Dying to Believe

Number 117 in a series

Did I say it’s necessary to believe in Jesus in order for you to die before your time? If I ever said that, then I need to apologize. It is not necessary to believe in Jesus for you to die needlessly. But it helps:

In October 1994, Tony Dutoit’s infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group’s centre in Morin-Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Antichrist described in the Bible. He believed that the Antichrist was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.

That’s the Order of the Solar Temple, and it should not be considered representative of all Jesus-based cults. But let’s work on the premise that OST is representative, and let’s all enjoy a safer existence.

People Unclear

This is number 42 of a long series

By now everybody knows I’m never going to run out of these. No matter how obvious the matter is, no matter how well it may have been explained, there will always be some who are still unclear.

Full disclosure: years ago I signed up for the newsletter from Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress. He heads up the massive First Baptist Church of Dallas in that city’s business district. If I told you that Pastor Jeffress is a boundless source of entertainment, that would be an understatement. Here’s the latest.

Pastor Jeffress is a great admirer of President Donald Trump, one of the president’s closest confidants after Stormy Daniels. So it came to pass that when President Trump wanted to celebrate the opening of our new embassy in Jerusalem last week, Pastor Jeffress went to deliver the benediction, for want of a better description. Given the pastor’s prior comments on Jews and other religious affiliations, that seemed odd to a number of people, and there were even strong objections. One of those who commented was ex Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. It’s all strung out in a video linked by the email I received. Take a look. I obtained these images from the video.

Anyhow, according to the video, the former governor and current candidate for the Senate, had this to say:

Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,” and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same thing about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.

What makes this most interesting is that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. To further elaborate, the subject line of the email I received reads, “Breaking News: Mitt Romney Attacks Dr. Robert Jeffress …” Here is the body of the email:

Dr. Robert Jeffress’ dedication prayer at the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem last week sparked a national controversy over the fact that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney attacked Dr. Jeffress shortly before he delivered the opening dedication prayer by calling him a bigot for proclaiming the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Pardon me if I need to  pause at this point. I do not know whether to laugh or to cry. This is just too bizarre. Two grown men, supposedly mature enough to be allowed to handle sharp objects and to operate heavy machinery, are sparing over different versions of a well-debunked myth. Particularly hilarious are the references to “Jesus Christ.” Both men claim to be adherents to Jesus, and they cannot, at least Pastor Jeffress cannot, even agree on the matter of Jesus Christ.

Full disclosure: I have previously voted for political  candidates who claimed to be fans of Jesus Christ. May Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 100 in a series

Most regrettably, we are carrying this travesty forward into yet another year.

 As Willie Hughes walked around the weathered plots and mounds of dirt at Peaceful Valley Cemetery, he remembered family that died too young and his brother Steven, who was born with spina bifida.

Steven never saw a doctor or physical therapist or used a wheelchair. He crawled around on his forearms and died of pneumonia at age 3.

“I remember his was the first body that I saw and touched. It was traumatic for a 4½ -year-old to see his little brother in a coffin. I can’t tell you how many dead bodies I’ve seen,” said Hughes, a Boise truck driver who grew up in the Followers of Christ church.

If you think Jesus saves, you need to visit places like Idaho.

People Unclear

This is number 35

Time for true confessions. I subscribe to Dr. Robert Jeffress’ newsletter. For those who don’t know:

Robert James Jeffress, Jr. (born November 29, 1955) is an American Southern Baptist (Evangelical) pastor, best-selling author, and radio and television host. Jeffress hosts the program, Pathway to Victory, which is broadcast on more than 1,200 television stations in the United States and 28 other countries. He also has a daily radio program, Pathway to Victory, which is heard on 900 stations and broadcast live in 195 countries.[2][3] He is the pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

I know that in the afterlife I will be called to atone for my transgressions, but I do this for my readers so they don’t have to. But I need to get to the story, and it starts a few reels of tape back. To begin:

Omarosa Dishes On Mike Pence: ‘He Thinks Jesus Tells Him To Say Things’

“We would be begging for the days of Trump back if Pence became president.”

Omarosa Manigault-Newman issued a dire warning about Vice President Mike Pence.

On Monday’s episode of “Celebrity Big Brother,” the former White House Office of Public Liaison communications director warned her housemates that “as bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence.”

Newman said people wishing for Trump’s impeachment “may want to reconsider” their life.

“We would be begging for the days of Trump back if Pence became president,” she added. “(Pence is) extreme. I’m Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus isn’t saying that.’”

Omarosa extended her thoughts, as reported in a post on the Independent:

Vice president Mike Pence is “scary” and “thinks Jesus tells him to say things”, according to a former Trump administration official.

