Posts Tagged “christian”

Caleb Kaltenbach, via Fox NewsTodd Starnes at Fox News is furious. That, of course, is normal for him, as it as for every other militant Religious Rightist. They live in a perpetual state of sanctimonious rage over … well, something. Based on a tip from an equally-outraged California pastor, he condemned the Costco warehouse chain for insolently labeling the Holy Bible as “fiction” (WebCite cached article):

What do the Bible, “The Hunger Games” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” have in common? All three are works of fiction, according to the booksellers at Costco.

Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach made that shocking discovery last Friday as he was shopping for a present for his wife at a Costco in Simi Valley, Calif.

“All the Bibles were labeled as fiction,” the pastor told me. “It seemed bizarre to me.”

While this may seem “bizarre” to the pastor and to Starnes, it doesn’t seem at all “bizarre” to me. Unlike the vast majority of Americans, I’ve actually read the Bible. From cover to cover. In several translations, and in Greek (which is the original language of the New Testament, and the form of the Old Testament as most of the earliest Christians knew it). It is most definitely “fiction,” no matter how fervently any Christianist thinks otherwise.

Starnes then narrates the tale of poor Pastor Kaltenbach traipsing through a Costco store and its corporate bureaucracy, demanding an explanation and removal of all those insolent stickers from all of their Bibles in stock. Starnes also quotes Kaltenbach lampshading his own martyr complex:

“On the one hand Christians should not yell out ‘persecution’,” he said. “We aren’t living in Iraq or Iran. But on the other hand, I believe that we do need to stand up for our faith and we need to be vocal about our concerns.”

This is a clever trick of propaganda. Ostensibly, Kaltenbach (and Starnes) are admitting this isn’t “persecution” of them as Christians … yet, nevertheless, by stating this, the clear implication is that it is “persecution.” How nice!

These guys really need to grow up and get over themselves. First, this isn’t Christian persecution. Christians in the U.S. aren’t being persecuted at all. It’s not happening … anywhere. And no amount of sanctimonious fury by Religious Rightists can ever change that.

Second, Starnes and Kaltenbach assume, in this case, that their Biblical-literalist view of the Bible is that of Christianity as a whole; thus, marking the Bible as “fiction” is an attack on all of Christianity. But this isn’t true. Not every Christian denomination takes the Bible literally. There really are Christians in the world willing to accept that some or all of their Bible is, in strict terms, “fiction.”

Lastly, I note that Starnes works for Fox News, which thinks businesses should be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, free of regulation. Yet, here he’s presuming that he and Pastor Kaltenbach should have authority over how Costco labels its Bibles. In what universe is this consistent? I smell a whiff of hypocrisy here … the very sort of hypocrisy that their own Jesus ordered them never to engage in, and which is clearly and unambiguously condemned within the pages of those very same Bibles over which they’ve got their knickers in a knot. Boo fucking hoo, babies.

Photo credit: Caleb Kaltenbach, via Fox News.

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Signorelli-Antichrist and the devilAt times I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, a philosophy held by a lot of evangelical Christians. These people militantly support the state of Israel, but not out of any love for that country, its people, or Jews generally. Rather, they’re agitating for the Battle of Armageddon, which they believe will usher in Jesus’ return and the End of the World. Evangelicals encourage Israel’s belligerence; the idea is to instigate an attack by “the kings from the east” as described in Revelation:

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:12-16)

My position has always been that, while Christian Zionists profess respect for Jews and their place in God’s cosmic plan, the truth is that they’re actually anti-Semitic. But evidence for this can be hard to come by, and disappointingly so.

Recently, however, a prominent Christian Zionist exposed the anti-Semitism that lurks deep inside that philosophy. As Right Wing Watch reports, Pastor John Hagee let the cat out of the bag (WebCite cached article):

Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted a Praise The Lord prophecy special this month, featuring a number of speakers including televangelist John Hagee. The right-wing pastor explained that during the End Times, the Jewish people will not accept Jesus as the Messiah until he returns “because they have just — three-and-a-half years or seven-years before — made a deal with the Antichrist, who is the false messiah, and they are extremely skeptical of that.”

