Posts Tagged “christian”

Cocke-county-tennessee-courthouseSome parents have been known to give their kids really odd names. We hear about this mostly in the celebrity world; e.g. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West naming their daughter North (so she’ll be “North West”). There are, however, countless other stupid child names given to much-less-famous people, including some so bad that they end up becoming famous for them (e.g. neo-Nazi Heath Campbell naming his son Adolf Hitler).

Even so, I’ve never heard of family-court judges intervening and altering a child’s lousy name … until now. As WBIR-TV in Knoxville TN reports, a judge there took it upon herself to change a boy’s name from “Messiah” (WebCite cached article):

A Newport mother is appealing a court’s decision after a judge ordered her son’s name be changed from “Messiah.”

Jaleesa Martin and the father of Messiah could not agree on a last name, which is how they ended up at a child support hearing in Cocke County Chancery Court on Thursday.

That is when the first name came into question.…

The name change was part of Judge Ballew’s case; however, the parents did not think the first name would be changed.

Judge Ballew ordered the 7-month-old’s name be “Martin DeShawn McCullough.” It includes both parent’s last names but leaves out Messiah.

Ballew explained her reason for making this unasked-for change, and it was solely religious:

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew said.

WBIR-TV’s video report is right here:

I can think of lots of people who would disagree with Ballew, including (and perhaps especially) Jews, who some two and a half millennia ago invented the notion and title of “messiah” and who think no one, not even Jesus Christ, has yet earned that moniker. (I admit it’s possible they might be offended by naming a child “Messiah,” but for their own reasons. But I don’t know that for sure.)

I don’t think it’s wise to name a child “Messiah,” myself, mostly because so many other people in his life are going to get their knickers in knots over it — just as Ballew clearly did. Which, of course, would only be the result of their own irrational metaphysics; but it’s still not something a boy ought to pay the price for, his whole life.

Note: See two salient comments below for clarification of Jewish views of the Messiah and on people with that name. It turns out my half-hearted conjecture was incorrect. My thanks to both commenters.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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People who got out of their cars form a line to get a look at the cross atop the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal)Once again we have yet another example of a Virgin Mary sighting. And once again, people line up to gawk at this claimed apparition. This time, as reported by The Providence Journal, it’s atop a church in North Providence, RI (WebCite cached article):

A steady stream of people gathered Friday in the rain at the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to witness what some believe is an image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

“It’s her. It’s amazing,” said Zumma Canedo, of North Providence.

Canedo, a native of Bolivia, said she had prayed the rosary while standing in the rain outside the church on Mineral Spring Avenue. “She’s saying something,” Canedo said.

A darker profile, interpreted by believers as that of the Virgin Mary, can be seen against the gray copper cross atop the church. Bystanders remarked that the profile did not fade despite the pouring rain.

Imagine that! Stains in a metal cross don’t fade in the rain! How fucking impressive is that!? (Answer: It’s not!) Oh, and not only does the Virgin Mary deign to appear on this cross, she’s talking to people, too! I’d love to hear a recording of what she said … if one exists (and I suspect it doesn’t).

Here’s the cross in question, adorned with this presumed Virgin Mary:

Some people are claiming to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cross outside the the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in North Providence. (Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal)

Some people are claiming to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a cross outside the the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in North Providence. (Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal)

I’m sorry to report, as with so many of the other Virgin Mary apparitions I’ve blogged about, I just don’t see it. Maybe that’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and am just not capable of perceiving such important and other-worldly things.

Only at the very end of the article does the ProJo concede this might not be what people say it is:

Brian Dowling, associate director at The Steel Yard, a nonprofit community arts program in Providence, said the discoloration is probably a chemical reaction.

“Like patina,” Dowling said referring to the tarnish that forms on copper from oxidation and other chemical reactions. Copper, Dowling said, yields a wide spectrum of colors, from greens to browns to reds.

While this might seem a reasonable explanation that can satisfy rational people, ardent believers will, no doubt, reject it out-of-hand without admitting it even as a remote possibility. Absolutely nothing gets in the way of them arriving at the conclusion they’re determined to arrive it. Not even facts to the contrary … including the fact that all copper items left outdoors long enough will, inevitably, show stains and discolorations.

As I always do, I’ll remind my readers that this is nothing more or less than an example of pareidolia, or recognizing things in something that was otherwise randomly generated. It’s no different from seeing familiar people or objects in cloud formations, which many people — particularly kids — are wont to do, or seeing Richard Nixon in a potato. That’s all this is, folks. Really. Honest. Now go the hell home already and stop getting in the way of funeral processions, fercryinoutloud.