Of course, the matter didn’t die then and there. On the ABC television network The View has been running since August 1997, and some interesting pronouncements have been dropped over that span. On a recent episode panelist Joy Behar put some analysis to the Vice President’s behavior, as reported by Fox News.

‘The View’ star Joy Behar mocks Mike Pence’s Christian faith: ‘That’s called mental illness’

By Brian Flood | Fox News

The women of ABC News’ “The View” took a shot a Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith on Tuesday, mocking the former governor of Indiana for talking to Jesus and even calling it a “mental illness.”

It all started when they played a clip from “Celebrity Big Brother,” in which former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman discussed the vice president.

Getting to the heart of the matter:

Joy Behar then said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you.”

Behar said hearing voices is a “mental illness” before Sherri Shepard offered a limited defense of Pence.

Getting past the fact that having conversations with dead people is one of the known signs of a mental lapse, it would have been  wise for the panelists to cut the Vice President some slack. It is for sure they did not offer up alternative explanations, some of which I list here:

  • He was being poetic. Apostrophe is a literary device that has a character speaking to an inanimate object or to a dead person.
  • He could have been  rehearsing for a part in a dramatic performance. “Jesus: Can you tell me which way to the temple? Roman soldier: Jesus Christ, if you can’t find your own way, then Heaven help you.”
  • He could have  been mocking somebody’s religious pretensions: “You think you are holier than thou? Shit, man, Jesus talks to me. And you know what? I talk back.”

But they didn’t, and now they have incurred the wrath of holier than thou Dr. Robert Jeffress of the larger than God, downtown Dallas mega church. May Jesus have mercy on their souls. Here is a partial transcript provided by Dr. Jeffress from his interview on Fox News:

Dr. Robert Jeffress went off on the co-hosts of “The View” for mocking Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith on Tuesday.

It all started when “The View” played a clip from “Celebrity Big Brother,” in which former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said the Vice President “thinks Jesus tells him to say things.”

Sunny Hostin expressed concern about Pence’s religious fervor and said she doesn’t want her Vice President “speaking in tongues.”

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you,” Joy Behar said, adding that hearing voices is a “mental illness.”

Jeffress wondered on “America’s Newsroom” what would have happened to Behar if she had mocked a devout Muslim.

“ABC would have fired her in a nanosecond. To the left, when it comes to attacking conservative Christians, it is always open season.”

He pointed out that many liberals preach the importance of tolerance, but when it comes to beliefs with which they disagree, they can often be the least tolerant.

He said Christians are tired of being bullied in the public square for their faith, and the 2016 election was in some ways a reaction to these types of “despicable attacks.”

I need to expand on that in parts. First there is the implication (outright declaration?) that “the left” (that would include me) is partial to Muslims. Let me put that to rest right now. Those Muslims are absolutely wacky. Here’s the kind of stuff they (not all) believe:

  • The earth and everything else was created by a mythical being.
  • Abraham, the character in the Bible, was a real person.
  • Mohamed had conversations with God, the previously-mentioned mythical being.
  • Mohamed traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem and back within the span of a few hours.
  • Mohamed ascended into  Heaven, a mythical place.

There, I’ve given Muslims their due. They are little better than Vice President Mike Pence when it comes to being unclear. And, yes, those on the left side of the aisle (some) tend to mock this kind of nonsense, as do some on the right. The question should be “Why doesn’t everybody, left and right, give this tripe the belly laugh it deserves?”

Dr. Jeffress complains that liberals preach tolerance, yet they are intolerant of beliefs that are not their own. Dude, what is your concept of tolerance? We tolerate. We condemn, yet we tolerate. Being tolerant of a bad movie does not mean we purchase tickets. Being tolerant of a braying jackass does not mean we welcome him into our living rooms.

Christians are being bullied. Really? If somebody farts in an elevator, you do not compliment him on his good manners? Dr. Jeffress, get real.

And by the way, keep those emails coming. I open them daily with great joy. That’s tolerance.

Friday Funny

Number 96 of a series

It’s Friday, and here is something funny. It may be the fifth best excuse to cough up when you are pulled in for DUI:

Man Lets Jesus Take The Wheel And Truck Flips 5 Times

A Tennessee man flips his truck five times after letting go of the steering wheel because Jesus wanted to drive.

According to reports, Chad O. England flipped his truck five times on a Tennessee interstate earlier this week after he thought Jesus was calling him and advising him to let go of the wheel and let Jesus do the driving.

After the accident England told officers that he was behind the wheel, but that he wasn’t driving at the time of the crash. Because, you know, Jesus was driving.

Yeah, man. Stick to that story. We’re having a good laugh.

This is so remarkable.

