Zuckerberg must be a Nazi

I’m writing this blog in the very early hours of a summer’s morning, by the dawn’s early light. Post-op complications awoke me in the middle of the night (I’ll spare you the details), and unable to get back to sleep, I had these thoughts still running around my mind from before I hit the pillow:

A Facebook friend had shared a post that stated  the U.N. had ‘declared Israel the #1 violator of women’s rights’ and yet again, I was reading it, thinking it just didn’t ring true to me. The article author was incredulous that the U.N. could do such a thing when we all know that it’s the Muslims who mistreat their women the most. I come across much information on social media that is true misinformation, and while it can usually be debunked with a minute’s googling, it also usually comes from some rabid right-wing ‘news’ source. Very often it is Fox: I do not say ‘Fox News’ since that is an oxymoron.BoldomaticPost_The-case-against-Fox-status-re

This time a google did not throw up an instant debunk. I found maybe about two dozen citations of the same headline or similar. I looked through these for a reliable source. There was Fox right at the top, but the rest I did not recognise; a few were clearly Israeli news/ comments/ sites/ blogs, then there was Rush Limbaugh (now he’s not known for rash unfounded statements, is he?). I sought some of my favourites: the Independent, the Guardian, the BBC, the NY Times… nothing. Tried ABC, MSN… no! Hmmm, I thought, could it be true that such things are not reported by ‘the liberal media’? Was I onto something here, which all my conservative friends try to tell me? That ‘the truth is not told by these pinkos!’? So I then searched some reputable conservative sources – The Washington Post, The Times, The Telegraph… still nothing! Nobody could accuse these sources of being liberal; the Telegraph has the nickname ‘the Torygraph’ here! These are newspapers that may have slants I would not concur with, but they are generally factual in their reporting i.e. they’re proper journalists.

Further digging and I found a cnsnews report that stated there was a U.N. Human Rights report which included Iranian abuses of women but was instantly incredulous that a separate earlier report cited Israel, as if it was understandable against Iran but ridiculous against Israel. Yes, cns is conservative, but that article was three years old! The best I then got was on Yahoo – there was a recent report by a U.N. committee, but it was a specific report into conditions in Gaza and the effects of the Israeli occupation on women. One may agree or disagree with its findings, but it was not a general report that looked at women over the whole world and then found Israel to be the worst misogynists, so the original headline was, yet again, made up, blown out of all proportion, sensationalist… oh, I get so tired!

Why is it that my Facebook feed is so full of this crap? Is it the friends I have? Or is Mark Zuckerberg just one of these nut jobs that has to feed the world any old nonsense just as long as they’ll all be dragged along the highway by the [fill in your relevant extreme right-wing party according to your location]? A thought entered my mind that I should start my own news blogging site and just call it ‘The Truth’, maybe with a bold majestic animal masthead, like a fully-maned lion, or even a white unicorn! Why did I think of those? They’re very ‘British’, aren’t they? My new ‘magazine’ might get millions of followers, and I shall establish my status of ‘mythbuster’ with a huge official badge and award. Maybe the Nobel Committee will inaugurate a new prize…

But no! Such ‘Truth’ is boring, mundane, matter-of-fact. Nobody really wants that. They all want the sensationalist stuff, the sort of thing that they can look up from and say to their long-suffering spouse “you’ll never believe what they’ve gone and done now, dear!!!!”

Grace be with you.

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Things we evangelicals have got wrong, in brief #1 (conviction)

These may well be topics I have blogged on before, but I feel now that it may be time we, as an evangelical ‘tribe’ (for that is what we are, in essence!) need the humility to recognise some things we may well have got wrong.

You see, we certainly do hold to the truth we believe that Jesus is the saviour of the world, and the only saviour, of whomever would believe in him, and we should never dilute that. However, we have many key beliefs and even some ‘pet’ beliefs that go along with it simply because a majority of our members hold to it, or even a vocal minority of pulpit preachers. That can lead to pride, which was the original sin (or was it?…. later!) and so we end up in a state we often condemn others for (being arrogant in ‘our own understanding’) and a place where we condemn anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into all the corners of our Christian-shaped box. My continual question always comes down to this: how much of this ‘shaping’ comes from God, and how much from our own interpretations, values and traditions? It is, in essence, the very nature of my blogging!