One more thing: This cross, stained to appear to some as though the Virgin Mary impressed her sacred image on it, is on top of a church. One called “the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” no less! How do we know this image hadn’t been put there purposely by the church or its parishioners? We don’t, of course. Not at all! That said, I don’t believe this was purposeful, a hoax or a pious fraud. Had it been, a resemblance to the Virgin Mary would probably have been much clearer than this. All I’m doing is pointing out there are more than one fully non-supernatural explanations for this Marian apparition.

Photo credit (both): Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal.

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Islamic Center of Murfreesboro with flagI’ve blogged quite a few times about the mosque that was recently built in Murfreesboro, TN. Despite militant Christians having done everything in their power — both legal and illegal — to destroy it, the Islamic Center opened up anyway. Yet, Neocrusaders haven’t gotten over it. They still can’t handle that a bunch of insolent, reprobate Saracens dared open a mosque deep in the heart of their precious Bible Belt. They’ve gone to court over it, and despite having lost at every step, as the Associate Baptist Press reports, they’re demanding the Tennessee Supreme Court do their bidding for them (WebCite cached article):

Mosque opponents in Murfreesboro, Tenn., want the county to seize a newly constructed Islamic Center and turn it over to someone else.

J. Thomas Smith, an attorney for citizens asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision that allowed occupancy of the new 12,000-square-foot Islamic Center of Murfreesboro last November, told The Tennessean [cached] there would be several acceptable remedies should his clients prevail.

“I think the county would step in and have someone else take it over,” Smith said.

In their appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court (cached), the Neocrusaders accuse the ICM of being terrorists (see page 5), as the ABP explains:

While the lawsuit’s main argument is that citizens were denied proper notice to voice their objections before the project’s approval, it also objects to Corlew’s refusal to allow the testimony by two expert witnesses called to testify about alleged “Sharia-Jihad” risks related to the Islamic congregation that had been meeting in a smaller facility within Murfreesboro for about 30 years.

“The issue of the risk to public safety from the Sharia/Jihad teaching and practices of a regional Islamic training center such as the ICM was the major factual issue dealt with by the Court in its November 2010 opinion,” the Supreme Court document says.

This is, of course, a lie. The only threat to public safety in Murfreesboro, where the Islamic Center is concerned, has come instead from the ICM’s Christianist opponents:

Even before construction someone vandalized a sign at the future mosque site by spray painting it with the phrase “Not Welcome.” A second sign vandalism occurred later, and finally somebody set fire to heavy construction equipment parked on the lot for site clearing.

In 2011, the Islamic Center received a bomb threat in a profanity-laced phone call threatening that a bomb would be placed in the facility on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Christians calling the ICM a “threat to public safety” are, therefore, being hypocritical, feeling free to use violence to attempt to destroy the ICM — while at the same time accusing the ICM of being violent! Well done, guys. Really well done. You’ve got a heaping helping of chutzpah there!

A little note to all you angry Neocrusading Christians: I know it’s news to you, but your own Jesus ordered you never to be hypocritical. That’s right, you are not permitted to vocally condemn in others actions that you happily undertake, yourselves. Not at any time, and not for any reason. You cannot do it. Have a look at what your own Jesus said to you:

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:3-5)

Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Lk 6:42)

Those are Jesus’ orders to you. They are clear. There is no question about them. You can either follow them, or not. It’s entirely your choice. Just remember, though … refusing to obey your Jesus puts your mortal souls in peril. So I’d be real careful about that, if I were you.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Tony anthonyStories about vicious reprobates — the more villanous, the better — being “reformed” by their miraculous faith in the Almighty, is something that warms the cockles of Christians’ hearts. They just love hearing about how the worst sorts of people are magically transformed into devout, loving Christians, merely by virtue of their having “accepted Jesus Christ as their ‘Personal Lord and Savior’™.” It also happens to be an extremely profitable business. More than a few speakers and authors have amassed fortunes on this meme.

Given the massive accolades and profits involved, it’s not surprising that more than a few of these well-known and wealthy authors, have turned out to be liars and con-artists. Among the most famous of these was Mike Warnke, the “Christian comedian” who, during the 70s and 80s, was a wildly popular preacher with his own ministry. His fame had been built on his Christian-bookstore staple The Satan Seller, his autobiography of having been a Satanic high priest who miraculously turned to Jesus and changed his ways completely. But Warnke’s career crashed and burned when, in 1992, the Christian magazine Cornerstone exposed his book as a tissue of lies.

Others have followed similar tracks, including Ergun Caner, a theologian I’ve blogged about, who claimed to have been raised as an devout Islamist fundamentalist but magically converted to Christianity. He and his brother wrote their own book, Unveiling Islam, based on their supposed experience. Most of it, though, turns out to be untrue; after being exposed, Caner eventually lost his job as head of Liberty University’s theology school.

