Thinking Out Loud

January 3, 2014

My One Podcast Addiction

I talk a lot about the Phil Vischer podcast, but with its switch from audio to video about three months ago, I should have clued in that I could embed one of the episodes here, especially given that many of you drop by to see what’s going here but don’t always click through. I got the idea from Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum — bet nobody else has that blog name — who did the same today.  He wrote:

…The following episode has so many interesting talking points on Evangelicalism, evil, tolerance, witchcraft, control, the world becoming post-Christian, and the end of storytelling, I didn’t even know where to start to unpack it. Once you get past the Pope sneaking out of the Vatican to give alms to the poor (ends around 7:17), the conversation shifts to the depiction of supernaturalism in films and what constitutes good and evil in a post-Christian world.

At around 22:38, Phil, Drew Dyck, and Skye Jethani begin discussing what happens when diversity attacks shared values and how this destroys the ability to tell a story. Phil quotes screenwriting guru Robert McKee noting that when a society has no shared common values you can’t tell a story because no one will agree with the framing mechanisms of rightness and wrongness needed to make a statement about a value depicted through story. Earlier, the trio decided that this has left us with only one agreed-upon value: Don’t oppress (or be mean to) other people. And in the end, this is all that is left of evil.

It’s a powerful discussion with startling ramifications for Christianity, both as Christians seek to share The Story of All Stories and as we confront genuine Evil as the Bible defines it.

The discussion then verges into talking about external evil and how stories are loath to discuss a greater evil that cannot be explained as just bad thoughts we might have for people who are different from us. We also see into how this comes down to control and why religious ideas with controlling godlike powers or controlling God Himself are anathema to the Christian worldview. And then Jethani mentions how some Christians are essentially practicing witchcraft…

…continue reading here…

Here’s the episode Dan featured, which is the one from a few weeks ago:

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October 31, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to another Wednesday Link List. We have no plans to mention the October 31st thing here.

  • The blog Sue’s Considered Trifles is a fun place for people who love words and love language. Most posts contain related phrases and sayings, usually ending with a short scriptural or faith-based thought. You can refer friends to individual posts, or copy and paste and send as emails.
  • “Because it’s only once in awhile that we get to hear Jesus talk about brutal self-mutilation as a sign of discipleship.” So begins a sermon on Mark 9: 42-48 by Nadia Bolz-Weber you can listen to or read at her blog.
  • A consultant for the U.S. State Department brings a rather sobering article on the long term prospects for Christians in the middle east.
  • Our Creative Writing Award for October — if we had one — would surely go to Hannah Anderson, for this piece about being a mother of three at church offering time.
  • Does liturgy work with the poor and uneducated. Consider: “The liturgy has been, at least initially, a barrier to our illiterate population. After one or two months, however, they have it memorized.” Learn more at this interview.
  • Pete Wilson cites Adam Stadtmiller who suggests that our present model of what we call “singles ministry” is quite unsustainable.
  • We frequently hear stories of the desires of the people who hold the movie rights to the Left Behind books to re-make the existing films. This version gives the starring role to Nicholas Cage.
  • For my Canadian readers: If you remember the story from a few years back about the Ponzi scheme that impacted people at 100 Huntley Street and Crossroads Christian Communications, here is an update.
  • If you don’t feel there are enough Bible translations currently available, then you’ll be happy to know the International Standard Version is getting closer to being available in print.
  • And speaking of Bible versions, if your 66-book collection of choice is the King James, and the King James Bible only, then you probably want to date court someone who feels the same. For that you need to put your profile on King James Bible Singles. (You don’t need to join to read all the profiles — in great detail — already posted.)
  • Rachel Held Evans answers all your questions about the book that is causing so much controversy.
  • On a similar theme, Bruxy Cavey equates the Old Testament’s Levitical purity laws as akin to Spiritual Cooties. This 2-minute clip may not be safe for work, or any other environment.
  • Meanwhile, Kathy Keller, wife of author and pastor Timothy Keller offers some criticisms of Rachel’s book in the form of an open letter. If you click, don’t miss the comments.
  • But then you wouldn’t want to miss this review, which suggests there are Rachel Held Evanses in every church.
  • In other book news, Kyle Idleman, author of the chart-topping Not a Fan is releasing a new book, Gods at War in January.

