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My most recent posts have hit Evangelical Christianity pretty hard. While I certainly believe that my observations were warranted by the fac...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Just a note to explain that there will be an extended break in posts and comments here. I'm working on another project that will require all of my time and energy to complete. May God bless each and every one of you until we meet here again or in that Kingdom!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The End of the World?

It appears that one of the hallmarks of Fundamentalist Christianity is a belief that the end is right around the corner (this was/is certainly the case with the Armstrong Churches of God). Their attitudes about Scripture don't just color their views about religion. They also color the way they look at science, politics, history and world events. Let's face it, for most of these groups, there is a preoccupation (one could almost call it an obsession) with prophecy.

Moreover, it should be clear by now to anyone with an ounce of objectivity, that this preoccupation/obsession is/has not (been) healthy. It leads people to do all kinds of foolish things. It causes them to fail to adequately plan and provide for their futures. It causes them to send their money to folks who are supposed to be warning the rest of the world about what's coming down the pike in the not too distant future. It perverts the way that they parent their children, and it twists the way that they look at government, politics and world events. It also causes unnecessary anxiety, fear and depression and robs many of these folks of their peace of mind.

Where does this conviction that the end of the world is near come from? Not the Bible! It stems from an ignorance of Scripture, history, science, politics, theology and philosophy. How? A literal interpretation of Scripture that does not consider things like context and the complexities of the symbolism used there leads to erroneous conclusions/interpretations. Without a good understanding of human history, much of the wars, political turmoil, famines and disease that folks observe in the world has no context - commonplace events become extraordinary and seem to have appeared suddenly on the world stage. Likewise, without a good understanding of science, things like earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes appear to take on supernatural or magical qualities (they become manifestations of God's wrath). In short, most of these folks (Fundamentalists) are susceptible to the notion that the end is near because they have no frame of reference for what happened before they arrived on the scene. They see bombings, hurricanes, rapes and murders on the nightly news and conclude that the apocalypse is at our door.

The Huffington Post just published an excellent piece entitled "The Second Coming, Prophecy and Politics in America." I encourage everyone to read it. You can view the entire post at this address:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57f63296e4b0568704999eb7  Dr. Steve McSwain applies this phenomenon to the current election cycle in the United States. He writes:
"As the Pew Center recently pointed out, it is largely evangelical Christians who are rallying around a political candidate whom they mistakenly predict will disrupt, or “interfere” with the status quo in government, politics, and in America’s morality. As a consequence, they foretell that this will result in a spiritual revival, restore their version of an “ideal” and “spiritual” America (which is obviously not inside the real prophetic tradition of the Bible). Nor does it square up with what is the nature of historic prophetic preaching. It is as if, however, they regard this “election” year as the “final” attempt by God to return America to its favored and Divinely elected status (what some non-evangelical Republicans would describe as “American exceptionalism”) or else? And, the “or else” means the Second Coming of Jesus, the Rapture of the Church, and the end of the world.
None of this is remotely true, however. Nor is it Biblical."

He continues:  "And, it is only those who know very little of scripture or quote passages of the Bible that are not in any way predictive of the future who engage in this madness. It’s as if they want you to believe that the Bible is some kind of secret code book containing secret ingredients like a recipe to a special dish and only those who are especially endowed by God to interpret the code are capable of doing so." He completes his article by calling these folks exactly what they are:  FALSE prophets.

Are we saying that folks in the Fundamentalist fold are ignorant? Are we saying that they're intellectually lazy? No, but we are suggesting that digging just a little deeper, doing just a little more research/homework might dramatically improve their outlook on the world and their understanding of biblical prophecy in the context of past and current events.

Is the end of the world at our doorstep? I don't think so. What do you think?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rosh Hashanah: Things you probably won't hear in an Armstrong Church of God service

I ran across a very good summary of the holiday from a Jewish perspective (after all, it was/is a Hebrew holiday  - Didn't YHWH originally instruct the Israelites to observe it?). The article appeared on the International Business Times website (You can view the entire piece at this address:  http://www.ibtimes.com/rosh-hashanah-2016-5-key-facts-about-jewish-new-year-2424752

Jason Le Miere makes the following points about the meaning of the holiday:

1. It is considered to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
2. It is the Jewish New Year.
3. It is a time to reflect on past behavior and think about the year ahead.
4. It marks the beginning of the Days of Awe (related to self-examination, repentance and Yom               Kippur or Atonement).
5. It is a time to consume symbolic foods.
6. It is a day for the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn).
7. The Jewish greeting is paraphrased in English as "may you be inscribed and sealed <in the Book of Life> for a good year."

