Thinking Out Loud

September 19, 2022

When Celebrity Comes to Church

Review: Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church by Katelyn Beaty (Brazos Press, 2022)

Katelyn Beaty is one of a number of writers who has been part of the Christianity Today (CT) orbit, as I was briefly, and generally speaking, I find that people who come out of that environment have a healthy and balanced perspective on issues facing the church, and are often granted access to information which provides for additional insights.

Celebrities for Jesus is very much (almost) equal parts

  • history lesson
  • analysis
  • memoir

As a (recent) history lesson, because of my involvement over the years with this blog and its attendant attention to Christian news stories, there was a sense in which Katelyn and I had much of the same information. As soon as she stated something, my brain would signal ‘Yes, but you really need to mention ___________,’ only to find her doing so in the very next sentence.

My wife reminded me that not everyone has the same knowledge. While it’s true that some of the stories she covers in this book were part of Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes Du Mez and A Church Called TOV by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer (which we reviewed here and here respectively) there was coverage of situations and people that were beyond the scope of both books, and at least one name that caught me off guard given the context.

Generally speaking, the context was American, which left me wondering as to the preponderance of superstar pastors in other places. (We do hear occasional stories from South America and Africa; but these were not mentioned.) Is the case of Christian celebrity somewhat unique to the United States?

This brings us to the next part, analysis. This is where I felt the book shines the brightest, especially when the author compared the present state of Christianity to its Biblical ideals.

We do fall short in various ways. Our willingness to confer celebrity shows a flaw in our character, long before the man or woman in question has a misstep. Our stories are looking for heroes.

In each chapter, I never questioned Beaty’s qualifications to offer us some of her perspective. My only wish is that she had explored some of these things further and deeper, which would have resulted in a welcomed longer book.

Finally, there was memoir. On page 158, speaking about the high rates of deconstruction and “faith detox” among her peers, “I sometimes wonder why I am still a Christian.”

That could be said about so many that work or have worked at CT or similar environments such as Religion News Service or Relevant, and get to see the spectacular crashes of individuals and ministry organizations close-up.

And yet, she celebrates that something “about that early faith… that could blossom into an orientation that could withstand doubt, the loss of dreams and cultural pressures.” Absent the more progressive identification of an author such as the late Rachel Held Evans, she still shares that honest vulnerability as she’s wrestled with all she has seen and heard.

Celebrities for Jesus covers its topic well. I even wonder if this needs to be required reading for those younger leaders whose desire to do something great might materialize more about building their kingdom instead of God’s kingdom?

It might have helped a few people not trip up.


Celebrities for Jesus is published by Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for which its author is also employed. A review copy was made available through publisher representative Graf-Martin Communications who provide publicity, marketing and brand development for clients from their base in Elmira, Ontario, Canada.

February 28, 2022

You Say You Want a Revolution

Review: The Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn (Baker Books, 2018)

You know you’re getting older when the people, places and events which were part of your spiritual formation become the object of historical retrospectives. Having watched The Jesus Music movie before Christmas, and then recently completed Jesus and John Wayne, it seemed fitting that the next book in my stack was The Jesus Revolution which actually isn’t a new book, but was released four years ago before inspiring a curriculum study exactly one year ago. I guess it completed a trilogy of reminiscence.

I spent a few blocks of time in southern California between 1979 and 1988 and was privileged to have access to some of the major creators of what, by that time, was becoming less known as Jesus Music and more known as Contemporary Christian Music or CCM. (I was once interviewed for the job of Assistant Editor for the magazine of the same name. When you’re from Canada in the early 1980s, you should never agree to a lunch interview in a Mexican restaurant.)

This book is really three things. First it’s the story of what was going on the world, especially the United States, in the 1960s and ’70s. There is much detail provided, and at times I wondered how much was truly necessary to the two other elements of the book named below, but for those who didn’t live it, it does provide a broad picture of the cultural and political climate that shaped teens and twenty-somethings growing up in those years.

Second, and more importantly, it’s the story of The Jesus People, albeit the American, Southern California version as similar cultural forces were transpiring in the UK as well as other parts of the U.S. Orange County, California was indeed the epicenter; ground zero of a movement that the author places in a line of revivals in American church history going back to the 1800s,

Finally, it is the story of Greg Laurie, the evangelist and founder of Harvest Church in Riverside, California, which begat the Harvest Crusades. With two authors carrying this story, I wondered if it would work, but the two voices speaking this story seem to weave in and out seamlessly. If the book’s subtitle implies that God used “an unlikely generation,” then certainly he used “an unlikely candidate” to reach a literally untold number of people with a straight forward evangelistic challenge.