CrucifixionBrueghel

Apparently this is what happened:

There was this guy, and they held a trumped up trial, and they decided the guy should be crucified. That is, nailed to a cross and allowed to die.

So they cursed the guy, and beat him with whips, and then they drove nails through his hands and feet and fastened him to a cross and put the cross up on top of a hill, along with some other guys. And people crowded around, and his enemies jeered and made nasty remarks, and his friends—including his own mother—were over wrought and could do nothing, and a soldier jabbed him with a spear. And the guy gave some final remarks, and then he died.

And here is what is so remarkable about all of this. While all of this was going on, and all of these people were around observing the goings on—during all this—nobody thought to make a video.

Zealot

Jesussins-01

Today may be a good time to bring this up. We’ll see how it works out.

This is not a review of the book. I’ll get around to that later. For now I’m going to discuss the book’s author, Reza Aslan. He’s been in the news the past few days with an on-line panel discussion about Jesus.

Reza Aslan And Theological Scholar Peter Lillback Debate Who Jesus Really Was

The different historical and religious interpretations of Jesus are generally cause for a heated debate, and in a HuffPost Live panel discussion on Monday, author Reza Aslan and theological scholar Peter Lillback had just that.

The “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” author argues that a tension exists between the historical and theological narratives of Jesus, as “many Christians would say Jesus fulfilled” the prophecies detailed in the Bible, while “many historians would say Jesus’ life was crafted so that it would fulfill these prophecies.”

“There are many prophecies of the coming messiah that Jesus does not fulfill,” he added. “It’s kind of a hodge-podge of different prophetic statements about what the messiah’s supposed to do, where the messiah’s supposed to be born, etc.”

Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, took issue with Aslan’s claim, firing back that he’d like to “correct” the author about the level of fact to be gleaned from the Hebrew scriptures.

“When we continue to separate history and theology and say they cannot be together, that means that we who are living two millenia after Christ know more about that historical milieu than the people who actually lived there and saw the story,” he said.

Yes, that really is the problem with Jesus. Jesus is supposed to have fulfilled biblical prophesies, thereby making him the promised messiah, the Christ. Unfortunately for the story of Jesus is that none of this fulfillment was realized until many years after the execution a person named Jesus, or Joshua, from Nazareth, in what is now the modern state of Israel.

Today for most Christians around the world is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and an interesting thing about the story of Jesus’s birth is where he was supposed to have been born. Christians celebrate Bethlehem as his birth place, and we are drawn to ask, “Why?” Why Bethlehem?

The answer to that swings the conversation back to the prophesies Jesus is presumed to have fulfilled. One prophesy was that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and the stories of Jesus, written years after his death, point toward Bethlehem.

The problem is there is no evidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His family, his father Joseph and his mother Mary, are said to have lived in Nazareth, hence “Jesus of Nazareth.” So how did Jesus get born in Bethlehem? Good you should ask.

Supposedly the Roman government was superbly efficient, and they needed a census of all their subjects. So to fulfill the census everybody had to show up at the place of their birth and participate in the census—there.

At this point all kinds of historians and also serious biblical scholars are asking, “Why?” The answer to that question is, “No way!” First, there is no reason an efficient government would require people to return to their place of birth to participate in a census. Second, there is no record the Romans ever held a census about that time, neither a census of this sort of at any time. The solution to this conundrum is simply that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. And I won’t get into the fable of the star that hangs in the sky over a single point on the ground. There’s some serious physics that argues against that.

What we apparently have is the case of a radical Jewish rabbi from about 2000 years ago who got crosswise with the church and was executed by the Romans for insubordination. And no messiah.

Jesus was gone, along with a number of possible candidates from the time. And no messiah. Years later, in fulfillment of the prophesies, Jesus was nominated as the messiah, now dead, and a (nearly) complete history was concocted of his life, death and ultimate ascent into Heaven. And the rest is history.

Save Jesus

Save Jesus

Now come serious biblical scholars such as Reza Aslan to do the research and to step forward to state the obvious truth and then to catch all heck for their efforts. Most famous was an interview Aslan had on Fox News.

Fox News to Scholar: Why Would a Muslim Write a Book About Jesus?

It’s got plenty of competition but this may just be the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News. At least in recent memory. Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”*

But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan.

Yes, that is a curious question. Why should a religious scholar, who is not actually a Christian, write about Jesus (who also was not a Christian, but that’s beside the point)? Somebody needs to step back and take a real-world look at this question. It’s sort of like asking, “Why would a veterinarian, who is not actually a horse, feel comfortable writing a book about a horse?”

Enough of that. Today is Christmas, and later this morning we’re over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house to open presents with people we see three or four times a year. Did I mention some great food?

Merry Christmas to all, readers. And may Jesus have mercy on your souls.