Posts Tagged “protestant”

Luther posting his 95 Theses in 1517, by Ferdinand Pauwels [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsToday is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, Germany is celebrating “Reformation Day” as a holiday (Archive.Is cached article).

The history of Luther, his Theses, and the resulting schism — which continues to this day and is as entrenched as ever — is well known. The point of the Augustinian monk’s protest was to criticize the sale of indulgences. These are ways of reducing the time one must spend in Purgatory, after death, atoning for sins before reaching Heaven. It wasn’t indulgences Luther objected to per se, but rather, the Church’s sale of them.

This objection led to Luther, and others (including his friend Philip Melanchthon, who arguably was Luther’s intellectual superior and had more to do with the direction Luther’s movement would later take) to differ from the Church on more topics than just the sale of indulgences. Among the more important of these were the so-called Five Solas, declaring that salvation came from 5 interconnected sources — none of which was the Church itself or any of its personnel. The Christian didn’t need a priest, a church, or anything of the sort.

This approach to Christianity knocked the theological legs of the Church right out from under it, rendering it useless. Those who disliked the Church and competed with it for power, certainly found this sort of thinking attractive. Luther and Melanchthon made their reform movement more appealing to the numerous princes in Germany by advocating nationalizing Church treasuries within each realm. Many of them ultimately signed on, and effectively became heads of both church and state within their domains. In the 1530s, King Henry VIII of England would follow a similar philosophy in seizing control of the English Church.

But for all that came of the movement Luther launched (and for which Melanchthon, then John Calvin became the chief proponents, along with many other reformers like Ulrich Zwingli), what’s forgotten are the reformers who came before Luther and had raised similar issues themselves. Perhaps the most important of these was Jan Hus, executed for his “heresy” just over a century before Luther posted his “95 Theses,” who in turn had been inspired by John Wycliffe of England. The ideas of both these men actually continued on, through Luther’s time, and even beyond. Hus’s movement led to the establishment of a separate organization (i.e. the Moravian Church), which still exists.

And these, in turn, had forebears in the Waldenses of France in the late 12th century. Church reforms, you see, were not new. Some reform movements were internal, taking place within and inside the Church, such as the Cluniac reforms, the rise of the mendicant orders, etc.

It is true that the Church’s power was broken by the onset of the Reformation sparked by Luther’s protest, but the stage had been set for him, already, by others. What’s more, the Church had, by then, already undermined itself and its credibility as an institution, e.g. the Great Western Schism and its other attempts at meddling in European politics, like Boniface VIII’s issuance of Unam Sanctam. It’s possible to make too much of what Luther did, and to fail to realize that it’s the inherent irrationality and uncertainty of the many precepts of Christianity which helped the Church grow in power and become mighty in the first place, then to collapse as an institution subsequently as European Christendom fractured into many competing sects.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Assumption of the Virgin (1612-17); Peter Paul RubensSomething I’ve long warned American Catholics about is their alliance with the Religious Right. This movement had grown out of the Southern Baptist Convention initially as pushback against segregation (WebCite cached article). And its membership remains primarily evangelical Protestant … even though the Roman Catholic bishops have joined ranks with them, and there are plenty of Catholic politicians (e.g. Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, and others) who are definitely part of the R.R. The reality of this Catholic/R.R. alliance is that it’s tenuous at best, predicated on only a few points in common, such as opposition to abortion and contraception. The reality is that they’ve been ecclesiastical rivals for centuries, and while they’re no longer at war with one another, each maintains its own distinct vision of Christ and Christianity.

What a lot of Catholics fail to understand — or even know about — is the degree of hatred a lot of their supposed allies in the R.R. have for them. They don’t often make a point of it, but there are occasions when evangelical Protestants find themselves unable to contain their contempt for those “saint-worshipping papists.” An example of this phenomenon emerged when TX gov. Greg Abbott — a Catholic — posted something recently to Facebook (cached):

Texaas Governor Greg Abbott (R) got a lesson in religious tolerance over the weekend after posting an image of the Virgin Mary accompanied by praise on his Facebook page, according to the San Antonio Express-News [cached].

