Friday, March 11, 2011

I Found Him: A Response to "Stealing Jesus" - Part 1

Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity
By Bruce Bawer
Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1997

Why this review and response
Tom Lander, a fellow graduate of SEBC now SU (Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, an Assemblies of God institution) and facebook friend, challenged me to read Stealing Jesus. But, it wasn’t just a recommendation. This was the book that would most represent to some degree Tom’s philosophy and take on politics and religion. I had asked him to read Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin, promising to mail him a copy if he would. Tom’s challenge to me was in response to my request of him.

Tom has stated that Jesus would be a liberal if he were here today. When you stop and think about it, that’s an astounding statement coming from a Pentecostal perspective or from the viewing point of an experiential (verses creedal only) Christian. It's astounding not because Jesus would be a liberal; it's astounding that Tom presumes that Jesus is NOT here. As an experiential Christian myself, I was under the impression (obviously a mistaken one if Tom’s underlying assumption is correct) that Jesus IS here . . . now . . . in me and in His people. You live and learn. Sometimes the lessons are unbearable and I’m not really ready to accept that one just yet.

Let’s be clear
Let’s be upfront about who Bruce Bawer is and what he believes. This is not to argue for or against, for the time being, the merits of his character, conduct or philosophy. It is to state it plainly so that we know the author.

Bruce Bawer has argued for 2 decades now for acceptance of homosexuality within Christianity. (See A Place At The Table: The Gay Individual in American Society and other articles by the author). This is not the same as arguing for the acceptance of homosexuals which most of us already practice in our “fundamentalist” churches (the significance of the word “fundamentalist” will be clear soon enough but take it from me – it’s an awkward irony for the author who . . . well, I’m getting ahead of myself). But, it’s an argument for the acceptance of homosexual sex as not to be condemned as sin or unnatural or wrong.

Let me be more graphic and if you are easily offended, turn away or go to the next paragraph. Bawer argues that there is nothing unnatural, unholy or unrighteous if one man inserts his penis into another man’s anus and ejaculates inside that other man’s rectum. I argue that Barney Frank needs as much blood in his brain as possible and can scarcely afford the slightest drainage from his cranium to his genitals. But that only means that homosexual sex is unwise in the case of Barney. I would also argue that it is unnatural and unrighteous and very unhealthy (both physically and psychologically). Hold on a sec . . . my agent just called. Oprah just cancelled my appearance on her show next week. Maybe I can get booked on The View.

Bawer also disbelieves the virgin birth which he says was "plainly . . . cooked up by ancient men who idealized female virginity." (page 43) Neither has he any room for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In fact, when he finally forsook any attempt at believing it, he felt as if "a weight had fallen from me." (page 45) He insists that if you believe in those things you are a fundamentalist. In case you’re wondering, that’s a bad thing - a very bad thing. It’s perhaps the worst thing Bawer might say about someone. As we shall see, to be a fundamentalist Christian is to not be Christian at all and means that one worships evil. I lie not. (page 10).

Neither does he see the need in being born again. Salvation is not found by a personal spiritual experience or by personal faith in the risen Lord. Rather, it’s found by reaching out to the needy with social programs. Forgive the redundancy but, I lie not.

Lest some of you think you might escape Bawer's condemnation because you're not a member of a Fundamentalist Baptist church, think again. If you're Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Evangelical . . . if you're anything but a liberal of his branding and if you believe the aforementioned teachings (virgin birth, resurrection, being "born again,"et al) then you are a "fundamentalist." He has a few other descriptors like "legalistic Protestant" and "legalistic Christian" and "hater" but I'll get into that later.

Believe what you will about homosexual sex, the virgin birth, the resurrection and the new (spiritual) birth, it’s clear to me that these issues are both important and divisive. In other words, you can believe in whatever Jesus you want to believe in – I believe in the one who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless and holy life, died on a cross by the hands of the Jews and Pilate/Romans, rose again on the third day and sent his Spirit whereby I can be made one with Christ through simple faith in His finished work on the cross.

But, that’s just so much preaching and pontificating on my part thinks Lander/Bawer. But worse, it measures me out as a worshiper of evil and a hate-mongering fundamentalist. I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Other than that Bawer’s a damn fine person.

A brief word to Tom and other Christian liberals
I gave Tom plenty occassion to withdraw his statement of fidelity to Bawer's philosophy. He was pretty persistent and proud of his affinity to Bawer if not to the book. But, I fight bad ideas. And a bad idea is just as bad if it comes from an affable 55 year old phlegmatic or if it comes from a 23 year old Trotskyite on a literary rampage. You might be my best friend or my worst enemy – it changes not one whit the harm of your bad idea. Perhaps bad ideas coming from the more congenial amongst us are even more sinister than the same bad ideas coming from obvious schemers. We tend to have our guard down, to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, to be accommodating where possible . . . and the pernicious ideas find their entry into our thinking having bypassed our critical and otherwise skeptical filters.

So, to Tom and every other liberal Christian I say, don’t call yourself my brother out of one side of your mouth and countenance a man who says that I am not Christian “at all” and that I worship evil from the other side. You may fool yourself. You may fool others. But I am not fooled.

If you really do not subscribe to Bawer and his philosophy, admit it. Apologize for wasting my time. Read some good books. Turn off the socialist-democrat noise machine. Pull your head out of Obama’s ass. Grow a damn brain and start thinking critically.

Otherwise, lets’ be clear – we’re not on the same side. I’m good with that. But, I’m not good with pretending that we are.

Friday, July 30, 2010

No Rational Person Supports Barack Obama

The current political debate surrounding President Obama (whom I refer to as B.O.) has taken countless turns and twists. Most recently and really since the campaign of 2008, the political Left and specifically B.O.’s own camp has made race an issue. In fact, he is the only significant public figure to inject race as an issue into the campaign and current public debate.

My contention is that there is no rational defense for any of B.O.’s political ideology or policy and therefore only irrational, unreasonable people support him. My challenge to B.O. supporters has been, for several months now, for them to offer a rational defense for any of his policies or conduct. They can’t and they don’t. This leaves open the possibility that support for BO can be rooted in race or any number of things. The fact is, I do not know what motivates a person and I am not willing to charge that race is the major or final motivator of any BO-supporter. But, because of BO's own references, we are forced to consider the possibilty. I do think that support for him is largely emotional and the BO-supporters cannot be bothered with pesky things like facts. They are, in general, non-thinkers.

The greatest amount of time (back and forth on facebook or email) is taken up defending the very question itself - what policies of BO's do you support and can you give me a reasonable defense of any of them?

At first B.O. supporters say they do not have to defend his policies. They’re right. The right to free speech is also the right to not speak. But, one cannot at once claim moral and rational ground (let alone superiority) while letting the challenge lie unanswered. By not answering the challenge, supporters tacitly admit that their support is merely emotional, partisan or even racial.

