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Monday, August 30, 2021

This is some CRAZY SH-T!

A friend recently forwarded me an article by conservative commentator David French titled "It's Time to Stop Rationalizing and Enabling Evangelical Vaccine Rejection." As is usually the case with French, he articulated a well-reasoned argument for why Christians should be getting vaccinated (with which I find myself in complete agreement). Even so, it was the title of the article and its final paragraph that really grabbed my attention. French made clear that Christians have an obligation to call out the folks who promulgate this kind of craziness (in this instance, vaccine rejection). While cautioning that we should not make fun of these folks or conduct ourselves with an air of condescension in confronting them, French makes plain that he believes that we should firmly oppose this kind of behavior.

And, as anyone who is familiar with the content of this blog knows, this forum is devoted to calling out teachings/notions/mindsets that are irrational, out of the mainstream or are otherwise contrary to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. I have done that here since 2014, and NO2HWA has done the same thing over at Banned by HWA even longer. Over that time, both blogs have been accused of persecuting "God's ministry and Church," blasphemy, and supporting a Marxist or Socialist agenda! In other words, the folks who support the craziness have tended not to like us calling attention to it.

However, I believe that one gives oxygen and legitimacy to extreme views by remaining silent and/or failing to call attention to the problems inherent in the messaging of the folks on the fringe. In other words, if we refuse to observe that they are the fringe, then we invite people to assume that their views are reasonable/legitimate/mainstream. As French noted in the article referenced above, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." Unfortunately, over the last forty years, too many Christians have adopted some extreme religious and political views and have chosen to incorporate them into the message of the Church. This behavior has prompted some of us to point out that these views do not represent rational thinking and are antithetical to the message of Jesus of Nazareth (and the faith which he founded). Moreover, I would like to assure my readers that, as long as these folks spout their craziness, this blog will continue to call out that craziness and heresy wherever we find it!   

Sunday, August 29, 2021

An Alabama Covid-19 Statistic

Darwin Little was a man who struggled to cope with constant pain and numerous other health issues. He had been disabled for years and lived alone in his childhood home after his mother's death in 2006. Darwin loved sports and God, and he eventually attended a Fundamentalist seminary in Florida and was ordained to preach the gospel. Always the practical one, however, Darwin worked at various other jobs over the years to make a living; and his dream of being a minister slowly slipped away. And, like many other children who grow to adulthood as the products of divorce, Darwin went on to have three failed marriages of his own. Even so, one of those marriages produced the love of his life - a son (whose disability only endeared him more to his father).

Now, as a consequence of the circumstances of his life, Darwin became bitter and angry with God. Over the years, he became prickly and increasingly isolated from family and friends. Indeed, towards the end of his life, outside of an occasional visit from his son, his only contact with the outside world came in the form of a nightly phone call with his surviving sister and myself (and an occasional phone call with one of his uncles), a weekly food delivery from a local restaurant, and a once a month trip to the pain clinic for medication. Hence, when the pandemic reached the United States, most of us were fairly confident that Darwin's isolation would protect him from the virus.

Even so, when the vaccines finally became available, his sister and I encouraged him to follow our example and get the shot. Darwin, however, lived in a state (Alabama) where the virus was not taken seriously at first, and he was consequently exposed to some of the most virulent forms of the ignorance and antipathy extant within the United States regarding mask wearing, social distancing and mRNA vaccines. Nevertheless, even in this environment, Darwin never was against masks or vaccines. In his case, he simply felt that his isolation would render vaccination unnecessary for him.

In the meantime, my almost nightly conversations with Darwin about God, Christianity and the Bible had produced a discernable change in Darwin's attitude towards things spiritual. At first, he was perplexed by the fact that I didn't challenge his bitterness and anger toward God. I didn't launch into an apologetics tirade or attempt to "defend" God and the Church. I simply listened, and then we talked. We talked about how Fundamentalism had perverted our understanding of God, Jesus Christ and the Bible. We talked about how the advice of Job's friends typified the approach of humankind to the grief and suffering of one of their own. We talked about the fact that God has NOT provided answers to all of the questions that we have about why things happen the way that they do. And, finally, we talked about how many Christians have recreated God in their own image, and how weak and limited their creations have turned out to be (especially when compared to what Scripture actually reveals about the real nature of God).