October 6, 2011

Link List Themes Revisisted

Yesterday’s link list was posted just before 6:00 AM EST, and as of 11:00 PM EST, while there had been many page views representing hundreds of unique visitors, there wasn’t a single comment.  Actually, that’s pretty standard here, but this was a particularly ‘heavy’ list of stories and I’m wondering if people are missing the larger themes:

  • Tennessee teachers aren’t being told they can’t pray, but they can’t pray in public, as (my words now) they are in an advocacy role and would be setting some kind of example that apparently is a negative example.  Can you say, “slippery slope?”
  • A teen leading the charge for social change is told he’s not exactly doing “wrong” or “bad,” but he should focus on preaching the gospel.  Haven’t we spent the last several decades deriding those who preach the “social gospel;” and while so criticizing them from our lofty theological perch, we did absolutely nothing to deal with poverty and injustice. 
  • A pastor — who may have crossed a line with this — invites another pastor to a seminar where the purpose of the seminar is stated from the outset as being to discuss the things on which we disagree and perhaps tend to sweep under the doctrinal rug.  While it’s a bit on the edge, it would finally clarify once and for all if this other pastor’s position on the trinity is the deal-breaker some of us believe it to be.  But it will never happen at all if certain conservative reformers simply boycott the seminar.
  • Mexico’s proposal on marriage could be the germination of something that is, long term, more insidious than the adoption of same-sex marriage.  It makes marriage modular, reinforces serial monogamy perhaps, but with an air that is more reflective of polyamory.  With simple divorce, there was always an opt-out if it didn’t work; but with Mexico’s proposal, the termination of the marriage after 48 months is really the default setting.
  • Switzerland adopts anti-tolerance.  Again.  The message is clearly, this is our country, our customs; if you don’t like it, leave.  Without commenting further, I wonder where this — or a backlash against it — leaves both the Swiss and more tolerant North Americans in the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
  • Isn’t the Texas oil-change shop’s John 3:16 verbal coupon idea enough to set Christianity back about a century?  If you have to have a license to work on cars in Texas, they should also require a license before you can go public with wacky evangelism schemes.
  • Does it bother anyone that Cathleen Falsani wrote 200 pages about Justin Bieber’s faith without ever sitting down with either JB or his mom?  Sure she has seven pages containing 211 footnotes, but…

Anyway, these are the big picture items from yesterday.  IMHO anyway.  So are TOL readers simply passive on these things, or were you just too busy to catch the links?

October 16, 2010

Canada’s Largest Newspaper Doubles Horoscope Space Allotment

The Toronto Star, the largest circulation newspaper in Canada has upped its commitment to readers of the daily horoscope to just under a half page.    That’s right, a half page of editorial (as opposed to paid advertising) space for people who believe that the day of your birth dictates the path of your life.  And all this at a time when other ‘religious’ space allocations are being cut.  (The paper once published over two pages of “church” copy and advertising each weekend, and then priced it so high that churches could no longer afford to advertise.)

Can you imagine the outcry if the paper printed a half page of Bible promises?   Or wisdom from the book of Proverbs?   Or how about a half page each day from various Evangelical pastors on knowing God’s will for your life?   (With the pastors receiving payment for so doing, as writer Jonathan Cainer undoubtedly does.)

This isn’t the first time this has been mentioned here, however; so I want to simply reiterate what I wrote in March of this year…

Their followers maintain religious devotion to their every pronouncement. Their right to millions of dollars of free newspaper space around the world is never questioned, in fact many of those papers pay them for inclusion in their print and online editions.

These same media outlets are very cautious about granting space of any kind to Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith groups because that would be “sectarian” and they don’t want to be seen as promoting this or that religion. So why is an exception made for this one group?

They, of course are astrologers and their daily encyclical is usually called “Your horoscope.” Their belief system is secularized predestination — Calvinists, take note — believing that our lives are guided by the stars, in various ways, depending on the star (or Zodiac) sign in place at our time of birth.

My usual tongue-in-cheek reply to this is, “I don’t believe in astrology, but then again, we Geminis are natural skeptical.”