Hmmm, perhaps it would be appropriate/instructive to do a little more research into Jewish attitudes and traditions regarding one of their chief holidays?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

God and Money

In several of my previous posts, I have discussed various aspects of how economics has impacted our views on God, religion and all things relative to morality. I've talked about how God is not a Capitalist, Socialist or Communist. I've also talked a great deal about the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" and its theological, intellectual and emotional shortcomings. Unfortunately, the influence of money is so pervasive and insidious that most of us aren't even aware of its pernicious effects. It is my contention that one of the most insightful statements that Jesus Christ ever made was his reference to the relative incompatibility of possessing wealth with the potential for inheriting his kingdom (Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25).

It is very human to think in terms of different classes of people, and we can all readily affirm that this phenomenon is most often linked to economics. Along these lines, I recently discovered an interesting post that attacked a British politician (Joseph Muscat, Labour Party) for believing "the only thing which separates different social classes of people is money." ( http://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/2016/08/speaks-though-money-separates-different-classes-people/)
According to the author (Daphne Caruana Galizia), culture is the most important factor in defining class ("values, beliefs, attitudes, manners and mores, and behavioural traits").

My question is:  In our world, isn't culture largely defined by money? After all, doesn't the amount of education and the number of opportunities which are available to a person almost always depend on how much money they have or can acquire? And, doesn't education shape values, beliefs, attitudes, manners, etc.?

We like to think that there are better/upper and meaner/lower classes of people, and we like to think of them in terms of culture (we also like to think of ourselves as being part of the better crowd). However, if we are truly honest with ourselves, isn't money the only thing that really separates us from each other? After all, there are many wealthy Democrats in the United States (they don't all belong to the Republican Party). Likewise, we all know many moral people who are very poor, and wealthy individuals who are unscrupulous or amoral. We can probably all point to people of modest means who have exquisite taste in art, music and decorating; and wealthy folks who are garish, boorish and wouldn't recognize class if it bit them in the ass.

For many of us, this is a scary prospect: The notion that money could be the only thing that really separates us from each other. Are you saying that I would be exactly the same as a peasant in Bangladesh if I didn't have money? Are you saying that most of the things that we think of as defining class are really superficial differences that are largely shaped by the presence/absence of wealth? So, take away the money and we're all the same? That is our reality.

Jesus Christ's perspective, however, was radically different. For him, the values were not superficial, they were/are the only things that truly separate us from each other. For him, wealth only made it more difficult to achieve a truly better plane of existence. For Jesus Christ, there were only people. He wasn't concerned with how much wealth and power they had accumulated.

What socioeconomic class do you belong to? Are you upper, middle or lower class? What makes you a member of that class?

We like to say that you can't take it with you when you go, but we've all seen some pretty elaborate tombs and mausoleums at the local cemeteries. Likewise, we've all seen pauper graves - a simple stake, pile of stones or no visible marker. I ask again:  What class do you identify with? What makes you better than the peasant working in a sweat shop in Bangladesh?

Friday, September 16, 2016

What does the Bible say about Trump supporters?

Hillary Clinton recently faced a firestorm over characterizing some Trump supporters as "deplorables." According to her, this moniker was justified by the racism, sexism, homophobia or xenophobia apparent in some of The Donald's statements.

Of course, the unstated premise of this characterization is that anyone who supports Donald Trump must endorse most or all of the statements he makes. The reasoning goes something like this:  "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" - Amos 3:3

Just to be clear, the Bible doesn't say anything about Donald Trump or his supporters. We are talking about principles found in Scripture that may or may not apply to them.

In Scripture, we also read:  "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue." - Proverbs 17:4 This brings us to some of the things that have slipped past Donald's lips and rolled off the end of his tongue.

Consider the following:

“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud."

“Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.” (Admittedly, this one is a bit subjective, but there's no debating the fact that it smacks of sexism)

“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

 “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”

"Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: 'If they're small, something else must be small.' I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee."

“I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”

"The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman's card. She's got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she's got going is the woman's card, and the beautiful thing is, women don't like her."

*** All of the above quotes taken from http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/550112/donald-trump-quotes.html

Speaking of fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz, Trump said:  "Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: 'Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?' That'd be a big problem. It'd be a very precarious one for Republicans because he'd be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don't want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head." -- https://mic.com/articles/131952/10-of-donald-trump-s-most-ridiculous-birther-statements#.r8k5OiDzP

Speaking of Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the case against 'Trump University, Donald said: "He is a member of a club or society, very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he's got bias. I want to build a wall. I'm going to build a wall. I'm doing very well with the Latinos, with the Hispanics, with the Mexicans, I'm doing very well with them, in my opinion. And we're going to see, you're going to see, because you know what, I'm providing jobs. Nobody else is giving jobs. But just so you understand, this judge has treated me very unfairly, he's treated me in a hostile manner. And there's something going on." -- http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/article/2016/jun/08/donald-trumps-racial-comments-about-judge-trump-un/

What do you think? Do these statements reflect on the people who support Donald Trump?