Unfortunately, Darwin had to make a trip to the local emergency room after experiencing excruciating shoulder pain and numbness. Within just a few days of that visit to the emergency room, Darwin collapsed in his home and laid in the floor for many hours until his uncle accidentally discovered him there (he had brought him a plate of food from a family reunion that Darwin had been unable to attend). His uncle immediately summoned an ambulance, and Darwin was shortly on his way to the region's most important hospital. And, after being admitted, he was soon diagnosed as having been infected with Covid-19. Over the course of the next three weeks, Darwin's condition rapidly deteriorated. Indeed, the decision was finally made to place him on a ventilator to help him breathe and increase the level of oxygen in his bloodstream.

Before that happened, however, one of his nurses arranged a Zoom meeting with his sister and his son. As a consequence of that kindness, Darwin's last half hour of consciousness before they placed him on that ventilator was spent looking at his beloved son's face and listening to his sister read the Bible and sing a few of the hymns which they had sung together as children at the little Baptist church which they had attended near their home.

He died a few days later. Darwin was now officially an Alabama pandemic statistic. But Darwin was NOT an impersonal statistic. Like many thousands of other folks around the country and globe, he had been a living, breathing person with a life of his own and folks who loved him before contracting and succumbing to this deadly virus!

At his funeral yesterday, I began with a reading of a few Scriptures that were particularly meaningful to Darwin. One of them came from Paul's letter to the saints of Rome:

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." -- Romans 8:35-39

Afterward, I led his family and friends in the following prayer:

Almighty God,

Thank You for the conversations I enjoyed with Darwin about You, Your Son and the Bible.
Thank You that Darwin came home to You.
We are thankful that, after wandering away from You and traveling through a dark land, like the prodigal son, Darwin returned to You.
In this, Darwin's experience underscored the absolute truth of those wise words that "not all who wander are lost."
Indeed, as Job did three thousand years ago, Darwin came to see that God was great enough to accommodate all of his pain, suffering, anguish, sorrow - and, yes, even his bitterness, anger and questions.
We thank You that Dar's last half hour of consciousness was filled with thoughts of his beloved son, and his sister reading Scripture and singing hymns.
Thank You too for Your great compassion, mercy and forgiveness; and for the knowledge that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover and forgive any sin.
And, finally, we are thankful that You have welcomed Darwin into your loving embrace and into the company of all of those loved ones who have preceded him in death.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we give thanks and pray. Amen.

John Darwin Little was born on October 6, 1958 and died on August 25, 2021.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Is Everyone Destined to Die?

A post by Dennis Diehl (Prophecy Comes Alive!) over at Banned by HWA generated an interesting discussion in the comments section about whether or not everyone is destined to die. Dennis made the observation that most of the ministers who once believed that they would live to see Christ's return are now dead. Commentator Bob Petry replied: "Actually, Dennis, no one taught that any of us would not die. The teaching was as scripture says, It is given once to die to all men. After that the judgment. Look it up for the full and exact wording. Even when Paul speaks of “in the twinkling of an eye” the teaching was even then the person being changed would die, or that scripture would not be true. So, no matter who you are, the bible says you must die, even if only during the ‘twinkling of an eye.”

The discussion focused on the apparent contradiction between two scriptures:

"And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27, NLT) and

"But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed" (I Corinthians 15:51-52, NLT)

As the conversation progressed, I was struck by the almost complete absence of context (one commentator did make a passing reference to the chapters in I Corinthians preceding and following the one in question here) - widely agreed to be one of the most important tools in correctly interpreting any passages of Scripture. For me, if one is truly interested in understanding these verses, the verses immediately surrounding them become critical. Likewise, other verses dealing with the same topic can also shed important light on the meaning of these verses and should be consulted as part of any serious effort to do so.

First, in the book of Hebrews, the author was discussing the superiority of the New Covenant under Christ to that of the Old Covenant outlined in the Torah (see Hebrews 8, 9 and 10). In this particular passage, the author is addressing the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice for our sins when compared to the sacrifice of animals (bulls, goats and lambs). In the verses immediately preceding the one quoted above, we read: "For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice." (Hebrews 9:24-26, NLT) This was necessary because, as Paul succinctly stated, "the wages of sin is death" (see Romans 6:23).