Writing the first chapter of my book, I expanded on my reasoning I blogged on in ‘Why I Hate Testimonies‘, which left me with a recollection that on a few occasions in the past, I have heard some say “without conviction of sin, there can be no salvation!” While it is evidently true that when we talk of ‘salvation’ then we must mean there is something we need to be saved from, and that something is either our sin, or the consequence of our sin (that’s a no-brainer), we need to be careful we do not make a consuming awareness of that sin an indispensable prerequisite of faith in Christ. Those who see no need of salvation have a worldview that does not include sin (at least, not in the way Christianity defines it), so you need to create that ‘sin-consciousness’ before you can reach anyone with the gospel if you believe it to be so vital.

In relating my own experience, I have reminded myself how I clearly had zero conviction before I decided to follow Jesus, and this is where I believe many get it wrong – their experience may well be a sense of conviction, of “oh, I’m a sinner who needs Jesus” and they may see many around them with similar stories (or testimonies), but I’m living proof that such a position is not vital for coming to Christ, though such conviction becomes more real each and every day you follow him with your blinkers off, for you will conclude that you, like the Apostle Paul, are the worst or ‘the chief of sinners‘! I shall hazard a guess that the majority of such ‘converts through conviction’ have had an upbringing in a church, or at least a Sunday School attendance, and therefore the ‘topic’ of sin is prevalent in their minds.

But don’t just take my word for it; read through the gospels and find all the moments where Jesus’ disciples were called and followed him. Do you read of any ‘conviction’ there? Or did they all just hear his voice and go? If you find any examples against what I’m saying, please comment below, for I cannot recall any.

Grace be with you.

Judaeo-Christianity?

There is a new heresy going around the evangelical community these days! I do not use that word lightly, since I do not like branding people as heretics. However, some people well deserve it since they are clearly deceivers – even when presented with the truth, and shown that what they are saying is clearly false or misguided, they continue to say it. Such people deserve to be ignored completely, if you ask me. Some people may inadvertently promote something they believed was true, but are able to realise their mistake and recant it; thankfully they are in the majority of those who promote untruths (myself included, to be humbly honest). Many more simply have a belief in something that I personally may find untrue, but they are entitled to believe it and we shall agree to differ. The vast majority of these cases are doctrines and opinions that are secondary to salvation. The one I wish to address now is not secondary – it undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Where does it come from? The Religious Right in the USA! How can we discern it? Watch out for the term ‘Judaeo-Christian values’! Yes!

The term Judaeo-Christian is actually a fairly new construct. It only appeared first in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1899. By today’s standards of ‘new words of the year’ and the speed of the spread of new coinages via television and the internet, it seems old, but relative to the history of the English language and what it purports to represent i.e. ‘Judaeo-Christianity’, it’s a pretty young word!

Well, it is me asking the question “where did it come from?”, since nobody else I know seems to be curious! It hinges on another question a friend posed to me recently, which was “why did Billy Graham, a great preacher of the gospel, seek an audience with the Pope?” At first I could not answer it, and it is puzzling to those of us who call ourselves true protestants, since we stand against the false doctrines of Rome. We have no respect for that constructed religion and have stood against it for many centuries (and yes, I know we all fall into the trap of a constructed religion! – another debate!). However, I now see the answer is quite simple. In order to maintain support for their political cause, the Religious Right in the USA have sought conservative bedfellows to bolster their position, and found it in the Roman Catholic church, which has always been ultra-conservative on issues like abortion, homosexuality and ‘family values’ [ha! – from a priesthood that has not one child between them (officially)] – this to the detriment of their religious cause. Therefore they can easily be branded as a political movement and not a religious one, despite their label! They have marked out their priorities in clear signs. What they are to do with the new Pope, Francis, clearly a political radical, remains to be seen in entirety.

They also found support in conservative Judaism, which has led to this heresy I am addressing. The foremost proponent in this vanguard that I can see is John Hagee, a man who has sought an audience with every Israeli Prime Minister in his lifetime, supported Israel against all critics, and gone so far as to say things like “Jesus never claimed he was the Messiah, so the Jews cannot be blamed for killing him!” and “we don’t need to evangelise the Jews, since they have their own way to God.” This is the point at which he crosses over from being a gospel preacher to becoming a quasi-politico campaigner, bent on appeasing his allies at the cost of his stance on gospel truth!