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Armstrongism without Herbert or Garner Ted?

Several of the Armstrong related blogs have speculated about the long term viability and survival of the descendants of the Worldwide Church of God. Although I do not consider this blog to be one of those, as a former member, I do feel entitled to wade into the debate and offer my own observations/opinions.

RationalWiki defines a personality cult as "a system in which a leader is able to control a group of people through the sheer force of his or her personality and is often portrayed as a god-like figure." It is the opinion of this blogger that this describes the former Worldwide Church of God perfectly, and it goes a long way toward explaining the phenomena that we have observed playing out within the various offshoots since the deaths of Herbert and Garner Ted.

After all, Herbert continually pointed to himself as God's Apostle. He was the ONE whom God was working through in the end time. God had used HIM (and him ALONE) to restore TRUTH to His Church. Herbert was God's representative on earth. He was the human head of God's government in the Church. Whatever he said was the LAW. It was his prerogative to make all of the decisions and dictate what everyone else believed. It was the job of the lay membership to support him and his work. Likewise, when Garner Ted came of age (and after the death of his brother), he was the heir apparent. What an orator! All of the ministers looked to him as the ideal of public speaking.

For those groups who have embraced Herbert and his teachings (Philadelphia, Restored, Continuing, Living, etc.), we see that no one has emerged with the personality and talent to replace him/them. Moreover, any "new" folks who express an interest in their teachings are quickly put off by their obsession with Herbert Armstrong. When these folks read their material (books, booklets, magazines, etc.) and listen to their sermons, most of them are wondering: "Who in the hell is Herbert Armstrong?" "Why do these folks keep talking about an old dead guy?" or "I don't remember seeing his name anywhere in the Bible!"

For those groups who have sought to put some distance between themselves and their founder (United, International, Big Sandy, etc.), like their sister groups, no one has emerged who has been able to garner the support, devotion and loyalty of everyone within them. They are consumed by trying to satisfy everyone, or at least refrain from offending very many. Moreover, when outsiders express some interest in the groups, they are often met with explanations of how they differ from their parent organization. "What are they talking about?" the newbie wonders. OR They are presented with teachings that can easily be shown to be false (like Anglo-Israelism) and appear to them to have little relevance to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Their left wondering: "Where did they get this stuff from?"

Either way, it just doesn't work! A personality cult doesn't work without the personality who inspired it all. What do you think?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cognitive Distortion: Black and White Thinking

Dennis Diehl's post on "Cognitive Dissonance" (http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2016/08/cognitive-dissonance.html) over at Banned by HWA got me thinking about the way that most of us approach most subjects. Let's face it: Many of us have adopted some form of dualism in the way we think about things. Don't we tend to choose one of two extremes (or at least we tell ourselves that)?

In the United States, we have long standing traditions in this regard. Historically, one was either a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist, an abolitionist or a supporter of the institution of slavery, a Democrat or a Republican, a Conservative or a Liberal, a Capitalist or a Socialist/Communist (many on the Right see the two as being essentially the same), etc.

Moreover, when the subject of God or religion is introduced, this phenomenon tends to become even more pronounced. You're either a Theist or an Atheist. If your a Christian, you're most likely to identify as Protestant or Catholic. And, if you're a Christian, you definitely want to be hot (the preferred position) or cold - You DON'T want to be lukewarm! In short, many of us seem to shun the middle ground.

However, we should all be able to recognize and acknowledge that the real world doesn't work this way. There are certainly extremes like hot and cold, but aren't most of us somewhere in between? What about tepid and all of the variations in between that middle and the two extremes? How many of us are true Atheists or Theists? Aren't most of us somewhere on the Agnostic continuum? We tell ourselves that there are only two alternatives, but aren't there many many more?

I've always believed that one of the most ingenious features of the American political system is its institutionalization of the principle of equilibrium between the two extremes. However, it seems that many Americans have lost sight of this important feature of their system. Most folks seem truly oblivious to the fact that if either side's program/platform was adopted wholesale that it would mean disaster for our republic. Traditionally, the best legislation to emerge from the Congress of the United States have been the bills where folks on both sides of the aisle have had to hold their noses and vote for a compromise piece of legislation that didn't fully satisfy either party.

I think that these considerations should be instructive for all of us in formulating our viewpoints - especially in the spiritual or religious realm. Is acceptance or rejection of the Judeo-Christian canon the only two options that are available to us? Does it really have to be Genesis or Evolution? Does it have to be myth or reality? Is it really Magical vs Scientific? Come on folks! Who are we kidding? Let's get real!