Then comes the verse upon which this conversation hinged about each person being "destined to die once and after that comes judgment." In Scripture, however, that phrase is not followed by a period - it is followed by a comma. Continuing, we read: "so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him." (verse 28, NLT) In other words, at Christ's return, the part of Christ's work that dealt with the penalty for sin will not be an issue that needs to be addressed at that time! Moreover, the superiority of what Christ's sacrifice accomplished for us is underscored in the first eighteen verses of the following chapter (Hebrews 10:1-18).

In similar fashion, the entire fifteenth chapter of Paul's first epistle to the saints of Corinth is known as the "resurrection chapter" of the Bible. Indeed, in verses 35 through 49, Paul discusses how our resurrected bodies will be very different from the ones we currently occupy. Then, the thought begins which includes the verses in question. He wrote: "What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies." (I Corinthians 15:50-53, NLT)

For Paul, the bottom line was that we must put on an incorruptible body. For those who were then sleeping (dead), that meant emerging from the grave clothed in that new body. For those who were still alive, it meant shedding their existing body and putting on the new one! In fact, we are given some insight into his thinking here in his second epistle to the saints of Corinth. He wrote to them: "For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit." (II Corinthians 5:1-5, NLT) In this connection, it is interesting to note that we find similar language in the second epistle of Peter (see II Peter 1:13-14). Hence, the clear implication is that, whether we are sleeping (dead) or alive, we must be clothed with that new immortal body when Christ returns. OR, paraphrasing the words of Paul, we must shed this body that will eventually decay or has already done so.

This concept is further reinforced by what Paul wrote to the saints of Thessalonica in his first epistle to them. We read there: "We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." (I Thessalonians 4:15-17, NLT) Clearly, Paul anticipated that some Christians would be living when Christ someday returns to this earth (but they will still have to shed those physical bodies (which they will then inhabit) before joining those who had died down through the ages and rising to meet him in the air!

To be clear, I believe that it can be demonstrated to anyone with an open mind that there are numerous errors, discrepancies and contradictions within the writings which we call the Bible. This particular instance, however, is NOT one of them!

   

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Ability to Imagine

In the opening chapter of the Hebrew Bible, we are told that God said "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us...So God created human beings in his own image." (Genesis 1:26-27, NLT) The Hebrew word translated into English as "image" conveys the sense of a likeness or resemblance to the genuine article. Moreover, the context makes clear that in this instance that resemblance implies more than just physical appearance.

In this connection, it is interesting to note that many folks have pointed out the very unique properties of the human mind relative to the brains of other lifeforms which share this planet with us. And, among those properties, perhaps the most unique and important is our ability to imagine things - to picture things that don't actually exist in our minds. Indeed, human imagination has enabled our species to invent and create things (though we are confined to inventing or creating things from the materials which make up the world in which we live). Nevertheless, with that qualification, our history as a species makes plain that humans possess the almost unlimited ability to create or invent new things!

In The Power of Imagination, E.B. Kevin noted that "Imagination is the ability to form mental pictures or ideas in the mind. Everybody has the ability to imagine, but imagination becomes powerful when you turn it into manifestation. Every material thing that was created by humans was first imagined. Creation begins in the mind before it becomes physical." Kevin goes on to point out that "Imagination is the beginning of creation. You can create most of the things you can imagine." In other words, our ability to imagine is the key to this creative ability, and it gives profound meaning to those verses in the first chapter of Genesis. Like our Creator, we have the ability to imagine and bring things into existence which have not existed heretofore - the ability to create!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

What the Pandemic has revealed about the CGI

Vance Stinson, the chief executive officer of the Church of God International, recently authorized Pastor Jeff Reed to post two articles related to Covid-19 which have stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition within that Church. In response to my original post on this topic (Church of God International's Civil War Over Covid-19), Mr. Stinson made clear that he had authorized the publishing of Reed’s original post on Covid-19. He also went on to admit that he wasn’t prepared for the very negative and visceral reaction which the post had provoked from some of the membership of the church.

Likewise, in response to my most recent post on the subject (Church of God International Internal War Over Covid Continues), Mr. Reed made clear that he had not sought the controversy within the church which his remarks had engendered. After objecting to characterizing the uproar as a civil war, he went on to admit: “The church of God culture has some who from previous affiliations are very anti-medicine. And they get their bad information from conspiracy sources such as Natural News or Infowars. This is also true of a growing number of evangelicals.”

