Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why do religion and hatred go together?

There is no shortage of religious haters in the world. I would be an unbeliever if the Bible didn't tell me to expect this. But run an eye through the prophets, and you'll notice who killed them. Run an eye over the gospels and you'll see who pursued Jesus to death. Notice who stoned the apostles and drove them out of town. You can't see things being just the way God tells you to expect and find that to be a reason not to believe in God. Be mad at God and argue with him about it, like Job or the writers of the Psalms, but you can't disbelieve somebody for telling you the truth and then it turns out that way.

Jew haters will answer that it's the Jews, but in that they're just showing how their hatred makes us stupid. The problem is religious people feeling competition from the truth, Jewish or not, as the past 1800 years have shown.  In fact, if you include the worship of Mammon as a religion - and how can we not? - I'd say that in the Bible all persecution is driven by religious "faith," without exception.  Go look.  Please find me any exceptions to the rule.

This is pretty sobering when I consider that I and others reading all this rather obvious stuff are the religious people in view. These warnings are directed to the reader.

Murderous religious people are generally pursuing redemption through who or what they hate, rather than humbling themselves in repentance, and generally by devoting themselves to some counterfeit salvation. We see this in others easily: Germans whirled away into their devotion to Hitler, or Communists in the 1930s in love with Stalin or, or later with Mao Zedong.

Only it doesn't do us much good to see this folly in other people.  Here the log-in-eye thing kicks in.  Christian Jew haters have blinded themselves by seeing this in Jews so as not to see it in themselves. American messianists, people who like Woodrow Wilson think that America is the savior of the world - he actually uttered this blasphemy in 1919! - worship their favorite empire in the same way, while being experts in seeing this problem in their favorite enemies. Rabbi Michael Lerner, in "Jewish Renewal," points out that American Jewish leaders quite consciously decided to form Jewish identity around the state of Israel, and that's the definition of idolatry, something besides the true God in which we find our identity. It doesn't look pretty when an idol fails you.

Zionism is idolatrous in its foundation anyway: Psalm 90 says that God is the dwelling place of the Jewish people from generation to generation, and Zionism says oh no, the needed dwelling place is a state of our own making. And God is not in the business of blessing an idol.

Actually, the best way to curse something or someone is to worship it, which is why Paul and his companions rushed into the crowd at Lystra and prevented them from offering sacrifice to them. Any reader of the Bible can see that the US and Israel are cursed because people worship them, thus making them into accursed things (Deuteronomy 7:25-26).  If that's not obvious in nations, see what happens to people you know when they're flattered in that way - husbands, for instance.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Religious futility

It's a mark of pagan religion, including most Christianity, to consider ethical conduct and religious devotion to be unrelated matters.  It's not easy for Christians to explicitly say that in the face of the Bible that they claim to believe, but that is obviously what they really believe - their Bibles be damned.  I deal with such, for instance, on school boards all the time.  Such religion is certainly worse than nothing.

I think it's unjust to call this simple hypocrisy, although it is hypocrisy of the utterly sincere kind we see in the Pharisees.  These hypocrites are not con-men.  They are zealously convinced of their religion.  It is what C. S. Lewis called the innocence of evil.  They believe, these Christians, what their gods teach them.  And all such religion in the world, the gods actually worshiped, simply do not see anything wrong with being zealous for God and given to any sort of depravity, because that religious devotion makes up for all that corruption. 

Well, yes, I have been doing little boys in the Sandusky manner, but celebrating Mass and hearing confessions is service to God that makes up for that.  Yes, the kids in our mission school are being beaten and raped, but we're proclaiming the gospel, so it's OK and indeed service to God to cover that up, because if we didn't - if we did the truth - the kingdom of God would be harmed because people wouldn't be believing our story about Jesus.  No marvel that these Christoids bring the same mentality everywhere they go in the world in whatever they do, whether serving on the school board or higher political office, or in businesses like Amway, or whatever. 

The faith that Jesus teaches has nothing in common with any of this.  It is all about the truth and nothing else.  In John 3, he said that the condemnation is this: that light comes into the world and men hate the light because their deeds are evil, something that he held to be the case when he was not yet on the scene personally. For Jesus it was not whether you professed to believe in him.  In John 8, some of them believed in him, and then he said a few things to these believers in him, identifying them as sons of the devil, and they picked up stones to kill him. 

