Bishop Ussher is still wrong

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Only maybe he was too liberal. Apparently, a man lived about 3500 years ago who we’re all related to.

1,415 B.C.? Noah, is that you?

Though, curiously, I read a national geographic article this month that puts Adam somewhere about 35,000 years ago. Personally, I’m happy not worrying about the when or how, as long as the who is settled with the whole creation business.

Someday, maybe I’ll write out one of my heresies relating to this issue… a relational interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.

Not today.

We need to talk

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Israel and the Church

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The broader Evangelical Church is widely thought of as an uncritical supporter of Israel. A study has been done which suggests that mainline churches and their affiliations are overcritical about Israel.

I do suspect a curious form of anti-Semitism which highlights Israel as being the source of unrest in this world, while leaving out such countries as China, North Korea, etc. Why is there not a similar outcry for a Tibetan homeland? There was certainly less of a strategic reason for China to invade land. Tibet never attacked China, and never had as their goal the complete destruction of a Chinese homeland. Once people get into a bad habit it’s hard to break, and the Church has over the centuries developed quite the habit of anti-semitism. Germany was themost theologically advanced country for the last hundred years. It’s a bad habit indeed, that unfortunately can find some rational in people’s minds.

A woman I know even is dealing with a situation at her Evangelical Free Church congregation where another woman is actively promoting the idea that Jesus was an Arab. We can’t have a Jewish Savior, can we?

The real problem is that the mainline churches don’t matter. The National and World Council of Churches like to say they speak for tens of millions, if not more, Christians… but really they only speak for those few folks who show up to their various committee meetings. So they criticize the seemingly powerful because they are easy targets. Can’t criticize Muslim countries, because even if they are doing terrible things to their own people (and would treat the Palestinians as bad if not worse if they could) it is not politically acceptable any more to criticize Islam.

You see Christians in the past made the terrible mistake of being offended that peaceful Christian lands were overrun by Muslim armies, and made the real mistakes of responding with a similar evil.

They can’t criticize China primarily because… I don’t know why, though my guess is that they are of a different race, while Israelis are Asian in continent, but mostly European in look. Mainline Churches, you see, have mastered the art of self-loathing.

So this is something to look into, and analyze. There is no justice in Christ when the Church is selective and attacks those who are really doing the best of the bunch over all.

Now the caveats…
Mainline Churches have historically been more active in helping the poor and needy, seeing the Gospel in practical terms which the more conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical churches have not, and are only now beginning to catch up. They act in a way which their political and press statements sadly distort.

Secondly, the Torah comes into play:

Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

That all being said… the Bible makes it clear that the God I worship has chosen a specific people as his own. Nothing tells me this has changed. God has opened the doors wider, but he hasn’t evicted the earlier residents. When you make it a life’s mission to destroy Israel, it never ends well. That they have obligations to this call is clear as well. Something for all sides to consider.

Then again, I’m neither Jewish nor Palestinian, and am thus offering these words with the humility which comes from the fact I don’t know the reality of living in Israel. I’m responsible for my own actions… and I know to check for the log in my eye before mentioning someone’s splinter. Likely the mainline denominations should do the same… if they worried solely about their role and didn’t jump into judging complicated political situations, they’d likely have a better voice in this world.


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I was thinking about the present war, and past wars, and the sad state our present republic seems to be in.

The draft was responsible for every war until the first Gulf War, and for the most part, men went to do their duty, with their country behind them. Now, the idea of a draft is used much as the fear of an atomic war. A vague threat which seeks to destroy the hearts of young people. Do we not value causes greater than ourselves anymore? Would this generation fight the US Civil War, or the Revolution? That the Democrats wouldn’t is assured. Of course they didn’t want to fight the Civil War when it happened so that’s not a new idea.

But then I was thinking about World War I. The Great War supplanted by the Greater War. The US reluctantly entered the war, near the end, but certainly provided the final push.

What if we didn’t. Would it have been that bad? Honestly, I don’t know enough early 20th century European history to answer that with any authority. Though, we would have been left with a significantly stronger Germany controlling Europe, and a virtually nonexistant France. I’m not sure how Britain would have ended up, though my guess is they would have been beaten but not conquered.

Had we not entered WWI, there would not have been a World War II, for there would not have been a beaten and ravaged Germany to allow a man like Hitler to rise to power. Anti-Semitism would have existed in some form, but it wouldn’t have flared up as it did when an impoverished nation felt an evil need to blame a foreign native people. The Holocaust would not have occured, Israel likely would not exist as a nation.

Curiously, WWI is considered, at least from my hearing, a Just war. Considering the results of this victory, and the hundreds of millions of deaths that resulted from this victory, I’m not sure it was.

I note nothing with this beyond the fact that such a thought had never occured to me before.

Anyone who knows more or thinks different is welcome to educate me.

A great illustration.

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Franciscans and Orthodox fight at the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the spot where Jesus was buried.