To be clear, I believe that Mr. Stinson and Mr. Reed were motivated by a desire to help and protect their flocks from bad information relative to the pandemic – I do not believe that either one of them sought or welcomed the controversy which followed the publication of Mr. Reed’s posts. Nevertheless, it is now painfully clear that their efforts in this regard have not been appreciated by an angry and strident group of their followers. In short, the publication of Pastor Reed’s posts has revealed deep division within CGI regarding public health measures (like vaccines and masking) and the theology which surrounds their application to Christians.

In my last post on this topic, I underscored some of the overheated commentary which Reed’s latest post (Delta Isolation) had provoked on Facebook. Since I wrote that post, eighty folks have “liked” Jeff’s post, and the comments (most of them negative) have grown to ninety-three! Moreover, the outlandish nature of some of those comments has prompted Facebook to post the following warnings on CGI’s homepage: “This Page Posts About Vaccines - When it comes to health, everyone wants reliable, up-to-date information. Visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The website has information that can help answer questions you may have about vaccines” and attached to Jeff’s post, “Visit the Covid-19 Information Center for vaccine resources.” In fact, some of the comments were so outrageous that they prompted Pastor Wesley White of the Ronald L. Dart Evangelistic Association to post: “These comments are…. Wow…. Just wow! Jeff, I am so sorry you have to endure this type of commentary! Wow!”

This comment by Pastor White provoked a tirade by another commentator. She posted: “Wesley White I can't believe you are foolish enough to promote the poison. You haven't done your research.” And, when that didn’t evoke a response, she wrote: “Wesley White you agree with this? They are using this flu to take this country down.” This provoked a question from Pastor White: “Exactly who is trying to take this country down? And why?” She continued: “Wesley White where have you been? These are the last days. If I have to answer this, apparently you know nothing of prophecy and I will leave you in your dream world. You are one of their ministers.” And, when Mr. White failed to respond, the gentle lady declared in frustration “I will block you.”

Unfortunately, the anger wasn’t confined to the Facebook commentary on Pastor Reed’s post. On CGI’s website, the post also provoked some wild commentary. “Concerned Citizen” wrote: “Getting vaccinated is not ‘a blessing.’ It proves how gullible you are. This church is failing because of ministers like you propagating the mainstream narrative. This shot is no vaccine. It is an experimental concoction. Calling it a vaccine is lying. The Ten Commandments expressly prohibits lying. Continue, if you think you are right, but you will answer for it to God himself.” In a similar vein, “Tribulation” observed: “I hope the church informs us if/when your immune system begins to attack itself and hopefully you don't die because you, yes YOU, took the mark of the beast. I suggest you repent and ask Father's forgiveness, if it's not too late for you.”

To be clear, vaccines are preparations that stimulate our body's immune response to protect us from serious illness or death. And, since a blessing is defined as something which is beneficial or conducive to our well-being, it is reasonable to think of vaccines as a blessing. Moreover, mRNA vaccines have been shown to stimulate the body’s immune response. Hence, they are clearly entitled to the moniker of “vaccine.”

We have all experienced these negative attitudes about public health measures in our wider culture. It is disheartening that so many folks have failed to put the health and welfare of the vulnerable among us above their own selfish interests in defending their “rights.” It is also discouraging that so many “Christians” have equated faith with a rejection of modern public health measures and have failed to take note of what Christ told Satan about God’s protection (when Satan challenged him to throw himself off of the pinnacle of the temple). It is, however, alarming to see so many of the folks in an organization which is supposedly devoted to the truth falling for such nonsense. Let’s hope that the voices of folks like Vance Stinson and Jeff Reed prevail there!

Unfortunately, since I wrote this article and it first appeared on this blog yesterday, CGI made the decision to delete all of the comments related to Jeff’s article on their website; and that same article (along with its 93 comments) has disappeared from their Facebook page! Moreover, NO2HWA has observed that Mr. Reed’s comment about one of my posts which objected to my characterization of the divide within the church over this topic as a “civil war” has been deleted from Banned by HWA (NO2HWA saved the comment and posted it in a new piece here). Hence, it appears that both Mr. Stinson and Mr. Reed have chosen to hide or obscure the fact that Mr. Reed’s Covid articles have generated so much controversy within the church. One cannot, however, wave a magic wand and make the conflict disappear, and it is highly unlikely that these moves will serve to appease those within the church who were offended by Mr. Reed’s remarks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A Pattern of Deception Among the Anti-Mask/Vaccine Folks

