one’s income.  The reason for this was that they were in the Roman Empire, and an early form of political advertising in Rome was for a person who wished to gain public office to give large sums to pay for public works projects.
            As much as I must be critical of things the Empire did which has had a lasting, unscriptural effect upon the believers of Jesus, maybe they had a useful idea.  Given the problems with the U.S. and local governments are having with paying for things that they are expected to cover, we would be better off if the laws and regulations of the country could be changed such that it would be to the benefit of candidates to, instead of spending huge amounts of money to besiege those of us not running with large amounts of advertising consisting of obvious pieces of half-truths and twisted logic, spend that money on things we all need.  I can just picture the interstates and other major roads named for the candidates in the last election in trade for some of that money spent to irritate everyone instead going to maintaining those roads.  Yes, I know, the tv and radio stations are complaining having to sell those political ads all the way to the bank.  As with most obvious ideas, it is too simple and beneficial to have any chance.
            This week, my family is doing the Neilsen book thing.  I, as many males, am a inveterate channel flipper.  Further, I did more physical work today than I have in weeks, so I was tired in the evening.  I happened to turn to JCTV music videos this evening, and saw a group called Rend Collective Experience, who have a CD named Organic Family Hymnal.  Since I began being involved in HC/SC, the back of my mind’s eye has been watching for references to organic church.  After doing a little tracing the group on the net, I don’t know their intent in the use of the word “organic”, although, as they are from Northern Ireland, I know that the church is in a culturally different situation.  Either way, their music is different in a good way, as it hasn’t been processed to fit what the marketing people see as a trend.  One can find out more about their music at www.rendcollectiveexperience.com.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter bunny and Easter egg

            This morning, I was watching CNN, and they had a short piece on the history of two Easter traditions we in the community of believers in Jesus sometimes avoid speaking about:  the Easter bunny and the Easter egg.
            According to this piece, the Easter bunny comes from Germany.  It derived from a fertility cult, given that rabbits are known for that ability.  Coloring eggs also comes from a fertility cult.  It was mentioned that in Greece, as someone over time has somewhat Christianized this tradition, eggs are dyed blood red on the Thursday before Easter.
            I recently read, and may have even quoted previously, that any religion based on sex will always be popular, albeit based on emotion and not on intellectual defensibility.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Was I a revolutionary?

 
            I was talking with a person where I work today, and I drifted on the subject of being a college student during the 1970’s.  Just before a break ended, this person asked about my attitude at the time, “Did you consider yourself a revolutionary?”  I can remember thinking through this exact question when I was in college, and I can say that, in opposition to what many of my fellow students have gone through, my point of view on this question hasn’t changed, in large part due to my having already been a believer in Jesus for a few years at that point.
            I would say that, both then and now, counterrevolutionary would be a better description, on (at least) two different levels.
            First, since, during that time, the Cold War was still going on, let me consider the attitude of persons in the governments, Communist Parties, and police/secret police forces of such countries.  Without regard to how long or short the Party had been in power, they overtly described their cause as a revolution, because they saw their point of view as being something for not just their country, but eventually for the world.  As a believer in Jesus, I would have been considered someone connected with the point of view that they had overthrown. They, in turn, either did not understand or did not want to understand the difference between true followers of Jesus, and a political status quo that gave lip service to Christianity as being the status quo belief (this clearly fits European, Central American, and South American countries, and not Asian ones).
            Here in the U. S., as in much of the western world, the revolution was with regard to the social status quo.  Most western countries have heritages, legal and voluntary ethical systems which were, to varying degrees, connected to Judeo-Christian ethics (with the Christian part having greater practical influence), the Magna Carta, English Common Law, and in the U.S., the influence of the east coast being originally settled by persons looking for freedom to worship the Christian faith according to their conscience, be it Puritan, Anglican, Catholic, or whatever (with extremely little emphasis on whatever).  Over the centuries, this tradition has eroded within popular culture due to individual’s personal choices over generations, with particular effect from our soldiers’ contact with European secularism during World Wars I and II, the choice of public universities to overtly avoid recommending and enforcing any kind or moral values beginning in (approximately) the 1950’s, in part due to an affiliation with something called Darwinianism (that was beginning to be distorted in ways Darwin, I believe, would have disagreed with) and then the rise of a non-system of moral values that had some public face with the beatnik movement and its sloppy form of eastern philosophy infecting pop culture, and carried to the masses of youth more effectively with the swing to rock music being the dominant form in approximately 1962 (not that it was the style of music, but the ideas of persons most influential in that business, whether for reasons of actual personal belief, or merely marketing). Therefore, the revolution, when I was in college, was built around rejecting the values of the previous generation, which was connected to a different style of music, sexual morality, and acceptance of whatever the government and big business told us as being true, and, lastly, truth itself.  As a follower of Jesus, believing, not by blind faith (which ties to eastern beliefs’ not making any claim to being ultimately true), but by believing that there is one God which communicated his ways via the Bible, and that this way of living is consistently defensible historically and scientifically, and that sexual morality, how I treat my body, i.e., recreational drug use,  and the existence of truth and Truth, I stood in a position of being contrary to both this social revolution and the status quo.  Therefore, I was and am a counterrevolutionary.  The original status quo was God before the introduction to the world, and the revolution is against God and toward any of a smorgasboard of sins.
            Today, the world has continued.  People have joked that Marxism has lost respect except in Berkeley, CA.  Certainly, Jihadism, a small but highly influential branch within Islam (that, admitted, many of its adherents disavow) has replaces the Communist countries as the #1 enemy of the U.S.  The Koran is 1/6 the size of the Bible, whereas the complete writings of Marx must be 30 times larger (I am guessing; I saw the set once, but size is also a matter of type style).  Western society has moved on from the counterculture to postmodernism.  I maintain that God, truth, and each man’s desire to do things his own way hasn’t changed.  I am still a counterrevolutionary.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