It’s hard to escape the sense that (92% of) black folks support B.O. because he is black, at least partially black - black enough to be self-identified as black. I don’t want to make too much of this because it’s not central to my argument. My argument is that supporters have NO logical defense of B.O.’s policies and conduct whatever their true reason for supporting him and them. Suffice it to mention here that since the inauguration in January 2009, support for B.O. has fallen in all demographic categories except amongst blacks. They’re holding strong. On one hand we could see it as a racial issue. On the other hand, I can sympathize somewhat. I have been told for many years now by people (mostly missionaries) who work in Africa that Africans are intensely loyal. There is much to admire about this loyalty. But, when it becomes to national policy, I prefer to deal with those who conduct policy that is logical and consistent. In other words, please don’t support a tyrant who is destroying my liberties even though you may be inclined to be loyal.

At long last, a Facebook friend answered my challenge and posted his “defense” for BO’s policies. As I will point out, the statements are not true rational defenses but they are as close as I’ve seen and I nearly bullied my FB friend to get these responses. My analysis illustrates my contention – no rational person can offer the first defense of BO’s policies. They cannot even specify what his policies are.

My FB friend David’s initials are DB. Mine are still NC. Amazing.

DB: I support Wall Street Reform.

NC: Forget for now that this and David's other statements are not rational defenses - they are dogmatic statements of support. And those are fine . . . but they do not magically become rational propositions.

Exactly what does this mean? For BO it means rhetoric. And here’s what I mean – he promotes the new banking and finance bill as “reforming Wall Street” and assuring that a financial crisis like we’ve had will never happen again. Take a step back for just a moment. Why the hell didn’t we have this bill before? If we are to take BO seriously, this bill could have prevented the current crisis. All congress would have had to do is pass it. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush could have signed it. Why the hell didn’t they enact this bill that has the capacity to prevent any financial crisis from ever occurring? Do you really believe BO when he says this bill will prevent a financial crisis from ever happening again? Are you serious? This is juvenile rhetoric. And it’s demonstrably not true.

This is what I mean by your unreasonableness, David. I’m not trying to throw insults your way. I’m trying to wake you up. It is not rational to just say “I support Wall Street Reform” as if this is BO’s policy. Who wouldn’t want to reform Wall Street? For that matter, who wouldn’t be in favor of reforming nearly anything? We all want to improve things. We all could use a little reformation. But, it’s an incomplete statement and it says nothing. Are you in favor of reforming the prison system? If not, why not? Is it perfect as it is? No? Then, you should be in favor of reforming it. The same could be asked of the entire justice system, the court system, the laws regarding pedophiles and protection of children and all sorts of euphemistic labels attached to anyone’s pet concern.

So, this and your other statements are prima facie unreasonable and wouldn’t be taken seriously in any rational debate.

DB: I support Credit Card Reform.

NC: Here we go again. A lot of people do. But, BO has never had a policy about “credit card reform” so I would want to know precisely what about BO’s policy on credit card reform you support. I know it cannot be the bill he signed last week because neither you, nor BO, nor the Democrats who voted for it, nor the RINO’s who voted for it have actually read it. Again, you then have to speak in generalities about a politician’s general ideas. And I would like for you to describe BO’s general ideas about the market, the economy, banks, private enterprise, etc and exactly where you agree and why. Otherwise, anyone’s answer to your statement above could be “so do I; vote for me.”

DB: I support Health Care Reform until proven that is not better then our current system.

NC: Now, here is an issue we can debate not because it is a clear and rational defense but because I am grasping at anything that even appears to be an attempt to defend BO’s policies. But, also because BO ran on this issue and promised reform. A rational statement would be quite the opposite – until I see a better system, I do not think that we should make major changes to the very foundations of it and radically alter it. Fix parts of it. But, before you change it, demonstrate that the entirely new system you seek to put in place actually works.
The problem with this of course is that the system that BO has put in place has “worked” elsewhere – it has worked to the detriment of England and all of Europe.

This health care “reform” is not reform in any proper meaning of the word “reform” and you know it. Reform implies changes. It could be evolutionary changes, gradual over time. BO is not reforming the major systems – he is radically altering them. And he said that he would. His promise and prediction was “we are a few days away from fundamentally transforming America.” Please pay attention to two words, “fundamental” and “transformation.” Fundamental means radical. This is where we get the charge of “radical.” Radical change is not always undesirable or bad. “Radical” surgery is required sometimes in order to correct a major problem. Radical political change is not in itself bad. There are times when a radical change is required. The institution of slavery did not need to be reformed, did it? The entire system that allowed and supported it had to be radically changed, not slowly and slightly altered. Our nation’s revolution was radical although not in the sense of the same revolutions that bloodied the European continent in roughly the same period of time and Russia 135 years later. It was somewhat evolutionary (in the 150 years of colonial life leading up to the revolution) while the confrontation of England had to be radical and fundamental.

Nevertheless, if you think that America needed a radical transformation including the dismantling of our institutions, our entire free market, a health care system that is the envy of the world, unequalled economic growth then you have your man. These are not my accusations – these are his promises – “fundamental” and “transformation.”

But, let’s not call it reform. Transformation is not reformation. Transformation is a reordering of things. Reformation doesn’t need a destruction of the major institutions and systems. In fact, it requires that they remain essentially in place. Transformation is different.

Even so, my statements are meant to argue against the recent health care bill. What about DB’s statement though. Is it rational? I think not. A rational statement would be “the new health care reform is demonstrably better than the current system and it makes greater sense logically . . . and here’s how.” It’s not rational, let alone wise, to institute a “reform” that is tried and found wanting but insist that it’s better to give it another shot so that only another colossal failure would justify returning to the system we left behind. A rational approach does not say “trust me” like the politicians who foisted this health care bill upon America admonished us to do. And this is the basic approach DB has – trust them until their plan fails! This is not the voice of reason. It’s the voice of blind trust.

This discussion involves another question that David asks: What exactly do you consider a radical activist?

NC: First of all, reference my treatment above on the difference between “radical transformation” and “reform.” Mark Levin says it concisely (pg 14, Liberty & Tyranny)

“The Conservative believes, as Burke and the Founders did, that prudence must be exercised in assessing change. Prudence is the highest virtue for it is judgment drawn on wisdom. The proposed change should be informed by the experience, knowledge, and traditions of society, tailored for a specific purpose, and accomplished through a constitutional construct that ensures thoughtful deliberation by the community. Change unconstrained by prudence produces unpredictable consequences, threatening ordered liberty with chaos and ultimately despotism, and placing at risk the very principles the Conservative holds dear.”

It’s important to see the difference between change for the sake of change and change that is well-thought out and enacted with a particular, logical product in mind.

Notice the capriciousness with which David states his support for “health care reform” in general – “until proven that is not better then our current system.” This is the very opposite of rational and logical reform. It doesn’t exchange a bad system for a good one or even a proven one. In the case of American “health care” it seeks to exchange the most advanced and accessible health care system, one that is the envy of the world, for one that, in David’s imagination, may well prove not to be “better.” Why is that rational? Why is that sort of change wise? Why does David fancy that throwing the system to a trial basis is commendable?

DB: I support both wars because we have not had a successful terrorist attack here since 9/11.

