Posts tagged ‘Christian’

The Knitting Club

So, this weekend I took my granny squares and met up with a group of people who meet every other week at the Central Market to knit and crochet. I now have 97 out of 100 granny squares completed. When I get done with the 100 squares I have to crochet a black border around each one and then sew them together. I anticipate that I may be done sometime between now and the year 3000.

I wasn’t sure what I expected out of the group exactly, maybe a bunch of old biddies or a group of soccer moms. Neither was true. It was a pretty large group. There must have been at lease eight or nine people there. There were even two men.

We looked at pattern books and ate cookies and worked on our projects and talked. The lady who sat on my right was a technical writer who lived within walking distance of my house. The one on my left was a crochet guru who worked for a library. The woman directly across from me was from Oklahoma, and she teaches composition and rhetoric at a local university. The woman to her left was a former high school English teacher and a former Christian educator. And the two men were mos. Could the group have been more tailored made for moi? I don’t see how.

We talked about the news, its quality or lack thereof. The tech writer and I talked about the zoning plans for our respective neighborhoods and how sad it was that the area was destined to be Downtown: The Sequel. This means that it’ll be all vertical multi-use with outrageously high rents. In twenty years, they’ll have stripped this neighborhood of its poor and its minorities as well as its character. It will be homogenized, pasteurized, pristine, pretty, progressive, and predominantly white. It’ll also be pricey. I was glad that someone else besides me found that sad.

The tech writer was an African American woman, and when the subject of marriage and children came up, and I said that I thought marriage and children were both wonderful things but that I was tired of being made to feel less of a woman if I didn’t experience them, she said something profound. She said, “I have two grown children and a grandbaby. I’ve been married and divorced twice. All I ever wanted to be was That Girl. You know, like Marlo Thomas. Just a cute little career girl with a steady boyfriend.” Funny how you never think about the grass being greener.

We talked about writing and reading. We talked about grammar and novels. The meeting started at 2 and didn’t break up until nearly 5. Afterward, I went to the Mr. Brewsters for enchiladas and to see baby Punky.

I had intended to try a new church this weekend, but I didn’t get my nerve up and procrastinated instead, staying in bed under the covers and reading issues of The New Yorker. However, I did go to the church building on Sunday afternoon and drive by the outside so I would know how to get there for next week. I consider that progress.

I think I found a church that might fit with my particular brand of theology. I think I found some place where they might not think of homosexuality as a sin and where gays might be welcome to worship without being given the cold shoulder or the love the sinner speech. It’s small, and it’s close. The website talks about their commitment to service.

I like the Presbyterian church my landlords go to except that it’s all money. They pour most of their resources into buildings and programs designed to fill the needs of the church members and very little money comparatively into service and missions. Austin Stone is committed to missions, and they’re close now. I like the people who worship there, but that church is a member of the Southern Baptist Conference. I’m going to be pretty diametrically opposed to some of their theology. Plus, I’m pretty certain you’ll never see any gay or lesbian couples filling the pews at either of those churches.

January 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Abraham, Isaac & Ishmael: The Judeo-Christian-Islamic Tradition

Expulsion of Ishmael and His Mother, from Gust...

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Oh, yes. We in the West are used to seeing Judeo and Christian thrown into the same sentence but rarely is it mixed with the word Islamic. And yet we all worship the same God. There are a lot of theological differences, but he’s still the same old God he used to be. All three religions can thank Father Abraham, as can the Ba’hai faith. But perhaps that’s best left to another post.

I remember when I was a child, in Sunday School, singing, “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you. So, let’s all thank the Lord.” There was a little dance that went along, involving putting limbs into the center of a circle that you formed with your friends. It was like Bible Hokey Pokey.

When I was a kid the way Muslims were explained to me was that the Muslims were the descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael. I was told that the Muslims were a little angry about being labeled bastards, along with losing their birthright and being thrown out into the desert, and who wouldn’t be? And I was told that, along with the pesky problem of Israel being returned to the Jews and taken away from the Palestinians, this was what explained why Muslims didn’t like Jews. But, you know, God promised that land to the Jews, and the Palestinians didn’t even care enough to form their own country, so…For reals. I wouldn’t make this up.