Kidding aside, why does one faith group get preferential treatment? And how can any media outlet turn down any request from any religious group when they already grant one unfettered access to their readers?

Comments: This is a piece about press discrimination or media favoritism. Comments as to the merits of astrology will be deleted.

October 12, 2010

Police Acting as Agents of the State

To Canadians, especially those in the country’s most populous province, Ontario, the name Michael Coren is well respected.   The conservative radio talk show host also hosts a weekday television program, writes a weekly column for The Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, and is the author of several books, including a biography of C. S. Lewis.

His most recent column, published on Saturday (9/10) re-posted below, is one of many that may be found in his page at The Toronto Sun.   (The nearly 200 comments to date on this one indicate the size of his national following.)


In Ottawa [last] week, police arrested five university students for displaying a pro-life exhibition.

They were peaceful and merely expressing an opinion and showing the realities of abortion.

In Toronto at the same time, the trial began of a man arrested and charged by police for defending his store against a career criminal with a mass of convictions. The drug-dealing crook was offered a reduced sentence if he would help their case against the model citizen of a store-owner.

The inescapable conclusion is while the police in this country are supposed to be guardians of the people, they are increasingly becoming agents of the state.

That they are political, or at least obey political masters, is surely now beyond dispute. Notice how they repeatedly refused to arrest or charge violent native protesters in Caledonia, Ont., even after there was filmed evidence of some of the demonstrators attacking people and destroying property.

Such refusal to apply the law when sensitive or controversial politics is involved is now common in Canada.

Less violent but similarly illegal is the phenomenon of men taking their clothes off and strolling around downtown Toronto during the Gay Pride Parade, sometimes simulating sex acts or participating in the real thing. Those who complain have been ignored, or even threatened with arrest themselves.

What happened at Carleton University with a group of young people with a social conscience, however, is extraordinary. They were hurting, and have hurt nobody. They were not demanding special privileges or grants. They were not insulting people, not even raising their voices. What they were displaying was a visual argument that the slaughter of the unborn is akin to genocide.

If you don’t agree with them, do what social conservatives have been told to do for decades every time they complain about pornography on TV or obscene behavior. Turn away. Don’t look. Ignore it.

Odd how when more conservative individuals are offended, they’re called prudes and told to grow up or ignore what they see, yet when allegedly liberal types are upset, the result is often police intervention and hours spent in a cell.

In Colorado, at the moment, a picture of Jesus Christ taking part in an obscene sex act is on show at a gallery that receives public funding. The museum, the artist and the funding have all been defended by some of the same people who have called for the arrest of activists from the American branch of the movement that participated in the pro-life display in Ottawa.

Last weekend in Toronto, a city-wide art show, backed by hundreds of thousands of tax dollars featured, among other things, two women posing naked for more than 24 hours. Parents with children were not warned before they entered the room and some complained. They were told not to have “such closed minds.”

Actually, their minds were not closed, but their hearts were open. There is a major difference between having an open mind and an empty one, and there is something repugnant about hypocrisy, particularly when it is backed by police muscle and a legal system that prefers political fashion to the absolutes of the law.

March 6, 2010

One “Religion” Gets Preferred Advertising Worth Millions Daily

Their followers maintain religious devotion to their every pronouncement.  Their right to millions of dollars of free newspaper space around the world is never questioned, in fact many of those papers pay them for inclusion in their print and online editions.

These same media outlets are very cautious about granting space of any kind to Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith groups because that would be “sectarian” and they don’t want to be seen as promoting this or that religion.  So why is an exception made for this one group?

They, of course are astrologers and their daily encyclical is usually called “Your horoscope.”  Their belief system is secularized predestination — Calvinists, take note — believing that our lives are guided by the stars, in various ways, depending on the star (or Zodiac) sign in place at our time of birth.

My usual tongue-in-cheek reply to this is, “I don’t believe in astrology, but then again, we Geminis are natural skeptical.”

Kidding aside, why does one faith group get preferential treatment?   And how can any media outlet turn down any request from any religious group when they already grant one unfettered access to their readers?