On Saturday the governor, who is Catholic, posted an image of the mother of Jesus [cached] on his Texans for Abbott Facebook page, accompanied by the comment: “The Virgin Mary is exalted above the choirs of angels. Blessed is the Lord who has raised her up.” Saturday was the celebration of the Assumption; the day when the Holy Mother is believed to have been accepted into Heaven.

Responses from followers on Facebook were fast and furious, with many joining in with the governor and praising the Virgin Mary, while others less accepting of his Catholicism accused him of idolatry.

“So you’re Catholic Mr. Abbott? So what? You worship idols; not something I’d be telling everyone,” one commenter wrote, while another seconded the comment, writing: “This is nothing more than idol worship.”

Another pointed out that “Jesus is The Blessed and Holy One!!!” before asking “Were you hacked ?????”

Comments ran to over 900 as people of various faiths battled over whose religion was the most righteous, argued over Scripture, and even questioned the accuracy of the Bible and whether Jesus wrote it.

Honestly, I hadn’t known the Republican Abbott was Catholic. And I suppose a lot of folks (of the evangelical Protestant sort) even in Texas didn’t know it — which is why his Facebook post elicited so much sanctimonious outrage. Had his Catholicism been more widely known, the reaction probably wouldn’t have been as extensive or vitriolic as this, because those evangelical Protestants would already have been steeled to Abbott’s Catholicism and held their tongues.

At any rate, this should provide a lesson to any Catholics out there whose political leanings are toward the Religious Right. Pay attention: These people are not your friends. Many don’t even consider you to be Christians! They may not be up-front about it, or let it show very often, but the bottom line is that they hate Catholics almost as much as they hate Muslims and atheists. If they manage to seize control of the country and make it into the “Christian nation” they’ve been screaming for, once they’ve dispensed with both of those groups, Catholics — followed closely by Orthodox Christians — will be next on their hit list. They won’t give a shit that you helped them establish their Christocracy; they’ll persecute you mercilessly in spite of it, because you’re un-Christian idolaters, as they see it. And they’ll be happy to go after you with everything they’ve got.

So Catholics, be careful. Very, very careful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus Facepalm: He gave up too so please stop this foolishness (Demotivators; defunct)Sometimes when I post about a new revelation in the over-a-decade-old-but-still-going worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal, a correspondent will contact me and complain that I’m “picking on the Catholic Church.” Each time, I patiently point out that this just isn’t fucking true … as it turns out, I’ve blogged many times about the abuse of children — by personnel from other Christian sects, from other religions, and even from non-religious institutions.

Not one of those correspondents has ever replied by conceding this point. Apparently Catholic apologists don’t have the courage or maturity to admit when they’re wrong. (This is OK; I actually expect it. The experimentally-observed, and apparently powerful, psychological phenomenon called the backfire effect essentially prevents them from doing so, and even entrenches them in their lie, in spite of the fact that they’ve been corrected. They quite literally cannot help themselves, being mired as they are in their own delusional universe. It’s sad, to be sure, but quite understandable.)

In any event, it brings me no joy to post again on this subject. It’s absolutely true that child abuse — and covering up for it — is not solely a Catholic problem. The Christian Post recently reported on yet another example of the horrific combination of a child abuser and superiors in a charismatic church who shielded him from prosecution for years (WebCite cached article):

A megachurch pastor confessed to covering up sexual abuse claims during this week’s trial of a youth leader accused of molesting several boys. Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted Thursday of sexually abusing three young boys between 1983 and 1991.

Covenant Life Church former pastor Grant Layman admitted on Tuesday while testifying about allegations against Nathaniel Morales that he withheld incriminating information from the police about the abuse.

Public defender Alan Drew asked Layman if he had an “obligation to report the alleged abuse?”

“I believe so,” he replied.

“And you didn’t?” asked Drew, to which Layman responded “no.”