The truth, of course, is that there’s a rumor but no proof that the Arabian people are descended from Ishmael. However, the Arabs kept no written genealogy, and the Qu’ran claims no such thing. The Qu’ran states that Ishmael was the son that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice, not Isaac. It also reveres Ishmael as a prophet. Not all Muslims are Arab, and not all Arabs are Muslim. The Palestinians (who are neither all Muslim nor all Arabic) were displaced from their homes when the Jews were given Israel, and there are more political reasons for why this came about than there are religious ones, no matter how you may feel about Zionism.

I don’t recall ever feeling like Muslims didn’t like Christians. My mother had a good girlfriend when she was attending nursing school who was a Muslim woman. She was from an African country. Around that same time I befriended a boy from Iran who lived with his uncle, an Iranian Muslim, and his aunt by marriage, an American white woman who converted to Islam for the sake of her husband. They were our neighbors in the apartments earmarked for married student housing.

My friend’s name was Mohammed. He wasn’t actually a Muslim, and since he was from Iran, he wasn’t an Arab, either. He wasn’t much of anything at all; I guess you could call him an agnostic. He just didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter one way or the other, except that he did used to tell me all the time, “Don’t marry an Iranian man.” I guess he had seen Not Without My Daughter one time too many.

Mohammed and I rode the school bus together, and the town where I went to high school and college was very conservative and predominantly Christian. You would think this would make them be welcoming and kind to others who were different from themselves, and some of the students were like this. Some of the finest Christian men and women I ever met in my life I met in high school. Others, however, were not so kind. Mo, as he liked to be called (which always made me think of The Three Stooges) used to get teased something fierce for the way he pronounced Iran.

We lived in Oklahoma, and this was in the mid to late 80s. According to Oklahomans in the mid to late 80s the correct pronunciation of Iran was Eye-ran, as in, I ran to catch the football. According to Mo, it was pronounced Ee-ron, with the emphasis firmly on the first syllable, but then he was only born there and lived the first 15 or so years of his life there, so what the hell would he know?

One day I got so tired of this collective ignorance that I stood up and shouted something to the effect that maybe, just maybe he might know how to pronounce Iran correctly since he was FROM THERE. I may have thrown in the word dips*^t, afterward. It was 23 or 24 years ago now. I honestly don’t remember.

Recently there has been a rash of stories in the news about how Muslims are striking out against Christians with violence. The biggest is the story of the recent attacks against the Coptic Christians in Egypt. If you’re unaware of what happened, you can Google it.  I see no need to repeat the story here. I wonder if as many people have read the story of the Muslims who participated in the Christmas mass with Egyptian Christians, in a sign of solidarity. I wonder if as many people read about the Muslims who were prepared to offer their bodies as human shields to prevent the Christians from coming to harm as they worshipped. I’m guessing that didn’t happen.

I got this link from Facebook, from a Facebook friend who’s actually a Wiccan. If you were looking for something happy and inspring, look no more.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/3216.aspx

January 7, 2011 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

Proof That Atheists Believe in God

Angry man

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I haven’t known that many atheists, let alone been close to them. But the ones I have known, frankly, didn’t seem like true atheists to me. They still seemed to acknowledge God’s existence. They just seemed angry or bewildered at God. They spoke of God and their frustrations with Him and their perplexity at the dichotomy of a cruel world and a loving God. They spoke of their disappointment and disillusionment with the God of their childhood.

Finally I have “proof” that atheists actually believe in God. An article I read yesterday on CNN is about a study on college students that will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Students of all religious backgrounds were studied, and they reported having felt anger toward God. Not towards fate. Not towards the deck of cards they were dealt. Not towards The Force. Not towards Xenu. Towards God.