NC: 1. But, BO did NOT support both wars. 2. He was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq calling it a war of choice and not a war of necessity. (What is most ludicrous is that he has not let his own statements stop the propaganda that “Iraq is his victory.”) 3. He said that Afghanistan was “the ball” and that Bush had taken his eye off of it. This is tantamount to labeling the Iraq War as a major mistake – taking one’s eyes off the ball. 4. If you really supported “both wars” you would have been more consistent (in this one regard) had you supported John McCain instead of BO. In other words, there is no rational relation between “supporting both wars” and supporting BO. 5. Your logic for supporting both wars (that we have not had a successful terrorist attack since 9/11) makes little sense. If I were to take your reasoning seriously, I would say that you were a supporter of George W. Bush. For now, I’m not going to imagine that you are making the ludicrous claim the BO and not GWB is mostly responsible for no terrorist attacks since 9/11. Please tell me you’re not making this point.

DB: Yes, overall I support my president of these United States. I don't think I can be much clearer then that.

NC: In my opinion it is still VERY unclear because of the oversimplification and generalization of your support statements – I support [Wall Street, credit card, health care] reform. Taken literally, this would generate support for nearly any political candidate. But, they are not statements that specifically address BO’s reforms. And I think I know why. You have no idea about the specifics of these reforms as they have actually come down to us in the form of legislation. You haven’t read the bills. Hell’s Bells! B.O. hasn’t read the bills.

It’s possible that many will never see my logic or be able to agree on what is rational or not. I think there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that language itself is in peril. In my humble opinion, the thing that is in greatest peril in these perilous times is language. It’s interesting to me that the watershed event in the ancient world that scattered the peoples and began the varieties of cultures was the confusing of language at Babel. One man couldn’t understand what another was saying because as they turned up for work one day, the two were speaking different languages. We have awakened to a culture in America where words can mean the opposite of what they used to mean. Words like “rights,” “freedom,” “criminal,” “recovery,” etc. have been conscripted to mean whatever the user says they mean. Supreme Court justices have found the "right to privacy" in the Constitution by pulling concepts and words out of thin air.

The other reason is that the Left, as a philosophical endeavor, sees no reason to make any effort at reason. Its appeal is emotional, based on class warfare and hinges on phrases like “the rich should pay their fair share.” No one bothers to ask, what is really fair . . . did you miss the day in school when they covered the principle of percentages?

I remember the consternation I felt when Bill Clinton would say “We’re going to ask the rich to pay their fair share.”

Ask – my ass! When did the government ever ask you – as if to give you an opportunity to say “no thank you” – for anything? You either pay up or the IRS confiscates, fines and imprisons. Nevertheless, the educated journalists didn’t seem to catch this gross misuse of language nor the appeal to class warfare and emotions over reasoned principles of government.

So, the words “fair” and “ask” are given new meanings while the Left bothers not one twit to make its requirements meet the test of rational judgment.

No, the BO-supporter still hasn’t produced anything but dogmatic statements of support, not reasoned defenses of his policies and conduct. God bless David. He supports his messiah. But, he still cannot tell us why

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Should KSM Be Tried In New York City?

Should KSM Be Tried In a Federal Criminal Court in New York City? or How Can Legal Authorities Get the Constitution So Wrong?

On Friday, November 13, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that 1 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) would be brought from 2 Gitmo to New York City to stand trial in a federal court for crimes.

Within a few days, outrage was expressed by citizens, politicians, legal analysts and pundits of all stripes. There are many reasons why Holder’s decision is both irrational and disrespectful of the law. He has no rational or legal standing in this decision. These issues are fully discussed by others. My purpose herein is to address the confusion over the constitutional issues created in statements by authorities like 3Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News.

Napolitano has stated that the 6th amendment to the Constitution guarantees KSM a trial in NYC. He has read into the 6th amendment the right to be tried in the region/community where the crime was committed. Lifted out of context and with a flawed perspective, it is understandable how he could see this provision; for, it reads

“. . . the accused shall enjoy the right to a . . . trial . . . wherein the crime shall have been committed . . .”

And this is exactly how Napolitano has read the 6th Amendment . . . ignoring the specific wording contained in the little “. . .’s” – the overlooked words. Redact a few words, change “wherein” to “where” and, voila! You have the judge’s point. The problem is that this approach does damage to the actual wording as well as to the obvious meaning.

Napolitano is wrong on 3 counts. But first, let’s be clear about what the 6th Amendment says. It’s very simple. Read it. That’s what I did.

Article VI.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed [or as modern journalism would have us say “wherein the crime may have allegedly been committed], which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

It is a bit inconvenient to Napolitano’s case that, in the 6th Amendment, the venue of trial is more tied to jury selection than the “scene of the crime.” Only the jury members must be tied to the crime scene (i.e. the “district” in which the crime was committed). This does not address the trial venue. As I point out in the second reason, it’s a moot point anyway.

Let’s also be clear about the facts of the case. KSM was captured in Pakistan. That’s not a suburb of Detroit although Detroit might be considered a suburb of Pakistan. It’s another country on the other side of the globe. To make the proper distinction, he was not captured by police on American soil. Other terrorists have been captured in the USA. And they have been tried in American courts. But, not KSM.
And here are the 3 major reasons that Napolitano’s statement is wrong.

1) Napolitano is applying a protection to someone for whom it does not apply. The protections in the Constitution apply only to US Citizens, an undeclared war on terror notwithstanding but actually buttressing the case that non-uniformed combatants have forfeited even Geneva Convention protections not to mention those protections contemplated by our own Constitution exclusively for its own citizens.

This is such a simple matter but a widespread mistake usually made by liberals, not usually by the likes of Napolitano. The application of Constitutional protections to non-citizens is pulled out of thin air or shall we say out of one’s own arse. But, it gives liberals and soft-headed Americans a way to feel morally superior. Argue for whichever point you wish, one fact is indisputable – the Constitution itself does not grant its protections to every person in the world. The Declaration of Independence may declare the rights of “all men.” But a country’s Constitution purports to govern only its affairs and that of its citizens. To boot, our Constitution is unique in its “Bill of Rights” (containing the 6th Amendment) in that it protects the citizen from the intrusions of the federal government.

If the 6th Amendment applies to KSM, at least one of his rights has already been egregiously violated, that of a “speedy trial.” When critics of George W. Bush bemoan the length of stay in Gitmo without trial for KSM and a couple hundred others, most Americans are thinking “Good! Let’s keep them there for as long as it takes to extract useful information out of them. And by the way, you have my permission to water-board the hell out of these bastards if anyone thinks that intelligence may be obtained that could prevent another loss of American life.” There are many good reasons why the previous (and morally/intellectually superior) Bush administration did not rush these combatants to trial; two of which are 1) they didn’t have to and 2) they were getting useful information out of them. There was just no compelling reason for a rush order.