Here’s video of Hagee saying this, courtesy of RWW, via Youtube:

Hagee’s claim that Jews will collaborate with the Antichrist is offensive, revealing the villainy to which he thinks Jews will be willing to stoop. He’s saying Jews are going to betray humanity to the Antichrist. If that’s not distasteful, I don’t know what is!

Hagee goes on to say that Jews will only be convinced that Jesus is the Messiah once he returns and they’ve seen “the riven side.” I find his stated reasoning for this interesting; he claims the original Greek of Romans 11 states that Jews have been “judicially blinded” to the identity of the Messiah. He doesn’t say it, but the specific verse he’s referring to is Rom 11:7:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened …

In Greek, this is:

τι ουν επιζητει ισραηλ τουτο ουκ επετυχεν η δε εκλογη επετυχεν οι δε λοιποι επωρωθησαν

The verb in question is the final word in that verse, a form of the Greek verb πωροω (póroó), which doesn’t mean “judicially blinded” at all: Hagee just made that up. It actually means “to be made stubborn” or “to be made unfeeling.” Semantically, this isn’t too far off from what Hagee is saying, however, his claim is rather specific, and as such, clearly false; as someone who presents himself as an expert in Biblical languages, he has no excuse for this. He thus betrays his ignorance of Greek and his lack of expertise.

The RWW article adds Hagee’s claim September 11, 2001 attacks were an act of divine judgement against the U.S. because it had fallen away from him. This is pretty much the same sentiment as had been expressed by the late Jerry Falwell and his friend Marion “Pat” Robertson, just a few days after the attacks. Yeah, folks, this is the Religion of Love in action.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The number of the Beast … 666 … or, is it 616 instead? (cf. Revelation 13:18) / PsiCop originalThe whole thing about 666 being “the Number of ‘the Beast'” and Christians, especially of the fundamentalist sort, being terrified of it for no rational reason, continues to be a problem. WLEX-TV in Lexington, KY reports on a runner who refused to enter a race because she’d been assigned the number “666” (WebCite cached article):

A Whitley County student athlete says it would have gone against her religious beliefs to run with the race number ‘6-6-6′. She and her coach tried to get her a different number, and were told they could not.

Nerves over the race turned to frustration for Whitley County High School junior Codie Thacker because of a different number. It would have been her third time running this race. “I’ve trained since June for this race,” she said.…

“666” is, according the the bible, the mark of the beast. Thacker couldn’t bring herself to run while wearing “666” because of her faith. So, she and her coach tried to get a different number. They asked three different officials. They were told no three different times.

“I didn’t want to risk my relationship with God and try to take that number,” said Thacker.

You can view the station’s video report, right here:

I honestly wonder about this kind of reasoning. How can this girl’s supposedly-deep relationship with an omnipotent being can truly be put at “risk,” because she’d been randomly assigned a “666” bib? Is her deity stupid and unaware this wasn’t her choice? Is he so powerless that his relations with people can be demolished over mere symbology?

Give me a fucking break already!

I’ve commented before on this particular idiotic controversy, and as I’ve mentioned, it’s not even clear that 666 is truly the Number of the Beast in Revelation: While most manuscripts have 666, some have 616. This is a curious coincidence, because as it happens there’s someone whose Greek name written in Hebrew letters is “666” while his Latin name transliterated into Hebrew is 616. That someone is the infamous Emperor Nero. It’s difficult to find any other person whose name happens to fit this dual numerology. Since Revelation had been written near the end of the 1st century CE, this means its author wasn’t predicting the future; instead, s/he had been describing the past.

It’s time for Christians to get over this whole “Beast of Revelation” business already and move on with their lives. Putting on a number isn’t going to kill anyone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

Hat tip: PSENEX at General Philosophy on Delphi Forums.

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Stay tuned ... for the next exciting episode of ... Jerks for Jesus! (PsiCop original graphic)A lot of the time, the things fervent Christianists say are merely amusing. Stupid, asinine, and irrational, yet entertaining nonetheless. Like when they tell people to beware of demons that might tag along with thrift-shop clothing. But other times they say things that are insulting, hurtful, and even counter-productive.