Morales’s abuse of children in his care went on for years … and so, too, did the cover-up by his superiors at Covenant Life Church:

According to Brent Detwiler, who attended the trial and is a former Sovereign Grace pastor who now runs a watchdog blog about the ministry of which Covenant Life Church was part of until 2012, Layman acknowledged that over the course of 1992 he learned that Morales had abused two boys, but did not go to authorities with these claims.

Detwiler added [cached] that the father of two of the boys “contacted the Covenant Life pastoral team again in 2007 when he learned that Morales was a pastor in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire pastoral team talked about how to handle the situation with Morales. Layman was given the assignment to contact Morales. Layman talk to Morales by phone. During this conversation Morales admitted to the sexual abuse of boys but claimed he couldn’t remember the details. None of the pastors at Covenant Life Church reported this confession of sex abuse to the police. They knew Morales was a serial and predatory sex abuser.”

Covenant Life Church is part of a clique of apparent evangelical churches known as Sovereign Grace Ministries. The CP article goes on to describe some of SGM’s inner machinations. I can’t be sure whether or not this church is still part of SGM.

In any event, it’s clear that this sort of thing goes on in all kinds of human institutions. A desire to protect one’s associates and the reputation of one’s “tribe” — even at the risk of allowing harm to others — is a compulsion deeply embedded in human nature. It’s something a lot of folks just can’t help. That said, in the case of religions like Christianity which supposedly promote high morals, there can be no excuse for it. Anyone who claims to follow a profoundly moral deity whose teachings demand the highest moral conduct, cannot fall back on the excuse that “I couldn’t help myself” or “But I didn’t know any better.” Evangelical churches like CLF teach absolute morality. They leave no room for ignorance, evasions, or excuses.

Of course, having said that, I’m not kidding myself about this. Of course these guys will likely fall back on their old saying that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” This grants them license to do anything they want, whenever they want, maybe cry a little when they’re caught doing wrong (cached), but then claim it’s no big deal that they refused to obey Jesus’ teachings, because — after all — it’s just too hard for the poor little things to actually live according to their religion’s ideals.

For any Christian out there who might not be clear on what’s wrong with purposely allowing children to be preyed upon, for decades, may I suggest s/he shove a crowbar into the Bible s/he long ago slammed shut, and actually read some of it:

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Just stop already with the sniveling, whiny, juvenile excuses; grow the hell up; and start obeying your own claimed religion fercrissakes.

Oh, and it hardly merits mentioning to my Catholic-apologist correspondents not to take be too gleeful about this story. That other churches’ personnel have abused kids and their superiors shielded them, hardly makes it acceptable for the Catholic Church to have done the same. To think so is to fall for “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and that’s fallacious.

Photo credit: Demotivators (defunct).

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Oliver Cromwell, by Samuel Cooper (died 1672)This is the third in my series on “Great Christians” in history. Oliver Cromwell was a warrior-Calvinist who, during the course of the English Civil War, rose to prominence among the Parliamentarians who fought the royal faction; he later led the country in place of the king.

His career began quietly enough with his election to the House of Commons in the late 1620s, after which he seems to have gone through a personal crisis — perhaps a bout of depression. He emerged from it, in the early 1630s, a fervent Calvinist. Like most others of that sect in England, he was convinced the Anglican Church hadn’t sufficiently jettisoned the trappings of Roman Catholicism, and agitated for a “second Reformation” of sorts. At the outbreak of hostilities between Parliament and the Crown in 1642, this supposedly pious man and faithful Christian collected up a cavalry troop of his own, and happily marched to war. Despite having no military training or background to speak of, he scored enough victories that he rose up through the ranks of the Parliamentarian forces. By 1645 he was second-in-command.

As the war continued, Cromwell viewed his military success as a sign that God had “chosen” him to smash the Crown.

The Parliamentarians won in early 1649 with the execution of King Charles I and the creation of the Commonwealth in place of the monarchy. Contention among the anti-royal partisans cropped up almost immediately thereafter. Cromwell had tried to end this infighting, however, it proved too much for him. Seeking another venue in which to express his violent piety, later that year, Cromwell took his army into Ireland. The latter was a Catholic country, and Cromwell hated Catholics even more than he’d hated the king or any of his royal supporters. His campaign in Ireland — which for him lasted only about a year — was as vicious as any of the other campaigns of his career (since it included massacres of civilians) and left a mark on Ireland which is still recalled to this day.