An illustration is helpful. Giving KSM Constitutional protections is like the following. Let’s say there is a large private corporation that has provided an appeals process for its employees who are fired. Let’s say that one of the stated causes for firing is improper and unwelcome sexual advances to another employee. Now, a person who lives in another state and is not employed by this company enters the premises and rapes an employee. He then escapes the premises. The employee notifies HR; together they notify local law enforcement and alert their internal security force. 2 hours later with critical help from the company’s highly trained and professional security personnel, local police apprehend and arrest the accused. While awaiting trial, the rapist declares that he wishes to access the appeals process in said company. He wishes to appeal his “firing” from a job he never had and, if successful wishes to be “reinstated” with all rights and privileges pertaining thereto. Mind you, he was never employed by the company. As ridiculous as it sounds, the head of HR grants his wish, sends his security guards to extract the rapist from jail, brings the accused before the appeals board and publicizes every detail of the case including the secret methods by which the company’s security force helped to track and capture the accused. As the case becomes a media firestorm, the result is that the company and its policies become the issue more than the rapist’s actions. In fact, dozens of irrelevant policies and procedures of the company are exposed to the public, not that they are that secretive to start with. The accused has essentially been given a pulpit from which he preaches hatred against the evils of greed and capitalism as personified by the corporation.

In no significant feature does the analogy break down except that as comparisons go the rapist (before the corporation’s appeals board) did not actually enter the premises and rape an employee, he helped 20 other men plan the attack while keeping his distance. The 20 rapists would be still held in jail, in our analogy, if not killed in a hail of gunfire in the attempted capture.

This is ridiculous to the point of being silly – Holder’s decision that is, not my analogy. In an environment where precedent (previous bad court judgments) often trump the Constitution for no apparent logical reason, the decision is not just poor administration of “justice” from the AG, it’s a dangerous precedent.

The “right” of the rapist to an appeals procedure within the company is simply non-existent.

2) The 6th amendment begins "in all criminal prosecutions . . ." Why do these lawyer types always want a judicial context for everything under the sun? KSM, terrorists and our "War on Terror" have NOTHING to do with a "criminal prosecution." It is a matter of victory over enemies NOT justice applied to the accused. In short, this is not a criminal prosecution. It’s a war. At most, it is a matter for a “war crimes” court. No doubt, some international criminal attorneys are salivating at the thoughts of such a trial. But, we have no compulsion to provide such a drama to the world in our own courts. In my opinion, we have no obligation to insert terrorists/combatants captured on foreign soil into an international war crimes court either. We can simply try them in our own, carefully defined and crafted military tribunals.

George W. Bush committed the same error as the Left in framing the conflict as a matter of justice. When President Bush stood on a heap of rubble and declared through his bull-horn that he would bring these bad guys to “justice,” I groaned. There it was again, a lawyer seeing everything in the context of a judicial process rather than as victory over an enemy. Our goal should not be to “bring them to justice” but to bring them to their knees and to their graves.

Let’s address the issue of War on Terror while we’re on the “criminal prosecutions” issue. I, along with a few others, am troubled that there has been no formal, Congressional declaration of war. In the mind of some, this has weakened our country’s legal authority to advance a response to 9/11. I wrote in my diary on 9/12 that our Congress should draft articles of war, albeit against a shadowy and elusive entity rather than against another country as traditionally articles of war have been applied. I still think it’s a good idea. But, it may have been unnecessary. And I will give the benefit of the doubt to GWB and his advisors. Here’s why. When a loosely-defined and elusive entity (like “terrorists” or “al Qaeda”) has already declared war against the United States and perpetrated actions thereof, to notify (through Articles of War) rather than respond militarily is legally unnecessary. Not to mention the weakness that it might display, it could restrict our response rather than release the fury of American might against evil. ‘Tis better to allow a good President the leeway to marshal bullets and bombs, craft and steel, ingenuity and intelligence against the vile vermin who hide behind ski-masks and 12 year old children. Besides the fact that these cowards do not deserve the effort it would take to draft articles, to whom would we serve notice anyway? Osama bin Laden? We can’t even determine the proper spelling of his name let alone get a forwarding address.

There are other elements about Holder’s decision and Napolitano’s analysis which do not bear up under logic. If it is true that the trial venue must match the “scene of the crime” then we must take KSM to Washington D.C. and a state just to the south of New York as well, having not tried him in NYC for the specific “crimes” committed in a Pennsylvania field and at the Pentagon. Of course, we could ignore the victims of the crimes in these other “districts” and “States.” We can tell their families that only the souls lost in the Twin Towers were the ones that were really important and emblematic of the attacks. As we so often do, we can prefer symbolism to the exacting blade of real justice.

Another disqualifying element in this argument is that, if indeed the “scene of the crime” is the only proper venue for trial, we must ascertain KSM’s location when he planned and conspired to execute the attacks. He is not charged with the physical perpetration of the attacks but with planning and conspiring to make such. If he planned and conspired (the crimes for which he will be charged) in a cabin in western Tennessee, should we not convene court in western Tennessee? This may be a fine point and a bit too picky one may think. However, it is no more picky than Holder and Napolitano have been in reading rights of foreign war combatants (“non-citizens”) into the Constitution.

3) I have not missed the point that even if there was a case that KSM be tried in NYC, it is not the same as being tried in our Federal courts with Constitutional protections granted the accused. Even if one conceded that the trial take place in NYC, the issue of what court hosts the trial is not addressed by this “venue” provision in the 6th Amendment. An international war crimes court could be conducted in NYC. A military tribunal could take place in NYC. For that matter, for a murder taking place in New York City, the state of New York has as much right to try him as the Federal government has, perhaps even more. Holder and Napolitano have insisted on both an unnecessary venue and an improper court. It’s really a sleight of hand – defending one action but conducting two. If Holder is fine with rubbing salt in wounds, go ahead and bring KSM to the Big Apple. But, try him before a military tribunal . . . in private . . . no press . . . no Miranda rights . . . no expensive defense . . . no grand-standing . . . no Judge Ito . . . no gloves that won’t fit . . . no jury of Muslim peers. Just a public hanging. It would meet one of the 6th Amendment requirements that Holder’s process will most surely not – speed. There’s nothing in our system as speedy as military justice.

You see, once you begin with foolishness and disdain, you cannot end up with reason and justice, or victory.

By personal observation, I do not see any disdain for the Constitution in Napolitano. I see the opposite – a great respect for it and a passion that it be learned and followed. But, that passion doesn’t automatically grant him a precise understanding of it. And he is certainly the scholar and authority on the subject, not me. But, I can read. And I have dictionaries so I can look up word meanings. If the principles of justice and law are too difficult for the common guy to understand, then they are too difficult to apply. And they shouldn’t be. But, they are not that difficult to understand.

On the other hand, I can surmise, without much appeal to speculation, that Holder has only selective respect for the Constitution at best. And he certainly has no regard for the context of the Constitution and the citizens it is designed to protect. However nefarious his motive, his application of legal principles is misguided and grossly uninformed – a mistake understandably granted to a simple Texas mortgage broker but not to the Attorney General of the United States or a highly respected Constitutional authority.

1 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the accused and self-admitted “master-mind” of the attacks on September 11, 2001 against the United States in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

2 Gitmo – the holding facility in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) where enemy combatants caught in theater (“field of battle”) have been detained.

3 Judge Andrew Napolitano – Fox News Legal Analyst, Contributor, oft-times guest host of various shows and Co-Host of Fox Radio’s show “Brian and the Judge.” A delightful fellow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Leftist Christian Naïveté

On November 2, 2009, Sean Hannity entertained a caller who made the following observation and comment (paraphrased).