on Matthew 1 and 2

Last Sunday, at church, our participatory discussion (which is in lieu of a sermon, and we would defend is closer to the original way the early believers worshipped) was on Matthew 1.  This chapter deals with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ birth, and a rash of miraculous incidents—an angel coming to Mary,  Mary becoming supernaturally pregnant with the Messiah, who we would come to know as Jesus, God in human form, the angel coming to Joseph, the birth of Jesus in the manger—animal stall.  In the course of this discussion, the person leading the discussion, in mentioning a fact from the next chapter, noted that the Magi showed up possibly as much as two years later.  As much as I have read the Bible, I never noticed that.  If one grows up going to church, and one sees and participates in those Christmas programs the Sunday evening before Christmas, the norm is that they do the manger scene, the shepherds come in, and then the wise men come in.  The large gap in time never clicked in my head before.  The irony that God allowed to happen never struck me until studying Matthew 2 this week.  God forbade b’nai yesrael to participate in astrology in Deuteronomy 18:11, Is. 2:6, and Is. 47:11-15, and they were to instead seek true prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15.  Among Roman pagans, Magi were respected, and were particularly adept at dream interpretation.  Therefore, when they arrived in Jerusalem, it was a big deal.  Since they were told that a “king was born,” they figured to go to the king.  This was news, and not good news, to Herod.  They said that they followed a star.  A falling star was considered a sign of a king being deposed. 
            Now, as much as they could have followed a star from wherever east of Israel they came, something totally miraculous had to happen to be able to follow it to Joseph and Mary’s home in a village—stars are normally way too high in the sky to point out a specific house.  The scribes (Sadducees) could tell them that the prophecy of Micah 5:2, but they weren’t sufficiently interested to go follow the Magi.  Ironically, these scribes’ next generation would be the religious leaders so interested in Jesus as to push for his crucifixion.
            In the last verse of Matthew 2, Matthew writes something that twists at our western sensibilities.  He says that Jesus’ parents settling in Nazareth fulfills a prophecy, but that prophecy cannot be found in the Old Testament.  Confoundingly, Nazareth is spelled similarly for the Hebrew word for branch, and that word is used as a prophetic name for the Messiah in Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12, and Isaiah 11:1.
            What I would note is how easily we who were sent to Sunday School were young, and were taught the various Bible stories in a manner that was simple for small children to understand, in a form sanitized from some of the sex and violence, which is age appropriate, can have distorted ideas of these teachings as adults.