When people came under condemnation for not believing him it was because, and only because, the truth before their face demanded that they believe in Jesus, and they could not, given what was before them, refuse to believe without denying the truth.  Unfortunately, that's not what happens much these days.  The reason people these days don't believe in Jesus is that the Jesus being presented to them is a lie.  They're not disbelieving because they're rejecting the truth.  They're disbelieving because they're rejecting religious garbage.  In spite of appearances, Jesus and his gospel are not actually even coming into it.

The only God that any Christian has any business presenting is the God who is worshiped by receiving and doing the truth, and who is denied by walking in the lie, however zealous for God we may be.  That doesn't happen much.  I can't speak of other times in which I haven't lived, but I find this a very tough time to live, and most religious assemblies worse than useless.  Paul wrote even in Corinth 1900 years ago that they were coming together not for the better but for the worse, and that sure hasn't stopped being true since he wrote it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hating the stranger, and proud of it

Last week a mob came to Murrieta to scream and spit at kids that had fled here, unaccompanied, to get away from the conditions where they lived.  It has to be pretty bad where you are, if your parents send you off on a 3000 mile journey by yourself - and not on Air France either.  These are desperate people.

As far as I am concerned, there is less excuse for these people than for the similar mobs that screamed and spat at little black kids going to school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, or New Orleans in 1960.  Some of them - as in those days - call themselves Christians, just the kind that has no interest in what Jesus had to say about strangers or children.

About the same time, Israel is again trashing Gaza, supposedly because people there have been shooting rockets into Israel.  These rockets began to fly, most immediately, because Israel was already obviously looking for a pretext to attack Gaza anyway, because they had just spent three weeks on a pogrom in the West Bank, supposedly to find three kidnapped boys which the government knew all along were already dead, and they were blaming the Hamas organization in Gaza which they knew perfectly well had nothing to do with it.  As a direct result, Hamas in Gaza hunkered down and could no longer send out teams to stop others from launching rockets, and so rockets got launched.

Israel now routinely acts like the Germans in 1938, and you can imagine how much worse they would be if they were not still somewhat afraid of European opinion.  Kristallnacht, as some of you may remember, was the German government's response to the assassination of a German consular official - opposed to the Nazis himself, as it happens - by a 17-year-old Jewish kid who was outraged by how the Jews were already being treated in Germany.  So the present Israeli conduct looks familiar to those of us with memories.

And the Israeli state has the audacity to call itself Jewish, the kind of Jews that have no interest in what Moses and the prophets had to say about how to treat strangers.

It's no marvel that this kind of "Christian" and this kind of "Jew," both obscenities in Christian or Jewish terms, find each other so attractive.

Here Matthew 24 comes in, which describes how things will be just before Jesus returns.  The reason it has been of great worth to us the past 2000 years before his return is that it describes not just that time, which could still be a long way off, but any time in which a civilization is collapsing.  It was instructive in Jerusalem in AD 70, and as Rome collapsed, and now as modern industrial civilization heads for history's dumper.

To my mind, the most critical point is this: "Because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved."  It's obvious in that context that enduring to the end is not about shouting that Jesus is Lord - there's never any lack of that and never will be - but for our love not to grow cold in the face of increasing lawlessness.  Christians will have to find that that particular endurance needs for us to know Jesus and have him around.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day, again

One of the strange things for me is how many people think that the highest glory of this country, and those that serve it best, are the ones that kill people and break things.  I was reminded of this by a bunch of Unitarians singing the Star Spangled Banner tonight while watching the Disneyland fireworks display.  Yes, I well remember the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air - in Baghdad on March 19, 2003.  The Germans at least have learned to be ashamed of such conduct.

What I find especially strange about this is two things - first, am I the only one that realizes that breaking things is actually a whole lot less work, requiring far less ability, than building them?  I'm reminded of that every time I knock a bottle or a cup off the counter and then get to clean it up.

And isn't killing people, especially when you have fancy toys with which to do it, a lot easier, requiring far less ability, than healing people or building them up; and second, what is accomplished by such deeds?  Is vandalism and mayhem really the height of any nation's glory?

Why do they not instead glory in the effective teachers, or the speech and language pathologists, or bridge inspectors, or helpful and courteous clerks at the DMV, or any others that actually do something for the people of this country.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Language barrier

Interesting IEP meeting recently.  We had some slap and tickle about a year ago, and I was able to work out an interim agreement with the district's lawyer that had the kid on home instruction, which made everyone happy.  It was looking like the district might try to get her back into the school building, which would have been disastrous, and it was not going to happen.

