Monday, December 24, 2007


Happy Festivus Everyone!

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Friday, December 07, 2007


I am bothered by this a little bit. I am not so much bothered by the idea that someone in a political office holds a religious view, and not even that they would speak about it publicly...but when an address to a crowd is done so via the avenue of the pretence that such a conversation actually transpires, or is actually valid, is just unsettling to me. The notion that anyone, which I do not accuse Gov. Huckabee of doing outright, would make decisions in office under the premise that they believed that it was a god of some type moving them to do something is just bothersome. Thankfully he did note that god was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

But lest I be accused of harping on the G.O.P. [God's Own Posse] I would have a similar critique of Senator John Edwards' application of the teachings of Christ. Much of his social policy is based on the national application of Matthew 25 when Jesus speaks of how our attitude toward him is reflected in how we treat "the least of the brethren." Is it fair to take individual admonitions and try to apply them at the national level via political mandate?

I am a fairly conservative guy, politically....but I just don't think that God and politics mix well. It's hard enough to get local churches to come together in agreement of how the world turns; how much harder to let the blind lead the blinder....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Render Unto Caesar

In recent news Senator Charles Grassley (R. Iowa) has launched an inquiry to many of the major televangelists across the US. Apparently there has been enough suspicion in his mind that has arisen to the possibility of the misuse of donor funds that he now is attempting to work with the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the issue. Some of those that are being investigated are Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Paula White and a few others.

Currently many of these folks and their churches are sheltered by tax laws under their organizations 501 C(3) status as "non-profit" organizations. I'm sure that the term "non-profit" is really anything but in their case. Many of these clowns live in multi-million dollar homes and wear $2000 suits. They have also used ministry money to purchase air planes and other luxury travel expenditures, some to the tune of hotel rooms costing $10K per night.

Apparently the Senate Finance Committee will step in if they are unable to find reasonable evidence from the IRS or these organizations that everything seems to be on the up and up. The only problem with satisfying the IRS is that there is no requirement for these guys to submit any detailed records because of their charitable organization status.

Ultimately from an income standpoint, these folks are cheating the system in the highest ways possible. They are using money that their donors have given them on a tax free basis to live tax free lifestyles of luxury. We need major tax reform.

There is a lot of money tied up in the various religious non-profit organizations that seems pretty unfair to the rest of the tax paying world. Although the issue of taxing these organizations on the basis of income can be a sticky issue, the truth is that an income tax is not the answer. The income tax, as a whole, is really technically an illegal tax. There is absolutely no mention of a tax on income anywhere in the Constitution or anywhere in our law books; so we have to rule out working with something that illusive.

My proposal would be to institute the same tax then that the rest of us have to pay; property tax. There are many churches in America today that have very elaborate buildings. They are really nice to look at form the outside, but the fact is that most of the time they are not being used for charitable purposes. The facilities themselves are not typically open for the use of the public, but rather only on a limited schedule for limited members of its congregation. Not necessarily a bad idea, but the bottom line is that there is a hell of a lot of money wrapped up in those places. I can think of several churches even here in the state of Iowa whose property values, according to their county Tax Assessors, well exceed the million dollar mark. So that means that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not several millions, that are not being claimed by facilities that still hold the same right as the rest of us to call upon the local services of fire and rescue, police, etc...

Ultimately there will be no fair and just way of pinning tax fraud on many of these jokers...that will just be a very difficult task in light of the fine and delicate line of not allowing the state to dictate what the reasonable expenses of these churches should be...but they should at least be able to start taxing the entities themselves fairly like the rest of us and have them start rendering unto Caesar their fair share.

Good work Senator Grassley. I applaud your efforts here. And I'm glad for your credibility on the issue. You can't be accused of doing this under the guise of anti-religious harassment since you consider yourself also a Christian who is just calling for accountability.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Passage of Time

I had originally set out to sit down here and pound out a well thought out piece about one of many different topics that I have thought about over the last several weeks; but quite honestly I am now just waking up and my thoughts are not all together clear right now. Plus, so many blogs just kind of die after a certain amount of time because of either time constraints or lack of zeal. My issue would have to be that of time constraints because, after all, the notion of a zealous Deist seems kind of silly to me.

Anyways, this is where I am now; and these are some of the random thoughts that go through my head about God, religion, Christianity, philosophy, etc.-

If the core beliefs or even the perceptions/understanding of the core beliefs of a religion change over time, I believe that it is then very nearly impossible to recover back to the original intent of the religion as it now bears the mark of and added presupposition. For example; a house once has white walls. The white walls serve as a reference point for decoration. The standard is represented in as perfect of form as possible, so anything that is purchased that is white is ultimately compared back to the walls. Then over time the house is sold and someone else who moves in takes care of the over all quality of the is not a mess, but they have smoked there in the house for so many years without proper ventillation that the walls have then changed to a dingy cream colour. Soon, I imagine, they then actually believe that the walls are cream and then they will decorate the rest of the house accordingly.

