Posts Tagged “christians”

Between masses at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke directly to the media for the first time in months. / Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star-Tribune.Note: There’s been an update to this story; see below.

I’ve blogged already about Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul & Minneapolis, who may have been behind the destruction of a computer that had belonged to a pedophile priest, before police could get their hands on it. At the moment, though, rather than protecting a cleric who’s been accused of impropriety, as the Religion News Service reports, he’s the target of such an accusation himself (WebCite cached article):

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, already under fire for failing to take action against priests suspected of abuse, announced Tuesday (Dec. 17) that he is stepping aside temporarily after a minor accused the outspoken archbishop of touching his buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony.

In what he called “a difficult letter for me to write,” Nienstedt says he learned of the allegation during the weekend. He said he does not know the young man and he presumes his accuser to be “sincere in believing what he claims.”

Nienstedt denies the allegation, and insists any contact during picture-taking was innocent … which may well be the case … but the fact that he stepped aside, at least temporarily, is significant.

The RNS article goes on to explain that, over the past weekend, Nienstedt had “apologized” for his weak handling of priestly pedophilia claims in his archdiocese. He claims he’d been assured things were well in hand, when he took office, so he blithely assumed they were — but in fact, they weren’t. I don’t buy that excuse, though, and neither should you: He became archbishop in 2008, some 5 years after the priestly-pedophilia scandal had blown up in the U.S., with new revelations still trickling out all over the place. Nienstedt cannot reasonably have been unaware that problems might have continued to lurk within his archdiocese. It just doesn’t make any sense for him to have assumed that, at that time.

Update: The Catholic News Service reports police have cleared Nienstedt and he’s returned to his job (cached).

Photo credit: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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1543 On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin LutherThere’s a sinister stream of anti-Semitism lurking within Christianity. Through their history, Christians have inflicted their rage and fury on the Jewish people quite readily. In classical times, during the Middle Ages, and right into modern times, Christians have condemned, harassed, persecuted, and even killed Jews, because they hold that nation responsible for their Jesus’ crucifixion.

Even now, in light of the horror of the Holocaust, there remains within Christendom a simmering undertone of animosity toward Jews. The reason for this is both simple and obvious: Jesus himself was a Jew, whose original ministry was among Jews, and whom Christians believe was the Jews’ foretold Messiah; but Jews have refused to accept this premise, and dare continue being insolent enough to reject their Jesus. Quite simply, Christians can’t handle the idea that Jesus’ own people don’t view him the same way they do.

This sentiment has been present within Christianity since its opening decades. For instance, the evangelist Matthew wrote (emphasis mine):

When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mt 27:24-26)

Now, most Christians these days may not wish to admit this undercurrent lies deep within their faith. It’s true that not every Christian is an anti-Semite; I don’t think that at all. Many of them recognize this horrific history, and now reject it. But there remains a kind of reasoning, based on scriptural precedents such as the above, that occasionally rears its head within Christianity.

The most recent example of this, as reported by the Boston Globe, came in an article posted on the Web site of a Harvard student journal (WebCite cached article):

A Christian journal run by Harvard College undergraduates published an essay on its blog by an anonymous Jewish convert to Christianity who said that Jews killed Jesus and therefore deserve God’s wrath.

Noting the suffering Jews have experienced throughout history, including the Holocaust, the author wrote, “We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years.”

The essay, titled “Why Us?”, was published online Wednesday by the Harvard Ichthus — a student group recognized by the university — and promoted on the journal’s Twitter account. It was removed Friday afternoon with a note indicating it was “under editorial review.”

After some half-hearted partial explanations for how such an article could have been posted on Ichthus’s site, its editor-in-chief finally offered a non-apology apology for it (cached):

“The piece is not online because we believe that the piece is not conducive to the goals of the Ichthus,” Gyde wrote in the apology. “This particular piece has led to increasing misunderstanding and disinformation about the author’s views, the Ichthus, and Christianity. We do acknowledge that many of the claims of Christianity are offensive to those who do not believe it, but we think that much of the offense that has resulted from this article is not the offense of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for that we apologize.”

This sounds convoluted … and it is. My best paraphrase: “We know non-Christians are offended by Christianity. We’re sorry our message is offensive in spite of the fact that we don’t intend it to be offensive even if we know it is offensive.”

So long as Christians continue revering scripture, and so long as that scripture contains passages like Mt 27:24-26 (not to mention others such as 1 Th 2:13-16 and Heb 10:28-3), this same kind of hateful thinking is going to keep coming up. What can Christians do about this? I’m not sure. Beyond rethinking their veneration of scripture, there wouldn’t seem to be much they can do to prevent it from ever being a problem again.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Italian archbishop Rino Fisichella holds the ashes of Saint Peter before a ceremony at the Vatican, on November 24, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News)Today the Roman Catholic Church marched out relics which, the Vatican claims, belong to St Peter, the man whom legend claims established Christianity in the Roman Empire’s capital. The AFP via Yahoo News reports on this momentous occasion (WebCite cached article):

Bones believed to belong to Saint Peter, one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church, went on display for the first time Sunday, as Pope Francis held a ceremony to end the “Year of Faith”.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered to catch a glimpse of the remains, eight fragments of bone between two and three centimetres (around one inch) long displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter’s Square.

The chest, given to pope Paul VI in 1971 and usually kept in the tiny chapel of the papal apartments, was decorated with a carving of Peter, who was a fisherman before becoming the Church’s first pope, casting his nets into the sea.

Given that Christianity in the city of Rome does date back to the first century CE, and has had a more-or-less continuous presence there since, one would think these bones might have been collected and saved all that time. But that turns out not to be the case. These relics were a 20th century discovery, and it’s not at all clear these are truly the bones of St Peter. But the Vatican is undeterred by archaeological questions:

The bones have long been the object of controversy between historians and archaeologists: they were first discovered in a 1940 dig next to an ancient monument honouring Saint Peter, but ended up gathering dust in a storage box.

It was not until archaeologist Margherita Guarducci discovered graffiti near the excavated tomb reading “Petros eni”, which could mean “Peter is here”, that she requested tests on the fragments.

She found they belonged to a robust man who died aged between 60 and 70 and had been buried in a purple, gold-threaded cloth — enough to convince Paul VI to say in 1968 that Peter’s bones had been identified “in a convincing manner.”…

“Faith, the people of God, have always believed these to be the relics of the apostle Peter, and we continue to venerate them in this way,” Rino Fisichella, head of the pontifical council for evangelisation, said in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The veneration of saints’ relics is a feature of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity which most other Christian sects have done away with. It seems a fairly unsavory practice to cling desperately to the physical remains of long-dead people. But the macabre nature of relic-worship doesn’t faze Catholics. They continue to believe such things carry metaphysical power that somehow connects them more closely to their God … a God whom they believe is omnipotent and therefore, presumably, doesn’t require such things to maintain his connection with his followers.

Let’s face it: People are irrational creatures, and it’s events like these that help demonstrate it.

Photo credit: AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News.

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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.

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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