Presently we got into a conversation about the least restrictive environment (LRE) for the kid, how it was in a class at the school, and things began to get pretty tense.  I then realized they were just reciting the litany, so I said to the spedhead, "Look, I understand that all this is about documenting that you're not putting her into an overly restrictive environment so that mom can come after you for denying FAPE, when you place her at home where she belongs.  Nothing wrong with that.  You have to do it.  If you didn't, you wouldn't be doing your job."

Big smile, everybody relaxed, and everything was fine.  The whole problem was that no way was mom able to understand what they meant, behind what they were pretending to mean - since they didn't feel safe to say straight what they really meant, until we told them that it was fine to be doing so.  What do you do when nobody means harm, but it's not possible to say what you want to say unencrypted? 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our own way, or what's good for us?

We had an interesting IEP meeting last week.  The District people had met the day before to decide what was going to happen.  Although such predetermination is illegal, since it cuts the parents out of the decision-making process, it happens all the time, and it's usually hard to prove.

Not this time.  Apart from other evidence, the district had intervened to keep the parent from looking at a possible placement specifically until the meeting was held, precisely because we were about to meet, so the purpose was undeniably to keep the parents in the dark about what was available.  That is certainly denying parent participation, and the courts are extremely clear that that by itself constitutes denial of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).

So we explained that we understand that the district has some things they gotta have, and we have to figure out how to get them that, but what they had in mind was not going to happen.  And that became very clear to all, and so then we were able to move on to our real business, which was figuring out a few things about the kid that their testing had shown needed looked at, and so we're going to do that.

As I went away from there, it was clear that the district's pursuit of what they wanted had served to waste their time and effort, denying them what they actually need - for things to work for the kid so that their efforts actually work and the parents can be pleased.

By keeping them from getting what they want, we've given them a chance to get what they need.

This principle applies to more than special education directors.  In fact, it's a basic law of the universe: you get what you need by not getting what you want, and if you insist on what you want, you lose what you need.  An instance in the Bible is the younger son in the parable, and there are many other examples, but the world takes note of this in its own way: "Be careful what you wish for."

1 Corinthians 13 says that love does not insist on its own way.  As I drove away from there I realized that this is not because love is nice and not mean.  It's because love is wise and not dumb. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book review: 58 to 0, How Christ Leads through the One Anothers - Jon Zens and Graham Wood

You don't often see Christians addressing the great apostasy that took place after the apostles, the change from the freedom and the rule of the truth in those days to the rule of men and domination by a special priestly caste which has been the way it's done ever since.  And let's not say this is an especially Roman Catholic problem; rule by "Protestant" mini-popes is often even worse.  Exactly this issue is addressed here, by a number of contributors.  This book really gets to the roots of things.

The point of the title 58 to 0 is that there are about 58 directions in the New Testament regarding what to do to one another - love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another daily, and so forth - and those are how Jesus said his people must be governed. 

It begins with how Jesus contrasted authority in the world - concerning which Jesus told his apostles, "It shall not be so among you" - with how it is supposed to work among us, and just about never does. 

There is quite a bit in the New Testament to warn us that this apostasy from apostolic teaching was coming. 

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that after Paul's departure grievous wolves would come in, not sparing the flock, and that from among themselves would arise people that would speak perverse things, leading the disciples astray after themselves.  And that perversity arising from among the elders appears to be a response to the attack of the grievous wolves from outside.  This is an altogether worldly response: the same is seen in the destruction of American liberty by American rulers such as George Bush, Richard Cheney, and Barack Obama with the excuse being threats from outside.  When this happens in the churches, as Paul warned it would, we see what being conformed to this present world looks like.

The letters to the seven churches in the Revelation are among the latest of the New Testament writings.  They warn several times against the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hates.  The word Nicolaitan means ruler or conqueror of the people, which is about all we have that's reliable on who these people were.  What Jesus hates is abundantly clear in Luke 22:24-27, Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 20:25-28, Matthew 23:8-12, and Matthew 24:45-51 - and certainly Ezekiel 34, which Jesus certainly had in mind.

This book doesn't fully handle every detail, but that's not to be expected.  It's a great start on a very big issue, and it feels good to find that I'm not alone in having seen this problem.  In a way, we're making progress.  Back when, church rulers could reliably kill you by the hands of the state if they didn't like what you had to say.  Now mega-church pastors can bully people in their congregations and even push the local school board around by threatening to vote their congregations against them, but they can't kill you.  Maybe we're coming to the point where nobody will listen to us unless we have the truth and people see it because God is clearly backing it up, and for no other reason.