The concrete reality in this parable is that for the most part, paint today can be purchased in "pure" white, so there is a standard that can be returned to the house after a coat of primer and a few coats of the real white to return it back to its former state...but this is an issue of colour.

The abstract reality has a few characteristics that make this a more complicated issue-
a) paint can now be purchased in many different shades of "white." Just looking around here in my house, I purchased a semi-gloss "white" paint for the trim around my windows. The bucket just said "White." I then also purchased new "white" vinyl blinds to go up in the window; the package just said "White." But when I look at both of them side by side the blinds appear to be a very very light shade of grey.
b) there is now an apparent option to be able to choose the kind of white that one wants. For example, we painted my daughter's bedroom "Cotton White" several years ago. Some friends of ours painted their living room/dining room and kitchen a "kitten white."
c) since the ability to discern what exactly "pure white" is has been tainted by various things such as colour blindness, human standards, or even is not quite as easy to just decide that one is going to "return" to pure white.

I would venture to say that no religion today is capable of being presented in its pure and original form. Too many variances have crept in and "mutated" the base DNA of their beginnings. When I say no religion that is pretty much what I mean- Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism...none of these exist now in their original form and they will never be recovered to that state. Many would argue today that the "core beliefs" that I mention above has not changed for any of these, but rather it has just been the outworkings or the expressions of these core beliefs; but I do not agree with that. I hold that the only reason that I can see for the change of expression is that something has changed at the core.

Assuming that all of the stories about the religious leaders are true, how did they manage themselves as they went through life?

  • Abraham's claim was that God had visited him and told him that he was going to be the father of many nations. At least his story is honest enough to record his doubt and trials and tribulations over the deal.
  • Jesus is supposedly God as a man and yet he is born to a woman. The story never touches on whether or not there was a development within him as to this revelation. The story never mentions whether or not he always "knew" that he was God, or whether he just slowly "realized" it as he got older. And how does one go about just "realizing" gradually that hey, I am God...?
  • Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, knew fully that he was drastically changing the face of Hinduism when he introduced his new path to enlightenment that dumped a bunch of baggage off the old. He never claimed to be a god, but he sure changed a very large portion of what the world believed.

To what level did any of these guys ask themselves the questions about what if they were wrong? Or were they just that confident that it didn't really matter if they were ultimately right or whether it was good enough to just be convinced in their minds.

The last topic that I will touch on is the ultimate inability of governments to keep religion out of lawmaking.

In the Middle-East the whole government is controlled by those with religious authority. How they interpret their religion ultimately controls their legislation.

In Europe they have more of a humanistic or atheistic belief system that tries to push religious issues out of the question.

Here in America we have the "moral majority" who at least claim to be religious and base all of their decision making on a Judeo-Christian ethic. They then believe that since they are a majority that it then means that they are entitled to be able to have the monopoly, or at least majority control, over the political process; and according to our constitution they are both right and wrong...but then there is the other group that is comprise of who I will call the "unholy minority" who seek to keep God and religion out of the public square so that church and state can truly be separated. Although there are far fewer of them than the majority they seem to really be able to control things. So we are either pushing for or against God with our law making.

As a side note- I know that the Constitution makes it very clear that a presidential candidate is not to be chosen or denied because of the basis of their religious faith or lack thereof...but quite honestly....would you normally seek advice from someone who believed that there was such thing as a special kind of "magic" underwear that will keep you safe from danger? Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and some Mormons really believe that. If they guy has that kind of religious logic, how is that going to affect the way he governs?

George Bush and many of the others in his cabinet and congress truly believe that Israel is God's chosen people. When it comes to foreign policy don't you think that might have something to do with decision making? And the Constitution gravely warns against us getting entangled in the affairs of other countries and fighting on their behalf...and yet so much of our foreign policy is centered around making sure that we keep Israel safe....and all of that stems from a form of theology that is a deviation from the message that Jesus taught.

I don't have time to go into the details of all of this now. I am now awake and need to get on with the day. I'll try to check back in later.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Left Behind

Monday, July 16, 2007

Evan Almighty

If you haven't seen this movie yet then you haven't seen it.

My wife and I went to this as part of a date that we went on Friday night. Overall I would say that it is a decent movie that would be safe to take the family to.

I had heard good reviews about it, but I am surprised that from the Conservative Christian side I didn't hear more negative about it.

Here's the plot in a nutshell-

A guy gets elected to become a Congressman. So he and his family move to a new gated community to get settled as he heads to his new job in Washington. As the story unfolds he begins to get this feeling that God is sending him a message telling him that he needs to build an ark. This is later confirmed when God visits him.