I ask you, logically, how do you experience anger towards someone who doesn’t exist? Well, you don’t. The fact is that whether you choose to believe that God created man or that man created God, God does exist for you if He’s real enough for you to be angry with Him. And anyone can start there.

http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/01/anger-at-god-common-even-among-atheists/?hpt=Sbin

January 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm 18 comments

The Divorce Myth

"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

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Wow. Statistics. I took a course on it when I decided to go to graduate school. No, I did not graduate. But I did pass statistics! I even got a B. Thank God for Eastern European geeks in the math lab and for partial credit. One thing I did learn about statistics, I mean besides that the Greek letter Sigma is not just the “funky E,” is that statistics can be and frequently are manipulated to come up with an answer that’s sometimes less than truthful.

Some stories about studies have come out this month about the marriage success rate in the United States of America. And, if you’re college educated, you make decent money, and you don’t marry too young, your odds are actually pretty damn good. Congratulations! You won the marriage lottery.

If you’re not college educated, if you’re middle class or working poor or, worse yet, impoverished, or if you marry young, you’re screwed. Well, not really. But your odds of success are way lower. It doesn’t take too much in the way of brains to figure out why this is. Since money is one of the big stressors in marriage, those people who have it are far less likely to be stressed over it.

As for religion and how it affects the divorce rate, agnostics and atheists have the lowest divorce rate. Born again Christians have the highest divorce rate.

You know how the media has been reporting for years that the divorce rate in this country was 50% or better, no matter what. Turns out the media is wrong. Check out these links.

http://www.tressugar.com/Divorce-Rate-Lower-Among-College-Educated-12437830

http://www.drheller.com/divorcemyths.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce

http://www.suite101.com/content/divorce-rates-are-falling-as-couples-marry-later-a129099

The saddest trend I find is that marriage is becoming irrelevant for many young couples with only a high school education. They are becoming parents and cohabitating first, then perhaps marrying later when they can “afford” to do so. With the tax advantages for being married, particularly when it comes to having a family, I don’t see how you can afford not to be married.

This seems to me to be indicative of the greater trend in American society to think of marriage not as a serious lifelong commitment but rather a pit stop on Serial Monogamy Lane. A marriage is a ceremony, a great big expensive party that you host for all your friends, which is why you can’t afford it. Better to breed now and save up for that big party later.

If you’re married, please, please remember what a privilege it is to be married, to have someone who loves you to walk through life with, because not everyone does. Treasure it. If you’re not married, there’s plenty of rich, rewarding life ahead of you whether you get married or not. Happiness, like marriage, is ultimately a choice that you get to make. You can choose to be happy. Choose wisely.

December 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm 14 comments

Early Christianity: Josephus

Scanned from a copy of Josephus' 'The Jewish W...

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Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” – Josephus, from Antiquities of the Jews

Josephus was a Jewish historian. He was a law observant Jew who lived from approximately the years 37 to 100 C.E. He watched and chronicled, among many other things, the existence of Jesus and his ministry and the birth of the fledgling church.

Why is he considered so important to Christianity? He wasn’t even a Christian. Well, he’s vitally important to Christianity because he provides us with an impartial view of the times. The writers of the Bible can be accused of bias for Christianity. The gospels, for instance, could be said to be pro-Christian propaganda.

What proof do we have in the year 2010, for instance, that Jesus even existed? Some atheists question not only Jesus’ divinity but whether or not such a historical figure even lived. Josephus puts that rumor to death.

Josephus was raised in Jerusalem to a family with priestly and royal connections. He was a soldier and a diplomat. He was a Hellenistic Jew (which meant that he believed that Judaism was not in conflict with Graeco-Roman thought) but also a Hebrew patriot. His works were written in Greek, and he is considered to be a Roman apologist. He was a Pharisee by birth but perhaps not by inclination. He served for the Jews in the first Jewish-Roman revolt, although there is some question as to his loyalty since he was the only surviving member of a suicide pact.

His most important works were The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. His works chronicle not only the early Christian church and Jesus but also the first Jewish-Roman revolt and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. Because of Josephus we have an account of Masada, the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise to power of Herod the Great. His works directly reference John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, and James the Just.