Let me iterate clearly right now, before the Anti-Defamation League calls me an anti-semite; the holocaust against the Jews was undeniable and despicable, we had to stop the Nazis in their anti-Semitic campaign of destruction of a race, and we must help defend the Israeli people against terror. I have the utmost sympathy for the people in Israel who are suffering from the ongoing turmoil between the two states of Israel and Palestine, and I also sympathise with the people of Palestine; unreservedly on both counts.

BUT: there is a heresy going around, and it is that Judaism and Christianity are the same religion! That we worship the same God! This is ludicrous! It shows me just how far we have allowed the Religious Right to take us down their path of falsehood. No more! Stand for the truth, brothers and sisters:

Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17).

He stated, as clearly as he possibly could: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6)

The Jews of his time divided into two camps; those who saw who he was, like all those before them who believed and looked forward to his coming (Luke 2:38), and those who did not see who he was. These same people claimed to be believers and that God was their Father. Jesus told them clearly in a long dialogue in John chapter 8: “If God were your Father, you would love me…” and told them they were not children of God, but of the devil!

Who are you going to listen to? Hagee? or Jesus? If this argument that “they worship the same God as us” is continued, then why not include Muslims? They worship the God of Abraham and Moses!

When I hear of believers attending synagogues, I cringe! What next? Partake of the Mass?

When I hear them quote from the Talmud, the written expression of the faith of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned, that also describes my Lord as a traitor to the faith and wishes a thousand deaths upon him, I start to become judgmental! Please help me to not be.

If you wish to declare support for Israel in your politics, by all means follow your conscience, but don’t let your political belief dilute your faith in the one and only saviour, Jesus Christ. Judaism cannot save anyone!

Grace be with you.

Immanuel

immanuel1

At Christmas time, we often hear  ‘Immanuel – God is with us’ in song (sometimes spelt ‘Emanuel’), but do we really grasp the ‘message’ that our nativity reenactment is meant to convey?

Only two of the gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, recount the birth of Jesus, so does that mean that John and Mark are not concerned with its message? On the contrary, John sets out in the very first chapter of his gospel what he wants to make known:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind….

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4, 14)

This ‘Word’, who was with God, and was God (huh!?), from the beginning of time… became flesh and lived among us! “We have seen him!” John declares. This is John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved‘, who was closest to him (not Peter, the sanguine, brash extrovert, as many imagine), though John was no shrinking violet either – Jesus gave him and his brother James the name ‘sons of thunder‘! He wants to make it clear to his audience, from the start: the message of Isaiah 7:14, the sign fulfilled, actually does mean ‘God is with us’ – how the Israelites must have tried to interpret that prophecy; did they imagine it truly would mean a literal appearing of God among them?

John makes it even clearer in the opening to his first letter:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1John 1:1-4)

Can you sense the excitement, and the joy, as he writes this? As much as I can? He wants the world to know what he knows, what he has seen, and touched; the greatest story he could tell, and writing this will ‘make his joy complete’!

That baby in the manger we see year in, year out… John met the man, and John knew, and John tells us:

Immanuel happened!

Grace be with you, and have a Happy Christmas.

History repeats itself /or/ So you want to vote UKIP?

History repeats itself

 

History repeats itself.
Has to.
Nobody listens.

– Steve Turner

[And now a bit more explanation for those not politically aware enough to fully understand the above]

Between the wars:

Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, a friend and ally of Hitler and Mussolini.

In 1928, the top 1% of earners in the US (with similar figures in other parts of the world) took 23% of the nation’s income. This was a peak. Banks had been given a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude by governments, to allow them to ‘generate wealth’.

In 1929, The Wall Street Crash occurred, sending world markets into a downward spiral. Our grandparents never trusted banks or bankers again.

In Germany, Hitler managed to blame a lot of the condition they found themselves in on Germany capitulating to the wishes of the rest of Europe after WWI, and of course, the Jews.

