July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk

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Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell. To that end, Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations and Congratulations: It’s a corporation.

An answer to the child immigrant problem at the US-Mexican border? I note that the Biblical Jesus was a refugee, his parents fleeing Herod’s wrath. Yet so many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ “are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.”

In the non-surprise category: Stand Your Ground Laws Lead To More Homicides, Don’t Deter Crime.

Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda.

Yiddish Professor Miriam Isaacs has dug in a previously unknown treasure of over a thousand unknowns Yiddish songs recorded of Holocaust survivors; text is in Swedish, but can be translated. Miriam was my old racquetball buddy decades ago.

The Creation Myth of 20th Century Fundamentalism by Jeff Sharlet, who I also knew long ago.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe came out as gay. Arthur explains why it STILL matters. Also: I Can Be Christian, and Gay, and Live in Alabama.

Portraits of people in 7 days’ worth of their own garbage.
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Art, science, Bible, baseball

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More from New York Erratic:

Who is your favorite visual artist? Favorite director?

I tend to be rather catholic about these things. Here’s the best way to recognize the artist of paintings, BTW.

My church has Tiffany windows, which I like; the one above is one of them. Gordon Parks is a favorite photographer. Always though Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings were interesting, if not always practical. Van Gogh I enjoy, but there are so many more; I love going to the house in the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY because it’s so eclectic. Did one of those Facebook things where you should live, and it came up with French Polynesia, which reminded me that I like Gauguin too.

But I guess my favorite visual artist is Rodin, whose work I find sensual as all get out, even if it isn’t all his work.

I took this list of a list of the 50 greatest directors of all time. Of all the directors whose films I’ve seen more that three Continue reading

What Would Jesus Be Packing?

jesus-gun-wwjd41First I read that churches in Kentucky are using gun giveaways to help people find Jesus. Then, in a front-page story in my area, the pastor of a local Baptist church plans to give away an AR-15 assault rifle to the winner of a free raffle at an upcoming Sunday service.

From the Troy, NY church’s website:

We have decided to hold a special service honouring hunters and gun owners who have been so viciously attacked by the antichristian socialist media and antichristian socialist politicians the last few years. Our country was built with the King James Bible and the gun.

My theology is very different from this, and I struggled to understand. Continue reading

Note to self: do not talk about religion on Facebook

Twice late last month – once on Christmas eve – I had “conversations” about religion on Facebook. It’s often unsatisfying, because I am a believer in spite of uncertainty, and these folks are usually convinced of their rightness.

Oddly, both ended up involving the Biblical phrase “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, render unto God what is God’s.” Without getting into the whole back-and-forth, one guy insisted that the verses, appearing in all three of the synoptic Gospels (all, except John), meant that we are directed to obey earthly authority, pay taxes, and the like.

My view is more in line that Continue reading

Loving with your whole heart is not easy

This is the Advent devotional I wrote for the FOCUS churches this year. It had to be based on a particular Scripture lesson (Matthew 22:34-46), be of a certain length, and end with a prayer. For your convenience, I’ve followed the piece with the Scripture.

In the Scripture lesson, Jesus is being tested theologically. The religious leadership of the day is constantly trying to trip Him up, asking a bunch of questions. What IS the greatest commandment? To love God, and likewise, to love each other.

We are often tested trying to follow these dictates. Sure we may see ourselves as “good” and “nice” people. Maybe we go to church, quote Scripture. Do we REALLY love God with all our heart, mind, and soul? I think God knows that a mysterious and disembodied deity may be sometimes difficult to comprehend.
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Jesus would make a lousy dinner guest

A few weeks back, one of our pastors gave this great sermon. She started by asking the congregation to play that game whereby you invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party. We were to share our picks with people sitting near us.

The pastor then said that most of us church folks probably had Jesus on the list, and the congregation murmured in agreement. But do we REALLY want Jesus at our soiree? Because He could be quite annoying.

Look at some examples: one woman, Martha, puts on a nice meal, yet Jesus sides with lazy Mary who is just hanging out listening to Him. At a fancy gala, Jesus allowed “that woman” to wash his feet – with her hair? He ate with sinners, including those tax collectors, who were ALWAYS ripping off people. Not to mention his last dinner where, by the end of the night, he had been denied, betrayed and taken off to prison.

I saw this story – don’t know if it’s apocryphal or factual Continue reading

God bless the talents

Ever have one of those eureka moments when you realize that one piece of information you have is related to another piece? Then it’s OBVIOUS, when it had not been.

My wife’s reading this book about education, and there is a reference to the Matthew effect, basically this: “Early success in acquiring reading skills usually leads to later successes in reading as the learner grows, while failing to learn to read before the third or fourth year of schooling may be indicative of lifelong problems in learning new skills.” (This suggests that services such as Head Start are vitally important.)

It was the naming, though, that brought me up short. Continue reading

J is for Jesus

As I have noted, I’ve been reading – very slowly – a book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President. The subtitle is Politics for Ordinary Radicals. The title had concerned me what it might be promulgating, but that turned out not to be a worry. The book is coming from a Christian POV, but not a traditional one.

Jesus for President shows the political backdrop in the early first century and how subversive Jesus was. “Jesus spoke about a throne, and Herod wasn’t on it… His campaign slogan was ‘Jubilee,'” a topic I’ve addressed recently. Here is a brief video of Claiborne [LISTEN].

The book has a lot to say about war and the environment and patriotism, and I hope you read it. Certainly, in the case of the latter, it spurned my post about the American flag. But let me give you just a taste.

I had the profoundly great opportunity to see Continue reading

What a Christian can learn from a Muslim about Jesus, by way of Dostoevsky

I’ve got to read this book!

You may not know the name Reza Aslan, but you might have heard about the controversy about an interview that FOX News religion report Lauren Green did with him about his book Zealot, about the life of Jesus. She questioned how a Muslim could write about Jesus, and he kept repeating his extensive credentials as a religious scholar. The storm over her amateurish piece helped the sales of his book reach #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

More interesting to me was this interview with John Oliver of The Daily Show. Aslan is addressing the Christian POV, though not focused on the Christ aspect of Jesus. Aslan disputes the notion of Jesus Continue reading