Cromwell ventured into Scotland to fight off Charles II, who hoped to take back the Crown. That campaign, too, was marked by vicious massacres. When the so-called “Rump Parliament” which ruled the Commonwealth proved insufficient for him, Cromwell took matters into his own hands, disbanded that body, and in 1653 essentially forced the creation of a new state, with himself at its head, with the title “Lord Protector.”

That’s when he really went to town with his hyperreligiosity. He set up a mechanism by which the state — rather than the Church — approved and dismissed clergy. Both the Anglican and Catholic churches were outlawed, their hierarchs dispossessed and their property seized.

Over the years of his rule, Cromwell increasingly tried to force dour Calvinistic behavior on the people. Church attendance became mandatory; holidays were outlawed (especially Christmas, but others beside); and so too were gambling and most public entertainments, such as plays and races. And the good, “godly” Cromwell continued to send military forces abroad, not only in Ireland, but in other colonies too, particularly in the Caribbean. This pious, dutiful, obedient Christian remained — contrary to the teachings of Christ himself — a man of war to the end of his days.

Within a couple years after Cromwell’s death, the once-hated monarchy was restored. And never again would Calvinists be permitted to run Britain … that kingdom had learned her lesson, where they were concerned.

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Line drawing of John Calvin, published in 1892 bookThis is the second of my posts on “great Christians” of history (and in case you didn’t know it, that “great” is intended as facetious). My first post in this series was on the conniving Cyril of Alexandria. This time I’ll go over John Calvin, that mighty reformer of Geneva and one of the chief figures of the Reformation. I already covered him in a prior post, which dealt with Christians who actually believe him to be someone to be emulated, and whose 500th birthday must be celebrated by all good Christians. I will therefore crib from my own prior remarks on this vicious, cruel, and murderous creature:

Folks, let me be brutally honest with you about Calvin. He was above all else a theocrat.

That’s right … a theocrat. He was invited to help reform the church in Geneva (in modern Switzerland), and stayed long enough not only to reform its church, but to make its church into the city’s government. By 1541 he was essentially the city’s dictator — ruling with absolute authority — and remained so until his death.

During his career he encountered enemies, and he destroyed them methodically. Despite his popularity in Geneva, there was a party opposed to him, which he called “the libertines” (because they believed God’s grace had freed them from ecclesiastical control). He spent years plotting against individual “libertines,” sometimes getting them prosecuted for what might otherwise have been minor infractions — and in a couple of cases, for fabricated infractions — until their resistance to him was worn down. …

Perhaps Calvin’s shining moment came in his dealings with another ecclesiastical reformer — though of a different sort than Calvin himself — Michael Servetus of Spain. The two had conducted a brief debate via correspondence, which lapsed after Calvin gave up on it, having decided Servetus was an outrageous heretic (mainly because the Spaniard was anti-trinitarian). Servetus, trying to re-establish contact with Calvin, in 1547 offered to venture to Geneva himself to resume their debate in person. Servetus’s own problems with the Church, plus Calvin’s failure to grant him safe-conduct, meant this visit was put off for several years.

But in 1553 Servetus finally did arrive in Geneva — and Calvin made sure that was the end for him. Servetus was arrested, and Calvin arranged for him to be prosecuted by one of his few remaining “libertine” opponents. Since the city of Geneva itself, by then, was pro-Calvin and decidedly anti-Servetus, the libertine had no choice but to press the matter … but Servetus was popular elsewhere in Europe, and having to prosecute him jeopardized the libertines’ relations with other cities. Late that year, Servetus was condemned and burnt at the stake, and the libertines’ fortunes fell further.

Calvin, you see, used one opponent to destroy another, forcing them to damage each other, and leaving him standing even taller. Yes, indeed, that is the sort of Christian John Calvin was.