Are you a Christian (rhetorical; Sean Hannity states that he is a Christian)? The Bible says that the Christians had all things in common, each of them shared equally. None considered what he had as his own. If you’re a Christian, why do you not want this instituted in America?

This sentiment has been echoed in several of my conversations. Most recently, Neil Carter (ex friend, he defriended me on Facebook) and Presbyterian minister (holding several post graduate degrees including a doctorate from Princeton) stated his support for B.O. by enumerating the many examples of our responsibility to care for the needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and generally be a do-gooder. These were theological reasons for his Democrat vote in 2008.

Besides the lunacy of the caller’s assertion as well that B.O. had led us out of slavery into freedom and the Promised Land (and Sean was to be excoriated for grumbling against our own “Moses”), the premise of his question is naïve and false. The answer to it is simple, if one knows how to clarify issues (a lost art in America) and frame the question more sanely. In other words, it misses the real point of government’s role in our lives and precisely what is meant by “promoting the general welfare” in the Constitution.

Let's set aside the real demand that Sean's caller was making - that Sean share 100% of his earnings and wealth so that the caller could benefit. The selfish intention was clear and admitted. But, it has nothing to do with the philosophical argument set forth by naïve Christians.

I was slightly troubled but sympathetic with Sean’s retort. He basically defended himself by saying that the government already took 60% in taxes and that he gave an additional amount (not to be disclosed) by way of charity. I suspect that the amount is sizeable. Studies show that conservatives are considerably more charitable with their monies than liberals. As Sean hinted, I’m sure that if vanity were to get the better part of pride, his contributions would make Al Gore’s and Joe Biden’s pale in comparison.

I am not satisfied with Sean’s answer. I am thoroughly on his side in this debate and in his perspective, generally. But, the answer is too personal. And it doesn’t have to be. This issue is far too important for it to come down to a personal comparison of tax-paying and alms-giving. It’s far too important to be reduced to math, although math is telling.

If I may cut right to the chase and offer the only and perfect retort to this naïveté. The following question has rarely, if ever, been asked of these Convenient “Christians.” Convenient, because their lives and the remainder of their philosophy never seem to be guided by any sense of biblical reasoning; yet, they have adopted the time-honored practice of “proof-texting,” lifting portions of Scripture out of context in order to support a political view or opinion. [More on this in another setting; it is helpful to note that Jeremiah Wright used this method of hermeneutics in defending his “liberation theology.” Any student of the Bible and history noticed it right away when, in the 2008 campaign era, he quoted an Old Testament text and actually said that liberation theology was based upon this verse.]

Here’s the clarifying question: What directive did Jesus or His apostles ever give to the state?

Not even the Rev. Dr. Neil has been able to answer this question.

While the “Christian” Left scrambles for an answer and no doubt attempts to delegitimize the very question itself, please note that the question clarifies an all important issue - government, specifically civil government, is and should be limited in its scope of authority. Not just to the Christian but to every American. No religious believer would profess ultimate obedience to the state over God. But, that’s not even the issue. No American would either, religious or not. At least, no American who reads, understands and believes the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Sean did fair in his answers. But, the single Scripture that came to mind was Jesus’ statement that we must “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar and unto God that which is God’s.” This is very good but it doesn’t address the early Christians’ practice of having all things in common, a pattern the “Christian” Left sees for American government, minus of course any other “Christian” principles like respect for life (in the womb), honor to God in the public square as in all places, not being ashamed of Jesus Christ, et al.

While we’re on it though, let’s be clear about what Jesus said and what the implications are. Although the first part of the phrase is metaphorical in that it is certainly not limited to the Roman Emperor two millennia past, it hardly needs interpretation. Most folks understand intuitively that Jesus was speaking of “the state” when He said “Caesar.”

If Jesus was espousing a political philosophy, it certainly fell short of what many of us would have hoped to learn in our Western mode of thinking. We long for a treatise. We long for some treatment of the subject which we could dissect, critique, interpret in our own way and misinterpret and apply to our own advantage. Characteristic of Jesus, he used the least number of words to express timeless and eternal truth. And we need not over-explain or over-analyze it.
Just note, the statement is a limiting one. Caesar doesn’t get all. God probably does. But, even God allows a “rendering” of certain things unto human, earthly authorities.

The statement also begs the question whose answer is immediately, “no.” Is Caesar entitled to everything he demands? Yet, this goes entirely unnoticed by those who seek ultimate and total power for the state. The fact that God is entitled to certain things, even if not all things, is the corollary that doesn’t apply to the Leftist, Christian or not.

But Sean, this doesn’t directly answer your caller from Michigan who imagines that American domestic policy should fall along the same lines of early Christian practice. For it doesn’t address why we don’t lift words and practices out of context and apply them to a setting for which they were not intended.

Now, a fuller treatment of this naïve belief.

To apply early Christian practice, we shall just refer to it as “having all things in common,” as a matter of American domestic and tax policy is a violation of what actually happened as recorded in the book of (1) Acts.

This state of affairs was totally voluntary. It clearly emanated from some internal mechanism (I call it the Holy Spirit) and was not put upon them even by their own leaders within the church community let alone by authorities of the state. To be precise, we have no record of Jesus recommending this lifestyle either. Perhaps it was modeled in the traveling community around Jesus. But, that is unclear. We know that Judas kept a purse for the group but pilfered from it with apparently little concern from Jesus.

Of course, the point has nothing to do with whether or not the church community should follow this model. They may well should. The issue at hand is whether or not the state should force it upon the whole of society as a matter of policy.

Although I don’t care for most modern expressions of the Acts 4:32 idea, I do not, herein, argue against this type of Christian communal practice. There are plenty of groups that try it in one form or another. Many Christians do their best to adopt the spirit of such a practice through their giving to the local church and the practice of “alms-giving” or giving to the poor, especially their own who are in need. This happens in some of the most flawed Christian communities, even those with nearly incoherent mission statements. It’s just something they do. But, if a group of Christians were to practice this communal lifestyle, they could do it to a lesser degree precisely because the state has already taken up too much of their income in taxes. In other words, the state is actually the instrument that mitigates against such a heavenly and blissful condition. Unless the members run afoul of the I.R.S., it is impossible for them to share “everything” in common because the state will have taken either the first 15% and maybe up to 70% of the “everything” that they were supposed to have in common. Of course, if they are all poor, there may be no tax rate other than the 15% or so they must pay for social security. Perhaps the sharing of poverty amongst fellow believers is what the "Christian" Left has in mind.

By the way, we’re still waiting on an answer to my question, what directive did Jesus or His apostles ever prescribe for the state?

Are “Christian” Leftists actually saying that the practice of “having all things in common” should be taken away from the church community and given to the state? If not, how can both groups practice it? You cannot “have anything in common” more than once. So which is it? Does the Christian community practice this or does the state? If it’s the state’s responsibility, the argument falls quite flat doesn’t it – Christians are in effect prohibited from practicing it. And, if the state has the responsibility to insure some sort of “Christian” community, does it also have the responsibility to preach the Christian gospel? To discipline and correct its members for adultery? This may be the vision of America promulgated by some but certainly not by the Left.