Comments:  This is a piece about press discrimination or media favoritism.  Comments as to the merits of astrology will be deleted.

January 26, 2010

French Panel Recommends Banning Muslim Face Veils

First, as we reported here on November 30th, it was the Swiss banning minarets from Muslim mosques.   Today, it’s the French government pushing for limitations on the niqab, which covers everything but the eyes.

Here’s the first part of the report from the religion page of USAToday online:

PARIS (AP) — A parliamentary panel that wants Muslim women to stop veiling their faces recommended Tuesday that France ban such garb in public facilities, including hospitals and mass transit, and a leading panel member said he foresees such an interdiction by the end of 2010.

The nearly 200-page report contains a panoply of measures intended to dissuade women from wearing all-enveloping veils in France. It also recommends refusing residence cards and citizenship to anyone with visible signs of a “radical religious practice.”

However, there is no call to outlaw such garments — worn by a tiny minority of Muslims — in private areas and in the street. A full ban was the major issue that divided the 32-member, multiparty panel which ultimately heeded warnings that a full ban risked being deemed unconstitutional and could even cause trouble in a country where Islam is the second-largest religion.

Emphasis added.   Continue reading here.

[Note: for a clarification of the difference between Hijab, Burqua and Niqab, check out this page at ApologeticsIndex.org.]

For Christians, any issue of religious freedom has to be seen in terms of the larger context.   You may have personal feelings about this issue, but you can’t allow those feelings to cloud objectivity.

What if Christian businessmen weren’t allow to have fish symbols on their suit lapels, or women couldn’t wear “Jesus is the reason for the season” pins at Christmas, or your teenage kids couldn’t wear all those T-shirts they got at the last Creation Festival?     While these may seem minor accouterments compared to the Niqab, there will be some parallel issues for Christians to consider if a precedent is set.

There’s also the issue when this story is weighed together with the story from Switzerland of what happens if a strong anti-Muslim sentiment starts building.    My personal belief is that this would have eventually become an issue with or without what happened on September 11th, 2001.

Another dimension of a story like this surfaces when we consider how little we know about the “denominations” of Islam.    Many of us in Western society — and I’m saying ‘us’ to be honest — are very fearful of radical Islam, yet when my wife and visited two different mosques last year, we encountered very pleasant, very ‘normal’ people that I would have no problem having as neighbors.  (Perhaps even more so than the neighbors I now have.)   Later, the story goes on to say,

The veil is widely viewed in France as a gateway to extremism, an insult to gender equality and an offense to France’s secular foundation. A 2004 French law bans Muslim headscarves from primary and secondary school classrooms.

The language in the report was carefully chosen in an effort to avoid offending France’s estimated 5 million Muslims — the largest such population in western Europe — and accusations of discrimination. Muslim leaders have already complained that the debate over the full veil coupled with an ongoing debate on French national identity has left some Muslims feeling their religion is becoming a government target.

This is an ongoing story, and no doubt other countries in the EU are yet to weigh in on the debate.   What is interesting is that the Swiss confronted architecture, while the French are confronting fashion.

Denominations chart: Gospel for Muslims (click image for site).  Niqab: Toronto Life Magazine.

As the niqab increasingly becomes part of our vocabulary, you now have another Scrabble word that doesn’t need a “u” after “q.”  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

September 18, 2009

You Knew We Were a Christian Country, So Why Did You Move Here?

There was something in the USAToday story I wasn’t fully grasping:

By Stephen Brown, Religion News Service
Minaret and crossGENEVA — The Swiss Council of Religions, which includes Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, has issued a statement rejecting a call for a nationwide ban on the construction of minarets at mosques. Some Swiss groups want to ban minarets out of fear of Europe’s growing Muslim population.

“For the members of a religious community, religious buildings are not only places to gather but also a symbol of their faith and an expression of their reverence for God. For many Muslims, therefore, mosques need to have minarets,” the council said in a 5-page statement issued Wednesday.

“The prohibition of minarets would injure these people in their dignity and their basic right to practice their religion,” the council warned.

The move to ban the construction of minarets was submitted in July 2008 with just under 115,000 signatures, and will be decided in a national referendum on Nov. 29.