Dennis Diehl recently posted a humorous take on Rand Paul's ridiculous dribble about Covid-19 over at Banned by HWA. As usual, there were some interesting and outrageous comments in the thread which followed. Moreover, as this is currently one of the hottest topics in the Christian community, I thought it would be instructive to share a few of them here (including some of my own):

Anonymous 8/17 @ 4:35 wrote: There are numerous highly effective treatments for covid and the vaccine is not one of them. Tricking your body into producing the very toxin it is supposed to fight is a dangerous slope to get onto. Apparently it crosses the blood/brain barrier. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years to those that were injected.

Simply applying critical thinking skills to the stories coming from the government, along with the effort to force the vaccine on everyone, should reveal that there is something rotten in Denmark.

NeoTherm wrote: The amount of disinformation about Covid that a few people nurture is dismaying. And the illogic with which they use their scant medical knowledge is also alarming. I know that such minds, proud in error, cannot be reasoned with along normal lines of logic.

So, resonate with this exercise in simplicity. The Great Disinformer himself got vaccinated last January. And the Great Disinformer was not eager to let you find out about this. In fact, the Great Disinformer is a germphobe. But he does not mind sending you into harm's way while he snuggles under protection far behind the lines of engagement. Some of the most pitiful of his human chattel do not believe he was ever vaccinated. But it is well established. So the Great Disinformer, thanks to medical science, will be around for a while to, well, disinform.

BP8 wrote: So let's be logical. This discussion about covid19 and vaccinations is not about Trump or politics but TRUST! We are to trust these institutions responsible for the 3rd leading cause of deaths in this country and whose irresponsibility factors into the 1st leading cause, heart disease? So instead of "learning from our mistakes" we have the opioid crisis, the over prescribing of antibiotics and the over medication/poly pharmacy debacle to name a few! And Big brother pharma, JJ, Pfizer, and AZ, convicted and fined for misconduct, spreading misinformation and fraud? Sounds like rank laziness and greed, not "experience being the best teacher"!!

Trust whom you will, but I can't trust institutions whose sole purpose and service to mankind is to get rid of the consequences of sin without getting rid of sin itself! If the " love of money " doesn't apply to these guys, it doesn't apply to anybody!

I wrote: Public health measures related to Covid-19 are like so many other issues currently confronting our society - uninformed OPINION has been given equal weight to scientific research. Yes, it is certainly true that the pharmaceutical industry has many problems (largely motivated by their insatiable appetite for profits), but the development of mRNA vaccines has been a very positive development. Moreover, things like quarantines and face masks are just plain old common sense tools to mitigate the spread of disease. Are they 100% effective? NO, nothing in this life is! Microscopic germs are going to sometimes slip through the obstacles we erect and infect people, and no vaccine is completely effective in preventing disease. Unfortunately, bacteria and viruses mutate and develop resistances over time (and all of that is aided and abetted by people who refuse to get them). Science seeks truth - it tests hypotheses. By its very nature, Science is continually accommodating new and better information - THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO IGNORE IT or give equal weight to some nut job's conspiracy theory!

The real question for Christians is: What is the appropriate Christian response? In other words, what should a follower of Jesus Christ do in this instance? For those of us so inclined, we have a record of the things Jesus Christ taught to his followers known as the New Testament. In that book, we are told that Christ taught his followers to be respectful and deferential to government authorities and to accede to their will as long as it doesn't contradict or conflict with their obligation to obey God (and even in those instances, Jesus taught that his disciples should submit to whatever penalty or punishment those civil authorities wished to impose on them in such circumstances). Christ also stressed that we should love each other and minister to each others needs. Moreover, Christ's chief apostle (Paul) taught that your rights and freedoms as a Christian should NEVER be used as an excuse to violate your brother's or sister's conscience. Finally, when Christ was confronted by Satan about God's ability and willingness to protect him from harm, he reminded Satan that God's protection was not something to be tested or taken for granted - that faith didn't need a demonstration or proof. Hence, it is very hard to see how someone who professes to be a Christian could justify being part of the anti-vaxxer or anti-mask crowd!