It turns out there’s yet another best-selling liar for Jesus out there. As the (UK) Guardian reports, a book by a claimed killer-turned-evangelical-Christian also turns out to be fraudulent (WebCite cached article):

It was the autobiography that gave hope to hundreds of thousands and warmed the hearts of Christians.

Chronicling how a convicted criminal and martial arts fighter found redemption through God, Taming the Tiger had more than 1.5m copies distributed around the world while its author, Tony Anthony, become a sought-after speaker in schools and churches.

In the book, which carries the strapline “From the Depths of Hell to the Heights of Glory”, Anthony explains how he was taken to China by his grandfather, a kung fu grand master, and trained to become a martial arts champion. He then moved to Cyprus, where he became a bodyguard to businessmen, gangsters and diplomats. “In the line of duty as a bodyguard, I killed people,” Anthony would tell church audiences. “I have broken more arms and legs than I care to remember.” Later he recounted how he found God while in prison in Nicosia after being convicted of theft.

The book was a phenomenon. It was translated into 25 languages and won the Christian Booksellers’ Convention Award in 2005.

But now, following a sustained internet campaign by a group of Christians who doubted Anthony’s claims almost from the start, it appears that little of the book is true.

Anthony was undone by one of his own: Mike Hancock, a director of his ministry, asked for verification of Anthony’s claims; after being rebuffed, he resigned. That triggered a review, which found a number of problems with the book, including the following:

Anthony claimed to be a three times world kung fu champion and tried to deflect suspicions that he had embellished his past by claiming that the competitions were so specialised they were not known to outsiders. But it emerged that some of the material was copied from a martial arts website. One passage was lifted from a book about Bruce Lee.

Anthony himself has said nothing. His ministry is closing down, but his publisher stands behind him:

In a statement, Anthony’s publisher, Authentic Media, said that it was withdrawing Taming the Tiger, a follow-up book, Cry of the Tiger, and a related DVD.

It said: “Tony strongly defends his story — though he acknowledges that the recent information that he has received about his early life requires him to update and clarify his story.”

There’s Christian morality for you. The publisher that’s made millions selling his book is not about to admit it contains demonstrable lies.

I have to give credit to the Christians who exposed Anthony as a fraud. They had the scruples to take on “one of their own” and wanted to set the record straight. Even so, there are too many other Christians who won’t even think twice about the lies of people like Anthony — or Caner or Warnke. They aren’t bothered by fraud, if it brings other people to God. They have an example of this in their own Bibles: Rahab the Harlot, a native of Jericho who was honored by the Hebrews and their god YHWH because she’d lied for them.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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And the Lord said, 'Duck your head!' / 'Prophet' Cindy Jacobs / from RWW videoThe Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a few weeks old. Even so, lots of Christianists continue to rage and fume about it. I’ve already blogged about some of their reactions, but they keep pitching fits. The latest example of this, as reported by Right Wing Watch, is a “prophet” who uses disaster theology to call catastrophe down onto the country (WebCite cached article):

Self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs delivered an ominous warning to America while speaking with fellow televangelist Jim Bakker, describing a message she received from God that the country will face divine punishment over the Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality. “Recently in the United States we’ve had these Supreme Court decisions that are against biblical marriage, and the Lord said to me, ‘duck your head, duck your head.’ I said, ‘oh God, duck my head?’”

RWW provides video of her idiotic blather via Youtube:

Sounds like a nightmarish prediction, doesn’t it? But believers like the Prophet Ms Jacobs need not worry. Just as he did prior to the Exodus, the Almighty plans to “mark” all his faithful so his divine wrath won’t wipe them out:

Jacobs asserted that God plans to “put a mark upon” believers — “as long as you’re tithing” — and bless them because “there’s a whole lot of shaking getting ready to happen.”

(Gee, I love how being a believer is all about “the tithing.”)

The Prophet Ms Jacobs claims she’d predicted Hurricane Sandy as a sign of the Almighty’s fury, hence, she insists she’ll be right this time, too.

Well, she will be! I have no doubt a hurricane will hit somewhere in the US this year. I also have no doubt there will be wildfires in the coming months. There might even be an earthquake. Or a bombing. Or a school shooting. Terrible events absolutely will happen.

And you know how I know this? Because … quite obviously! … they just naturally happen! I’m sure the Prophet Ms Jacobs knows this just as well as I do. Which is why she makes pronouncements like this … it gives her the (false) appearance of being an accurate “prophet” foretelling future events!

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on still from RWW video via Youtube.

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What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicSince their religion was founded, Christians appear to have had a lot of trouble with the teachings of their own religion. As I’ve explained at length, according to their own scripture, Jesus left behind some fairly clear and unambiguous instructions for them, that they more or less ignore. Some of this isn’t entirely unreasonable; after all, strictly following the order to “turn the other cheek” in every conflict could — if the circumstances are dire enough — result in injury or even death. So I get why Christians might not be too eager to obey that one all the time.