Thoughts on employment

            As I write this on April 10, 2010, I have been back to full time work for 3 weeks now.  The work I am doing is temporary, scoring student achievement tests.  I anticipate it lasting for 10 weeks.  Everyone I work with holds at least a bachelor’s degree.  As most of my working life has been in retail, with persons of all kinds of intellectual achievement (or not), the difference in work environment is dramatic.
            To that effect, I was thinking, before waking up this morning, on how it has affected this blog.  Being around a group of people who have practiced serious thinking sharpens one’s own thinking, and it is a stimulating change.  On the opposite side, working hard mentally makes it harder to think through doing some serious writing.  This week and last, all my blogging has been on Sunday morning.  I didn’t feel like doing anything yesterday until about 4 pm.  This job also differs from most in that I know, roughly, when it will end.  The adult norm seems to be that one does one thing, anticipating that its end is just somewhere long in the future.
            At a secular level, the best known writing on this was Hoffer’s “Joy of Dull Work.”  He may have been known as the Longshoreman Philosopher, but he was a philosopher first, and the longshoreman bit was probably an intellectual break.  It certainly is not the norm for either philosophers or longshoreman.  I won’t comment further as I did not read the book, only have heard from others (professors) the distillation of the ideas of that book into a few sentences.  This is very normal for our society.  Most people in our culture didn’t read Hawking’s “A Short History of Time”, but have absorbed its conclusions from movie scriptwriters having read it, and included those ideas in popular movies.  For the believer in Jesus, this is important due to this being the idea of the history of mankind that has replaced the Darwinian idea, and is the precursor to the idea of the hoped-for (by unbelieving intellectuals) Theory of Everything, which is tied to a mish-mash of New Age ideas.  I hated to use the phrase New Age, as some of our faith in Jesus’ less intellectual, more emotional speakers-leaders use that as a generalized perjorative.  I use this phrase to refer to a group of approximately 188 beliefs, philosophies, diet plans, naturalisms, of which adherents usually hold to more than one, less than all (as some are contradictory to others) in many combinations.  I haven’t tried to think too hard on this because to do an apologetic on this is as futile as trying to due an apologetic on every eastern guru, swami, sri, etc.
            A Christian book that deals with some of the same ideas as Hoffer, but from a distinctly Christian perspective is R. Paul Stevens’ “The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective.”  Stevens is a professor at Regent College, Vancouver, BC.  I cannot recall at the moment which one, but Stevens also uses his summer break to work in a trade. 
            My personal conclusion is that dull work is only a joy as a change of pace.  Personally, being stuck doing such work when I know I can handle something more complex is a burden of feeling of not properly being a steward of the abilities God has given me.  This is different from being in a society in which government favoritism of those that agree with it, caste, ethnicity, or some other social quality restricts one from which one may not be able to practically either change or escape from.  For myself, these writings are some small way of attempt to be a good steward of my abilities, even if only a very few read them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

on the 4/1/2011 rioting in Afghanistan and Petreaus' comment

            I was just watching CNN cover General Petreaus’ official statement with regard to the rioting in Afghanistan yesterday over word that the leader of a church in Florida named Terry Jones, who previously threatened to burn a Quran last year, actually did so a couple of weeks ago.  As anyone who has followed this story knows, what Jones said a year ago was big news, as he announced beforehand that he would on a certain day, and a few days before, after national news publicity, mainly negative, he said that he would not on that date.  This current incident was no news here in the U.S., but was known only because Karzai mentioned it in a speech, and then word got to the Islamic leaders, and then, in turn, to the average Muslim at Friday.  To that, Petreaus read a supposedly carefully worded statement of regret. 
            What our mainstream media, more and more, seemingly do not understand, is what faith (either true or false), is.  If I, as a believer in Jesus, say I believe the Bible is God’s communication to all of man, and that Bible says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”, then what I am saying is that every other contradictory or contrary idea is not, and it is just as much as Jones’ politically inflammatory act.
            Since I don’t live in or near his town, all I know about Jones and his church is what is posted on Wikipedia, which has been known to be incorrect. If it is correct in this instance, he is off on the disgusting fringe of society.  I cannot defend him at all, except that I support his freedom to state his opinion.  For those of us who work in corporate America, employers suppress this more than most average persons, wish to admit.
            I have a larger problem with the comments of our U. S. officials, as such statements are worded in a way that implies that there is no such thing as truth.  I do not doubt that most of our current top political leaders and military leaders feel that way, it is just that the brazen way Petreaus spoke as if anyone who believes anything does not exist, therefore implying that our citizenship is at least marginalized, is, to say the least, disappointing.  I must admit, though, after he retires, it may get him some speaking gigs at our public universities.
Note:  As I believe that I have indicated in other commentaries, I in no way consider my allegiance aligned with any current out of power political party in the U. S.  There is a wave within one that wishes to imply that the positions they hold in more congruent with faith in Jesus, but there have been enough cases over the past decade in which people within this group have shown a lack of congruency between their public positions and personal actions that I must assume that for some of these persons it is political posturing.   

Simple Church Minute (one minute version)--sermons

            In December 2010, I posted one hundred two minute commentaries written for radio (I have a specific station and demographic in mind) which I titled “Simple Church Minute.”  Now, these have not been broadcast for two reasons.  First, that station doesn’t do two minute time frames, and, more importantly, I haven’t had the money.  Be that as it may, I am working on one minute versions of the same subjects.  Below is a shortened version of what in December was designated Simple Church Minute #1.  By the way, if you would be interested in doing something with this idea, email me at 757757tev@gmail.com.  The email address I have in the two minute version has a practical problem which I will correct before finally getting to use these scripts—my computer doesn’t like having two Gmail accounts coming into it.