James wrote: The Painful Truth has reported on this for a year and a half. There are virologists all over the world that say its not a vaccination including the former CEO of Pfizer. It is prion creator (bio-weapon) which turns the 'vaxed' into a carrier. Where the f-ck do you do your research?

A example can be found here. https://herbertwarmstrong.com/category/vaccinations/

There is a sh-t load you can do for yourself to protect yourself from any cold virus like covid19. But some people cannot or choose not to do the proper research.

My advice is to skip the jab. It gets into your DNA and chromosomes. When rats were tested on they all died within 6 months. It most likely will take 1-3 years for a human being to bite the dust.

I would rather trust my own research over medical charlatans like fauci. Didn't any of you learn anything from your cult experience? Apparently not.

Anonymous 8/18 @ 2:19 wrote: Miller Jones

The science of face masks is debated within the medical community. The recycled air one breathes when mask wearing is medically harmful. Governments have politicized COVID to acclimatize their subjects to tyranny. This is not what Christ had in mind when he instructed Christians to submit to government.

In my books, you and NEO agree with the narrative and goals of the left wing mainstream media. These goals are not Christian.

I wrote: The Painful Truth is reliably anti-science where Covid-19 is concerned, but it is NOT a reliable source of medical information. Herbert Armstrong is the one who denigrated and dismissed ALL human authorities (science, medicine, religion, education, history/politics, etc.) Hence, from my perspective, the cult mindset is perpetuated by those who continue his practice of denigrating and rejecting those authorities.

There is a right and a wrong way to do research - all successful college students learn this their freshman year! All sources are not equal. Hence, a few good sources buries a multiplicity of bad/inferior/unreliable sources. Moreover, just as scripture is best interpreted in context and by the entire weight of the references/evidence contained therein, scientific or medical advice is best received in the same fashion. In other words, outliers (medical professionals, scientists and studies) should not be given the same weight as the consensus opinion in the field. Finally, if you reject/take yourself out of the mainstream, you are by definition outside of what is regarded as orthodox/normal/conventional.

Finally, with regard to masks, when one compares the pandemic experiences of Western nations (like the U.S. - where mask wearing is considered awkward and restrictive) with those of Eastern nations (like China - where mask wearing is culturally acceptable), it appears that mask wearing has been efficacious in reducing the impact of the pandemic. Now, admittedly, this could be considered anecdotal evidence, but sometimes good old common sense goes a long way in demonstrating the more appropriate course of action!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong's Heir

Banned by HWA recently posted Mark Armstrong's latest political commentary on behalf of the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association. Unfortunately, Armstrong's "Weekly Update" has had very little religious or spiritual content for many years now. Mark is the son of the late Garner Ted Armstrong and the grandson of Herbert W Armstrong, founder of the now defunct Worldwide Church of God.

In his August 13th post, Mark wrote about Covid-19 health policy in the United States in the following terms:

"Two governors in particular are in the crosshairs of the media, the CDC and authoritarians everywhere.  That would be DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas.  Who do they think they are, saying that there will be no mask mandates or “vaccine” passports in their states?  They apparently realize that their citizens have had about enough.  We’ve been chased around over the last two years, many are willing to do just about anything to make it stop.  Take the shot, present papers, whatever.  People want their freedom back, and the ticket (we’re told) is to fulfill whatever requirements are demanded.

Both DeSantis and Abbott are standing in the way of the tyranny that is promoted as if for our own good.  Not so long ago, we were considered responsible enough to look out for ourselves.  But not anymore!  No, we have be to told, scolded, prodded and then punished.  Our representatives will look out for us.  Except they seem to be reeling with newfound power that has turned into a game of Simon Says.  Whether it makes sense to you or not, YOU WILL COMPLY if you want to access any number of goods and services.  It’s not the mark of the beast, but may be a precursor.  The “let no crisis go to waste” crowd has determined that they’ll make life miserable and block participation in commerce unless all requirements are fulfilled.  Where it ends, if it does, is anybody’s guess."

In reaction to the post on Banned by HWA, I posted the following comment:

Where to begin? Mark Armstrong represents the dying gasp of a failed religious dynasty. It should not be surprising to anyone that his messaging is more negative, extreme and secular than his father's or grandfather's ever dared to be. In a bizarre and surreal fashion, one is able to trace the grotesque evolution of the messaging through three generations of the men in this family. In a twisted and very dark way, it almost seems like a logical progression from Herbert through Garner Ted to Mark.