Read Acts 4:32 again (below). It is not really clear how the details were worked out. We know that people did not claim ultimate ownership – no one claimed that “any of the things he possessed was his own.” This is consistent with the Judaic and Christian tradition of viewing everything as belonging to God and viewing ourselves as managers (“stewards”) of what we “possess.” Christians did, please note, “possess” certain things. The difference was that there was no “grasping” of possessions. This is what Buddhism had taught for 2,500 years but what appeared as if by magic in the Christian community without mandate. There is no indication that there was a common till. The sharing of all things was by attitude and mutual sharing, not by a Department of the Treasury or via the Ways and Means Committe.

Our world could certainly use an attitude of sharing and mutual concern. But, it’s an attitude that dynamic Christianity does not seek to impose upon society. It seeks first to introduce human beings to the reality of (2) “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The implications and natural consequences that follow cannot help but spread a charitable environment throughout society.

But, the surest way to insure that such a spirit does not spread throughout, is to place upon the state the responsibility to produce that which it cannot. Historically, it's also the surest way to waste 66% or more of the resources within the redistributive hierarchy, hardly what happened in early Christianity. "All things" does not mean "all things less the bureacratic deduction."

One parting thought. If it’s a Christian’s obligation to support the state in its pursuit of this vision of communal sharing, is it also a Christian’s duty to support the state’s pursuit of other community practices such as Paul’s admonition, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10) No provision for the unfortunate condition of having lost one’s job. It’s pretty straight up – You don’t work, you don’t eat. Now, this one I like. We get to watch the lazy bastards on the welfare dole starve to death. Excellent!

I knew that Right-Wing Republican Christians enjoyed seeing people go hungry and actually wanted them to starve to death. This we know from the current White House and Congress. I just didn’t imagine that the sympathetic Left would support this notion. I suppose we have more in common than we thought.


(1) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. (Acts 4:32)

(2) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Religulous Review: Part Deux

Lionsgate; 2008

Well, I broke down and saw Religulous in time to be the last reviewer on the planet to weigh in. Nevertheless, this is what my fans crave and demand. And far be it from me to fatten them on too much information too soon.

First of all, I might (humbly) mention that I did indeed “review” Religulous before I actually saw it. And I need change nothing about my review. I was embarrassingly accurate. What can I say? Am I a genius? Maybe. But, truth be told, atheists are predictable. More on the “new atheism” later but for now, trust me, there’s nothing substantially new about 21st century atheism. [The single and only new element is power. First political, then violent power if politics don’t work.] Thus, to predict what Maher would say is quite . . . predictably simple.

My friend, David Acuff (; is fond of quoting Aleister Crowley who says "Those who tell the stories, shape the culture." For this reason, I’m on a crusade to enlist every sensible and sane person to be a film and TV critic. At least, I want everyone to be a reviewer. It would be good to write out your review of every program or film you watch, including “American Idle.” [Yes, I know how to spell.] And, hopefully you will write your critique with this question in mind, “How does this story enhance my grasp of reality?” A daunting and tedious task no doubt. But, unless you and I think in those terms, we allow others to frame our internal paradigms and distort our view of the world, leading us to see it, not as it is but as someone else wants it to be.

Now, Religulous.

Bill Maher (BM) has flopped as a comedian and as an actor. This all happened before the digital age. After a mediocre showing on HBO (we can’t determine exactly how mediocre) he attempts a career in film. Not documentaries. Film . . . with acting, scripts and the works. There is no law that requires the acting to be good. So, technically, only the law of good taste has been broken here.

Presented to us as a documentary, BM turns in his Oscar-hopeful performance. I know it’s a performance because I watched Religulous all the way to the end. BM appears to approach his subject of religion with boyish naïveté. This demeanor is necessary to convince us viewers that we are on a journey with BM in search of the truth. I am guessing that the nervous laughter is to give the impression that we are standing on the precipice of a great and orgasmic epiphany. [Nervous laughter substitutes for an eerie soundtrack. It is against the law to use music soundtracks in documentaries.]

And here is the epiphany.

“Religion must die in order for mankind to live.” Oops. Did I give away the ending? I’m not a professional you know.

No nervous laughter. No Maher-patented smirk. He’s serious. Of course if you know anything about BM, you know that this has been his conclusion for quite some time. He’s been on no such voyage in search of the facts, he’s merely lampooning religious folk for some of the dumb things they say and do. Hell’s bells! My buddies and I have been doing that for over 40 years. We had a course on it in “Bible College.” Not for credit mind you. But, my “study group” met every night and on weekends and made fun of stupid people in the church. I’m not proud of it. I’m just trying to point out that those Religulous royalties could have been mine.

I’ll deal with Maher’s conclusions later.

The DVD jacket promised the following.

“Hellishly Hilarious.”
“Hilarious! Outrageous! Nothing Short of Brilliant.”
“One of the funniest and most offensive documentaries ever made.”

I’m reminded of another Jewish comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, and the episode on Seinfeld in which his dentist converted to Judaism so he could legitimately tell Jewish jokes in his side job as an amateur comedian. When asked if this offended Jerry as a Jew he replied, “No, it offends me as a comedian.”

In this sense, Religulous is definitely “offensive.” I didn’t say it; the DVD jacket did. But, I’m not offended by Maher’s atheism. I wish him well in that regard. We have enough whack-jobs within Christianity so if Maher can stay on the other side, I’m good with it.

Religulous must be funny though. But just in case you miss the humor, Bill also provides the laugh track. I don’t mean the sound of several dozen people laughing; I mean the sound of Bill laughing, presumably because he thinks he’s funny. It’s a nice touch and it does remind us of when humor is present.

I do admit to one chortle. But, to be fair to the laugh gods, it was at the use of graphics toward the end of the film. And I was trying my best to laugh. Remember the DVD jacket.

Religulous does take us on a journey around the world – not the pretty parts. Mostly what you would see if you were riding “shotgun” and looking over at BM, driving and commenting . . . and laughing at his perceived humor.

BM interviews religious folks. The one truly serious interview with Francis Collins (Human Genome Project; The Language of God) was disappointingly short. The good old boys at the truck stop, the silly lady at “gospel world” (or wherever that was), the hippie character who played Jesus at fake Holy Land in Florida, the priest at the Vatican whom you wouldn’t let near your ugly sister and others were far too important to this information-rich documentary and thus deserved more air time. Collins couldn’t be given serious treatment, presumably because he is doubly deluded. Not only does he believe in a transcendent God, his belief is inexcusable because he is educated and should know better.

A psychoanalysis of BM is important here. Normally, I abhor psychoanalysis. But, sometimes it’s too difficult to resist analyzing psychos. And Religulous begs for it. If you do not want to be psychologically evaluated, do not parade your mother (Yahweh rest her soul) and sister and rehearse your childhood religious contradictions on film. The reasons that Bill became an atheist are explored as part of Religulous and thus deserve examination.