1005—sermons
            This is simple church minute. Why are there sermons in church? Matthew 5, called the Sermon on the Mount, isn’t structured like a sermon, and covers way too many topics.  In Acts 17, where Paul is speaking at Mars Hill, it is clear he was doing dialogue, not monologue.  From Acts 20 verse 7 and other places, where we see someone doing something that looks like preaching, the Bible uses the word “spoke.”  Some say 2 Timothy 4 verse 2 connects preaching to speaking to the church, but that context isn’t clear.  1 Thessalonians 5 verse 11 tells the believers to build up each other, which is nearly impossible when one person is designated to do monologue.  Romans 12 and 15, 1 Corinthians 14, and Colossians 3 show worship involved every member, was conversational, and impromptu.  One can find out more about organic worship at www.simplechurch.com and locally at (local site).

on charlatans

            When Mao took over mainland China and forced Christian missionaries to either flee the country or be killed, there were about 1 million believers in the country.  In the early 1990’s, when the government decided, for economic reasons, to allow outsiders to be able to see what was inside the country, the number of Christians had grown to 50 million (admittedly, both these numbers are unprovable estimates).  This happened without church buildings, formally trained leaders, money for programs or anything else, freedom of speech, and with the overt opposition of the government.
            Here in North America, believers in Jesus to have freedom of speech, the right to form not-for-profit corporations, make tax favored contributions to such corporations, the corporations can hire persons to specifically work for the organization, and spend money on programs, real estate, advertising and marketing.  For all that, the number of persons who admit to being believers is staying steady or growing slightly, less than the general population increase, and overt public mockery of the Christian faith has increased greatly.  Unfortunately, all too much of the mockery is deserved.  We have seen supposed “evangelists” hire actors to act out being healed.  We have heard of roving teachers do “word of knowledge” by having an associate small talk persons before a service about their problems, and then, by earpiece, tell the supposed man of God who these people are so they can say seemingly impossible things to humanly know before an audience.  I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today, but there is a huge monetary temptation to fake the miraculous, such that the tricksters have been attracted to the Pentecostal flavor of faith in Jesus, and the charlatans are, almost assuredly, among the regionally or nationally famous, or will be eventually.
            I have heard unbelievers accuse pastors of being in it for the money.  I have heard everyday, small church pastors respond that they do not make that much.  The point is that they make anything at all.  The Old Testament priesthood was to be supported by the rest of b’nai yesrael (Children of Israel, the Jewish people of that time).  Today, the common justification for paying pastors, and from that, their assistants, music leaders, secretaries, and janitors, is based on Matthew 10:10, “for a worker is worthy of his food.”  If one reads the verses around it, the context is Jesus sending his disciples out to minister to people on their own, possibly for the first time.  Just before this statement, Jesus directed, “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts” (verse 9).  The cultural context was much different than our society today or most societies at most times.  In Old Covenant Israel (and the Old Covenant did not end until Jesus’ death—that is part of His sacrificial death being the perfect sacrifice—it was the sacrifice that fulfilled the Old Covenant), it was expected that people take it travelers and strangers, and the Law provided that the poor (and Jesus and the disciples were poor) were allowed to glean from the corners of the fields.  The worker is worthy of his food, and basic needs. Their in nothing even implied about a salary almost at a level for others with masters degrees (a ratio common in many institutions which demand that level of training to be an institutional leader), or as one prosperity teacher in Florida claimed he was given three gold Mercedes (one of which he says he gave to one of the church elders), a house in an expensive neighborhood, a pool, lawn service, and pool maintenance (he was “given” all this by the organization he controlled the finances for, according to papers filed when his wife decided to divorce him).     
            I believe that this kind of stuff is why we aren’t seeing believers in Jesus multiply. Most persons I know came to Jesus either via an average everyday believer sharing their faith, not via a ten minute Four Spiritual Laws conversation, but conversations day by day combined with living a consistent, although not necessarily perfect, life of desiring to honor Jesus, or the Holy Spirit speaking into or some words in the Bible (either reading or knowing from having heard at a time previously) a person’s life miraculously, maybe by just saying a few words into one’s spirit or through a difficult situation of life showing God’s communication to man.  I am certain there are exceptions to what I just said, as the only rule I see is that, just like God doesn’t miraculously heal by someone praying or doing the same thing every time, how the Spirit guides each person to a place to repent is different, also.
            As I now see it, the early apostles and workers were supported financially because they were going to other cultures where they may not have had the ability to support themselves.  Even then, Paul, the persons who we are told the most of, with regard to his travels in communicating the message of Jesus, had a skill which was highly adaptable to moving from city to city, admittedly more adaptable than most skills which are valued in western cultures today, but, conversely, was necessary due to their not being others near where he was going (at least originally) to help him. 
            As for myself, I know that my intellectual talent is not in the same ballpark with C.S. Lewis, but I can agree with his statement (this is not an exact quote because I don’t know where to look it up at the moment), “I am glad that I have never made my living from theology.”