It began as a quasi-religious message that placed the white, English-speaking folks of the world as the focus of the Bible and God's plans. Over the years, it developed into a message about the decline/deterioration/corruption of those nations. And, in more recent years, Mark has clearly identified political liberalism and the influx of nonwhite immigrants into those nations as the chief causes of that decline (a nod to his grandfather's similar fixation on the "evil" of liberalism within the Church). In short, the message has always been conservative (after a fashion), xenophobic and authoritarian. Mark's messaging is just the logical and ugly conclusion of what his grandfather began so many years ago now.

In more recent years, it should also be noted that this Armstrong phenomenon has evolved on a kind of parallel track with the development of Trumpism in the United States. It is NO coincidence that Mark Armstrong's messaging has steadily supported Trump and his agenda over the last five years. Hence, it should also come as no surprise to us that Mark would support the work of Trump's political successors (DeSantis, Abbott and Paul).

Likewise, it is not surprising that he parrots their messaging about authoritarianism - which itself is full of hypocrisy, irony and gaslighting. It is simply too rich to have these men talking about the authoritarianism of "liberal" health officials when they are the ones who have denied local school boards and businesses any say in developing their own policies relative to masking and vaccination. They seem oblivious to the authoritarian implications of this centralization of power in the hands of an executive (the governors of Florida and Texas), and the imposition of the executive's will on the other institutions within those states and the mass of their citizenry. They all (Mark included) scream about infringements on THEIR rights while trampling all over the rights of anyone who disagrees with their views about Covid-19 policy.

As for Jesus, it is no wonder that he is never mentioned - His teachings are the antithesis of almost everything these folks stand for! Jesus Christ was all about serving and caring for others - about denying the self and putting others before the self. Jesus Christ taught compassion, mercy and forgiveness and demanded that his followers LOVE each other, but that's just syrupy nonsense to these folks (another vestige of Herbert's thinking). Yes, unfortunately, there is a straight (or would crooked be more appropriate?) line between Herbert and his grandson's messaging!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The reasons I continue to observe the Sabbath

In light of the fact that I have written extensively about my conviction that physical Sabbath observance is NOT a requirement for Christians under the terms of the New Covenant, many folks have expressed surprise (and consternation/dismay in some cases) when they discover that I continue to observe it myself. Moreover, many Sabbatarians have interpreted my rejection of many of the justifications put forward by other Sabbath-keepers for doing so as contradicting my own continued observance of it. For them, this is a classic example of cognitive dissonance.

Hence, just as I have felt compelled to explain my continued adherence to the Christian faith, and my continued reverence for the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, I am likewise compelled to provide a glimpse into my own thinking on this subject. To be clear, I don't believe that I have any responsibility to justify my beliefs or practices, and I do not feel the need to convert anyone else to them. I do, however, feel compelled to explain my perspective to those who have expressed bewilderment with my beliefs and practices and have sought to dismiss my voice as a consequence.

What follows is a distillation of some notes which I recently penned which attempt to explain why I continue to observe the Sabbath:

Because the Sabbath is portrayed in Scripture as a memorial of the fact that God is the Creator, and that he rested from his work when he was finished.

Because the Sabbath was incorporated into the fundamental/foundational Law of God (the Ten Commandments).

Because of what the Sabbath represents: The rest in Christ from our own works, and the rest in Christ we have to look forward to in the Kingdom.

Because Jesus, his apostles and the original mother church of Christianity at Jerusalem continued to observe the Sabbath.

Because the Sabbath provides a weekly opportunity to demonstrate my love for God and fellow humans.

Because the Sabbath provides an opportunity for me to demonstrate my appreciation for the Jewish part of my heritage (DNA).

Because the Sabbath provides a weekly opportunity for physical and emotional rest/relaxation/rejuvenation and thinking about more than the daily pressures and demands of this life (that which has been a habit of over 45 years feels very comfortable – part of a now natural rhythm).

At any rate, that represents my current thinking on the subject. I continue to hold my Sunday-keeping brethren in the same high regard which I have for my Sabbath-keeping ones. And, if my reasoning seems inadequate to those of you in either group, that's OK too! You don't have to answer for me, and I won't have to answer for you. As Paul once said, personal conviction is all important in terms of our faith and maintenance of a clear conscience before God.