Bill was pissed when he learned there was no Santa Claus. We could examine his father’s exit from the Catholic Church when Bill was only 13 or so. We could imagine the angst in young Bill’s mind at leaving his Jewish mother behind as Bill and his sister were taken to mass every Sunday. And the father’s reasoning for leaving the Catholic Church (his distaste for their teaching about contraception) is rich with Freudian implications about everything from Bill’s masturbatory issues to his atheism. But nothing is as telling as Bill’s reaction to the realization that there was no Santa. It was at this moment that the seeds of doubt about God’s existence were sown. Now, these are two pernicious ideas – belief in Santa and belief in a God. No wonder the 20th century was so bloody. Have you noticed that atheists who viscerally deplore the idea that others insist on believing in God keep bringing up this comparison? Mmmm, we maybe on to something here.

If I can be serious here for a moment, it is sufficient to note that BM obviously lacks any touch point with experiential Christianity. His experience with and image of “god” is solely based upon his dogmatic and institutional brush with the Catholic Church and a non-practicing Jewish mother. The positive thing about his experience is that he may have been pried away from religious pretension at a young age. But, when pretension is not replaced with reality, skepticism is heaven.

Maher’s worldview requires treatment. Yes, medical treatment as well. But, that’s not what I mean. It needs to be addressed. Even though Religulous garnered only 12 million at the box office, I would personally not consider that a failure unless I had spent more than $11,750,000 making it. Maher requires a serious look for the same reason Alistair McGrath said of Richard Dawkins’ convoluted treatment on atheism in The God Delusion. To not answer his attack is to leave the impression that there are no answers to his objections. Otherwise, the book and the film are so patently unfair and irrational so as not to attract reviews from serious thinkers.

Maher will play out in the rise of this nascent “new atheism” (whatever the hell that means) as the court jester. Jesters are funny only under very specific circumstances – when alcohol mingles with stupidity. Court jesters traditionally performed before drunken politicians and bureaucrats who probably laughed their fool heads off. Otherwise, the jester was beheaded. Or his video was “deep-sixed.” ‘Nuff said.

Lest you think I am merely casting aspersions, may I remind you of what Maher’s fellow atheist, Christopher Hitchens, said to Maher about his audience, “your audience, which will apparently clap at anything, is frivolous [boo’s from the audience followed by the middle-finger gesture from Hitchens] . . . f**k you.” Next to the Robert Tilton farting videos, it’s my favorite scene in film history.

As the grand finale, I shall wax philosophical. I will deal with Maher’s grand statement, his final and deadly blow to religion.

“If someone says they know what happens to you when you die, I promise you that they do not know. How do I know? Because I don’t know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not.”

Notice the dogmatism. There is no sense that his claim to equal “mental powers” requires evidence or justification. He just makes a claim. This is important because

1. People possess varying degrees of mental powers about a variety of matters. So, Maher’s statement is prima facie untrue. It is also untrue historically. Einstein, with only his “mental powers” and separate from empirical observation or scientific method, conceived several of his theories. These were only “proven” years later with experiments that are relatively primitive by our standards a mere century later.

2. Reality is not perceived by equal or superior “mental powers” in any case but by good eyesight. Of course, I mean by that, spiritual perception. Atheists call this a cop out. In my humble opinion, it is the atheist’s strongest and only unanswerable critique of faith. I don’t grant that it is a “cop out” only that a rational explanation cannot help but elude the skeptic. But, as Socrates once said “it is what it is.” Or was that LL Cool J?

If you think Maher’s treatment of the subject of religion or theism is fair, answer this question – would you allow yourself to be interviewed by Maher on any subject that mattered to you? The interviews, especially the one with the evangelical Christian politician, are set-ups for the most part. BM’s inequitable treatment of those views with which he disagrees is probably why he couldn’t score interviews with a number of thinking theists. I know I wouldn’t submit to an edit-able interview. On at least one occasion, the part in which the interviewee asks “is the microphone on?” makes it to the final cut. Pray tell, what’s the purpose of that other than to paint your subject in an unfavorable light? This and a hundred other little signs demonstrate BM’s lack of fair-handedness in his treatment of anything theological or political.

And, do you really need Maher to expose the vagaries of the Catholic Church? If you do, then not even this film can be helpful.

Given Maher’s already expressed view, it’s hard to accept his boyish naïveté as his genuine approach. And this is obvious with Bill’s wrap-up monologue.

“Religion must die in order for mankind to live.”

“Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.”

“Those who preach faith and enable and elevate it are intellectual slave-holders keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.”

“If someone says they know what happens to you when you die, I promise you that they do not know. How do I know? Because I don’t know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not.”

Bill never defines religion. We are left to believe that everyone who believes in God is a practitioner of religion. Thus, if you believe in God, you are the enabler of evil on the planet.

There is nothing new in Maher’s complaints against religion or in his objections to belief. But, herein is Maher’s place in the “new atheism” – he calls on those who are only moderately religious to “look in the mirror” and forsake this heinous monster of religion.

Maher conveniently overlooks a few points that a reasonable discussion and a true documentary would have born out.

First of all, as a logical point, bad religion is bad and good religion is good. It’s absurd to say that all religion is bad. A film entitled “Religulous” owes us a thorough if not, fair, treatment of religion and the religious impulse. But, none is forthcoming.

Secondly, the biggest blunder in a documentary treatment of the role of religion in history and society is the omission of the 20th century – a testament for all time and eternity of the evils of irreligion. World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam were not wars to stop the menace of religious monsters. Blood was spilt because men, in defiance of God and all that is holy, conducted themselves in a manner fitting of a mind without God – as Hitler, as Lenin, as Stalin, as Pol Pot, as Idi Amin, ad nauseum. These are not men in search of a religious vision. They delivered on Maher’s great hope, a world without the restraints of religion and without nagging delusions about God.

I can’t agree with Owen Gleiberman that “Religulous isn't an attack upon God but on the vain, deluded things human beings say and do in His name.” It’s true that Maher only attacks the silly side of religious practice. It’s a game I play much better than Maher by the way. You should hear my imitation of Benny Hinn or Robert Tilton. Of course, anyone with even a mild case of flatulence can imitate Robert Tilton. The reality is that a common thread throughout the film is Maher’s mantra that God is a delusion. That means Religulous is more than an attack on “deluded” practices of a limited number of religious folk; it’s an attack on the very concept of God’s existence.

But, here is the common mistake most atheistic apologists make – they confuse religion with God and suppose that to discredit one is to prove the absence of the other. This is neither logically consistent nor demonstrably true. But apparently it is still fodder for documentaries.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I'm going to review Religulous before I've seen it. I will play into the classic stereotype of a right-wing, closed-minded, uneducated, prejudiced Christian who believes everyone is going to hell except those who believe like I do. Crappadoo-doo! Why not? Seems like nothing a theist or, God forbid, a Christian can say or do will disentangle him (I forgot "sexist") from this image.

I will review the film, then view it, the re-review it. I suppose we could say that I shall pre-review the film. How's that my friends? [I would like a Pulitzer for creating a new genre of literature.]

And I haven't followed Maher that much. Too cheap to buy HBO. I only know that when he appears on TV interviews, the producers insist on tagging him (in the banner which appears in the lower part of the frame) as a "comedian." I may date myself here but, when I was coming along, comedians made people laugh or they had to find other work. Obviously, that's what Maher did. The producers as usual, haven't been informed.