The story is set in the past, but with the perspective of today’s developments and hindsight. The current spiritual and cultural climate break in to the story at odd times to wake the reader to the impact today of what happened then. To that end, the book is somewhat didactic when appropriate such as in this instance toward the end of the book,

God grants revival. He grants it to those who are humble enough to know they need it, those who have a certain desperate hunger for Him. Only out of self-despair — a helpless understanding of the reality of sin and one’s absolute inability to cure it — does anyone ever turn wholeheartedly to God. That desperation is sometimes hard to come by in American, because it is the opposite of self-sufficiency. In the U.S., many of live under the illusion that our needs are already met, that maybe God is an add-on to our already comfortable existence… People don’t seek God when they are comfortable. (pp 232-3)

I love that analysis and the observation that those long-haired hippies were desperate for God. This is key to the book’s short epilogue, which questions as to whether we will see a youth movement like the Jesus Revolution again.

One can surely hope.


Harvest Church continues to this day and is in no way related to Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.

 

February 16, 2022

America: Christianity’s Wild, Wild West

Review of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes DuMez (Liveright Publishing, 2020)

This is a very American story. As I type this, I’m reminded that over three-quarters of my Thinking Out Loud readers are in the U.S., and almost from the beginning, I’ve written to an American audience using American spellings and vocabulary. But I also write this sitting one country removed, north of the 49th, where Evangelicalism wears a different face.

Nonetheless, to say “Evangelical” is similar to saying “Hollywood.” Both are two significant U.S. exports.  While Americans didn’t invent The Great Commission, they certainly defined it in unique terms.

While visiting Nuremberg in Germany a few years back, my wife and I had an impromptu meeting with some Evangelical leaders there who, while they used the adjective themselves, mostly rolled their eyes as U.S.-style evangelists and ministries were rolling over Europe staking their identity on social issues, rather than theological constructs.

I would argue that after reading Jesus and John Wayne, it’s necessary to pick up a copy of something like Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century by Brian Stiller, Todd M. Johnson, et al to remember that the shape and form of those who take the name Evangelical in other parts of the world is quite different, and far less politically-affiliated than what the term has come to mean in the 50 states.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation is the work of a historian. Kristin Kobes DuMez teaches History and Gender Studies at Calvin University and since the book’s release both it and she have gained significant attention. If you wanted to catch up on the last 20 years of American Christian blogs, tweets, podcasts and magazine articles, this is the place to do so, with some previous decades thrown in for good measure. It’s a “who’s who” and “what’s what” of the major writers, influential pastors, and high profile organizations, and high profile politicians who have shaped U.S. Christianity or been shaped by it.

This is not a theological book.

While DeMez knows the value of a well-placed adjective, time and space do not allow for much beyond the rapid unraveling of the basic timeline, and while I haven’t counted, the stage version would involve a cast of hundreds and hundreds, often with a great many occupying the stage at the same time. So it is also that time and space do not allow for her to inject commentary or opinion or theological reflection on the events in Christian America. This treatment might be seen by some as rather sterile, but a glimmer of the writer’s personal perspective does get through in the way the material, much of which is direct quotations, is arranged and presented.

Christianity in America, so it seems, is unable to operate without either intentional or unintentional political ramifications. Yes, the body of frequently-attending Evangelical churchgoers influences the course of elections, but it would appear that just as often, the U.S. church is influenced by the political process itself which hangs over the U.S. church like a low-hanging thundercloud touching the church steeple. American Christians — Evangelical ones at least — have lost the plot on having an apolitical Christianity. (It might have been worth mentioning that Jesus never once directly addressed the Roman occupation, though ‘if someone asks you to go one mile…’ and the coin illustration certainly hinted at it.)

I am often reminded of 2 Timothy 2:4 “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” If Christ is our commander, our desire ought to be to build his Kingdom, right? But I’m also aware of vivid personal memories of Pat Robertson encouraging television viewers on the importance of having Christians “in the public square” and being willing to engage in that context. For Americans, a House of Representatives or Senate Chambers (or Supreme Court or even White House) devoid of a Christian presence is seemingly unimaginable, but if the expression of Christianity is light years removed from the everyday application of the teachings of Jesus, is it worth calling it a Christian presence at all?