The argument was over such profound theological points as whether a door should be closed during a procession. Ah, at the council of Nicea they argued meticulous points about Christ’s nature and divinity, whether he was homo- or hetero- (-ousios, that is)–the same or different essence of God the Father– with some wags adding a little iota in the middle and making Jesus into a similar substance before they signed. (In case you’re wondering homo- won out, leading eventually to the classic Nicene Creed – and another historical note, a little bit added towards the end of that creed is one of the primary reasons why Franciscans and Orthodox are of two different ‘churches’. You can guess which bit.)

And people actually will argue we are more intelligent in this era.

The fight wonderfully illustrates all that can go wrong with religious sentiment from the highest levels to the most personal, ever since the time of Jesus. The irony is quite rich.

This also is a key reason why I’d be wary of visiting any of the so-called shrines of Christendom. I’d still like to visit Israel, but more for the purpose of sitting on a hillside, staring at the waves on an inland sea, feeling the texture of plants and trees, filling my nostrils with the aroma of the soil, and taking in the essence of whatever wilderness could be found.

That’s of course the kind of places where Jesus looked for holy sites. Go where he went to find God. Then again… I don’t necessarily need to travel across the world to find those kinds of places. Thank God.

This story also reminds me of John Cassian who left the monastery at Bethlehem in the 5th century and didn’t want to go back, as they were considered very lax in their devotion and lacking in holiness.

Methinks somethings never change.

Elections in Iraq

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“What’s the purpose of the elections in Iraq? It is to try to get a government that the Iraqi people see as legitimate,” Albright said on ABC. “That’s the whole purpose of it.”

She said Allawi’s statement in Washington last week that 15 out of 18 Iraq provinces were ready for elections was “kind of like deciding that California, Texas and Florida won’t participate in our election.”

Yeah, kinda like the election of 1864. Methinks Lincoln was considered legitimate, even though the rebellious states did not choose him. They still had to follow the elected government afterwards, however.

There is a decided lack of historical consciousness in dealing with Iraq, which can’t seem to go past a thirty years. Or, more likely, history is not supportive of their cause, so they choose to ignore it all together.

Colin Powell, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” acknowledged that violence by insurgents is worsening and traced it to the upcoming elections.

“They do not want the Iraqi people to vote for their own leaders in a free, democratic election,” Powell said of the insurgency. “And because it’s getting worse, we will have to increase our efforts to defeat it, not walk away and pray and hope for something else to happen.”

Walking away in words or action can only make things worse. Iraq is getting worse, but this doesn’t mean that there no light at the end. Sometimes it gets much worse right before everything works out wonderfully. But, I suspect everyone knows that already.

education, techology, politics, and Iraq

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For a long time I was a Newsweek subscriber. They had fair coverage, interesting articles, and likely the best religion editor of any print medium (including Christianity Today). Then they hired a new editor, essentially fired the religion editor replacing him with half baked religious commentary by said editor, and generally turned towards the then trendy left. So, I let my subscription expire, not because they said things I disagreed with, but because they spun so much it seemed senseless to read anymore. I knew what they would say on any given topic, so why pay for the privilege?

Towards the end of this subscription death cycle they had a long article on the future of education. Half of the people interviewed were educators. The other half were employed in some sort of technology field. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, I believe, were involved in the discussion. Not surprisingly technology was mentioned a lot. The writers were lauding technological advances while promoting their own products as being appropriately groundbreaking. The future of education, in their minds, was going exactly the direction which would best help their pocketbook.

Reading through those articles, and knowing a fair number of teachers whose realities differed from the article writers, solidified something in my mind. Never trust the opinion of someone who is basing their future worth on that opinion. Computer makers should not be included on the future of educational philosophy, because of course they will make sure that their computers are included. Gates isn’t a trustworthy person because it is his job to make sure that right or wrong, helpful or not, schools get dependent on technology. Classes were flooded with such stuff, billions of dollars were spent, and little has changed. Kids still need to learn how to read and do math, and write.

This week John Kerry has been attacking the reality of what is going on in Iraq. Now, I’m sure it’s not pretty, but his whole future is based on a sad reality that Iraq will fail. His political future is based on the concept that soldiers will die for no result and civil war will erupt. So, the news is filled with all that is wrong and evil and quagmirey. That this still remains the most succesful war in world history does not detract from Kerry’s imposed reality.

His opinion goes no farther than his political ambitions. What the reality is can only be told by those who are there, and to be honest, if those who are there may tend towards hope rather than despair, that’s a good thing. One such person has written a bit about all this. Kerry will say he’s living in a fantasyland. Gates will say that computers will save souls. Steve Jobs will argue that having an internet connection is all a child needs to begin reading and writing and ‘rithmatic.

Their future depends not on the real reality, but on the reality which conforms to their own limited worlds.

The moral of all this… don’t trust anyone who has a financial or political stake in a certain outcome.

This is also true of many churches as well. Ambitious pastors or other leaders will shape the Good News so as to particularly enhance their own authority. The News becomes less good for the many as it becomes better for these vain souls.

Like I was saying…

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Iraq isn’t like Vietnam, it’s like Guadalcanal

Pursuit of Excellence

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1 Corinthians 9:24ff:

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Now if only those who pursue this path could get endorsement deals. Methinks that would make my life more socially acceptable.

I’m willing to listen to offers.