[Many Jews had been involved in banking: simple reason – pre-reformation, the Christian church did not allow usury, or banking interest, to be charged between fellow Christians. This was an Old Testament law not to lend to compatriots, BUT Jews in Europe could fill this niche market and lend money to Christians, all and sundry, and funded kings and emperors in their warfaring and campaigning. Many pogroms against Jews were simply to oust the bankers from a country before the country’s ruler or government had to pay back their loans. Anti-Semitism, while truly abhorrent racism, is based upon the resentment of debtors towards their lenders. It became institutionalised due to the biggest debtors being the rulers!]

The vast majority of Jews were not in banking, but why just blame a few people when you can blame the lot of them?

The 21st century:

Farage is the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a ‘single-platform’ party that claims leaving the EU will solve practically all of the UK’s problems.

In 2007, the top 1% of earners in the US (with similar figures in other parts of the world) took 23% of the nation’s income. This was another peak. Banks had been given a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude by governments, to allow them to ‘generate wealth’.

In 2008, The ‘Great Financial Crisis’ Crash occurred, sending world markets into a downward spiral. Maybe we should never trust banks or bankers again? This time around, though, they are still in control of governments and calling the shots, with many of our politicians just too scared to act against them. Some of them are so big now, compared to the many small banks in the 20s, that it was considered unwise to let them collapse. Taxpayer’s money was used to bail them out.

Now, Farage manages to blame all of the condition we find ourselves in, on the UK capitulating to the wishes of the rest of Europe, and of course, the immigrants. The fact that many of the cultural problems (and the perceived economic problems) are raised by immigrants with a different culture and/or religion who do not hail from Europe but from all the parts of the British Commonwealth means nothing to Farage – he’ll just go on blaming Europe and the immigrants for our woes until he can get enough people to take him seriously.

Just like Hitler garnered the will and emotions of the German people against the Jews… Farage wishes to emulate that ‘success’ with a new scapegoat.

This could end up with the same ‘solution’ to our problems with ‘Muslims’ and ‘immigration’ as Hitler enacted for his problems with the Jews. No way, you say? There are even ‘evangelical Christians’ advocating it!:

http://defendchristians.org/commentary/im-islamaphobic-are-you/

Grace be with you.

Pay your taxes!

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across something in scripture that just answers a question with no enigmatic musing to be done, nor produces a battling of souls over various interpretations? Unfortunately, these bits are rare, such is the vast complexity of the mind of our God, and his instruction manual only naturally includes our dilemmas and the ethical mazes we find ourselves in as adults in Christ. In my humble opinion, once you’re past the basic tenets of faith in Christ, black-and-white answers are usually only for babes in the faith (spiritual milk), but a few do exist! Here’s one for you:

In a Facebook debate, I heard of a creationist who was currently in jail, and it sparked my ever-present curiosity. A quick wiki discovered he’s in jail in the USA for tax evasion. He has made six appeals against the ‘government conspiracy against him’ to no avail. I was left dumbstruck: here was a Biblical Literalist, who has made it his life’s work to prove the exact six days’ creation account in Genesis is true, who has actually chosen to ignore a literal command of Jesus!

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (Matt.22:15-22)

There you are, plain as the nose on your face!

Grace be with you.

Conservative v. Liberal

Here are a couple of truths: Politics is a vastly complex topic. Theology is a vastly complex topic.

However, we always crave simplicity. Would that I could draw some cartoons for you! Ok, here’s ONE:

Backbiter-Poles-apart

Nice and simple point, eh? No, I didn’t draw it, but in an effort to maintain this ‘simplicity’, I shall address both topics of politics and theology through the oft-quoted terms of ‘conservative’ and liberal’…

Politics

Right-wing political viewpoints tend to value the individual above society, and play down any importance of ‘state-interference’ in one’s ‘personal affairs’. Left-wing political viewpoints seek to address problems that arise in society by legislating against unfair practices and individuals who cause disadvantage to others, valuing the role of ‘the state’ above the concerns of the individual.

One can find the extremes of these viewpoints fairly easily. North Korea is one of the last bastions of ‘the state as religion’ that must be obeyed without question, while the free-market ideas of Thatcherite and Reaganite neocons actually require a suspension of belief that ‘society’ even exists! The majority of us who reside in the middle, along a long, long sliding scale from left to right, understand that we need a balance of the rights and freedoms of the individual with the laws and controls of government upon our society for the protection of all citizens against unscrupulous entities. Such is the basis for (as I said) very complex debates and negotiations.