If passed, the measure would amend the country’s Federal Constitution to include a new article stating that, “The construction of minarets is prohibited.”

…”Everyone has the right in this country to live their faith visibly, freely and in a community within the framework of the public order,” it [the Council of Religions] stated. “This also includes the construction of places of worship that are typical for their respective religions.”

~~read the entire article, with reader comments, here.

So I e-mailed someone who lives there, who I’ll let remain anonymous.   This provides more backstory, the section in italics (added) really holds the key:

minaretRight now it’s not illegal to build a minaret. However, like trying to build anything in Switzerland, there’s a TON of red tape!  There are already 4 or 5. However there is one political party that collected over 100,000 signatures against building them, enough to send it to a referendum.

Their argument is that minarets are not mentioned at all in the Koran, and that they are more a political symbol of conquest than they are of religious freedom. They also question why these people have fled places where they are not allowed to practice their religion, so why didn’t they go somewhere that is mostly Muslim, instead of coming to Switzerland? In Switzerland there are only two recognized religions, Christianity (Protestant and Catholic) and Jewish, other religions have the freedom to practice and the meet, but they are not recognized by the state.

They are also concerned about Muslims asking for changes in other areas, like what is taught at school. Bible reading used to be normal in Swiss schools, since it is considered a Christian country, but the Muslims are fighting it, and now it has all but disappeared. I guess the idea is, they chose to be here knowing it was predominantly Protestant (the church is state run), it’s not fair that they want to change it now to suit them. I’m not saying I agree with all of that, but that’s the stance of the party that is fighting against the building of the minarets.

Not to mention that a sunrise call to worship would never get past the noise laws here; or the architectural laws for that matter…they are REALLY picky about the style you build here…we were afraid they wouldn’t accept the siding on our house!

So what happens when people of faith groups which are foreign to a particular piece of geography decide to move there?   Do they do so with the express intention of changing the religious climate there?   Increasing tolerance?   Warming the local population up to greater cultural and political influence and involvement?

Obviously the question that forms the title of this post is moot in some respects.   It’s possible that some people of other faith groups move into areas specifically because they are dominated by Christians.

But that brings us to something else altogether:

How is this different from the Christian Missionary movement?   Do we not also go into countries which are dominated by other faiths to proclaim the message of Christianity?   Do we not erect places of worship in those countries with our symbol (the cross) clearly visible on the exterior of these buildings?   Do we not seek to build bridges into the larger community so that these people have a day-to-day, living, breathing experience of what Christ-followers look like?

We tend to see this issue from our Christian point of view, forgetting that whatever freedoms apply to us have to apply to all.   But obviously here there is another factor at work, to which I added italics in the second quotation — “they are more a political symbol of conquest than they are of religious freedom.” One campaign initiator (watch the video link below) believes the desire to build minarets is a desire to “change the social order.”

But who decides this?

And does a referendum somewhat defeat the purpose?   Will voters grasp the larger issues or will they simply maintain the status quo?

You can almost feel the tension here on the other side of the Atlantic.

Pictures:

Upper:  This is the picture that accompanied the USAToday story, juxtaposing the minaret with a Protestant church steeple.   From this angle, neither seems much different than the other.
Lower:  This picture shows minarets towering over a local skyline.   Are voters picturing the upper picture or the lower one?

Learn more:

Our contact in Switzerland recommended this website, where we found this video story.

December 5, 2008

Cincinnati Zoo Ends Cross-Promotion With Creation Museum After Only Three Days

Filed under: Christianity, issues, Religion — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:32 pm
creation-museumThe Cincinnati Zoo has dropped a business arrangement with the nearby Creation Museum after it received numerous complaints about a joint Christmas promotion.

…Their plans to offer a reduced price on a package of tickets to both attractions  ended after less than three days.

” … I have learned that the zoo received hundreds of complaints from what appear to be some very intolerant people, and so I understand the zoo’s perspective,” said Ken Ham, founder and president of the museum in Petersburg, Ky.

Read the whole story at USAToday .   Obviously, nobody foresaw the massive public outcry.   Was this just cross-promotion just a bad idea from the beginning, or is the United States climate of religious intolerance increasing in intensity?

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