A prime example of the latter comes from the mouths of preacher Kenneth Copeland and Rightist-historian-who’s-no-historian David Barton, as reported by the Religion News Service (WebCite cached article):

On a Veterans Day broadcast program, televangelist Kenneth Copeland and controversial historian David Barton told listeners that soldiers should never experience guilt or post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from military service.

Reading from Numbers 32: 20-22, Copeland said, “So this is a promise — if you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war … you shall return, you’re coming back, and be guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.”

“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me,” Copeland said as Barton affirmed him. ”You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.”

These two compound their “insulting morons for Jesus” talk by appealing to Old Testament-style language:

Barton added that many biblical warriors “took so many people out in battle,” but did so in the name of God.

“You’re on an elevated platform up here. You’re a hero, you’re put in the faith hall of fame,” Barton said. “… When you do it God’s way, not only are you guiltless for having done that, you’re esteemed.”

Yeah, that’s right guys, ramble on about the Lord of Hosts and all that ferocious drivel. That’s sure to clear up whatever ails returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines!

… Not!

The idea that mental illness doesn’t exist … or it does but is no big deal and can be overcome easily by a little appeal to God … is an old refrain among religionists, as I’ve commented previously. But just because people think these things, doesn’t make them so. Mental illness, which includes post-traumatic stress disorder, is very real and can’t just be waved off. It certainly can’t be cured by metaphysics, or by reveling in what a mighty warrior one’s deity is.

Video of this enlightening, pious exchange is available courtesy of Right Wing Watch, via Youtube:

The article quotes some other Christian experts who condemn what Barton and Copeland said, which I suppose is positive. And they’ve managed to stir up some outrage. Even so, Copeland’s television ministry remains on the air. If the majority of American Christians were truly angered by these dismissive, insulting remarks, his show would have been yanked already. But it hasn’t been. So pardon me while I point out that any Christian criticism of these two jerks for Jesus is — basically — non-existent, so long as these two vile creatures retain their voice and their influence.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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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 graphicBy now most of my readers have heard of the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which arguments have been heard, and which will be decided in the middle of next year. Lots of ink has been spilled … and bits transmitted … about it. And there will, no doubt, be much more to come. Religionists rail and fume at the insolence of the plaintiffs for having dared sue in court over the town of Greece, NY opening its council meetings by leading everyone present in Christian prayers. Non-believers laugh at the insipidity of many people publicly mouthing words up at a being that may or may not even exist to hear them.

But what no one is saying — at least, not that I’ve yet heard — is that this case should, by all rights, never have even seen a courtroom, because public prayers of the sort being proclaimed in Greece, NY are thoroughly, demonstrably, and undeniably un-Christian.

You read that right: they’re un-Christian.

As I’ve blogged many times before, and described in my page cataloging Bible verses that nearly all Christians staunchly refuse to obey, Jesus unambiguously condemned any and all forms of public piety. His words on the subject, as recorded in the gospels, are clear and explicit. There are no caveats, and no wriggle-room. Read for yourself what Jesus said about public piety:

“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.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

On another occasion, Jesus condemned public piety using this brief story as an example:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

The scriptural evidence is in, and it’s clear: Jesus didn’t want his followers trying to impress others with their righteousness. This has many implications, some of which Christians will find inconvenient. Among them, is that they shouldn’t be praying in public. Now, I fully understand … having been a Christian myself … why they feel compelled to do it. What good is it, after all, to be a Christian, but not let others know it? Since Christianity is the majority faith in Greece, NY and nearly all of the U.S., what better way to make it known you “belong,” than to be seen praying to the same Christian God that most everyone else prays to?

I honestly get it. Really, I do. The emotional satisfaction — and personal pride — that come from publicly expressing one’s piety is seductive and compelling. It’s a natural manifestation of human nature. Even so … Jesus did expressly forbid this kind of behavior. No matter how normal it may be for Christians to engage in expressions of public piety, it contradicts Christ’s own teachings. Christians shouldn’t be in the position of defending public piety — not before the Supreme Court, and not anywhere else. Instead, they should just not be doing it. At all.

I’m left asking myself, “What part of ‘go into your inner room’ do Christians not understand?”