Applying labels such as ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ is very tricky, since it may only apply to the here and now. For example, free-market ideology was, at one point, the preserve of liberals like William Gladstone, who was the British PM four times, before the rise of Marx, Socialism and the British Labour Party, which rose to replace the Liberal Party’s place at the head of British politics. One wonders what Gladstone would think of his beliefs being adopted in the late 20th century by the party he opposed, but this serves to highlight such complexities.

Theology

These labels become even more difficult to attach in theological discussions, particularly as the political distinctions have transferred, and many use the labels (even as insults) to attempt to delineate who is speaking ‘the truth’ and who not. The common perception is that ‘conservative’ churches/ denominations/ ministers adhere to long-established doctrinal truths, while their ‘liberal’ counterparts are those who appear to embrace ‘new ideas’ and theological stances from ‘outside’ orthodox faith. This is far too simplistic. Yes, I myself have used such labels, even in my own blogs, but I know what I mean by them, so I shall outlay my distinctions:

I disagree with many, many fellow believers on many points. Note I said ‘fellow believers’ since I do not try to paint myself into my own little corner with a 50-point thesis that one must agree with to be called my ‘brother in the faith’. Theology is so gloriously complex that many viewpoints can be heard and argued, but not completely refuted. What do I stand on, then?

These two truths stand against all false theology, clearly and unequivocally:

Firstly, Jesus said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Quite indisputable then, yes? This is not an interpretation of an apostle like Paul or a later theologian upon a debatable statement. These are the very recorded words of Jesus himself: no exceptions, he said. For me, transgressing this to include others who do not believe in him is a truly liberal stance that is errant. Therefore, many preachers who are viewed as ‘conservative’, such as John Hagee and Joel Osteen, are, in my book, liberal! Even Christian universalists (not multi-faith universalists) can be conservative by this definition. Unsure about that? Here’s an excellent blog on that which I could not better, if you’re interested:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/why-some-christians-are-universalists/

Secondly, our means of salvation are outlined in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9)

The doctrine of grace was established from the start. It is by faith, not works, so the edifices of churches that came later, like the Roman Catholic church, with its insistence on the ceremonies and sacraments meted out by the church priesthood, and all those ‘legalists’, who maintain that we need to obey the Mosaic Law, seek to undermine the grace of God and Christ’s complete work of redemption through Calvary. The term ‘vicarious atonement’ which is the linchpin of the Christian faith means exactly what it says on the tin: Jesus has done it all, paid it all, so I am free from any further requirements to achieve salvation. He achieved it for me. Not sure you like that? I couldn’t care less if you don’t, it’s the gospel! The glorious, wonderful, graceful, encompassing good news that we do not need to strive to gain heaven anymore. Still not convinced? Go and read the epistle to the Galatians. And then read Romans as well, if you’re up to it.

So in my book, even the Church of Rome is liberal! Why do I feel like I’m sounding very narrow in my opinions, when in fact, I am much more accepting than most of my fellow evangelicals? Any difference in doctrine or practice that does not undermine the two points I laid out above, is not in opposition to my gospel, the one that my whole faith is built on. There are many doctrinal points I will not agree with, but those points are minor, and secondary to faith and salvation. If you find such differences to be irritating to your sense of ‘rightness’, I gracefully suggest that you look into the roots of your indignation, and ask if it comes from things you were raised to believe or that you heard from pulpits and not from any knowledge of the gospel that saved you.

If you worry that some very dubious churches do actually hold to these two points, here’s the litmus test: Do they add to them in any way? In other words, if they claim to have exclusive right to truth, they are a sect; avoid them! A true church will accept that others also have the right to claim citizenship of Jesus’ Kingdom and his salvation, and they won’t try to stop you from attending them. If a church ‘looks down their nose’ at other churches, well then there’s an attitude problem – deal with that as God leads you.

When you seek to attach these labels to viewpoints or opinions (or even people!), remember to use the theological ones, and not the political ones, which have practically nothing to do with Jesus’ message and everything to do with the culture in which you live i.e. ‘the world’!

[Now thinking that I may need to go back and revise a few of my own blogs!]

Grace be with you.