So where does John Wayne fit in to all this? Surprisingly, he’s more than just a motif, but turns up all through the book as an example of the rugged masculinity of the wild, wild west, from California actor-turned-President Ronald Regan, even to the point of President Trump standing next to a wax figure of the celebrated actor. (The book is peppered with relevant news file photos.) Given the choice between someone who shares Evangelicalism’s values and someone who is simply a strong leader, American churchgoers seem to prefer leadership qualities over faith pedigree. If anything, that was my top takeaway from reading the book in full.

Those things, in a nutshell, are my two primary takeaways from reading Jesus and John Wayne. American Evangelicals have conflated Christianity with various types of hyper-masculine imagery and role models; and that sadly, given the choice, American Evangelicals have often chosen power over principles.

Professor DuMez, much like the anchors on the network newscasts, does not inject much in the way of commentary or personal opinion. Toward the end, she does allow one bias to emerge, a longing for a significant course correction. It seems overly idealistic however, and perhaps she and the rest of us may have to wait for a day when churches in other parts of the world take the lead roles in Evangelicalism.


Thanks to Martin Smith at Parasource Distribution in Canada for an opportunity to finally get my hands on a copy of J&JW. Much appreciated.

 

 

 

June 15, 2020

Racism in America: How the U.S. Ended Up Where it Is

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:01 am

Systemic racism is not exclusive to the U.S. A few days ago I mentioned a guest speaker at Hillsong Church in Sydney who said that 432 people have died in Australia while in police custody. They face the same issues we do in terms of how they treat non-white and indigenous people.

Phil Vischer has a serious side. I wish it came out more often, the Holy Post Podcast tends to be rather laid-back affair, with Skye Jethani left to carry the bulk of the more pointed commentary. But on this video, he collaborated with his brother Rob (who is trained as a lawyer) to produce this 18-minute explanation of how the U.S. got to be in the state it currently finds itself.

I want to be part of helping see this get more views.

While we’re on the subject, I want to embed another 3-minute video here. Diane Strickland included this clip in her sermon on Sunday at The Meeting House. It was recorded before the current crisis.

And since things come in threes (whatever that means), I want to include the 6-minute video from The Bible Project which was posted at Christianity 201 yesterday.


The Bible Project video was also featured on yesterday’s devotional on racism at Christianity  201, our sister blog. To read, click this link.

April 20, 2018

The Year Summer Never Came

I’ve run this picture 3 times now. On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

As I’m writing this, it looks like temperatures are going to break out of the single digits (°C) here this weekend, though nothing spectacular is promised. The sun is shining for the first morning in six, so there’s reason to hope.

But what if never summer never came? What if you didn’t know why? In 1816 there wasn’t the communications we have today and certainly not weather forecasting. The first video below is short, to whet your appetite for this story. The second one is 16 minutes, talks about the role of the church in the face of meteorological disaster, and even notes a small connection between the winter of 1816 and the birth of Mormonism.

I’m sure the people of that day felt they were witnessing the end times. Later, they would learn the scientific reason that winter truly never came that year.

 

January 16, 2018

Martin Luther King: The Next Day

I’m finding myself left with the impression that the day in celebration of the life and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., rather than diminishing with the passing of years, is only growing stronger. Furthermore, there seems to be an embrace of the day by many outside the African-American community. If you missed my reference on Twitter, be sure to check out the excellent message given by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek on Sunday about the life of Dr. King.

Below is about half of a devotional I received yesterday in email. It was the day’s selection from a devotional service I subscribe to, Devotions Daily from Faith Gateway. The quotes were compiled by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sourced at a 2014 Zondervan book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper.