So as time goes by God begins to work on his reluctance and skepticism and causes him to grow a beard and long hair. Tons of lumber is then dropped off at his house and pairs of each animal gradually start showing up at his house. He eventually gives into his calling, quits going to work, and builds the ark. Meanwhile, everyone starts laughing at him and mocking him in disbelief that a flood is going to be coming.

The flood does come at the last minute, but it ends up being because of investors cutting corners in their building strategies that leads to the breaking of a dam. The ark then proves not to be necessary to only save all of the animals but whoever will jump on it to be saved from the flood that wiped their houses out.

Overall, I thought that it was just an odd story. In my opinion it was too much of a mish-mash of biblical legend and modern environmental activism.

What I don't understand from the story was why a pair of every known animal came to Noah's house, especially those animals that clearly didn't even live in that region when this flood was clearly local; probably even more local than the flood recorded in the Bible.

The 2nd thing is the question of why the main character had to have long hair and a long beard. Was it entirely necessary? His kids didn't get long hair when they were helping him build.

I've got many other questions about why the writers made this movie like the way they did but I can't even think of them all right now. I just found myself at several points wondering how the true connection could be made or what the exact message of the movie was supposed to be. Well, I know what the message was supposed to be, but I wondered what many parts of the movie had to do with the message.

What the movie did have going for it. The effects were alright. The acting was alright. Lauren Graham. John Goodman. Steve Carell.

The story touched on overcoming adversity, doing good to your neighbor, standing up for your convictions...

I give the movie a thumbsideways. I probably wouldn't care to see the movie again, but at least when I watched it the first time it was with my wife and she liked it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Rapture & Organ Donation

I was listening to a Christian talk radio show the other day on the way into work. The topic was how Christians could help the world [or at least those near them] medically by donating their organs after they die, or some organs that you can live without.

Now, they weren't really talking about the Rapture or anything like that, but the topic of organ donation struck me as kind of funny, given that I know what their theological beliefs are about this alleged event.

I am all for organ donation. I've got it marked "Y" right there on my drivers license. If I were to die some time and my parts were still good, then I would want them to be put to good use by someone who needs them.

On the other hand, I know a man who believes in the current modern view of the coming Rapture of the church and he will not donate his organs because he is afraid that when his body gets raptured it might end up killing whoever has his parts. Because according to that view, at a moment in time God physically calls up those who have followed him. If they are dead and rotted away, then their bodies will magically come back together as a whole. So he envisions those who have had eye/arm/heart/kidney/etc. transplants from parts that came from Christians as one day to be taken from them if their believing Christian gets raptured.

I think that it's a silly notion, but the radio conversation just reminded me of his view.

Ave Maria

I was listening to Catholic radio the other night on my drive home from work and I am just astonished by the amount of evolution that the Catholic church has undergone in its theological framework or the last 1500 years.

There were a few callers who were asking about taking pilgrimages to various locations where alleged apparitions of Mary were taking place. I kid you not. There have been and are still many sites around the world where members of the Catholic church have allegedly received visitations by the Virgin Mary. In many of these places people have visions, dreams, stigmatas, and receive healing.

According to Wikipedia:

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last living Apostle. A Marian apparition, if deemed genuine by Church authority, is treated as private revelation that may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but it can never add anything new to the deposit of faith. At most, the Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith.[1] The Holy See has officially confirmed the apparitions at Guadalupe, La Salette, Laus (France), during more than 50 years, Paris (Rue du Bac, Miraculous Medal), Lourdes, Fatima, Pontmain, Beauraing, Banneux, and Knock (Ireland). [2]

Not all claims of visitations are dealt with favourably by the Roman Catholic Church. For example, claimed apparitions of Our Lady, Jesus Christ and various saints at Bayside, New York have not been condoned or sanctioned in any way, nor those at the Necedah Shrine in Necedah, Wisconsin. The behavior of Ms Veronica Lueken and Mary Ann Van Hoof, who claimed these heavenly favors, was deemed not to compare favorably with the "quiet pragmatism" of St. Bernadette Soubirous — Church authorities are said to use Bernadette as a model by which to judge all who purport to have visitations. Indeed, both women seriously criticized the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, allegedly even harshly, and Mrs. Van Hoof is said to have subsequently left Roman Catholicism for an independent local Old Catholic Church.

Possibly the best-known apparition sites are Lourdes and Fatima.[citation needed] Over sixty spontaneous healings, out of thousands reported at the Lourdes Spring, have been classified as "inexplicable" by the physicians of the Lourdes Bureau, a medical centre set up by the Church in association with local medical institutes to assess possible miracles. The so-called Three Secrets of Fatima received a great deal of attention in the Catholic and secular press.

It is all very interesting. I would be very curious to see psychological case studies of all who have had these experiences to see what the differences/commonalities are between them. Perhaps it is wishful thinking? Perhaps it is delusion? Maybe there's something in the holy water?