The oldest surviving manuscripts of Josephus’s works date to the tenth and eleventh centuries. Justin the Martyr failed to include Josephus’ reference to Jesus in his Christian apologies, and Justin was a known admirer of Josephus’ writings. This leads some to doubt the authenticity of Josephus’ account of Jesus. They believe that the information may have been added later by someone with a pro-Christian agenda.

Many other passages, beyond the one quoted at the beginning of this article, however, corroborate New Testament characters and stories and the existence of the political climate and social mores that are present in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. These passages are unchallenged by scholars. It seems likely that there may have been some tampering with the text in calling Jesus the Christ, since Josephus was not a Christian, but there seems little doubt that he would have included information about Jesus.

This account of Josephus’ life and work is grossly oversimplified. To read more about Josephus for yourself, check out these links:

http://www.josephus.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_history

http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/flavius-josephus/

December 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm 3 comments

A Lesson in Traffic Generation

magnifying glass

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So, yesterday I decided to comment on Solomon II’s blog in response to a comment he made to my post, “Anecdotal & Statistical Evidence That Women Over Forty Are Not Destined to Be Old Maids.” Why did I do this?

Did I think that he would make a thoughtful or intelligent response? No, I didn’t. In fact, he told me to, hmm, how shall I gingerly put this? He told me to remove my dentures and give him head. More about that later.

Did I think that I could make Solomon II agree with me by explaining my viewpoint? Did I think that an intelligent debate could persuade him? Did I think that we could have a meaningful dialogue?

Hell, no. Since I won the distinction of being featured on Freshly Pressed for said blog post, traffic on my website became outrageous and then died down like a trickle. Still, I’m averaging twice the daily hits that I had before Freshly Pressed, which is cool.

How to generate traffic? How to generate traffic? I know. Bait an admitted Neanderthal. I got well over twice the amount of traffic that I would get on a now normal, post Freshly Pressed day.

As for the comment I made on his blog about how the anachronistic double standard he applies makes him sexist, he responded just like I thought he would. He resorted to personal insults again.

I told him that I didn’t see how anyone who was a Christian could think like that. You see, I assumed that he must have some interest in religion. Otherwise, what explains the name of his blog and the naming of many posts as “Proverbs”? Well, what is Solomon known for? Let me think. It can’t possibly be the wisdom. Solomon II doesn’t have any. And since it is now confirmed that he has no love for religion, I can only safely assume that the Solomon reference is because this guy wishes he had a stable of wives and concubines who have to cater to his every need as King. Yes, that must be it.

As for the “offer” for me to give him head, gee, that would be tempting except that:

1)   I don’t suck pig dick.

2)   I don’t own a magnifying glass.

But thanks, guys, for the traffic. Suckas!

There’s no point in continuing this degradation. I’ve had my fun. Now I’m going back to my regularly scheduled blog.

P.S.: In all fairness, Solomon II has made two comments recently that show more fairness and insight than I originally gave him credit for. He might actually be smart. We’re never going to agree, but I won’t mind his commenting on my blog if he can continue to keep the personal attacks out of it. I’ll even promise to show him the same courtesy from now on.

November 11, 2010 at 1:10 am 2 comments

Early Christianity: The Apostle Paul

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century ...

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What could I write about the apostle Paul that hasn’t already been written? Damn near nothing. He is without question the single most powerful influence on the Christian religion as we know it today (if you don’t count Jesus, that is). His conversion story is dramatic. His zeal was catching. His passion for converting the gentiles made Christianity its own religion rather than a subset of Judaism, and this allowed Christianity to eventually flourish throughout the Roman world and beyond.

Saul of Tarsus was born a Hellenized Jew and a Roman citizen. Saul means “asked for” in Hebrew, and he may likely have been named after King Saul, King David’s predecessor and father-in-law. He was probably sometimes called Paul prior to his conversion since Paul was the more Greek friendly version of his Hebrew name. It was almost certainly a calculated choice to use the Hellenized version of the name in his later ministry.