What Would MLK Tweet? 22 Inspiring Quotes & Prayers from MLK

  • I’m just a symbol of a movement. I stand there because others helped me to stand there, forces of history projected me there.
  • Heavenly Father, thank You for life, health, rewarding vocations, and peaceful living in this turbulent society.
  • God, teach us to use the gift of reason as a blessing, not a curse.
  • God, bring us visions that lift us from carnality and sin into the light of God’s glory.
  • Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.
  • God, deliver us from the sins of idleness and indifference.
  • Lord, teach me to unselfishly serve humanity.
  • Lord, order our steps and help us order our priorities, keeping You above idols and material possessions, and to rediscover lost values.
  • Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace that passes all understanding that helps us to cope with the tensions of modern living.
  • Creator of life, thank You for holy matrimony, the privilege You grant man and wife as parents to aid You in Your creative activity.
  • Dear Jesus, thank You for Your precious blood, shed for the remission of our sins. By Your stripes we are healed and set free!
  • Dear God, You bless us with vocations and money. Help us to joyfully and obediently return tithes and gifts to You to advance Your Kingdom.
  • Deliver us from self-centeredness and selfish egos. Dear Heavenly Father, help us to rise to the place where our faith in You, our dependency on You, brings new meaning to our lives.
  • God, help us to believe we were created for that which is noble and good; help us to live in the light of Your great calling and destiny.
  • Lord, help me to accept my tools, however dull they are; and then help me to do Your will with those tools. [Paraphrased]
  • Our Father God, above all else save us from succumbing to the tragic temptation of becoming cynical.
  • God, let us win the struggle for dignity and discipline, defeating the urge for retaliatory violence, choosing that grace which redeems.
  • Remove all bitterness from my heart and give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that comes my way.
  • God, thank You for the creative insights of the universe, for the saints and prophets of old, and for our foreparents.
  • God, increase the persons of goodwill and moral sensitivity. Give us renewed confidence in nonviolence and the way of love as Christ taught.
  • Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the ministering, warring, and worshipping angels You send to help keep and protect us in all our ways.
  • We are all one human race, destined for greatness. Let us live together in peace and love in a Beloved Community.
  • Have faith in God. God is Love. Love never fails. It is our prayer that we may be children of light, the kind of people for whose coming and ministry the world is waiting. Amen. 

August 7, 2017

The Making of the Presidential Victory

The last two years of U.S. politics are summed up so succinctly in the book’s introduction that from the outset, you have a good idea where Stephen Mansfield stands. It’s no small thing that the author of The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of Barack Obama doesn’t call this book The Faith of Donald Trump. For him, the jury is still out on the subject, and whatever faith exists is, to say the least, enigmatic.

When Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him releases in less than 60 days, I have no doubt that this book will be of interest not just in the U.S., but to a global audience fascinated with all things Trump.  Kudos to Evangelical publisher Baker Books for courage in publishing a book which somewhat questions the wisdom of Evangelical American voters.

This is the theme of the book. The vast majority of Stephen Mansfield’s  titles are biographical in nature, but this title is more about the juxtaposition of the Presidential candidate to the constituency which seemed to embrace him wholeheartedly, a mystery which horrifies Christians in the rest of the world. Richard Rohr recently tweeted, “The evangelical support of Trump will be an indictment against its validity as a Christian movement for generations to come.”

As to the faith of the President, did the author have anything to work with? Surprisingly so. Trump’s religious awareness was shaped by the life and ministry of Norman Vincent Peale, with whom the family had a strong connection. But his personal values were shaped by the drive and competitive spirit with which news-watchers are all too familiar. If anything, before coming into political prominence, his life was areligious — I made that word up — and if it was Peale who shaped his parents’ life, it would be Paula White that would spark some type of spiritual awakening in his own.

Any student of voting patterns knows that each period in political history is a reaction to the period which preceded it, so a chapter each is given to President Obama, as well as to Hillary Clinton. But as Mansfield notes, the book isn’t a biography or analysis of the electoral statistics as much as an examination of the religious or spiritual factors that were in play as the November, 2016 election dawned…

…It was never my intention to read this book, let alone read parts of it twice. Living on the other side of the U.S. border, I tend to be dismissive of Christian books that seem to be American-centric. The merging of doctrinal or Biblical studies with U.S. politics especially grates. But like the rest of the world, those in my country are captivated by the unfolding saga that is the 45th Presidency, in the same way one slows down when passing a roadside accident.

Writing and publishing a book like this in the middle of an ongoing narrative must have been and continue to be a challenge, but I believe that by its October 3rd release date, this will be the right book for the right time. Included in the 208 page hardcover is a section, “Donald Trump in His Own Words,” featuring a couple of speech transcripts; as well as extensive endnotes and bibliography.


An advance copy of Choosing Donald Trump was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

July 11, 2016

Shane Claiborne’s Treatise on Capital Punishment

Executing Grace

Shane Claiborne’s latest, Executing Grace is a well-written, well-researched and well-annotated look at the history of capital punishment in the United States. It is both gently persuasive and passionately persuasive at the same time. It is a thorough, exhaustive treatment of the subject from a perspective that is both Biblical and Christ-centered. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read on any issue. End of review…

…Sitting in my backyard, on Canadian soil, reading Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us, by Shane Claiborne (HarperOne) is a rather strange experience, especially in the wake of a week of violence in the U.S. that has fueled discussions on racial discrimination and injustice. I don’t usually cover U.S.-interest books, preferring to devote my review time to things that are of equal interest to people in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

I made an exception to this partly because I’ve tasted the writer’s passion after following him on Twitter for a few years. No execution in the U.S. escapes his gaze, and with each one, there is horrible lament. You feel Claiborne’s pain with every new case, and then, after the act is carried out, his sorrow. He’s like one crying in the wilderness, but for him, it must feel like spitting into the wind. There are churches in many southern states who I expect are definitely not keeping him on their short list as a guest speaker any time soon. Such is the life for those who choose to speak with a prophetic voice.