Christians … you can emulate Calvin if you want, but if you wish to be morally upright and obedient to the God who said (among other things) “turn the other cheek,” “hand over your shirt and your cloak,” and “walk two miles instead of one” … well … I’d advise against it. (But then, what would I — a godless agnostic heathen — know about being a humble and obedient Christian?)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The First Cathedral, A Megachurch in Bloomfield Connecticut, during Sunday Morning Praise and WorshipAbout 6 weeks ago I blogged about Enfield (CT) Public Schools and their religionist determination to proselytize to high school graduates and their families by holding commencements for its two high schools in a church in nearby Bloomfield. As I expected, a federal judge has prevented this arrangement. The Hartford Courant reports on this decision (WebCite cached article):

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School will not be able to hold their graduation ceremonies at First Cathedral.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall heard closing arguments last week in a legal challenge that five Enfield residents — two high school seniors and three parents — filed to block the town from renting the 3,000-seat mega-church in neighboring Bloomfield. The graduations are scheduled for June 23 and 24.

“By attempting to ‘neutralize’ the First cathedral by covering up many (albeit not all) of its religious images, Enfield Public Schools unconstitutionally entangles itself with religion,” Hall wrote in her decision dated Monday. “And … by requiring a graduating senior — or parent of one — to enter First Cathedral in order to be able to participate in his or her graduation — or to watch their child graduate — Enfield Public Schools has coerced plaintiffs to support religion.”

Although the Courant story discusses the religious imagery in First Cathedral, and inadequate attempts to cover it up, that isn’t the only problem cited. Another claim that Enfield Public Schools have made is that they cannot locate any alternative facilities for the same price; thus, by comparison, First Cathedral is their only available choice. In her decision, however, Judge Hall points out that the school board’s attempts to find alternatives were insincere:

The Board’s evaluation of alternative venues in March and April 2010 does not appear to be an open-minded consideration of legitimate available alternatives. First Cathedral was never included in the written comparisons offered at either the March 23 or April 13, 2010 Board meetings, and the minutes of those meetings reflect no discussion as to First Cathedral’s actual price or amenities. Furthermore, the Board was aware that several locations offered similar accommodations for graduation ceremonies at a price less than the $32,000 budget. The rental fee for Symphony Hall, for example, totals $11,400 for both schools — a figure that is at least $5000 less than the rental fee charged by First Cathedral. Although the facility seats 2611 graduates and spectators would likely require Enfield Schools to limit each graduate to eight (8) tickets each, it was deemed “that should not be a huge issue.”

Chairman Stokes noted that there were other ways in which Symphony Hall did not match First Cathedral in meeting particular criteria that the Board was looking for, but the Board never generated a concrete list of the precise criteria that needed to be met. Indeed, certain requirements that Chairman Stokes claims the Board believed a venue had to satisfy seem designed to eliminate First Cathedral’s competitors. During the May 24, 2010 hearing, for example, the court asked Stokes, “What size is a minimum size that you think makes a facility acceptable?” Chairman Stokes replied, “I think that being able to have unlimited seating where anybody can come in and celebrate with their families is probably where I have leaned to.” When the court inquired further and asked what constitutes “unlimited seating,” Stokes replied, “In this case here it is about 3000 seats.” First Cathedral’s seating capacity is 3000.

Looks like the board’s putative “search for alternatives” was cleverly skewed so as to arrive at the predetermined result. This means it was not a genuine “search” and thus, by claiming to have actually “searched” for alternatives when they never intended to permit the graduation to be held anywhere else, Enfield Public Schools is guilty of disingenuity.

This places them into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Something else that ought to be noted is that the chairman of the Enfield school board, Greg Stokes, is the pastor of Cornerstone Church, a Protestant evangelical church in East Windsor CT (just south of Enfield) (cached version of page). First Cathedral in Bloomfield is also — you guessed it! — a Protestant evangelical church (cached version of page). I wonder, Pastor Stokes … could there possibly be a conflict of interest here? Maybe? Ya think? Hmm.

Let’s see: Dishonesty, and failure to admit to an obvious conflict of interest … yep, Chairman Stokes has managed to live down to all my expectations of fundamentalist Christians. Way to go, Pastor Greg!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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