Saul’s dad was a Pharisee, and Saul grew up to also become a Pharisee. He first learned a trade before he was allowed to go to rabbinical school. Saul learned to make tents. Apparently the people of antiquity also felt that their children should have something to fall back on. At the tender age of twelve he would have been sent to learn scripture.

He would have been sent to a fine school, as Tarsus, located in present day Turkey, had a reputation for being something of an intellectual capital of the Jewish world. Think of Tarsus as being like present day Boston, Massachusetts. Close your eyes and throw a dart at a map of the greater Boston/Cambridge metropolitan area and pick a school, any school. Yours landed on MIT? Damn! What a shame for you!

At rabbinical school Saul would have studied intensely to become the modern day equivalent of a professor, a pastor, and an attorney. Becoming a rabbi was no small feat. It’s not exactly a shabby accomplishment now, either.

Saul of Tarsus was a contemporary of Jesus, and when Jesus’ ministry was in full swing he would no doubt have been aware of it. Jesus was only one of many such men who claimed to be the Messiah that would deliver the Jewish people from Roman occupation. The Jews dreamed of political independence and a Jewish state free from the oppression of the Romans. The Pharisees and Saducees that Jesus spoke of with such disdain for their beliefs – Saul would have been one of them, even a leader among them.

After Jesus was crucified Saul became a chief persecutor of early Christians. He was present at the martyrdom of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. His conversion experience would have been just as shocking to him as it was to the people who heard it. In fact, many Christians did not initially trust Paul’s motives when he insisted that he had been saved and wished to preach for Christ. They were suspicious and fearful of him. I would be, too, if I were a Christian then. Paul, before his conversion, was a big Bob Dylan fan – everybody must get stoned.

Because of his impeccable Jewish education and his familiarity with Greek culture and his Roman citizenship, Paul was uniquely poised to bring Christianity to the masses, especially to the pagan masses. Thus began Paul’s ministry. He became convinced that Jesus had died to save the world from its sins and that by grace alone are we saved. This was a far cry from his previous beliefs as a Pharisee, which emphasized strict adherence to the law.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’,” (Romans 1:16,17)

The most lasting contribution that Paul made to the Christian religion was the authorship of thirteen epistles. These epistles are letters that Paul wrote to early Christian churches. He probably wrote them with the help of a scribe who may likely have paraphrased him, such was the custom of the time. The letters that Paul sent were not meant to be scripture but rather to be a means of delivering comfort and encouragement to scattered congregations. When Paul wrote on matters of theology, he was frequently answering the questions of confused parishioners or settling disputes over differences of opinion amongst a congregation. He was ultimately, in many of his letters, determining just which Jewish laws would stay a part of Christianity and which would go.

Paul wrote the following books of the New Testament:

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians

1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy

Titus

Philemon

Along with the scribe controversy, many modern theologians like to point out that Paul has a massive amount of influence for an apostle who never had any first hand knowledge of Jesus. We are, as Mohammed called us, People of the Book. We do not have Jesus among us in the flesh so we must rely on what the Book tells us about the words of Jesus, his character, his life, his ministry. What would Jesus do? Many of us would turn to the words of Paul to try to decipher this.

And why not? If no one but people who met Jesus wrote about Jesus our Bible would be the size of a tract. We’d also be missing out on some really great theological contemplations by C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, J.I. Packer, Rick Warren, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Josh McDowell, Henri Nouwen, Anne Lamott, G.K. Chesterton, and the list could go on and on. All these people are also unqualified to give their opinion on Jesus.

Paul’s legacy is well deserved. That he was a faithful disciple of Jesus cannot be questioned. Paul was imprisoned four times for a total of five and a half to six years. How many of us would be willing to do that for Jesus today? He was killed for his beliefs. We’re spoiled because in the Western world we don’t have to contemplate the possibility of prison or death for our faith. Why? Because ultimately what Paul started made freedom of religion a possibility for Christians. He didn’t get to see it in his lifetime, which is a pity. But perhaps it’s also a good thing that he didn’t get to see the complacency with which many Christians worship today.

November 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm 5 comments

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