That said, some of Jesus’ instructions are far less harmful to follow, yet Christians have, historically, dug their heels in against them and refuse to follow them. Among those is his injunction against public piety. The gospel according to Matthew reports that Jesus said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Mt 6:1-6)

In spite of this clear and explicit order, Christians don’t seem to hesitate to let others know they’re Christians, that they’re righteous, and that they worship their deity. They desperately want other people to know they’re Christians, and they never shy away from ensuring that the rest of the world knows it.

Just today, not too far away from me in the northwestern Connecticut, as the Torrington Register-Citizen reports, they got together in what amounts to an orgiastic display of anti-scriptural public piety (WebCite cached article):

More than 150 people gathered at Coe Memorial Park [in Torrington] from Saturday morning until the evening for a day of worship, entertainment and food during the 2013 Praise God Fest.

All the entertainment and food was donated, and there were several volunteers helping serve food and offer information during the festival.

The stated explanation for why they did this is pretty lame:

Michael Oleksiw is a pastor at the Freedom Hills Christian Center in Torrington, and is the coordinator for Praise God Fest.…

“Christians are real people, regular people,” Oleksiw said. “We have fun, and we just want to tell people abut the hope that we have in our lives as Christians.”

I mean, seriously, who isn’t aware that Christians are “real people”? We need this display of public Christian piety, to know that? Really?

Oleksiw’s “explanation” implies that Christians are some kind of tiny minority that’s maligned and misunderstood or something. But this is patently absurd; Christianity is the majority religion in the US, in Connecticut, and even in the city of Torrington. They aren’t misunderstood at all.

The rationales that Christians cook up to explain why they think they can display their piety openly and publicly, in spite of Jesus’ clear order never to do so, are mind-boggling. In fact, they border on incoherent. See, for example, my exchange with a Christian in the comments on this Hartford FAVS article).

One explanation I’ve heard is that, when in verse 6 of the Matthew passage Jesus said to “go into your inner room” to pray, he wasn’t giving a blanket order to all Christians to do this all the time; it was just an example of something they might want to do … sometimes. This, however, doesn’t make sense in light of the overall passage. Jesus opened that particular teaching (in verse 1) with a general statement: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” He then went on to give examples of the “hypocrites” behaving unacceptably: Being seen giving to the poor (verses 2-4), and standing in the streets to pray (verse 5). In verse 6 he turns back to his followers, and tells them to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” which contrasts with the behavior of the “hypocrites.”

Unfortunately, the idea that verse 6 is merely an example and not a universal instruction doesn’t hold up in the language of those verses … whether in the original Greek or in translation. Verse 6 opens with a distinct break, that being the Greek phrase συ δε (su de); it’s usually translated as “But you …” although for me, a closer and more literal English equivalent would be, “You, however …” In either case, there’s a clear break in Jesus’ address. He’s obviously going from having given two examples of “the hypocrites’” bad behavior, to telling his audience what they need to do, by comparison.

This kind of irrational and illogical semantic dance is to be expected of a religion that’s ostensibly based on strict readings of a particular batch of writings. I get why they do this: After all, what good is it to be a Christian, if you aren’t going to get noticed for being one? Even so, no literate Christian has any viable excuse for not being aware of Matthew 6:1-6 and Jesus’ explicit injunction against public piety. It’s time for Christians to grow up, suck it, and obey the teachings of their own religion. Even the teachings that are inconvenient.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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Cry BabyIn my last post I listed some catalogs of the juvenile whining of the Religious Right over the Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. As one would expect, they haven’t stopped pitching fits over it. Their crybaby antics took a new turn when, as WHYY-TV in Philadelphia reports, an openly-gay representative House was forbidden to speak on the Pennsylvania House floor about the decision (WebCite cached article):

Openly gay Pa. Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was blocked from talking about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday on the floor of the Pennsylvania House.

His comments to his colleagues were ended by a procedural maneuver.

In a part of the house session where members can speak on wide-ranging topics, Sims had just begun his remarks when he was shut down.…

It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.

“I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law,” said Metcalfe, R-Butler.

Efforts to uncover the names of other legislators who objected to Sims speaking were rebuffed by the House Speaker.

So there you have it, folks. Gay rights can’t be mentioned on the floor of the Pennsylvania House, because it’s against “God’s law” to do so.

Keep it up, guys. Please. I’m begging you. Keep it up. Keep showing your true colors to the world. Keep proving how childish you really are. Keep carrying on like spoiled little children who’ve lost their favorite toy. Keep up the sanctimonious raging and the immature bellyaching.

You couldn’t possibly do a better job of demonstrating what’s wrong with fierce, unthinking religionism, than I could. And I thank you for it! Honestly, I do.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

Photo credit: Chalky Lives, via Flickr.

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