The book brings together an avalanche of material, there are simply so many cases to draw on. Again, from my backyard chair, I have to ask, ‘Why am I even allowed to read this; why would the powers that be allow this book to be exported out of the U.S.?’ The situation is one that I believe any self-respecting nation would find — how do I put this — rather embarrassing. These are not stories you want the world to read, even one at a time, let alone assembled in a single collection. America’s history, on this issue, is rather stained; the atrocities of the era of lynchings only replaced by a more civilized-looking substitute containing an air of due process.

While the book has more than a dozen chapters — each fulfilling a specific function — they are united in their presentation of the contrast between capital punishment as a means of avenging or making right a capital crime on the one hand, and the idea of grace and mercy on the other. You have to ask yourself which side of the issue you’re on.

The reading of the book eventually becomes subjective. I’m getting angrier and angrier as I read of cases where innocent people were executed for crimes they did not commit. Or spent decades of their adult life behind bars until their innocence was finally proven to be true. Or tortured on death row with dates for their execution that were constantly revised and pushed back. Or executed by so-called modern, sophisticated means which prove to be barbaric; the death process dragging out to 30 minutes or an hour or perhaps not working at all.

But the very anger at injustice that I’m feeling lands me solidly at the point of recognizing the system as flawed; yearning for reforming the system. I’m not a U.S. citizen, but it makes you want to work for change. How does my own country fare? While there are references to capital punishment’s top five nations, I don’t recall a reference to Canada, and England is only mentioned in passing. This is a Made-in-America problem which requires a Made-in-America solution.

As with the situation in the U.S. last week, the church can be the leading agent for social change, but unfortunately, we don’t speak with a single voice on this issue. The greatest number of state-sanctioned executions take place in what is termed the Bible belt, and last year one prominent Southern Baptist leader wrote a piece for a major media outlet on why he supports the death penalty.

If you read this book, it will make you angry as well, frustrated, and rather sad, however you can’t not read something like this. As Claiborne states so clearly, knowing what is going on — having the information — is vital to a change in attitudes and practice to take place. For those of us who claim Christ as our Lord, we are complicit in the killings if we remain silent, or simply defer the matter to elected officials. 

The penultimate chapter is a crash course on restorative justice. For some, raised and saturated in a world of eye-for-an-eye, punitive justice this will be a stretch; an awakening. It proposes a paradigm shift of epic proportions, and yet is strangely appealing, offering the hope of a new way forward.

October 11, 2013

Advice to a Seeker from Thomas Jefferson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:11 am

I found this yesterday at the blog I Want to Believe in God: A blog for spiritual seekers and those interested in the Christian faith.  I’ve broken up some of the long paragraphs from the way it was originally formatted. You can read it at source at this link.

The following is an excerpt from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew on August 10th, 1787 from Paris.  I found it quite interesting and I like the unbiased approach to religion that he suggests.  But I still wonder if there is such a thing as a truly unbiased approach?   Either way I think he gives good advice here without ever really disclosing his own opinion and worldview of the matter.

ThomasJefferson250     Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God.

     Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?

     You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

    Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.

       In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some, however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get & send you.

March 6, 2010

Those Who Don’t Learn The Lessons of History…

…are doomed to make fools of themselves.

Once and for all, the difference between Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m always astounded how often this confusion appears, as though out of nowhere, in the middle of conversations. But it is especially lamentable when it takes place among Christian people. I mean the 16th Century reformer doesn’t really look a thing like the 20th Century civil rights activist.  Both were revolutionaries; you could get a high-school term paper out of some similarities, I suppose.

Things could be worse, however:  The last time this came up, later in the discussion, the person thought my reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses using the term “JW” was actually my way of saying “Jew.”

I’m thinking of starting a website as an alternative to TotallyLooksLike.com, that will be called TotallyDoesn’tEvenResemble.com (the domain is available…)

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