Full disclosure - I've seen the trailer once and I voted for George Bush . . . twice. I wish I could say "thrice." Voted for George Bush, that is.

If you will please wipe the grin off your face long enough to take me serious, I will give this thing a serious whirl.

Maher identifies religious kooks (branded and not) who embrace belief in God for a variety of uninformed and illogical reasons. This is Exhibit A in the prosecution's case that belief in God is totally unwarranted. Rather than concluding that people are stupid and leave it at that, Maher concludes that he is not. And that belief in God is therefore stupid. He interviews a few experts who confirm his findings lending an air of credibility to his contentions.

Let me state it as inductive logic:
1. Stupid people believe in God.
2. Smart people do not believe in God.
3. Stupid people are wrong and smart people are right.
4. God does not exist because smart people cannot possibly be wrong.

The classic mistake that atheists are almost bound to make is that religion = belief in God. If religion is discredited, there goes any warranted belief in a deity. The argument is too irresistible. It's just too easy. There are too many kooks out there waving some religious banner. (My favorites are the more entertaining ones like Robert Tilton and Benny Hinn. I'm sure you have your favs). One can discredit preachers and religious people as easily as one can lick sugar off a sucker. It's really not that difficult.

That's it. That's my pre-review. I'm sure I'll probably regret the use of a few words like "totally." Like, totally, dude.

Thankfully, we live in an age when precision of thought, exactitude of logic and accuracy of fact is not nearly as important as audacity. Given that my presumptive (read "audacious") review of Religulous is now available for billions of internet users, do I not deserve an appearance on Oprah or at least in the Obama administration?

I would like to apologize to high school and college graduates for my limited vocabulary. Please bear in mind that I am reviewing Maher.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How To Stop A Crucifixion

Today (April 10, 2009), millions of Christians will rehearse in their minds the Passion of Christ. They will recall his torture, his silence and his cries, the nails, the thorns, the body piercings, the ultimate agony and death.

It all could have been prevented. The revelation of a simple secret, a mystery as the apostle Paul called it, would have triggered an "abort mission" from the "rulers of this world."

Look at exactly what Paul said about this. We rarely hear it preached or explained.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden [wisdom] which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Cor. 2:7-8

If they would have known what?

Many will say that the rulers didn't know that our sins would be forgiven or that we would be given eternal life. That's nice. But, it's not the mystery of which Paul spoke. Those features are part of the mystery. But, they are not the heart of the mystery.

18 times the gospel writers or Paul mention the "mystery" of the gospel. In most places, Paul does not fully explain the "mystery" (in the context of his reference) and in at least one case, he implies that it is quite obvious as it is manifest among all the saints (Col. 1:6).

"Mystery" means "hidden truth" not "enigmatic, obtuse or obfuscated secret." The second definition would have delighted the gnostics who loved the idea of secrets. But, this mystery is simpler. It was simply hidden for a very long time from the understanding of mankind. And Paul tells us why. Had it been plain, the "rulers of this world" would never have carried out the crucifixion of Jesus. And without that event, humankind was certainly destined for sure demise and a dismal future at best, not to mention . . . well, I don't want to wax nasty here.

Basically, here is the mystery. I probably cannot say it succinctly and simply enough but I shall try.

His death is our death. That's it.

But, it is surely not believed by a great many believers. Do we understand what this means?

First of all, what do I mean when I say this? How was His death also my death? When Christ, the "last Adam" died, he had gathered into Himself all of "Adam" or all of the human race - past, present and future. This is a spiritual, quantum-like reality that transcends time and space. Don't get bogged down in the mechanics of it for now.

So that, when Christ died, we were "in Him" and we also died - our "Adamic nature" (a theological term that needs some explaining I think) died. As a dear friend used to say "Jesus did not just die for us, He died as us." It is not, as we used to say, that it should have been us on the cross (being the ones who had sinned), it actually was us on the cross. It has been accomplished.

But, this still doesn't really tell the story. A lot of people argue about whether or not we have a "sinful" nature and whether or not our "Adamic" nature is the real us or not. We so often miss the real issue. And this is a case in point.

See if this is helpful. Once you have been placed "in Christ" by your faith in Him, you too have "passed from death to life." Maybe this phrase is so overused that it means very little to us. But, the reality is that we who are "in Christ" will never die. Our death is in our past. We only have to die once. And because of the reality of this great mystery, we have already been through our death. In this world, we may say that so-and-so died. But for me, one moment I will have biological life on this planet; the next moment, I will be face to face with Christ, no veil to separate. That's hardly death for me!

But, there really are two issues dealt with in Christ's death. Not just the issue of "one death" having been accomplished for us, as us and on our behalf. Quite possibly, this one issue merely resolves the fear of death that underlies much of our neurosis and psychosis. I don't mean to get all "Zen" on you here. It is, nevertheless, good news that death is not in our future. But, the second issue affects everything about us, even the way we feel. It affects whether or not we can attain that sense of peace, never feeling like we may be missing out on something. It affects whether or not we can be "at rest."

The great issue that is dealt with in great finality is that of judgment. The mystery is that we, in union with Christ, have also passed through our only judgment. Our judgment is in our past. We never have to look forward to judgment. We always look past upon it. This is what Jesus meant when he said "do this in remembrance of me." We don't remember our sins; we remember our release from judgment for those sins.

Paul said that we eat and drink damnation to ourselves if we partake of the "Lord's supper" unworthily. Most folks still think that the "unworthily" means that we still have unconfessed sins. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul said that by simply not discerning the Lord's body, we eat/drink unworthily. The Lord's body is that body that was crucified . . . not just for you but as you. If we fail to see our union with Christ, in His body, specifically His body as it was being crucified, we receive the very opposite of the LIFE and FREEDOM that He provided. How opposite damnation is from life. How consistent damnation is with judgment. This is not our destiny or our feature. We can discern our union with Christ and our consequent total release from death and judgment.

Merely looking upon the Passion in our minds and developing some sympathy and empathy for what Jesus was doing is not discerning the Lord's body. It's observing as any observer may have done. Unless and until we discern (see, behold, comprehend) what was going on, we cannot see the mystery. And we cannot see why in the world the "rulers of this world" would have called the whole thing off had they also seen it.

Once Christ died, humanity died and passed into a realm by which no judgment could touch them (other than the judgment of whether or not they have received "The Son"). The "rulers of this world" can manipulate us by only one mechanism - our fear of death and judgment. With this weapon gone from their arsenal, they are thoroughly without power. Their only weapon now is deception - basically concealing from you and me the reality of our freedom in Christ.

Today, right now, I am free from death and judgment. I am free from the fear of either. God is not counting my sins against me any longer. I will never be judged as the world thinks of judgment. The "judgment" you and I can expect will be when God examines our motives and intents. Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves and shrink at the thought of our motives being revealed. But, Paul says that when that happens, every one of us will receive our praise from God. Not judgment, but praise. We say "praise God." God says "praise you back dudes and dudettes." (1 Cor. 4:5).

Indeed there was a way to stop the crucifixion. You and I are alive today because the rulers of the world walked blindly into God's trap, nailing the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, to a tree where He would become a curse, become sin for us and as us.

It's just "too good to be true." But this fool believes it.