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

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Flames shot up from the 'King of King's' statue of Jesus Christ early Tuesday morning after it was struck by lightning. / By Tiffani West-May, AP, via USA TodayBelievers seem to be impressed that, despite everything else in Tanauan in the Philippines having been leveled by Typhoon Haiyan, a Jesus statue remains standing. This is remarkable enough to have been specially noted by CNN’s Belief blog (WebCite cached article).

I remain unimpressed by this … as should everyone else, believers included. Haiyan (aka Yolanda) demolished a good part of that country and claimed the lives of thousands of people (2,500 or so is the count as of the time I typed this). Hundreds of thousands of other people are homeless, and have little or no access to food or potable water. The toll, not just in terms of death but in simple, sheer human misery, is almost uncountable.

But somehow, that a statue of Jesus was untouched by the destruction, is a noteworthy “miracle”?

Seriously!?

Wouldn’t it have been far better for the “miracle” to have been of another, far better sort — say, sending Haiyan out into the heart of the Pacific where it wouldn’t have hurt anyone, instead?

Besides, I’m not sure how much of a “miracle” it is for a freak circumstance to leave a statue untouched, when elsewhere, other freak occurrences have destroyed them out of nowhere, leaving everything else unscathed. A great example of this is the so-called “Touchdown Jesus” statue in Monroe, OH which was destroyed in spectacular fashion by a lightning strike, some 3 years ago (cached). If a Jesus statue being left untouched in the Phillipines is a sign of divine grace, then by the same reasoning, the sudden destruction of another ought to be viewed as a sign of divine wrath, no?

It’s time for believers to get over crap like this and stop letting appearances run away with them.

Photo credit: Tiffani West-May / AP, via USA Today.

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Jesus WeptA man working for a church who committed a long serious of sexual assaults. His supervisors who found out about it and got him out of the way. Those same supervisors never reported the assaults to police, and what’s more, tried to block an investigation. One would think I was talking about the Roman Catholic Church — but I’m not. I’m talking, instead, about the VineLife Church in Longmont, CO. It’s some sort of Protestant evangelical church; I haven’t been able to find out which exact denomination, if any, it belongs to. In any event, KMGH-TV in Denver tells the sorry tale of abuse and cover-up (WebCite cached version):

Five officials at Vinelife Church in Longmont are accused of failing to report that a youth pastor had allegedly sexually assaulted a church member since she was 15 years old.

Boulder police said Wednesday detectives have served summonses on Vinelife Church executive pastor Robert Phillip “Bob” Young, pastor Luke Humbrecht, pastor Edward Bennell and church elder Warren Lloyd Williams. A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado, said police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. Police will identify the fifth after he’s been charged.

Each official faces one charge of duty to report child abuse, and is accused of failing to report the alleged child abuse to law enforcement or human services officials.

Boulder police arrested Vinelife youth pastor Jason Allen Roberson, 35, on Sept. 4 and charged him with one count of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. After reviewing the case, the Boulder County District Attorney added one count of stalking.

The alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, is also a former church staff member. She told police the “inappropriate” relationship with the youth pastor began when she was 15 years old and continued for seven years. She said she “trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others,” police said.

VineLife insists it’s done nothing wrong. On its Web site, the church claims to have cooperated with police — which police say is not true — and contend they’re not subject to mandatory child-abuse reporting laws (cached). They even threw their own lawyers under the bus over that last point:

[T]he Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated that the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but it’s not difficult to look up the relevant law here (Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, Persons Required to Report Child Abuse or Neglect) and see that it clearly states that “clergy” are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. So I’m not sure if VineLife’s excuse will fly.

At any rate, for you Catholic apologists out there who read my blog (yes, there are some of you!) and are incensed that I seem to “only” report child abuse cases when it’s R.C. clergy who’ve done it, this post constitutes a refutation of that tired whine. Not that it was true before today, in any event; I’ve certainly mentioned child abuse by other sects’ or religions’ personnel before. I’ve never said, nor even suggested, it was “only” a Catholic problem, even if you think I have. So stop lying already, and stop bellyaching about how I dare criticize your precious Church.

Photo credit: Jenner8675309, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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